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By understanding what culture is, how you've been shaped by your own culture, and how your cultural values differ from those of people in other parts of the world, you can become more perceptive and successful in this colourful global marketplace. Your exploration is beginning. If you stick with it, you'll learn some cultural keys to doing business with a global mindset and learn to appreciate the cultural differences you encounter every day. Becoming culturally fluent may not be easy, but culture is learnable, and you're on your way.
Learned and immersed during the earliest stages of childhood; durable by literature, history, and religion; alive by heroes; and expressed in natural values and views, culture is a powerful force that shapes thoughts and perception. At the core is a nation's geography, its climate, its mythology elements that have fashioned its history and religious choices. Rising up out of those fundamentals is a complex web of values and beliefs, multilayered and intersect, possibly woven with issues of
race and class, and shaped by personality. Finally, on the surface, there is the product of those influences: the way people actually behave. This affects the way you observe and judge events, the way you respond to and understand them, and the way you communicate in both spoken and unspoken verbal communication. Culture, with all its implications, differs in each society. The differences may be profound or subtle; they may be obvious or invisible. Ever-present yet constantly changing, cultures saturate the world and molds the way people construct reality.
Businesses can't be separated from people and their cultural environment.
Understanding culture-being sensitive to nuance and differences in people from country to country-is fundamental for success in the international marketplace. As
important as any other aspects of the business experience, an understanding of culture develops integrity, nurtures goodwill, inspires a workforce, and helps companies develop marketable products. It affects the way you develop and
maintain relationships and plays a significant role in determining the characteristics to look for in selecting people, how to develop global talent, how to conduct meetings, how to manage employees, and how to work with teams. Understanding culture fundamentally affects how you run your business.
Culture Is Layered
Culture is at the same time visible, hidden, and invisible. What makes culture learnable is that in many cases, the visible culture is a manifestation of the invisible and hidden values.
For example, bowing in Japan is indicative of hierarchical beliefs and the importance of good manners and protocol. At the other end of the variety, looking someone in the eye in the United States is a sign of a democratic mindset that sees everyone as equal, deserving the same level of respect as everyone else.
Another visible sign of culture is the way people relate to time. The fact that someone is late to a meeting is a visible sign. In many societies, it scam notes a deeper sense of fluidity regarding time that indicates a belief that time is not under your control because other factors, such as interpersonal relationships, weather, and traffic, may prevent you from being on time. It is impractical to try to control all those
The Layers of Culture
Imagine culture as a cross-section of the earth. Figures 3-1 and 3-2 illustrate the different layers. Visible culture (Figure 3-1) includes dress, food, and customs, along with what people say and do, how they dress, how they speak, their architecture, their offices, and their behavioural customs.
Hidden culture (Figure 3-2) includes the values, beliefs, and philosophy that define the culture, such as attitudes toward time, communication, and religion and notions about good and evil.
The hidden layer is where you find the attitudes and values that have grown over time. Here, hidden from view, is where you find the clues to the performance you see around you: common attitudes and emotions that sit on top of long-standing beliefs and social codes that overlay deeper standards of thought and conduct. Getting to
understand the hidden layers takes time, study, and observation.
Core culture is the invisible layer: the principles people take for fixed, Core or invisible culture harkens back to the spirit of deepest beliefs about universal, nonnegotiable truths. Core culture is so deeply embedded that it is difficult to recognize.Hereare the influences absorbed since childhood: religious ideas and ideals
the nation's history and mythology, its heroes, its landscape, and stories handed down and retold generation after generation. Culture is created by myriad factors such as history, religion, mythology, and the climate and geography of a country; it is made up of shared values and beliefs and forms the fundamental assumptions
on which the whole society is built. Since no two countries have exactly the same influences, national cultures always vary.
Geert Hofstede, the cultural anthropologist who first studied the impact of cultural
Differences on business behaviour, said that if the brain is the hardware, culture is "the software of the mind." Because it is so natural, you never think about it, and it is only when you encounter other cultures that you are aware of the differences. Cultural anthropologists have described culture as a shared way of viewing the world or processing ideas.
The visible layers may change, but these changes are superficial and shouldn't delude you into thinking that deep alterations in culture have been made. The rules and protocols of everyday life may fluster you at first, but these are things you'll become fluent in quickly.
Personal Cultural Style
No two people from a culture are exactly the same, so recognizing national characteristics isn't enough. You know from your own experience that individuals can be quite different from their national culture. Within every culture, individuals have their own personal styles and behavioural preferences that represent the diversity in that culture. Therefore, although you need to make generalizations about behaviours in a specific country to learn about them, all people are different. To appreciate culture and diversity fully, it's important to begin with an understanding of your own personal cultural style. (You'll soon discover your Personal Cultural Profile.) As you think about your personal preferences, you will see how your culture has influenced you.
You also will recognize how people who share your cultural framework have their own personal preferences that are slightly different from yours.
For example, you and your business partner may both come from a high-time culture in which being late is selfish, but you don't have the same nervousness about being on time. Personal cultural preferences are introduced into our lives by our families' background, expectations, and behaviours. Fundamentally, they're transmitted to us in the same way that societies transmit values: through the earliest childhood experiences and through the reactions people have to those experiences.
For example, if you come from a family that was very relationship focused and built long-term and established relationships in which your parents had friends you knew for most of your life and people discussed at home how well they knew each other and how well they trusted each other, that becomes part of your inherent value
system. You are relationship-oriented regardless of the society in which you grew up. These principles become part of your cultural value system and stay with you through adulthood.You instinctively integrate your personal cultural style into your daily interactions. To add to the diversity, you and your siblings may have slightly different perceptions of the importance of relationships.
In today's workplace, in which an intellectual contribution is the most important attribute people bring to work, it's not just how fast you can type but how much wisdom you can communicate. Being able to develop a way for people with diverse personal styles and cultural backgrounds to make a maximum contribution is critical. Similarly, if you want to be able to adapt to your colleagues and make the greatest contribution you can, it is extremely helpful to understand your personal cultural preferences and the influence of your cultural background.
There are three major requirements in this area:
You need to be nonjudgmental about behavioural styles and preferences. (In other words, your way is not necessarily the only way.)
You need to be aware that your preferences are culturally based.
You need to be open to learning from your colleagues and environment and appreciating their potential contribution.
Cultural values are instilled in us as "absolute truths, "and many times we don't understand that others have a different perspective on those absolute truths. All too often, by the time people realize they need cultural training, they've made their first blunders and cost their companies and careers dearly. It became obvious to us that a proactive resource, reaching out to people who were doing business anywhere in the world, was critically important.
However, there's a barrier to what should be universal recognition of the importance of learning culture: You don't know you need it until you've had a problem or you're facing something that you can't understand. After all, doesn't everybody appreciate direct, candid communication?