According to Hannerz (1990), meta or global cultures are being established because of the growing interconnectedness of diverse local cultures and due to the development of cultures without any distinct linkage to any one region. Individuals who belong to a global culture, have similar perceptions about a certain place, person or thing (Alden, et al., 1999). These people share sets of symbols like brands, experiences like travel and attitudes like a multi-ethnic outlook (Hannerz, 1990).
It is observed that due to various reasons, the culture within a country is becoming heterogeneous. Thus micro culture helps preserve the vital patterns of national culture and also develops a distinctive pattern of dispositions and behaviour. Micro Cultures combine various overlapping criteria, such as, language, religion, ethnicity, social class, etc (Benedict, et al., 2001).
According to Lachman and Triandis (2003), "National Culture reflects the core values and beliefs of individuals formed during chinldhood and reinforced throughout life." Hofstede (1991), has also pointed out that it is extremely important to understand national culture in order to be successful in international business. (ref frm main journal of yeganeh). National culture is not the only culture present or the totality of all cultures within a country, it simply helps differentiate the members of one nation from another based on their cultures. It has also been said that every nation has an unique culture of its own (Yeganeh).
ANALYSING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
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There are is no best way by which the cultural differences in a country can be measured, though a practical way of understanding the cultural differences would be by breaking down the socio-cultural environment into various elements and then investigating each element separately (Kahal, 1994). Cateora, 1990, has pointed out that culture is not just a "group of unrelated elements", but the different elements of culture are "intricately intertwined". Terpestra, et al, 1985 have also pointed out that culture must be seen as an "integrated complex whole". In order to understand a particular behaviour or reaction, it is not enough to understand the various aspects of culture, one needs to understand the motivations and reasons behind the particular action. "A systems approach to the analysis of the cultural environment is one where culture is understood as a system composed of parts that are related to other parts which mutually influence and adjust to each other, through a process of cooperation, competition, conflict and accommodation" (Parson, 1951).
ELEMENTS OF CULTURE
According to Kahal, 1994, the various elements of culture which influence international business practices significantly, are depicted in the figure given below:-
LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICAITON
"Language is one of the defining characteristics of a culture", and every country has a distinct style of communication, be it spoken or unspoken (Hill, 2007).
ATTITUDES AND MORAL VALUES
HIGH CONTEXT AND LOW CONTEXT CULTURE
Edward T. Hall (1976) put forward the concept of high and low context cultures to understand various cultural orientations. (ref journal kim) This concept is useful as it helps understand how members belonging to the same culture relate with each other in "social bonds, responsibility, commitment, social harmony, and communication", in turn making it easier to understand cultural differences (Kim, et al., 1998 ).
"A high-context communication or message is one in which more of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit part of the message", whereas in low-context communication, it is just the opposite and majority of the information is present in the explicit code (Gudykunst, 1986).
In countries such as Germany and Switzerland, low-context cultures are present where communication is mostly carried on through explicit statements in text and speech, whereas in countries such as Japan and China, communication is not so straightforward and one needs to imply meaning to the use of body language and the use of silence. Thus in high-context cultures a message needs to be interpreted, through that which is not voiced like behaviours, situations and paraverbal cues (Wurtz, 2006).
Hofstede's Cultural Typology
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Geert Hofsede's Cultural typology was framed to show that cultural differences between various nations can significantly be measured, and ordered along a distinct set of dimensions, signifying various answers to universal problems of human society (Hofstede, 1980). Hofstede recognised four such dimensions, namely, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism and masculinity-femininity (Hofstede, 2006). Hofstede (1991), added a fifth dimension , long-term versus short-term orientation. According to Kuhn (1970), "the dimensions paradigm since 1990's has become the normal science approach to cross-cultural business studies, although researchers diverge in their choice of dimensions."
The four dimensions mentioned by Hofstede have been explained below:
Power Distance: Power Distance refers to the extent to which hierarchical differences are accepted in a society and articulated in term of deference to higher and lower social and and decision levels in firms (Keegan, 2008).
Uncertainty Avoidance: This refers to the extent to which a society tolerates uncertainty and ambiguity (Hofstede, 1994). High uncertainty avoidance is reflected when a society tries to minimise risks and prefers a structure whereas low uncertainty avoidance is reflected in societies which are willing to take risks and readily accept uncertainty in various situations (Bridgewater, et al., 2002).
Individualism/Collectivism: This refers to the relation shared between individuals and their associated individuals. It is the extent to which individuals in a society are integrated into groups. It shows that some societies share a very strong bond between their members whereas in the other the bond is not that strong. An individualistic society is that which is loosely integrated whereas in a collectivistic society they are strongly integrated (Hofstede, 1983).
Masculinity/ Femininity: This refers to the extent to which strong values such as assertiveness, aggressiveness, performance, competition and success are affiliated with the position of men in society, in comparison to tender values such as quality of life, maintaining healthy relationships, concern for the feeble which are affiliated to the role played by women in the same society. Though the role played by women is different in all societies, it is observed that the differences between the two genders is vaster in a tough society in comparison to a feeble one ( Hofstede, 1993).
'Confucian Dynamism' was a fifth dimension introduced by Hofstede, following the criticisms faced by him over biasness towards western culture (Hofstede and Bond, 1988). This dimension is also known as the 'short-term versus long term orientation' (Hofstede 1994). It is related to the eastern culture which shows evidence of both orientations, where long-term orientation is related to value perseverance, sense of indignity and thrift and short-term orientation is related to respect towards ones traditions, stability in relations and reciprocation of gifts. Long-term orientation takes into consideration the future whereas short-term orientation is all about the present (Bridgewater, et al., 2002).
Though Hofstede's model is extremely useful, due to various reasons it has been criticised. Firstly, Hofstede has taken into consideration only four to five dimensions which are quite inadequate to analyse the culture of a country, missing out on several important dimensions (Terlutter, et al., 2006). His typology has been criticised for its limited ability to extend the dominant values present within a multinational to represent cultural values of a country (Hunt, 1983). (ref chachani journal) There is insufficient precision in definition across categories (Chow, et al., 1999) and there is a limited scope in methodology and measurement (Yeh, 1988).
Inspite the criticism, there are various reasons due to which his dimensions are accepted. Firstly, Hofstede was the first person to bring together fragmented parts of the literature and form a rational framework for classifying different cultures. His dimensions are straight forward and easy to understand. Lastly, Hofstede has offered an instrument to evaluate values (Chanchani, et al., 2009).
Thus Hofstede's Cultural typology is extremely useful to understand the cultures of different nations and to compare them based on various dimensions.
THE GLOBE PROJECT
The GLOBE project is a major cross-cultural research project, formulated by Robert J. House in 1991 (Hofstede, 2006). "GLOBE (Global Leadership and Organisational Behaviour Effectiveness) is a multi phase, multi-method project in which investigators spanning the world are examining the interrelationships between societal culture, organisational culture and organisational leadership." Its objective is to investigate the different cultural beliefs, values and practices in various countries, and to recognize their effects on organisational practices and leadership attributes. (House, et al., 2002).
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"There is a need for leadership and organisational theories that transcend cultures to understand what works and what does not work in different cultural settings."(Triandis, 1993). Dorfman, 1996, says that concentration on cross-cultural problems helps researchers to include a bigger range of variables such as language, significance of religion, ethnic background, history etc, in various leadership theories. Various components of culture such as traditions, values, beliefs, ideologies and norms, which vastly differ in every society, have a direct impact on the leadership styles (Lammers, et al., 1979).
The nine dimensions of culture according to the GLOBE project are given below:
Assertiveness: It refers to the extent to which members of a society are assertive, intimidating, aggressive and frank (Terlutter, et al., 2006).
Gender differentiation: It is the degree to which inequality amongst genders is avoided in a society.
Uncertainty Avoidance: It is the extent to which a society relies on social norms and procedures to avoid any uncertainty in a given situation and the members show an inclination towards order, structure and formalities (Rugman, et al., 2006).
Power Distance: It is the degree to which members of a society believe that power should be distributed equally amongst themselves.
Institutional collectivism: It is the extent to which collective and active participation is encouraged in social institutions and organisations.
In group/family collectivism: It refers to the extent to which members of the society take pride in closeness of relationships and the existence of loyalty, concern and care towards the members of their family and organisations.
Future Orientation: It is the extent to which members of a society give importance to future oriented activities such as planning and investing.
Performance orientation: It is the extent to which members of a society promote and reward group members for brilliance and enhancement of their performances (House, et al., 2002).
Humane orientation: It is the extent to which members of a society give emphasis to fairness, kindness, humanity, selflessness, friendliness and generosity (Rugman, et al., 2006).
From the dimensions given above, we see that, the first six correspond with the cultural dimensions mentioned in Hofstede's typology.
Thus with the help of the dimensions mentioned by Hofstede and the GLOBE project we can compare the national culture of various countries.