Not too long ago, my sister told me about an incident at work in which both she and a Taiwanese coworker had independently made mistakes on similar projects (test-writing, I believe). When told that she'd messed up, my sister apologized and said she'd get right on fixing the error. She noted that her coworker did not - she said "Oh, uh, OK" and fixed it. I, too, thought it was odd to not apologize for a minor error that is clearly your fault, but let it go. Then, at my job, I asked for a certain worksheet I'd created for them years ago to be prepared for my use for an upcoming seminar. In the intervening time they'd "lost" the digital file somehow, so I had to re-create the worksheet. They didn't actually tell me that they didn't have it until the night before, which put pressure on me (despite my asking many times for confirmation). Instead of "we're sorry" or "we apologize", I got a "I have checked with ______ and we do not have the worksheet you requested". I replied and said I was disappointed and felt their actions were unprofessional, and noted that when dealing with foreigners, it smoothes office relations quite a bit to own up to your mistakes and apologize. I'm blunt like that. I got no reply.
It got me thinking: is this a thing? I think it is, but I only have two anecdotes to back me up. In the US if you say you're sorry for some internal office screw-up and then present a solution and work to make it right, people will generally drop it, if not forget about it altogether. As though those two words are like memory erasers: "oh she screwed up...but she owned it, she apologized and we all make mistakes. So let's forget about it." In Taiwan, maybe apologizing causes you to lose too much face? Or admitting that yes, you made a mistake will cause people to remember and criticize you rather than forget? That if you mess up, the tacit social agreement is that you won't admit it and others won't draw attention to it? That it's not the smoother-over of interpersonal interactions the way it is back home?
Which would be fine if everyone lived by that rule, but we don't. In offices where you have to deal with foreigners, either in-house or from abroad, you need to know these things, because the average foreigner won't understand that cultural difference and will feel miffed and annoyed at the lack of apology or even recognition and ownership of the mistake. Not owning it will cause that person to remember it, not forget about it. They might not say anything, but the feeling is there and it does jeopardize relations.
It makes me wonder if I should be teaching this in my business etiquette class...