It can be challenging to reach an agreement that everyone understands and a document that reflects a true meeting of the minds. Besides the implicit and explicit legal meaning attributed to certain words, there are the individual eccentricities and regional differences. When agreements are international, the cultural differences add another layer of complexity that makes the job even harder.
Since relationships, status, and saving face are the coin of the realm in such cultures, building and bolstering personal relationship before you need them is always preferable to walking in cold. When time is not on your side, however, you might be able to piggyback on someone else’s relationship, say a consultant. And when all else fails, the prospect of losing face can sometimes be used to persuade your Asian counterpart to live up to a written agreement.
Take for example the situation involving a manufacturer who sent millions of pound of raw material to
What did the manufacturer do to shake loose the payment it was due? It invited the manufacturer to its
At the meeting the customer continued to make excuses about why payment should be delayed indefinitely. The manufacturer then showed him a mocked-up website of what in essence was a customer complaint page dedicated to only that customer. It included the manufacturer’s story and invited others to share their experiences with that customer. The page stuck strictly to the facts to avoid any claim of defamation. (Remember, truth is a defense.) It also featured a live running stock ticker quoting the customer’s current stock price.
The customer was then told that the site would go live unless a reasonable payment plan could be agreed to and payments were made on schedule. The threat of losing face worked. The manufacturer received installments and full payment within six months.
Do you have any examples of cultural differences that changed the meaning of a contract as you understood it to be?