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Business Idea Arepas In Germany Cultural Studies Essay

Colombia and Germany are two completely different countries and likewise, two completely different cultures. When approaching foreign cultures, no matter how different they are, knowledge creation and generalization, even with the risk to stereotype sometimes, are necessary to get to know the country and to successfully penetrate the market. With the help of the cultural dimensions established by Hofstede and Hall and seen in the Intercultural Management class we will analyze the culture of the target country Germany and point out significant similarities and differences in lifestyles that are useful for our product launch. Awareness for the differences and similarities allows us to adapt more easily to foreign culture and at the same time, develop our business idea.

Some lifestyle or behavioral aspects might be similar in countries so different like Colombia and Germany. We think, we have found a crossover between German and Colombian lifestyle in eating habits that can be used as a business idea. We want to launch arepas, used as a regular breakfast or side dish by many Colombians, in Germany, but reframe it to make it fit to the German lifestyle and cultural context. The implementation of arepas as described in this essay is a general idea of how it might work and where we see cultural interfaces. It is neither a concrete market analysis nor a definite marketing concept, but a cultural approach.

The conclusion will summarize the main aspects that need to be taken into consideration when trying to implement arepa in the German market.

German historical and cultural background

Germany and its current culture where mainly shaped by the last two centuries. Starting with the failure of the German Revolution in 1848/49, when different partly independent German States of the German Confederation, firstly started to revolt against the ruling elites, fighting for more liberty, civil rights and unification [1] . Part of this historical structure is still present in the federal structure (16 Länder) of modern Germany.

In the 20th century Germany caused and suffered from two world wars and nationalistic dictatorships – all of those having had deep impacts on the cultural behavior of the current population. As a result of World War II the former Deutsches Reich got split up among the four allies France, Great Britain, USA who formed the new capitalism-based nation in West-Germany (Federal Republic of Germany, FRG), and the Soviet Union who transformed its occupied part into the German Democratic Republic (GDR), implementing a socialistic market system. The two parts developed for about 40 years in completely different ways – economically, politically and culturally [2] :

The FRG caught up to the global standard in economics and politics quite quickly and, with some delay, joined international organizations (EU, NATO). Meanwhile, the society also entered a process of transformation. The 1968 movements, mainly driven by students, aimed to liberate the country from conservative rules and traditions, from authoritarianism, gender differences, police control and the pressure of capitalism. This had strong impacts on the current society concerning low power distance and higher (although not at all completed) gender equality, family life, sex habits, demographic changes [3] and many more. It allowed individual choices and the freedom to develop one’s own individuality. Collectivism, at least the one the Nazis had implemented barely without individual choice, had obviously failed in the eyes of the students. This might be one of the many reasons why Germans score quite high in Hofstede’s individualism dimension [4] .

Later on, the radical, socialist RAF terrorists (Rote Armee Fraktion) emerged and used robberies, bombings, assassinations and kidnapping to press through their calls in the 70’s till the early 90´s and terrorized and split the whole (West) nation.

The GDR was ruled in an one-party system by the authoritarian SED, supported by the USSR. The “Iron Curtain” of the Cold War, symbolized by the Berlin-Wall (from 1961) and the fences dividing Germany, was controlled by armed forces that had the order to imprison or to shoot escapers. The authoritarian regime acted cruelly, censured public life, limited civil rights and (intended to) cut off both, society and economy, from the rest of the Western Hemisphere. [5] All that led to great dissatisfaction and protest, finally resulting in the reunification in 1990. Although celebrated in the first place, it became obvious that the reunification process was not thought all the way through. Capitalism brutally hit the unprepared economy of the East, leading to an economical crash, unemployment, emigration to the West [6] and anger among the people on both sides. [7] The reunification turned from something both parts wanted into a highly complex problem [8] which is still not completely solved in Germany, concerning differences in income distribution, unemployment rates, immigrant numbers, economic strength, growth or lifestyles [9] . [10] 

Our thesis is that all this, beginning with the failed revolution in 1848, two World Wars, dictatorships, the separation and failed reintegration of the East and the RAF terrorism, mainly shaped the high level of uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede) [11] and the need of low context (Hall) communication [12] , explicit rules, strict organization and planning in German society [13] , obviously also indicating a monochromic culture.

Germany also scores relatively high in Hofstede’s masculinity dimension. Long-term orientation (31) does not seem to be really high. [14] Nevertheless, new trend terms in Germany are sustainability and corporate social responsibility [15] . This also includes ecological awareness and indicates that Germans are starting to get aware of their surroundings and to think increasingly in long-term control loops concerning the systems of their economy and their political actions. The same problems occur when we start looking at the German relationship to nature. Although they are aware of the pollution the majority is rather waiting for scientists to find ways to reduce pollution than actually changing their own lifestyle. But in some rural areas the relationship with nature is still pretty close.

Some of the concepts introduced by Hofstede and other scholars are disputatious. For example, the high score on individualism in German culture does not necessarily mean they are living completely dissolved from family contexts etc. Yes, individuality is one of the highest values, but it does not mean dissolution of group contexts. A lot of group events are even really popular in Germany, such as “Grillen”, which is having a barbecue with friends and/ or family in a park or at home, watching soccer together [16] , what Germans misleadingly call „Public Viewing“ [17] , or family especially on holidays when the whole family is coming together.

Although they usually tend to avoid any kind of uncertainty traveling [18] and foreign food, drinks, clothes - mainly German holiday areas - or anything that appears to be “exotic” from far away countries (China, Japan, Thailand or Latin America, The Caribbean etc.) are popular. This attitude is for example reflected in commercials. [19] We are going to use this affinity to exotic products as well as some of their cultural habits such as the “Grillen” to implement arepas in German life.

Similarities and differences with Colombia

According to Hofstede´s dimensions, Germany and Colombia only look alike when comparing the level of Uncertainty avoidance, although represented by very different characteristics (Germany: rules and organization/ Colombia: fear of the unknown and foreign), and the level of masculinity [20] , also due by very distinctive reasons.

Privacy, respect for others and securities at home are characteristics explained by the text: “The German Symphony”. It is essential to highlight the importance of having the door closed in Germany as a protective barrier unlike in Colombia having the door open means everybody is welcome. But especially young people like to hang out outside in German summers and although domestic traditions (core values) such as eating habits might be hard to change, we think it is worth a trial.

Germans are very functional, organized and time-efficient. Colombians tend to be more “relaxed” in terms of time and their nature tends to be more outgoing. Germans keep more space between them than Colombians, where physical contact is not weird among strangers. “However, this reserved nature should not mistakenly be interpreted as a lack of friendliness.” [21] , referring to Germans in the text “The German Symphony”.

As we can see, a similar degree in Hofstede´s cultural dimensions does not mean culture similarities between both countries. Taking advantage of those differences is challenging but not impossible. In fact, selling any type of product in Germany means adaptation to be able to perform a cross- cultural code switch.

By having a closer look on some special cultural aspects, like eating habits, one can also find similarities: While Germans eat muesli or typical bread (rolls) for breakfast, Colombians consume their typical arepa. Same with side dishes, especially in the habit of having a barbecue, only the Germans call it Grillen and the Colombians say asado. In Germany everybody brings his own meat, gets his own plate with the piece of meat he had brought and combines it with a more Americanized type of bread (white bread) or rolls and salad. Colombians rather share the expenses of the material bought, pick with their hands little pieces all from the same plate and combine it with arepas. Like with German bread, there exist a dozens of variations of arepa, used as snacks or proper meals and both, bread and arepa, are strong cultural commodities belonging to some kinds of traditional cultural rituals. We wanted to take the challenge and make a cross-over to contextualize Colombian arepas in a German market.

Business idea and implementation – Bringing Arepa to Germany

Services, although highly popular in Colombia and simplifying life, would probably face rejection in Germany because Germans are not used to and not comfortable with other people packing their bags in supermarkets or refueling their cars, maybe due to low power distance and uncertainty avoidance issues. Hence, we chose arepas out of different reasons:

Firstly, we have to clarify that we will not try to implement arepas in the same way they are consumed in Colombia. Arepas should not directly compete with German bread, because Germans love that too much: Germans already have a wide variation. Bread is usually eaten in the mornings (often coming along as bread rolls) and evenings, as well as white bread or a German baguette style for barbecues or as side dishes. The usual, rather tasteless arepa flavor would probably not be able to compete with that out of different reasons. One would be a really strong tradition of eating habits related to bread consume and a strong attachment to German bakery stores who prepare the bread and other sweets every day freshly. Another one could be the German perception that everything that has been freshly made by a local dealer is healthier and more reasonable than any instant meal from a supermarket [22] . Germans would probably also fear any foreign product pushing aside the German bread, which really is strongly related to German culture. [23] 

Instead, we will propagate slightly different usages for arepas that can be connected with both, Colombian and German, culture. To start the launch we will publicize arepa as the perfect side dish for Grillen with family and friends, like when the Colombians do their asado. Next to the typical German sausages arepa is put on the grill and served together with salad, the sausage and the popular herb butter used for Grillen. In that context we would propose the regular arepas in the small and thin, normal-sized versions, small arepitas or the ones filled cheese. Probably arepa will only work in those contexts, where everyone has its own plate using knife and fork to eat his sausage. In reunions among friends this is very common because those barbecues are usually accompanied with homemade salads. In other contexts, like commercial selling on fairs where sausages are sold in a roll without cutlery required, the flat structure of arepa, where the sausage could fall down, would not be useful and therefore not work.

To really reach a change in German habits some incentives are required. Hence, any possible commercial message should include the information of arepa being a Colombian product, indicating the exotic nature, f. e. “directly from the Colombian Caribbean” [24] and explain the possible consume environment – Grillen. Germans do barbecues almost only in summer and this message – also transmitting feelings of exotic holiday and adventure – matches perfectly with warm German summer nights. Possible commercials should communicate a slight feeling of multiculturalism and mainly address to students (as side dishes). They love reunions with barbecues and beer in parks in the summer and appear to be more open to new things. And especially the cheese-filled arepas add value to a meal that otherwise would be taken with mere white bread and also offer a new variation for vegetarians. And, careful with proposing the Colombian asado: Germans usually prefer their own plate, as already explained above!

In the second run, we would start to implement arepas “de chócolo” or regular ones filled with eggs or bacon and so on. The success of arepa in Germany will be mainly based on whether we find combinations that go along with the German taste and if it is possible to find enough occasions where arepas can be used instead of bread or fast food items without threatening the consume of bread itself.

In order to find a match in taste a lot of market research experiments are needed. We would cooperate with market research agencies in Germany to develop those products and recipes that fit the German taste the most. Market Research Institutes can also help to identify those situations, when arepa would be preferred by the Germans. Based on those studies we can develop marketing and communication methods. Some hypotheses for the results of market research would be: Arepas can be presented as another breakfast option, for special days, like for example pancakes or French Toast. We don’t think, arepas will ever push aside muesli or bread (rolls) in typical German breakfast, but some Germans like to vary their breakfast at the weekends or on special holidays. Arepas de chocolo could also be promoted as pancakes or Waffles as an afternoon snack with cream cheese, jam or honey, all famous in Germany. As well as every cheese, bacon or similarly filled arepas can be promoted as a snack or fast meal, healthier than burgers.

Also imaginable for the German market would be arepas plated with all kinds of meat, cheese, vegetables, sauces etc. similar to what is sold in Colombia as aprepizza or available as frozen food or in specialized arepa restaurants.

Therefore, we think about opening Arepa – Fast-Food Restaurants in Germany whereas the exact combinations for the German taste have to be tested by market research beforehand. We would propagandize it as an exotic new fast food from Latin America and specify that in the subtext by mentioning Colombia.

German health regulations, import and distribution laws also have to be taken into consideration. [25] For example, wrappings have to show explicitly nutrition facts and ingredients which have to go along with German and European law. The juridical aspect should not be underestimated in German bureaucracy (Very high due to uncertainty avoidance).

For start, we would import arepas directly from Colombia. In the long run it should be calculated whether the production in Germany would be more profitable as the import from Colombia. Although this way the product would maybe lose its exotic charm it would gain the purpose of freshly made food.

We want arepa to transfer some Colombian values, that Germans take their time while coming closer together to eat their arepa, be open to the new taste that in some ways should also transport an exotic feeling different from bread.

Conclusion

By identifying German cultural patterns and habits and comparing them to Colombia we found similar usages and a similarity of traditional products, although the differences between the two cultures are significant. We managed to encounter some similarities: German bread and Colombian arepa. We decided to imagine an arepa-launch on the German market, without disrupting German bread of its traditional context. Therefore, we had to reframe and adapt the Colombian product to the German culture.

In order to find out about the German taste we would run different market research methods to be able to adapt arepas perfectly to the German market. For example, we need to find out to which kind of meals the majority of Germans would like to eat arepa, with what other ingredients they would like to combine it and which are the primary target groups. Once we have found out about those preferences we can develop marketing campaigns that would penetrate the market.

It is important that one does not try to force the Colombian food traditions, like the time of the day when to eat arepa or its combination with other meals, on the German society, but rather modify the Colombian usage to match the German context and traditions. Otherwise the product would probably not sell.

One also should not forget about the strict German health and food regulations, as to say, one has to have a close look on German laws for imports, transportation of foods, labeling on the wrapping and so on.

All in all we are confident that our product launch can be successful in Germany when taking into account all the possible obstacles and differences but also similarities.

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