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American customs and everyday practices can be viewed as rude or obscene depending on the culture of a foreign country. It is important to us as businessmen to learn and understand these countrys' culture because when we go overseas to do business with them we seem to be, "too American" at times. All that means is we tend to become stuck in our ways as a nation, but does the blatant ignorance of foreign customs give us an excuse to continue to be who we are?
You can't just jump into another country and expect everybody to act and react to things as they would in America. If someone were to fly out to a Middle Eastern country where they are predominantly Muslim they must do their research. They practice gifting so if we were to go there and receive a gift we would most likely find the nearest table to open the gift, or open it right in their face. This barbarious act can potentially ruin a pending business deal depending on how the giver of the gift takes it. Even taking a potential customer out to lunch and buying them a bacon burger could potentially sever all ties from all possible business in the future. It is important to us as American businessmen to understand foreign cultures, understand what is and isn't acceptable, and strive to improve the communication between our culture and the rest of the world
What is culture? Culture is one of the most important aspects when it comes to doing business internationally. Knowing other cultures when abroad is key and having a successful business internationally. "Culture is a system of behavior patterns that are characteristics of the members of a society" (Quazi Notes Chpt2); or in others words the art and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded in a collective matter. Knowing as much as possible about a culture is critical, especially in a globalized world where people from different ethnic and cultural groups must work together effectively. According to the chapter 2 lecture notes each nation has a certain demographic and behavioral features that give it a cultural identity, so knowing culture internationally is good because the social aspect of life in other places are very different from one's own.
When going abroad many other nations (countries) are very aggressive and protecting their culture, all of the aggressiveness is how they respond when trying to protect their way of life. Why is having knowledge about culture important? A numbers of factors can lead to cultural misunderstanding, such as a lack of experience abroad, inability to speak the local language, and inadequate preparation and training. Culture can be broken down into many distinct components such as religion, language, customs, traditions, rituals, values and many more aspects.
One of the greatest challenges for people running or operating in foreign environments is developing an ability to cope with cultural differences; a manager or a person that does good overseas does that by adopting acculturation. Acculturation is when people adjust to a specific culture other than their own. Those who adopt another countries culture understands what it takes to prosper and thrive overseas. For example doing business in China, trying to stick out and do more then everyone will not work. According to article 8.2 "Where East Can Never Meet West" the eastern culture is very family oriented and westerners are very individualistic, so trying to stick out in China is not a good idea so just simply adjusting will be more prominent for a manger doing business overseas (International Business Pg. 186). Culture is a key component when handling anything overseas or anywhere, there are many subcultures within our own country that we must know about in order to deal with them. A number of underlying complexities ranging from cultural blunders, different ways to understands and translate things, symbols, religion, and many more cultural aspect forces us to know and understand culture.
When dealing with other countries, as an organization, you have to keep in mind that the host country's culture will be totally different from the home country's culture, therefore we cannot just blindly go into another country as if it we our own. The Hofstead's culture model shows us how different cultures fall into different categories which will in return allow us to view other countries and see how their people interact with each other. Once we know how they interact it will allow us to obtain knowledge on how to interact with them. Within the Hofstead's model there are four different categories.
The first dimension we would observe would be femininity/masculinity which "describes cultural values associated with females (gentleness), and males (aggressiveness)."(Quazi,pp22) Most countries which cultures are associated with feminine traits or characteristics are characterized by showing cooperation, compassion, and equality. For example, look at Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Turkey they would all be characterized as high femininity cultures. Most countries which cultures are associated with masculinity traits or characteristics are characterized by showing strong competition, materialism, and achievement. For example, look at the US and Europe, these two power countries' economies are highly competitive. In these countries luxury is most important to the wealthy.
Another dimension would be power distance within the country. Power distance is the measurement of the unequal relationship between superiors, which would be the management staff, and subordinates which are they employees. "In countries where the power distance is high, management prefers little consultation with worker."(Quazi, pp24) Organizations would see from this measurement how to communicate effectively and efficiently without having offensive manner in the work place. As for the US we would be characterized to have low power distance which means the environment is constantly showing their employees that there is room for employees to move up into strategic level management positions. "Communication is more than just speaking, writing and editing. It also involves gathering information and teamwork."(CIBC, 63)
The next dimension of one's culture would be uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty avoidance is the measurement of people's behavior in the degree of risk aversion a person is willing to take. As a country when people prefer certainty and set rules that country has high uncertainty avoidance. Likewise if a country's people show less aversion to uncertainty then they would be scaled with low uncertainty avoidance. A country with very high uncertainty avoidance would be Mexico. They are not going to jump on the band wagon unless they see that there has some type of stability within that market. Whereas the US will be excited about the innovations of new products which show that the US has low uncertainty avoidance.
Whenever you have millions of people speaking different languages, miss-communication will always be the number one problem. Understanding the impact of poor cultural translations can have on a product or company when selling abroad is key component of overall success for business. Although the English language is the most universal language in global business, the cultural differences in regards to what constitutes "effective" communication related to areas such as the extent of formality and frankness that's preferred, non verbal gesture differences, as well as translation blunders of words and phrases.
As in other areas of building effective relationships, companies should take the time to research the perspectives of potential members or partners to ensure the relationship is mutually beneficial. In doing so, businesses should research non-verbal signals. These signals play a major role in achievement of a company in cross cultural communication. For example, in America we use the thumbs up signal as a sign of encouragement and appeasement whereas in many parts of the world it is seen s vulgar and rude. Small mistakes such as these could cost the firm billions of dollars as well as the possibility future business ventures in that area.
As businesses communicate with a more global audience, whether it is potential members, members of the media, counterpart organizations or the public, they keep in mind some of the unique aspects to global communications, one being the blunders in translation. For instance Bacardi alcohol launched its fruity drink in Germany called Pavion, which translates to baboon in German. International campaigns reflect a growing move required by U.S. companies to refine their ad campaigns for overseas markets. With more businesses looking to tap into consumer bases in international markets, navigating cultural differences can require a subtle touch. Starting with a basic concept then tailoring it to individual areas works better than just buying one ad or one picture and repeating it in every country around the world, by doing this will eliminate miscommunication among cultures.
Religion, like culture itself, consists of systematic patterns of beliefs, values, and behavior, acquired by people from differentiated societies. The five dominant religions are categorized into two groups; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are seen as global religions, whereas Hinduism and Buddhism are referred to as eastern religions. Within all religions there is no homogeneity; just like cross cultural communication there are differences of interpretation of principles and meanings.
Understanding a country's culture is the key to connecting and thriving with not only that country, but the rest of the world. Just imagine going to a country after doing all of your research and acting as though you are one of them. Not only will it open the door for your business and any other endeavor, but you also gain friends in parts and places of the world where you would one day hope to be. To take the time to actual learn about different practices gives you a competitive advantage around the world because you'll be viewed to be on top of your game, and ready to handle anything that is thrown your way. In business it is important to capitalize on communication so that you can fluently get your point across to the people of a foreign culture; therefore eliminating the language barrier and further thriving within a new society.