Cultural and communicational challenges when working in South Korea: Finnish employees' perspective and thematic analysis
Ylikortes, Marla (2020)
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This research paper aims to identify, explain, and analyze the aspects of South Korean culture which have an impact on cross-cultural communication with Finnish employees in the South Korean work environment. It investigates parts of the national culture which may in-fluence communication. The theoretical framework is a combination of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory and Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s framework for understanding cultural differences in business and management. The data analysis is done through six dimensions picked from the theories and reflected in the context of South Korean culture. The data was gathered from 10 Finnish employees with experience of working with South Koreans in South Korea. The data was gathered as semi-structured interviews conducted in face-to-face meetings, through phone or by email. The aim was to acquire experiences and opinions about the challenges and differences employees have faced when working with South Koreans. The interviews were conducted during spring, summer and autumn 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. The results suggest that there are clear factors influencing the communication that can be traced to the national culture of South Korea. Cultural dimensions like high for power distance index, strong collectivism, and diffuse way of perceiving social relationships shape the way of communication between South Korean and Finnish employees. Almost all Finnish employees had adapted to the present organizational culture and followed the social norms and rules in some ways. Korean language played an important part in the communication and the use of it in work environment required careful consideration of the words and ways of saying things. It seemed to have a distinctive impact on how strongly the norms and expectations of the culture were followed. The research revealed important aspects that explained the challenges in cross-cultural communication. Cross-cultural communication with South Koreans and Finnish employees is highly complex and would require further studies to investigate the multiple different factors and their impact on communication and organizational culture in general.