The Building Blocks Of National Culture Commerce Essay

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Culture is a widely researched are but it's a complex issue and wide ranging with multiple manifestations, if not properly addressed it can lead to management frustrations, costly misunderstanding and even business failures that otherwise make business sense to pursue (Holden 2002). The national culture of region/country help to shape a person's cultural profile (Browaeys and price 2008), this is effect would reflect how a person defines 'culture'. One definition of culture is as follows:

'The collective programming of the mind distinguishes the members of one group from another'(Hofstede 1980 cited in Browaeys and Price 2008 p.10). In other words it is a shared experience which makes groups of people different from one another (Schein 1999 in Browaeys and Price 2008).

It is important to make clear distinction between national culture and organisational culture. As national culture would play an important role in the formulation of organisation culture, organisational behaviour and management practices. As it is the individual who make or break an organisational culture (Browaeys and Price 2008).

National culture is built from different elements; according to Tayeb (2003 in Browaeys and Price 2008) elements that contribute to the build of national culture are Family, Religion, Education, Mass communication media and The Multinational Company. From another perspective Hall and Hall (1990) put forward how information is communicated, space and time as underlying structures of culture. For the purpose of this report, the elements that we find distinctly stand out between Swedish and Indian national culture are as follows:

For the purpose of this report, the elements that have been identified of being distinct and bearing relevant difference in terms of its cultural dimensions of the different culture of Sweden and India are as follows:


Family plays an important role in the social systems within India For an Indian keeping a close relationship with extended family is important An individual's status is to some extent defined by the family you descend from (Browaeys and Price 2008) This cultural value has a strong impact on Indian employees or entrepreneurs. Where importance is given on how an individual's own success would reflect on the reputation of the family , thus loyalty to family comes first over loyalty to the company (Browaeys and Price 2008) However the loyalty is intertwined, meaning that loyalty to a company would in effect bring success for an individual wealth and more importantly for his/her family's honour ensuring sound future for the family's offspring (Browaeys and Price 2008) These social values inherent in Indian culture do have significant influence on their behaviour in organisational context, which is explained in more detail under Hofstede's individualism/collectivism dimension.

The following table outlines the differences in Indian and Swede culture based on the element of family:




Close relationships with immediate family

Close relationships with immediate and relatives

Loyalty to organisation first

Loyalty to family first then organisation

Motivation based on individual success and benefit to the immediate family

Individual are more motivated if it brings good name and fortune to him/her and the family.

Table 1. Sweden and India cultural differences on Family


India's main religion is Hinduism. Hindu philosophy is prevalently dominant in Indian societies. Thus we find today Indian born influential management thinkers like C.K. Prahalad, ram Charan and Vijay Govindrajan promoting management thinking geared with values inherent in Hinduism (Engardio and McGregor 2006). The ideology encouraged by these management guru's are based primarily on the notion that organisations should move towards taking holistic approach to business in other words a stakeholder approach as opposed to a shareholder approach (Engardio and McGregor 2006) which is more prevalent in western countries. This supports the view of Indians as more communitarian/collectivist as has been put forward by Hofstede (Hofstede 2005).

Looking deeper into the element of religion and Hinduism , there are quite a number of Gods and Hindus' believe those Gods have different authority and Gods of God being Vishnu (Sanatan Society 2008).This Indian philosophy of different layers of Gods impact all spheres of social life. The idealism of individuals should focus on their duty rather than obsessing over outcomes or financial gain - acting selflessly; is key message promoted by Hinduism (Space and Motion 2008). This sort of values inherent in the Indian culture would mean that individuals work for future betterment of themselves and their family rather than gaining short term benefits. These explain further why Hofstede's put India in the dimensions of with high power distance, collectivism and long term orientation.The following table outlines the main difference on the Indian and Swedish Culture based on the element of religion:




Main religion is Christianity (no hierarchy of god -one god for all ) - one major festival

85% follow Hinduism as religion (Hierarchy of gods- many god to choose from) - many major festival.

No major impact from the way of life from religion

Life and behaviour greatly influenced by the values of the religion

No social stratification - all people are equal

Social stratification - Depends on the social status you are from.

Table 2. Sweden and India cultural differences on Religion

Source: Adapted from Zahl et al. (2007); Birkinshaw (2002); Kumar and Sankaran (2007);


In reference to high and low context, Hall and Hall(1990) were referring to how information is conveyed among different cultures. They argue that communication is not merely on spoken words exchanged between two people, but based on two distinct factors 'events' and 'context' these two varies among different cultures. A high context culture is where mass of the information is implicit and most of the information is already in person (Hall and Hall 1990 , Browaeys and Price 2008). In contrast low context culture is where most of the information is in the explicit form (Hall and Halll 1990,Browaeys and Price 2008). However , it is important to note that people from high context culture may vary how he/she communicates from high to low context depending on the circumstances(Hall and Hall 1990).

The following table outlines the main difference on the Indian and Swedish Culture based on the element of communication:




Low context society - information delivered is in the message - explicit

High context society - information delivered is in the context - implicit

Low on body language when communicating - easier to understand by people from different cultures

High on body language when communicating - difficult to understand if the person doesn't share the context

No hierarchy variance in communicating with your superiors

High hierarchy variance in communicating with your superiors.

Table 3. Sweden and India cultural differences on Communication

Source: Adapted from Hall and Hall (1990);

Time (Monochromic/Polychromic) & Space

Hall and Hall (1990) argue that 'time' plays an important roe in manifestation of national culture. When Hall and Hall (1990) refer to time it is not daily time per se. it is more of how national culture deal with time. Taking 'time' as an indicator of culture, they differentiated national cultures based on monochromic and polychromic (Hall and Hall 1990) .

In Scandinavian countries including Sweden, time is perceived as something tangible (monochronic), meaning that it is something that can be spent, saved, wasted and lost (Hall and Hall 1990). In contrast Indians are more dominated in polychronic systems, where time is characterised by doing many things at once and involvement of many people ?(Hall and Hall 1990) This characterisation does reflect Indian cultural distinction described by Hofsted under collectivism?(Hofstede and Hofstede 2005).

In an organisational context these two subsets of time defined by Hall and Hall (1990) plays an important role. According to Hall and Hall (1990), monochromic cultures (like Sweden) take deadlines, time commitments and plans more seriously.

Monochronic cultures tries to compartmentalise the functions and people, whilst the polychromic cultures sees that it disrupts the follow of information (Hall and Hall 1990). The assertion made by Hall and Hall (1990), that people from polychromic cultures tend to transact their business by moving about rather than restricting to confined office space is not evident in Perstorp India,

The following table outlines the main difference on the Indian and Swedish Culture based on the element of time and space:



Time & Space

Monochromic society - time is tangible which can be saved and spent

Polychromic society - time characterised by doing many things at once

Goals and plans are time bounded and takes time as a tangible commodity

Goals and plans are not strictly based on time

Individuals are focused on the tasks at hand and to achieve it in time.

Individuals do many things while doing the tasks, e.g. engaged in office gossips while doing the work.

Table 4. Sweden and India cultural differences on Time & Space

Source: Adapted from Hall and Hall (1990);


An organisation that adopts the defensive approach treats cultural and racial differences as hazards - a series of weak links and mismatches between people in which there is great potential for misunderstanding, mistrust, conflict and even resentment. It assumes at the start that certain people are inherently culturally insensitive to others. Handling cultural diversity therefore means avoiding giving offence to groups or individuals, preventing harassment, and managing grievances. Its goals are largely those of compliance with the law, regulation, policy, or with some best practice. It may have an implicit political objective as well, to reduce the supposed dominance of one culture over another.

The developmental approach on the other hand considers cultural differences for what they are - potentially different values, assumptions, expectations and behaviour which people bring to business as a result of their differing collective experiences. As expressed by one prominent writer in the field, culture is ''the way in which a group of people solves problems'' (Trompenaars, 1993). We could strengthen this definition by adding that culture is ''the way in which a particular group solves common problems.'' Different groups of people tend to respond to the various problems, questions and dilemmas inherent in international business in ways that make sense to them.

Organisations taking a developmental approach do recognise that these differences, where they exist, can have a significant impact on how people of different national or ethnic backgrounds approach the day-to-day issues of business and professional life. Moreover people want those differences to be acknowledged.

However, these organisations do not respond defensively. They believe that while people may sometimes be unaware of these differences, they are not automatically insensitive to them. At the same time, adopting a developmental approach means recognising that these collective tendencies take observable form in business as individual differences between people, not as rigid social stereotypes or as neat academic categories. Members of a team are not there to represent a ''culture'' or particular ethnic group - they represent themselves.

The outcome is therefore totally different to that of the defensive approach. Cultural differences become cultural perspectives - alternative ways of handling particular situations (or as we said above, solving problems). They are no longer considered hazards, but rather opportunities to strengthen the organisation through shared learning, better communication, and new perspectives.


In comparison to Sweden, India is nation with multiple cultural orientations within nation. Thus, it is difficult to take in account the various elements, which may have an impact on the organizational practices when analysing cultural influences in an organisation based in India. However, Hofstede's cultural studies are over 30 years of age (Holden, 2002) it is starting point to analysing culture differences and explore on how these differences can be managed. As identified in the report, there are prevalent differences between Swede and Indian cultures and the organisational practices in all countries, as well as Hofstede's dimensions that are not that robust and certain, what is important is cultural differences are something which can not be ignored.

Interpreting and understanding organisation culture is an important activity for managers and consultants because it affects strategic development, productivity and learning at all levels of business. Cultural assumption can both enable and constrain what organisations are able to do. MNEs are particularly interested in the effect of country and geographic cultures on their international operations. In particularly they are concerned with the ways in which work attitudes, achievement motivation, and the society's view of time will impact on performance of the unit. They are also interested in taking steps to ensure that their enterprise is able to deal effectively with other cultures.

Swedish organisations are quite conservative when it comes to dealing with foreign cultures, when they often keep a 'mom to daughter relationship' with head office and foreign subsidiaries (Schneider and Barsoux, 2003). However in perstorp head office have minimise the cultural differences and where appropriate taken advantages of culture as opposed to laying down Swedish culture on Spanish work force. Perstorp should utilise more of local culture to his advantage to further maximise the performance in foreign subsidiaries.


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