High and low context communication cultures

an essential part of successful intercultural and global teamwork

Edward Hall originally developed the concept of low and high context communication as a factor differentiating cultures from each other.

Low context cultures, such as Holland or the US, rely on direct, clear and informational communication.

Low context communication is exemplified in: Mean what you say and say what you mean.


High context cultures, such as France or China, rely on the strength of relationships as a basis for communication.

Communication in high context cultures tends to take into account how parties relate to each other, what context they are in, and relies on indirect clues.

Reading between the lines is a key skill in high context communication.


Communication within these cultural contexts, low or high, will usually be easy for all parties to understand. Across these communication styles understanding each other can get a bit more difficult.

It is when relative differences become apparent that intercultural communication skills are key in bridging the gap between low and high context communication.

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