The Culture Map

Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business

Author: Erin Meyer

“The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” by Erin Meyer is a highly insightful guide that explores how cultural differences impact international business interactions. Meyer presents a framework for understanding and navigating cultural complexities by examining various dimensions of communication, leadership, and etiquette across different countries.

Let me explain first high and low context communication, as it’s required to understand the idea. The term refers to the amount of information conveyed explicitly in words versus how much is understood through context, such as non-verbal cues, background knowledge, and relationships.

High-Context Communication

Relies heavily on implicit messages and non-verbal cues. Much of the information is understood through context, shared experiences, and unspoken understandings. Communicators often use metaphors, body language, and tone to convey meaning.

Examples: Countries like Japan, China, and Spain often use high-context communication.

Low-Context Communication

Relies on explicit, clear, and direct verbal messages. Information is conveyed mostly through words, and communicators are expected to be straightforward and specific. Less is left to interpretation.

Examples: Countries like Germany, the United States, and Scandinavia typically use low-context communication.

How does it work in practice?

Here’s a summary focusing on Germany, Poland, and Spain, with additional context for Pakistan, Russia, and India:


Communication: Low-context, direct and explicit.
Leadership: Hierarchical but with a preference for a fact-based, logical approach.
Decision-Making: Consensus-driven but valuing detailed planning and precision.


  • Meetings: Be punctual and well-prepared. Germans appreciate structure and clear agendas.
  • Communication: Be straightforward and concise. Avoid ambiguity and be prepared to back up your points with data.
  • Feedback: Be direct and honest. Constructive criticism is expected and respected.


Communication: Between high-context and low-context, with some indirect communication.
Leadership: Hierarchical but with significant respect for expertise and authority.
Decision-Making: Often centralized, with leaders making final decisions after consulting subordinates.


  • Meetings: Formal and structured, but also be ready for some flexibility. Show respect for titles and positions.
  • Communication: Clear and respectful. Build relationships and trust, as Poles value personal connections.
  • Feedback: Mix direct and indirect approaches. Be diplomatic to maintain harmony.


Communication: High-context, indirect and expressive.
Leadership: Hierarchical, but with a focus on charismatic and relationship-oriented leadership.
Decision-Making: Often top-down but can be informal and flexible.


  • Meetings: Expect some fluidity with time. Establish a personal rapport before diving into business.
  • Communication: Be expressive and read between the lines. Non-verbal cues are important.
  • Feedback: Indirect and tactful. Focus on maintaining positive relationships.


Communication: High-context, indirect and relationship-oriented.
Leadership: Strongly hierarchical with a respect for authority.
Decision-Making: Centralized, often influenced by personal connections and trust.


  • Meetings: Formal but expect small talk to build rapport. Respect hierarchical structures.
  • Communication: Be indirect and polite. Use intermediaries if necessary to deliver sensitive messages.
  • Feedback: Provide feedback in a way that saves face and maintains dignity.


Communication: High-context, often indirect with a significant use of non-verbal cues.
Leadership: Authoritative and centralized.
Decision-Making: Top-down, with leaders making key decisions.


  • Meetings: Formal and hierarchical. Show respect for positions and be prepared for lengthy discussions.
  • Communication: Be clear but tactful. Understand the importance of personal relationships.
  • Feedback: Be indirect to avoid confrontation. Maintain a balance between honesty and diplomacy.


Communication: High-context, indirect and nuanced.
Leadership: Hierarchical, with a strong respect for age and position.
Decision-Making: Often top-down but with input from trusted subordinates.


  • Meetings: Be patient and flexible with time. Build personal relationships and show respect for hierarchy.
  • Communication: Be indirect and read between the lines. Emphasize politeness and respect.
  • Feedback: Provide feedback gently to avoid causing embarrassment. Use a balanced approach.

Group by key characteristics

That’s a lot of detailed information, so let me try to sum it up by countries which share similarities within the key characteristics:

  1. Germany and Poland:

    • Both countries have low-context communication styles.
    • They share similarities in their structured approach to meetings and preference for direct communication.
    • They both value clarity and precision in communication and decision-making.
  2. Spain, Pakistan, Russia, and India:

    • These countries lean towards high-context communication.
    • They place a significant emphasis on building relationships and reading non-verbal cues.
    • Leadership tends to be hierarchical but may also prioritize personal relationships and charisma.
    • Decision-making can be centralized, influenced by personal connections and trust.

These similarities suggest potential areas for smoother cross-cultural communication and understanding, particularly between Germany and Poland due to their shared low-context communication style. Similarly, Spain, Pakistan, Russia, and India may find common ground in their high-context communication styles and emphasis on relationships in leadership and decision-making.

On the other side, it’s all about the spectrum on the axis and the distance between specific cultures. So Germans are more low-context, than Poles, which might be very low-context to someone from Spain. Oh, that doesn’t make it all easier 😉


I strongly recommend reading this book to anyone working in cross cultural, multinational organizations. Book provides insights into navigating the complexities of international business. By understanding and respecting these cultural differences, anyone can improve their communication, leadership skills or better influence decision-making across diverse cultural landscapes.