Culture is like the water

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Executive Summary

‘Culture is like the water that fish swim in', it indicated the importantce of understanding culture while doing international business. Since Disney go glabl, their manager must be more aware about cultural appreciation. Hofstede's five dimentions explained how basic culture differences can influence management and organization practise.


With the economies of the world getting more globalized we see increased trade relations between different countries and integration of different cultures. This gave rise to the need of understanding the diversity of cultures in the business world. Companies that have been able to succeed in the global scenario give major credit to their sensitivity towards other cultures. Similarly the lack of cultural adaptation has caused major corporation suffer huge losses.

The given case is also an example of how a major organization like Disney failed to make losses despite a great product. The only problem that is prominent throughout the article is that the company assumed the French population to act in a similar way as the Americans. This obviously was not possible considering how the two cultures are so far apart from each other. This resulted in an extremely unfavorable return for Disney at the end of the first year as they incurred losses and were under huge debt, while what they had expected was the complete opposite.

 Analysis The Case Study

 Hofstedes Cultural Dimensions

In the analysis we will discuss how the two cultures are different from each other using well received theories for identifying cultural diversity. Hofstede in his research came up with five measures to compare different cultures which are used in the following analysis.

Power Distance

The power distance between the two cultures is different, as the hierarchies are stricly followed by the the employees of the U.S. The style of following rules and regulations is different as it would be for the French. French are more nationalist in terms of following orders while for the Americans following the company's terms would value more. This could be highlighted by the fact that all the senior executive at the park were Americans who had their french subordinates. But since all the highest authority posts were occupied by foreigners it proved to be difficult to create harmony among the employees in terms of following orders. It was like a disconnect among the employees within the organization (Chen & Chiu, 2008).


Individuality and personal identity is a major issue for French. This issue did not appear when the Disney was launched in Japan or in the U.S. where eployees were given strict guidelines to follow. But the french took it a whole new level they considered it as an attack on their identity and individualism. Whereas in other cultures specially of the U.S. it would have just been abiding by the rules. Following a perticular dress code and receiving people in a certain way went in a way against the French culture hence was taken as an offence by the employees as they did not appreciate it at all.


The American culture in broader terms is masculine, that is it is more concerened with accumulation of wealth; Capitalism basically (Hyman, Mason & Mason, 1995). While French on the other hand disagreed with the idea in general as it was displayed by the disapproval and opposition shown by certain political, cultural and labor groups to the French the quality of life mattered more rather than the materialistic aspects of it; in other words French culture according to the case turned out to be more on the feminine side.

Uncertainty Avoidance

French culture according to this case is shown to be low on avoiding uncertainties. As the panic felt by the French population in general due to the uncertainty caused by the launch of euro Disney land was quite apparent. At the day of the inauguration it was announced on major news feeds that people should expect traffic jams and should avoid routes that would lead to the Disneyland. The uncertainty caused by these warnings was felt by the people and as a result we saw a very small turnout at the park on the inauguration day. While on the other hand we would see record breaking turnouts of visitors on such events. The case discusses the inauguration days of the Disneyland in the U.S. and also that of Japan which saw a flood of people coming in to visit the facilities (Heifetz & Linsky, 2008).

Long vs. Short term orientation

For the French the entire event was oriented on short term basis. This could be said as the French population was more concerned of the preservation of the French culture and the impact of an American cultural franchise on their own culture. This was exhibited through the contract between the French government and the Disney executives as well. As it was specifically mentioned that French cultural aspects would be considered in the operations of the park. They were also concerned with the loss of their traditions as a lot of nationalism was observed throughout the case; hiring labor, sponsorships, themes etc. The French seemed more concerned on how things went in the present and how this change from the operations of the Disneyland would affect their past traditions. They even had negative thoughts about how they perceived the whole scenario as they categorized the jobs being offered as the chewing gum scrapping jobs (Gilgeous & Chambers, 2001). While Americans on the other hand took pride in the same sort of jobs. This shows that Americans had a long term view on matters in general, as they saw the larger picture in this case. As Disney saw the dream of Disneyland and making this future event happen he strived and people worked for him, they had to change the way they operated but they had a long term visions. They didn't hold the traditions as close as probably the French did.

Trompenaar's Research

Trompenaar's research although overlaps with the work of Hofstede; but it sheds light on some of the issues that are not discussed by Hofstede. Although the seven dimensions of culture can be discussed regarding the issue but we will only discuss the points that further clarify the differences among the cultures (Robbins, 2004).

Universalism Vs. Particularism

The French culture from the case appeared to resisting universalism. The French valued human values, their way of life and their relationships more than the corporate rules laid down by Disney. This was the main reason that there were a lot of doubts in the minds of people, concerning the rules defined for the employees. They took it as an attack on their life styles and their identities. While for Disney and the American culture it was a part of everyday life, this was what they stood for; their rules and regulations.


For the French it was really hard to keep emotions aside. This became really prominent with the kind of protests that were being done by the people, especially the unions, the farmers and the political activists. They considered the creation of euro Disney as an American invasion on their culture which they held really close to their beings. While for the American culture it would be more of a neutral event, it would take a lot for an organization to pursue them to come to protests and events as such will not involve emotions in the American societies (Hyman, Mason & Mason, 1995).


For the French culture it appeared that employees are needed to be told specifically of their tasks and what is required of them at a particular job. As despite training the greeters at the resort pronounced "Howdy!" as "Owdy!' which created issues with the sponsors for Disney. It appeared that responsibility is not being felt and accepted by employees themselves. While on the other hand the American Disney workers worked in teams and felt the responsibility and came up with their own techniques for example scrapping chewing gums off path ways (Cotton, 1993).


It seemed that French appeared to be controlled by the environment around them. It could be viewed through the simple example that despite heavy ad campaigns and media buzz about Disney's inauguration people didn't show up due to fears of traffic and others (Chen & Chiu, 2008).

Three Mistakes


The entire Disneyland was made alcohol free. While in the French culture wine is held very dear and is considered as a gift from God. To deprive them from enjoying such a treat just did not make sense to them, and they were unable to connect to the idea. The mistake in this act was that it was assumed that the idea of a family park in the U.S. would be the same in France as well. Hence the cultural values in this respect were ignored by the Disney management (Gilgeous & Chambers, 2001).

Employee Appearances

The appearance code decided by the management was not implementable keeping the French in perspective. French take pride in the way they dress up and carry themselves; to them it is a mean of making a statement about their personality. This is of great importance and is held very dearly by the French, and depriving them of this right was certainly a mistake. This created a feeling of discontent among the employees, they felt deprived of their own voices and felt that they couldn't really express themselves. This suffocation lead to dissatisfaction among the employees (Hyman, Mason & Mason, 1995).

Ignorance of dialect and norms

The third major mistake made in cultural perspective was again related to the employees i.e. the company ignored the dialect of the French and also ignored their social norms. The example of the dialect ignorance is previously mentioned of the greeter at the hotel mispronouncing the western greeting "Howdy!" as "Owdy!" and making it sound more like "Audi" a rival of the major sponsor Renault. Also it was expected of the employees to have smiles on their faces all the times and greet everyone with a smile. This was not possible for the employees as it is just not a part of the French culture. And the employees being forced to do so, was not well received by them.

These mistakes although are related to the issues with employees, but to me these were actually the mistakes that the management was not able to provide a true Disney experience which made it popular.

Lessons Learned

Identify Stakeholders

In this particular course it appears that Disney was just not able to identify all the stakeholders of the project. The stakeholders were not only the government, the employees and the investors but also those people who were protesting the creation of Disneyland in France (Carlsen, 2008). This in the end brought in a lot of bas press and created a negative image in people's minds who were the ultimate customers, hence the project was not well received. Before even entering and breaking the ground these people should've been identified and their issues must've been resolved so that they were able to send a positive vibe about the venture among the general population (Robbins & Judge, 2004).

Generalization Of Rules

The second biggest lesson that Disney should take away from this case should be that same rules cannot apply in all cultures. Or even if they are necessary they might be needed to be packaged differently to better suit the environment and culture. For example not only the employee dresses and appearance an issue for the French but also the way it was presented to them was also an issue. They took it as an offence and felt insulted. Also some rules that might create a favorable environment in one culture might crate confusions in a different culture and would ultimately lead to a negative impact. For example making the dismay destinations in the U.S. liquor free created a favorable family environment considering the culture whereas the same rule was perceived as absurd and unfavorable by the French.

Explore Cultural Insights And Perceptions

Last lesson that should be learnt from this scenario is that, while entering into a different market altogether not only the business aspects must be explored but also the cultural aspects must be explored (Heifetz & Linsky, 2008). Before entering into the French land Disney explored all the business options, it considered costs, logistics, revenue etc. But they forgot the most important aspect unexplored which was the French culture and how will their venture be perceived by the French population. Hence resulted in a loss incurred in millions.

Considering the scenario Disney should run major PR campaign that should address not only the customers but all the stakeholders including the action groups and employees. During this it should try to identify what are the most essential reservations of the people and what changes can be brought in order to better attract the people.


Carlsen, B. (Sep 2008). Getting Employees to go the Extra Mile. Healthcare Executive , 83.

Cotton, J. L. (1993). Employee Involvement: Methods for Improving Performance and Work Attitudes. Frankfurt: Sage Publications.

Chen, C.-C., & Chiu, S.-F. (Sep 2008). An Integrative Model Linking Supervisor Support and Organizational Citizenship Behavior. Journal of Business & Psychology , 1-10.

Gilgeous, V., & Chambers, S. (2001). Initiatives for Managing Resistance to Change. Journal of General Management , 44-58.

Heifetz, R. A., & Linsky, M. (2008). Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business School Publishing , 1.

Hyman, J., Mason, B., & Mason, R. (1995). Managing Employee Involvement and Participation. Frankfurt: Sage Publications.

Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. A. (2004). Organizational Behavior. New York: Pearsons.