The Culture Concepts Cultural Orientations And Social Representations Cultural Studies Essay

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Hofstede's original cultural differences were power distance (PDI), individualism (IDV), masculinity (MAS), uncertainty avoidance (UAI); later, long-term orientation was added as a fifth dimension (2001). When comparing the Czech Republic and Vietnam the four dimensions of individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation differ most significantly (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007), as you can see on the Graph n.1. On the contrary the power distance is considered quite similar in both countries. There can be reason for that. Vietnam culture is an oriental culture and if we take into account, that oriental countries are very traditional and acceptation of power distance is very part of their culture and their nature. They accept both, in a family and in a job. Vietnamese employees view their organizations as families, and bosses are expected to take care of their employees financially and physically (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). Czech power distance acceptation can be explained by the fact that after velvet revolution became huge transformation of the Czech Republic. The transformation took part not even at the political level (change of government, legislation, etc.), but also changed some of the culture values. In this case Czech accepted the western way how to do a business.

Graph n.1 - Hofstede's dimensions

Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com

Katrine Syppli Kohl describes individualism versus collectivism as referring to whether the employee defines him/herself primarily as a separate human being mainly committed to him/herself or whether employees see themselves as part of a group whose needs should determine behavior. The latter is the case in collectivistic Vietnam (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Long-term orientation is a later addition to Hofstede's original four dimensions of cultural behaviour. Harrison and Lassen lists six particularly persistent features of long-term orientation, or Confucian dynamism, as being group orientation, respect for hierarchy, the concept of face, avoidance of conflict and confrontation, the importance of relationships and the need for harmony (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Culture Concepts: Cultural Orientations and Social Representations

Vietnam is a country undergoing rapid change. Only about 30 percent of the population is older than 30 years and the rapid economic development that the country has undergone over the past 15 years means that the young Vietnamese lead very different lives from those of their parents and grandparents. Any concept of culture forming the base of current research on doing business in Vietnam has to be flexible enough to grasp the dual reality of cultural continuity and change (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Very good example of "The change"could be seen in the kind of refreshments offered at business meetings in Vietnam. Food has an important social function in collectivist cultures, basically providing food and having food in the home for any guest who drops by is an important social value for these oriental countries. In Vietnam, this goes for business interactions as well. Drinking tea used to be one of the few rituals observed at business meetings in Vietnam. But while the basic idea of treating your guests to refreshments has remained, companies now tend to invite their business partners to dine in fancy restaurants instead. The change happened around the turn of the century and has to do with a greater influence of Korean and Japanese business culture (dining in fancy restaurants) (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). This influence can also be supported by the fact, that Vietnam is member of the ASEAN, which is an international trade agreement that is based on the idea of open trade with foreign countries. Therefore Vietnam's business partners (including Japan and Korea) influence Vietnam in business culture, but none the less Vietnam seems to be almost immune against the influence of globalization (unlike the Czech Republic).

The basic collectivist cultural orientation of being relationship focused that encourages Vietnamese to nourish the relationship with guests by sharing a table with them remains, but the kind of refreshments that are seen as fitting has been adapted to the changing social circumstances including more economic resources and more interaction with foreign firms. The notion of social representations makes it easier to grasp how cultures are able to respond to the kind of flux that characterizes today's globalized Word (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Communication between Vietnamese and Czechs: Special Attention Areas

A Confucian orientation towards connections and relationship building are crucial to successful business ventures in Vietnam. Before Vietnamese do business, the first things they look at are trust and relationships. A major challenge for Czech companies entering the Vietnamese market is that they will have to develop relationships and a network before they can get anywhere. This is naturally quite time consuming (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). That may be problem for Czechs, because they don't even socialize too much with their own colleagues. And there is more problematic points. As you can see from the Graph n. 1, the Czech strongly avoid uncertainty and show practically zero long term orientation. So from this point of view for Czechs it would be very difficult to negotiate business in Vietnam, because They just don't have to feel very comfortable about the fact, that should get to know with a strange business partner. And the bigger problem would be in time orientation. I mean the Czechs are very punctual, they are used to have schedules and deadlines, there is some flexibility in their time orientation, but when this flexibility is compared to Vietnamese time flexibility, it's possible to find out, that Vietnamese are simply very relaxed.

But In spite of everything, it's possible that both sides can do business with each other without any problems. It's because Czech would understand the Vietnamese „slow-cook"philosophy of business and they accept the fact that everything requires considerable amount of thought, planning and evaluation (taken from www.kwintessential.co.uk). And also Czechs pride themselves with proper etiquette and because they expect others to do the same, I think they can accommodate themselves, because Czechs would like the Vietnamese respectful and calm negotiation style.

Oral and Written Communication

Meetings in Vietnam are generally relaxed affairs, but small talk is also used to establish a sense of familiarity and of a relative status among the participants. As Vietnam is a very hierarchical society, Vietnamese in general feel uncomfortable if they do not know the status of the people with whom they interact (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). I believe that Czechs would not find anything difficult at this attitude, but what they would certainly find difficult is, that Vietnamese are uncomfortable doing business over the phone. They would feel uncomfortable because of their attitude of "making relationship" during doing business. And to make a relationship, the oral communication is just essential. So for instance if a Czech manager were to tell his staff that they could have sandwiches left over from a meeting for lunch. Well what I say "staff" I mean, he would tell just close person, or he just left those sandwiches there, because he would thought that, somebody else see it and then have it for lunch.. In Vietnam the manager would have to walk around the office inviting everyone in person, thus strengthening the personal relationship between himself and each employee (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

We can also say that the Vietnamese are more particularistic than Czechs. The best example would be the way that they regard the signing of contracts as an agreement to enter a business relationship- the specifics are up for negotiation along the way. It is not the contract but the desire to treat your manager right that will make the Vietnamese stay loyal to your agreement. Therefore it's recommended that businesses deal with this by keeping a stable representation in Vietnam and making sure to keep frequent communications to discover problems or changes in the thinking of your Vietnamese partners (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). The difference in the view on contracts is a good example of an area where communication between Vietnamese and Czech business partners can go terribly wrong.

Czech businessmen should really be prepared for this, because if they fail Vietnamese confidence it could happen that the Vietnamese side would never want to do business with Czechs again.

Nonverbal Communication

There are quite a few differences in nonverbal communication habits that might cause trouble between Czech managers and Vietnamese employees or business partners. Czech managers must accept the fact that you are discouraged from touching your business partners in Vietnam (except for handshakes) and it's also very important to mind your facial expressions and gestures because they are also key differences between the two cultures (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). It is not a good idea to do body language (in Vietnam). And people tend not to look at people's eyes when they are speaking. Especially you tend not to look at older people's eyes when you speak to them. It was mentioned higher, that Czech managers pride themselves that they really obey the business etiquette, but even them could feel strange, because Vietnamese managers don't look to your eyes. Czech managers have to realize, that this is not an act of dishonesty and therefore act like that as well. If they would accept these nonverbal communication facts, Czech managers could be in danger of losing face. So it would may useful to hire a person who shows you the way how to use nonverbal language in Vietnamese culture, because Czechs can avoid lots of difficult situations. Just one example for the end of this paragraph, Czechs can avoid problems with passing a business card.

Visual Communication: Advertising and Cross-Cultural Marketing

People from different cultural backgrounds are likely to interpret the imagery and messages included in ads and commercials in different ways. The general point of advertising your product is to convince consumers that it is meant for them: That it will serve as a status symbol or make their lives more convenient. As Katrine Syppli Kohl points out"when an advertising campaign is taken abroad different values and perceptions as to what enhances status or gives convenience exist. These differences make the original advertising campaign defunct" (2007). Some of these perceptions are based on basic cultural orientations and are therefore reasonably well known, as they are fairly stable over time. Others, however, are based on the more fluctuating social representations, and it is strongly recommended for American firms marketing their product in Vietnam to team up with a local partner that knows not only the "tip of the iceberg" part of the culture, but also the 90 percent under the surface (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007). Nevertheless, a few pointers to keep in mind when advertising in Vietnam will be brought in the following. An example of a difference in Vietnamese and Czech commercials can be attributed to the Confucian aversion to aggressive behaviour in Vietnam. In Czech commercials a product is frequently promoted as being much better than that of a named competitor. You do not see this type of advertising in Vietnam where criticizing your competition is seen as inappropriate and would cause you to lose face (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Two other important rules about advertising in Vietnam are that people tend to believe that high prices mean high quality, and that sexual imagery is a cultural taboo. Even though the Vietnamese teenagers dress more and more like Westerners it does not mean that sexual imagery sells products or is tolerated. What you do see is "sentiments, like a pretty couple falling in love." (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

When it comes to the stylistic part of advertising one's product to the young Vietnamese population one would do good to remember the admiration of everything Korean, for example as Katrine Syppli Kohl says: "Young teenagers tend to follow Korean style. Not American style. Korean style means you have a young look… active and very colourful, and innovative, high technology" (2007).

A popular way of getting the attention and goodwill of the consumers is by using Vietnamese celebrities to sell all sorts of goods. Vietnamese celebrities, but follow Korean style. By associating your product with people of high symbolic rank you may benefit from the Vietnamese's use of luxury products to signal high status within the social hierarchy (Katrine Syppli Kohl, 2007).

Conclusion

When applying Hofstede's (2001) model to Vietnam and the Czech Republic, the major differences are in the dimensions of masculinity vs. femininity, individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation (ITIM International, 2003). Czechs operating in Vietnam may encounter communication problems and misunderstandings deriving from these differences and will do well to research Vietnamese culture diligently before embarking on business ventures. But if they do so it's really possible, that the negotiations would go without bigger problems and both sides, Vietnamese and Czech, would be pleased to do business again in the future.

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