Globalization of a company’s hiring process becomes quite critical when it has to deal with external barriers; especially the ones relating to culture. It becomes equally challenging for an employee coming from a different cultural background to adjust in the new country and simultaneously adapt to their culture. However, in this world of instantaneous communication and global interactions, an international perspective can make one’s business as well as an individual’s career significantly more competitive. In order to have a good experience in the new environment and keeping away from depression one has to learn about the ways of interacting with the culture. This can be done by understanding a few aspects of the culture in the country one is going to. Each culture comes with its own personality, own way of doing things, ways of acting, ways of communicating with the world. Coming from one culture and moving to another, one can often pick out intriguing similarities and disheartening differences.
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Hence, every culture is unique and depending on it, various behavioural patterns can be observed. In order to facilitate our understanding about the extent of how dynamic a culture is, Hofstede’s cultural theory can be used. In the following research, a link will be established between Hofstede’s cultural dimensions and how I will use these observations in order to adjust myself culturally to the new environment so that I do not have cross-cultural problems living in Japan for the next five years. Additionally a comparison between my culture (Indian) and Japanese culture will also be discussed.
Definition of Culture by Hofstede
“Culture is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values.”- Geert Hofstede (Hofstede, 1991)
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Power Distance: it is the degree of inequality that is expected and accepted in a given society by subordinates. It relates to power, status, authority that you command from individuals in a given context. For the most part, often the less powerful members are dominated by more powerful members and that dimension is accepted by the less powerful and expected by the most powerful. The societies with high power distance deal with autocratic style of management while the democratic style of management is observed within societies with less power distance.
Uncertainty Avoidance: is the degree of risk that is accepted by people in any given society. It is the level to which the members of a society feel uncertain or ambiguous about a particular situation. The societies that avoid uncertainties are often the underdeveloped and the developing ones; whereas the developed societies are more tolerant towards uncertainties.
Individualism/Collectivism: a society where everyone is expected to take care of themselves is an individualistic one. Here, ‘me’, ‘I’ is more important as against ‘we’, ‘us’ in collectivist societies. The attachment between people in individualistic societies is very insecurely defined. Society may have a tendency to be materialistic. Individual work is greatly appreciated rather than team work in collectivist societies. Extended families influenced by religion are a peculiar feature of collectivism.
Masculinity/Feminism: the degree of difference that is observed between men and women describes this dimension. Societies driven by power, status, competitive depict masculinity, whereas, feminism illustrates values of modesty and concern. The former tends to be less emotional and expressive than latter.
Long term orientation/Short term orientation: Long term relates to rewarding responsibility with an intention in mind. However, short term relates to respect for tradition and values. The former is more perseverant and the latter imparts sense security and protects one’s reputation. (Hofstede, 1991)
Differences between Japanese and Indian Culture according to Hofstede
Both these cultures instil collectivistic traits. In such cultures the actions of the individual are influenced by various concepts such as the opinion of one’s family, extended family, neighbours, work group and other such wider social networks that one has some affiliation toward. The Power Distance Index of India in comparison with Japan is comparatively higher. India is a diverse country with a combination of various cultures and wealth in this country is unequally distributed and hence, there are different types of classes with uneven disposable income. This depicts why the power distance is quite high. On the other hand, Japan is a mildly hierarchical society. Japanese are always conscious of their hierarchical position in any social setting and act accordingly. However, Japan is quite developed and the fact that equality prevails makes the power distance lower than India and uncertainty avoidance higher. Moreover, the absence of corruption, low level of inflation and other economic factors make its uncertainty avoidance higher. Comparatively, India is quite corrupt and people are only concerned with making more and more money regardless of the overall growth. People in India generally do not feel driven and compelled to take action-initiatives and comfortably settle into established rolls and routines without questioning whereas the Japanese do not settle for anything less and are very competitive in nature making them more masculine. India is masculine too, but mostly in terms of visual display of success and power. On the contrary, Japanese are very modest and show the strength of power only when necessary. Japan is also a very fast growing economy and the people a very determined to create a living for them expressing why it is long term oriented. The idea behind it is that the companies are not here to make money every quarter for the shareholders, but to serve the stake holders and society at large for many generations to come. India is also long term oriented but comparatively lesser than Japan as Indian society has great tolerance for religious views and this culture typically forgives lack of punctuality where nothing is planned from start. (Hofstede, 2003)
Dealing with Cultural Shock
Living abroad and experiencing all the newness of the society combined with absence of people who can support might cause a degree of anxiety. This type of anxiety is called cultural shock and everyone deals with some degree of it during this stage. Basically it can be divided into four phases. Once familiar with these stages one will be better able to combat it and the willingness to adapt will increase. However, not everybody goes through all these stages or sometimes it is possible to experience these in different order. These stages are:
The Honeymoon Stage – This occurs in the first few days of you arriving in your host country. In this stage everything seems exciting and new. The focus is on the sense of success in being in the new culture; curiosity and interest in the novelty of the new surroundings; and an appreciation and anticipation of the opportunities to be found in the new culture. Most people feel energetic and enthusiastic during this stage.
The Cultural Shock Stage – In this stage, the primary focus is on the differences between one’s home culture and the new culture and the conflicts that arise due to these differences, including having to use a foreign language, not being sure how to interact with people in authority, not having a clear idea of how to make friends with people from different cultures, finding that food and eating customs are different, religious practices are different, and experiencing either the country is laid back or very fast paced.
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The Recovery Stage – After having spent some time in the new culture, people begin to resolve some of the conflicts they may have experienced and also begin to regain a sense of appreciation that they might have experienced in the first stage. They have learned more about the new culture and are able to have a better understanding of external and internal resources that help in managing demands and conflicts that might arise. Feelings typical of this stage are a mixture of the first two stages.
The Adaptation Stage – This stage consists of people developing a realistic understanding of the similarities and differences between their home cultures and the new culture, so that they have clearer ideas about what they like and dislike in each. Many people move in the direction of becoming “bicultural” i.e. being able to value and appreciate the aspects of both cultures that they wish retain or include in their lives. This stage may be characterized by a sense of confidence, maturity, flexibility and tolerance.
The Reverse Culture Shock- This is an often unexpected part of the cultural adaptation process. Based on the above stages, people eventually become relatively comfortable with the new culture, and are able to learn and incorporate new attitudes and behaviour that allows them to function better in the new culture. However, when this person returns to their home culture (especially if they have not been back for a while), they may sometimes find that the changes in themselves as well as in the home culture while they were away may create the need for an entirely new adjustment process which can be similar to the process described above. This can be especially confusing if the person is expecting to fit in effortlessly into their home culture and neither the person nor members of the home culture are sensitive to the possibility of reverse culture shock. (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, 2007)
Adapting to the Japanese Culture
Having being transferred to a new country can be very challenging yet fun filled task since one has to start to adjust to a new environment that has never been experienced before. All the more, experiencing a new culture has its own set of problems like cultural shock, communication issues, etc. According to me, the only way to overcome a situation like this is to adapt to the place as soon as possible, as they say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. I will further mention a few aspects of the local culture that I would wish to observe and understand in order to avoid problems of cross-cultural communication.
Adjusting in the new environment culturally will make one familiar to the people, the language and will be lot easier to feel the essence of the place. In this situation, I will rid my mind of the stereotypes I ever perceived about Japan or Japanese people, since this is the first step to willingly accept and respect any culture. I will also try to befriend my colleagues at work and stay with them for a while instead of staying at hotels. Reason being, one gets to understand the true culture of the place only when they live with a family rather living alone. This will provide me emotional support while staying away from my family. Joining gym or any other ways of socially connecting to people would be a good idea here. Moreover, since I belong to a collectivistic society myself, it would be easier for me to trust and exchange ideas with groups of people. With this dimension being quite common in both our cultures, I might feel comfortable understanding the Japanese culture. Also in this era of the world it is quite easy to stay in touch with family and friends back home through internet facilities providing video calling at cheap rates.
Communication is the key here so I emphasize on being an active listener and participating in discussions both at work and leisure time that will let them know about the background of my culture as well. I would definitely involve communicating in Japanese in my routine; that will help me communicate with the locals there. English is not the official language of Japan so it will be wrong on my part to assume that they have clearly understood what I am trying to communicate. Hence, it will be better to listen and understand them. This will build their trust and confidence in me, and avoid misunderstandings at the same time. In situations where I am not able to express myself to a local, I would talk by actions or slow down my speed of language so that my words are clearly understood. I would watch TV and read newspapers to obtain information about the locals and their culture.
Working in the IT Company will provide me with an opportunity of making friends where I believe I will be accepted keeping in mind the sense of equality that people in Japan have, according to Hofstede. I would be able to create a good rapport with my seniors too. I may not be as competitive as other Japanese employees in my peer group with regards to my background but I will try to come up to their level and be as competitive as them. However, I may have issues when trying to work since most of them rely on try and tested methods of doing work and no one really wants to bring any change in their environment. As for me, I can “adjust” to their style but I am more used to prioritizing my tasks according to the situation that comes up rather than planning everything right from start till the end and foresee any circumstances that may interfere with the planning like the Japanese do.
In addition, leaving Hofstede’s theory aside, there are other grounds on which both these cultures are dissimilar and interaction will be an issue in the beginning. If considering rituals, etiquettes, food, sense of humour, routine, etc., both these cultures are different. In India rituals are given a lot of importance but only to the extent of religion, we do not tend to go as far as having opening and closing ceremonies for each year of schooling as the Japanese do. For Japanese, competition is very important as that shows how one would lead his life later on, however, in India, there is competition but it isn’t healthy considering our high level of ignorance at other levels for example caste, creed, sex, etc. As far as etiquettes are concerned, Indians these days might forget to greet others in the traditional style of saying “Namaste” while pressing palms together and fingers pointing upwards. They might say “Hello” and greet others since we have been influenced a lot by western culture for about two decades or so, whereas Japanese would bow down in order to greet. Another aspect of the local culture that is different but I would absolutely love to observe is the food that they have to offer. I cannot expect the spicy kind of food that I am brought up eating; instead I will have to develop a taste that is less spicy than Indian food. Consequently, spending more time with the locals will make me accustomed to their culture and lifestyle. After working through the day I might as well tour the local places so that I can roam without the help of maps.
Furthermore, the environment plays a role in the adaptation of a culture. The level to which a community is ready to accept “strangers” into their environment is quite important. If a community is not open to new comers, that could hinder a person’s ability to adapt in such host culture. Some environments are more accepting of some individual and less accepting of others. However, as per the facts presented about Japan above, it seems that I being an Indian would not go through much of a struggle to adapt as long as I respect them, their culture and stay at par and polite with them.
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