Cultural Overviews Cultural Overview: Focus on the Middle East
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Cultural Overviews Cultural Overview: Focus on the Middle East






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  • Islam is a way of life, not just a religion. It impacts every aspect of life – home, work, friends, food, thinking, living in general Over half of the world’s Muslims do not live in the Middle East. There are 42 Muslim majority nations, and only 14 in the Middle East, one of which is Israel. There are 22 Arab nations (Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen (members of the League of Arab States). Technically, Arab is an ethnic reference to a Semite, whereas Muslim signifies religious belief and grouping. Arab is not a race, nationality or religion. An Arab is someone “who lives in our country, speaks our language, is brought up in our culture, and takes pride in our glory.” Historically, the Muslim religion has been open tolerance for other faiths. The rule has been mutually existing Muslims and Westerners over the centuries. However, that is not to say that Islamic scholars do not fear materialism and “Westernization” of their culture – but they are not alone. There are a number of countries that make it illegal to use another language other than the official language where any government entity is involved. There is great diversity in thought – Shites vs Sunni is but one example. Terrorism is of great concern to most Muslims, which is against the basic tenets of Islam.
  • Do not cause an Arab to lose face or to be shamed Traditional characteristics of generosity, gallantry, courage, patience and endurance.
  • Smells are a way to be involved with each other. To smell a friend’s breath is desirable, and to deny another your breath is to act ashamed. Body and food odors are used to enhance human relationships. To view another peripherally is impolite, so to sit or stand back to back is rude. Arabs may not seek a close distance with strangers, but are generally very warm and expressive.
  • Banquets and feasts are common, as is drinking strong black coffee Little regard for schedules or appointments Emphasis is on listening, not just speaking Modern Arabs may precede a traditional greeting with a long, limp handshake. The custom is for men to kiss one another on both cheeks.
  • Women is often the authority on family matters….he is the head, but she is the neck….. Men are allowed to marry more than one woman, including the foreign born. Women may marry only one husband, excluding foreigners. Husbands may divorce without stating a cause, whereas a wife must specify grounds to the satisfaction of the court, in a courtroom, and it takes the testimony of two females to equal one male’s.
  • Business relationships require rapport, mutual respect and trust – establishing personal contacts is essential, business is done with people, not organizations, so people are important Connections and networking are most important –you will need access to private and public decision makers, so you need good relations with influential people in high places Negotiating and bargaining are common – this is an art, so be prepared to haggle Decision making is usually done in person – this requires a person of suitable rank on both sides, including someone in the government agency who can make a decision. Forget your fax, email or phone. Time is flexible – circular orientation toward time, very circular, and an attitude of fatalism. If it is meant to be … if Allah wills it Marketing should focus on the customer – centralized governments may make many of the decisions, not companies Socialization in business is traditional and courteous, but deals aren’t social, and will not necessarily be concluded immediately, or even in the near future. Foreign women in Saudi Arabia, for example, will have difficulty in business. Communication requires harmony and agreement – outsiders should show agreement, following the host’s lead. Exaggeration is normal, and yes may really mean maybe or even probably not. Taboos are many – be cautious, and do your homework before your meetings
  • Requesting favors from those in authority – it is impolite to Arabs to say no, so you may force someone to lose face or to agree to something that there is no way they can provide
  • There has been a great deal of intermarriage of various peoples – Africans, Indians, Asians, Europeans – but the powerful elites control and dominate the less powerful poor, especially peasants. The disenfranchised has moved beyond political protest to terrorism for social justice and changing the status quo
  • Shaking hands –if several people, make sure you shake hands with everyone. Saying “hi everyone” is rude. People are much more formal. Pleasantries- Do not rush into business. It is ok to chit chat for hours. See below for safe questions. Thank-you notes – always send them promptly. Flowers if you are taken to a home (pretty rare at first). Time – You really can’t be late, at least by our standards. 30 minutes to 2 hours late is usually on time. Privacy – Closed doors, fences, gates and high walls. Wait to be invited in, and don’t drop by without an invitation. Asking questions – you can ask about the health of the family (in general), sports, food, museums, architecture, weather, are all pretty safe. Some caveats – be positive about all of them and avoid talking about Argentina in Brazil and Brazil in Argentina. Space – Men will often embrace (hug, but not kiss unless family) other men, physical distance is close Class and status - first come, first served is not the rule – who you know and who you are is more of the rule Doing business – much, much slower pace, long term relationships are desirable, so why rush it. Do not use first names until you are invited to do so, dress conservatively, carry good business cards – differentiate Spanish and Portuguese.
  • Personalismo – a Latin’s concerns are family (large and extended), personal friends, hobbies, political party and sports….but transcending all of these are concerns for self… relate everything to him or her Machismo – means maleness, it is an attitude that men have toward women, it is aggressive, sometimes insensitive and represents power. It also represents virility, zest for action, daring, competitiveness and the will to conquer. A man must demonstrate forcefulness, self-confidence, visible courage and leadership with a flourish! Saving face and honor are important. Never, never criticize family or friends….even though it is very likely that the women controls the home, children and husband. Get rich quick attitude – tied to fatalism. There is instability in many economies, and a boom or bust attitude. You can lose money quickly with devaluations and inflation, so speculation, manipulation or gambling may be acceptable. Accepting fate is bowing to the inevitable. Good manners and dignity – Latin Americans are more formal, more elaborate, more respectful. One is more high or low….that doesn’t mean there is no movement, especially to the growing middle class, but one doesn’t forget one’s roots. Do not make the mistake of calling yourself an American. They are as well. Hospitality – Latin Americans are warm, friendly and hospitable. They typically love to talk, almost to the point of seeming nosy. Authoritarianism – The patron is the man of power or wealth who sustains loyalty from those of lesser status. He can be the employer, the politico, the landowner, the money lender or the merchant. Authoritarianism does not allow for questioning. The patron knows everything and is all powerful. As the middle class grows in size and strength, authoritarianism is less prevalent.
  • Concept of negotiation – need to determine if you can do business together, then getting to know you stage, then they do business with the individual – not the firm that they represent. Connections are very important, and the government has significant influence in many business dealings. Govt officials might elicit a mordida (the bite) to complete the transaction. Role of individual – in business and with other men, Mexicans are competitive and seem to be concerned with individual goals and the need for personal recognition, but they owe loyalty to their patron and are very concerned with family. Concern for protocol – the culture is dominated by courtesy, dignity, tact and diplomacy. Social competence is critical. Vigorous handshakes, even pats on the back are important signs of respect. Significance of type of issue – relationship-based and personal issues tend to predominate and affect negotiations. Emphasis will be on personal aspects of business. Complexity of the language – As a high context culture and language, body language and the context of the communication is very important. Physical closeness is important. Nature of persuasive arguments – emotional arguments that are overly dramatic and patriotic are considered persuasive. Proyectismo, or constructing plans without critical analysis and assuming in time all will be accomplished is not uncommon. Trustworthiness – evaluations of trust are based initially on intuition, then later on one’s past record. Having a personal introduction helps. Negotiations should start with a trusting atmosphere, and trust will develop through a series of frequent and warm interpersonal transactions, both social and business oriented….to the point where the two will be indistinguishable……you will be invited to family events, etc. Attitude toward risk – tend to be risk averse and pessimistic when there is a situation that is risky. Form of satisfactory agreement – to be certain that a business agreement has been reached, it should be with a written document. Agreements fall under civil code, commercial code or the law of commerci8al companies. Many Latins have a love-hate relationship with US Americans. They may seek to live here, but they also distrust, envy, fear and misunderstand US Americans.
  • Obviously---these are stereotypes, and have little to do with reality. However, how many of these perceptions do you think are widely held? By your parents? Your colleagues?
  • Greetings - In Brazil, if you are a friend of a friend, then you are an intimate acquaintance. Men shake hands with men, Women kiss men and women (2 or 3, depending). If you are the strange man, wait for her to kiss you, otherwise, shake hands. When leaving, say goodbye to everyone, individually. Names and titles – Brazilians tend to be less formal than most Latins, and titles aren’t used much except among professors. Always use Dona or Senhora and Senhor first, and wait to be invited to use the first name. Half of all men are named Jose, and half of all women are named Maria (not really, but it seems like it). Do not use the informal ‘you’ form when speaking….it is reserved for intimate family and children. Hospitality – You likely won’t be invited to homes at first, since Brazilians entertain a lot at restaurants. You will be offered a lot of coffee….drink it and proclaim how it is the best that you have ever had and they will love you….but it isn’t really rude to very politely refuse. If someone is eating and you come upon him or her, they will offer you food. If making a toast, do NOT tap your glass. Appearance, hygiene and dress – Brazilians are obsessive about style, fashion, physical condition and appearance. They likely have as much plastic surgery as US Americans – and smaller incomes. They may take 2 showers a day or brush their teeth in restaurant bathrooms. Ladies – your shoes and handbag should match, and never put your handbag on the floor. Gifts and bribes – gifts aren’t required in business, but they are appreciated. Bribes are less common in Brazil than most people think. Sometimes small bribes are called cafezinho…..but cafezinho is a term for a quick coffee. So if someone asks you if you’d like cafezinho…..assume they are asking if you’d like coffee rather than asking for a bribe. Time – very flexible. Meetings will start 10 to 30 minutes late, especially in large cities with horrendous traffic. Meeting do not get right down to business….you need to talk about family, current events, sports, weather, etc. then maybe you can get to business in a while. Brazilians like lots of meetings before any decisions are made. Personal relationships must be made first. Communication issues – Brazilians are very expressive, they speak very quickly, and they are loud….so that they appear to be arguing vehemently. They aren’t….they are making a point. It may look like a fight is about to break out, but it isn’t. Brazilians love to argue….but it isn’t personal. They also speak circuitously…..they say one thing, give examples, give more details, then rephrase several times, repeating the same idea over and over again. This is true in written communication as well….and it may seem indirect, unorganized or misleading. Nope…’s just Brazilian. Brazilians also appear to say ‘no’ a great deal. This is in part due to the nature of the language. Also, it is very common to interrupt, and it is not impolite. To the contrary, it shows your enthusiasm and interest in the conversation.
  • Particular over universal – look at the details of each particular situation. Every situation is different, so the concept of we did it this way the last time, so we’ll do it the same way again for consistency just doesn’t hold. Relationship over task – good relationships are everything, so don’t risk the relationship just to complete the task – the task can be delayed Polychronic over monochronic – concepts are viewed in polychronic ways – often discussing the details of a proposal in random rather than sequential order Indirect over direct – Brazilians are very emotional and affective, but they are indirect in personal and business affairs. They are nonconfrontational (except when trying to persuade you) and face saving Group over individual – the group and the relationships within the group tend to be more important than the individual. Managers would prefer to share bonuses with subordinates instead of keeping it all for themselves. Flexible over inflexible – Brazilians have learned to be very flexible (heavy uncertainty, military coups, high inflation rates), and they are the original “fly by the seat of your pants”, “go with the flow” or “take it as it comes” people. They consider those who always follow standard procedures as unimaginative and lacking intelligence.

Cultural Overviews Cultural Overview: Focus on the Middle East Cultural Overviews Cultural Overview: Focus on the Middle East Presentation Transcript

  • Cultural Overviews
  • Cultural Overview: Focus on the Middle East
    • You cannot do business in the Middle East unless you understand Islam
    • Islam is not Arab, but Arab is Islam
    • Islam is open tolerance and acceptance
    • Islam is very diverse in many respects
  • Arab Values
    • Dignity, honor and reputation are paramount
    • Loyalty to family
    • Courteous and harmonious communications
    • Priorities are to self, kinsman, tribesman, and other of religion, in that order
    View slide
  • Arab Personal Distance
    • Close personal relationships, without great distance or intermediaries
    • Olfaction is prominent
    • Facing someone is required
    • Distance is very close, especially with friends
    • Very expressive in tone and gestures
    View slide
  • Arab Sociability
    • Cordiality is the core
    • Time is traditional
    • Communication is oral and aural, with an emphasis on listening
    • Traditional greeting is to place one’s right hand on the heart
    • Muslims may choose not to eat pork, drink alcohol, or engage in gambling
  • Arab Women
    • The culture is patriarchal, placing the male in the dominant role while protecting and respecting the female
    • The women publicly defers to her husband, but privately she may be more assertive
    • Islam does not advance the notion of female inferiority, but the second class status of women is reinforced by clerics’ control over marriage laws
    • Practices such as driving, not wearing abayas, education vary tremendously
  • Business Tips for the Middle East
    • Business relationships require rapport, mutual respect and trust
    • Connections and networking are most important
    • Negotiating and bargaining are common
    • Decision making is usually done in person
    • Time is flexible
    • Marketing should focus on the customer
    • Socialization in business is traditional and courteous, but deals aren’t social
    • Communication requires harmony and agreement
    • Taboos are many
  • How Westerners are perceived by Arabs
    • They express superiority and arrogance, think they know everything
    • Do not want to share credit for what is accomplished jointly
    • Are unable or unwilling to respect and adjust to local culture
    • Fail to innovate to meet needs of local culture, seek easy solutions based on home
    • Refuse to work through normal administrative channels, don’t respect local legal procedures
    • Tend to lose democratic ways abroad, becoming autocratic and instilling fear in subordinates
    • Too imposing, pushy, aggressive, and rude
  • What to avoid…..
    • Bringing up business before getting to know your host
    • Commenting on a man’s wife or daughters
    • Raising colloquial questions that are common at home but may be an invasion of privacy
    • Using disparaging or off-color words
    • Talking about religion, politics, or Israel
    • Bringing gifts of alcohol or using alcohol
    • Requesting favors from those in authority
    • Shaking hands too firmly or “pumping”
    • Pointing your finger or showing soles of shoes
  • Cultural Overview: Focus on Latin America
    • Although technically part of North America, Mexico is much more “Latin” than “North”
    • Influence of the Catholic church
    • Value of family
    • Distinct male and female roles
    • Indigenous “Indians” in Bolivia, Peru, Mexico
    • African descendents throughout but primarily in Brazil
    • European heritage – Spanish, some Portuguese, Italian and German
    • Asia – some Polynesian and Japanese in Brazil
    • 400 million people, 21 countries plus islands
  • Sociopolitical developments
    • Problems of social class integration – primarily based on family connections
    • Economically and technically developing, but moving from agricultural to industrial to service – in reality a dual economy in many areas
    • Private education for elite at lower levels, public at upper levels, literacy slowly increasing
    • Increasing urbanization, especially in Brazil and Mexico
  • Latin social customs (sort of)
    • Shaking hands
    • Pleasantries
    • Thank-you notes
    • Time
    • Privacy
    • Asking questions
    • Space
    • Class and status
    • Doing business
  • Themes and Patterns in Latin America
    • Personalismo
    • Machismo
    • Get rich quick attitude – tied to fatalism
    • Good manners and dignity
    • Hospitality
    • Authoritarianism
  • Doing Business in Mexico
    • Concept of negotiation
    • Role of individual
    • Concern for protocol
    • Significance of type of issue
    • Complexity of the language
    • Nature of persuasive arguments
    • Trustworthiness
    • Attitude toward risk
    • Form of satisfactory agreement
  • US American view of Mexicans
    • Self control: emotional, volatile
    • Type of civilization: primitive, need instruction
    • Honesty: dishonest, sneaky
    • Character: submissive, weak
    • Time orientation: dwells on past, procrastinates
    • Social classes: lower classes lack potential, upper classes lack character
    • Work ethic: lazy, work is bad
  • Mexican View of US Americans
    • Self control: cold, insensitive, emotionless
    • Type of civilization: condescending, contradictory
    • Honesty: manipulative, tactless, can’t be trusted, ulterior motives
    • Character: aggressive, at time brutal and abusive
    • Time orientation: obsessively future oriented, can’t relax, unrealistically tries to master time
    • Social classes: morally corrupt, perhaps economically superior
    • Work ethic: obsessive materialism, only focus is work
  • Doing Business in Brazil
    • Greetings
    • Names and titles
    • Hospitality
    • Appearance, hygiene and dress
    • Gifts and bribes
    • Time
    • Communication issues
  • Negotiating in Brazil
    • Particular over universal
    • Relationship over task
    • Polychronic over monochronic
    • Indirect over direct
    • Group over individual
    • Flexible over inflexible
  • Cultural Overview: Focus on Asia
    • Equity is more important than wealth and consumption
    • Saving and conserving resources is highly valued
    • Group is more important part of society and is emphasized for motivation
    • Cohesive and strong family ties, extending to distant relatives, forming a relationship society with a strong network of social ties
  • Cultural Overview: Focus on Asia
    • Highly disciplined and motivated workforce/society
    • Education is an investment in the prestige and economic well-being of the family
    • Protocol, rank and status are very important
    • Personal conflicts are to be avoided (few lawyers)
    • Public service is a moral responsibility
  • Doing Business in China
    • Entry into the WTO in 2001 has expanded trade and increased business opportunities
    • There remains a huge income disparity between rural and urban areas ($5000/cap vs $400/cap)
    • China is one of the most corrupt countries due to the lack of a legal structure and relationship based interpersonal interactions
  • Negotiation in China
    • Emphasis is on trust and mutual connections
    • Focus is on the long term
    • Sensitivity to national slights and persistent addiction to Party propaganda, slogans and codes
    • Chinese have a compelling need to dwell on the subject of friendship and reciprocity as a prerequisite for doing business
  • Negotiation in China
    • Once Chinese decide who and what is best, they show great steadfastness (stubbornness??)
    • Nothing is final until it is realized – signing of a contract is not a completed agreement
    • Chinese prefer to negotiate through an intermediary so as not to lose face
  • Business Etiquette in China
    • Chinese are punctual – be on time
    • Chinese prefer not being touched – slight bow is more appropriate, maybe a very brief handshake
    • Formal business dress is expected
    • Family name is first – Li Weiqi or Dr. Li
    • At banquets, the guest of honor makes the first move to depart, shortly after dinner (8:30 or 9pm)
  • Business Etiquette in China
    • Have one side of business cards printed in Chinese (can be done in a few hours in Beijing or Hong Kong)
    • Dignity, reserve, patience, persistence and respect for Chinese culture and temperament are vital
    • Numerous visits are required in negotiation – more for sellers than buyers
  • Guidelines for Doing Business in PRC
    • Focus on group rather than any one individual
    • Avoid self-centered conversation where “I” is excessively used – humility is greatly rewarded
    • Important business must be conducted face-to-face, not by phone, fax or email
    • Chinese are more reserved, retiring and shy. Silence is a positive trait – and Chinese may seek to take advantage of American impatience
  • Japanese Language and Communication
    • Indirect and vague are more acceptable than direct and specific references – ambiguous terms are preferred
    • Sentences are often left unfinished so that others may make a conclusion
    • Conversation is often in an ill-defined and shadowy context, never definite, to allow for personal interpretation
    • There are layers of soft language with various degrees of courtesy and respect.
    • Listeners make little noises of tentative understanding and encouragement
  • Business Interactions with Japanese
    • Japanese try to achieve sales without losing face and harmony
    • Third party introductions are important and can create trust between individuals, where the third party may be in final negotiations
    • When you approach a firm, do so at the highest level; the first person approached is likely to always be involved
    • Avoid direct communication of money….this is left to go-betweens and lower level staff
  • Business Interactions with Japanese
    • Avoid praise of your product; let your literature or go-between do that
    • Use business cards in Japanese and English
    • Logical, cognitive or intellectual approaches are insufficient; the emotional level of communication is also important
    • Formality prevails in senior staff meetings, with interpreters. The more senior people present, the more important the meeting.
    • Wait patiently for meetings to move beyond preliminary tea and long formalities
  • Age and Business
    • Young managers, recruited from universities, are expected to stay with a firm until they are 60, conforming, showing respect and deference
    • At 60, the decision is made whether or not that person will become a company director, thus eligible to work into his 80s
    • The rest of the group not selected is expected to retire around 55 or 60, though they may be retained on a temporary basis
  • Business Relationships
    • Reward and recognition go to the group, never the individual
    • Great emphasis is placed on belonging
    • Guests are usually given a small gift; on the next visit, you are expected to give a gift in kind
    • Personal relationships are required. You will be invited for entertaining with a night on the town, but not at one’s home. The Japanese have very large entertaining budgets.
  • Business Relationships
    • Social and self control disguise a highly emotional quality of the Japanese character and relationships that is hard to understand
    • Japanese tend to be clean, polite and disciplined; but publicly, with strangers, can be pushy and inconsiderate
    • The gap between generations is very wide – with each person assigned an older mentor. This is problematic – if your mentor is not well-respected, your career is over
    • Women especially have a problem in terms of mentors, socializing and mobility
  • Values and Standards
    • Japanese personality is self-confident and flexible, tending toward diligence and thrift balanced with a fun-loving side
    • Japanese are cautious and given to stalling tactics; they are also insular
    • Japanese highly regard innovation and new ideas, swallowing them up until they are “Japanized” (internalized) after careful examination and study
    • Japanese value training and education, with deep pride in work, no matter how humble
  • Values and Standards
    • Work hard and play hard
    • Goals of corporate growth, product superiority and national economic welfare are more important than profits
    • Corporate social responsibility is built into the Japanese system
    • Standard is psychological security in a job in return for loyalty to the company; mutual obligation
    • Seniority is slowly giving way to merit
    • Japanese value decisions by consensus, deciding if a decision is needed first, what it is about and the process, before the actual decision…it is a long process
  • Focus on Continuous Training
    • Training is performance focused rather than promotion focused – multiple jobs at same level
    • Emphasis is on productivity – what have we learned to do the job better?
    • Older workers are believed to be more productive
    • Education is seen as a preparation for life
    • Permanent employees that leave an employer find it difficult to be a permanent employee with another firm
  • Focus on Europe (very general)
    • Europeans are highly diverse with over 40 countries
    • Business in the US is concerned with quantities, numbers and performance far more than with people….in Europe, humans are at the center of thought and philosophy
    • Europeans have an inherent interest in the quality of life….people should be served by progress, not vice versa
  • Focus on Europe (very general)
    • Europeans have a strong sense of reality….given the wars and disruptions of the 20 th century, tragedy can be just around the corner, so live in the moment.
    • Europeans have historically fought neighbors for centuries, Americans have fought the elements for decades
    • Europeans have endured plagues, great wars, border and government changes, and have a strong sense of survival
  • Focus on Europe (very general)
    • According to Bloom, et al. (1994), Europeans:
      • Are cynical realists
      • Believe individuals should be at the center of life
      • Have a sense of social responsibility
      • Have mistrust of authority
      • Have desire for security and continuity
      • Believe that profit maximization is not the primary aim of business
  • Some interesting items:
    • Italian arrangiarsi -the ability to make do or get out of a tough situation
    • Creative problem solving – getting around things that don’t work or are impediments to getting things done (trains on strike, complicated tax codes, etc.)
    • Connections and family ties are helpful
  • Italy
    • Bella figura – literally beautiful figure, but means the ability to make a good impression (dazzle). A bit like saving face, but more related to presentation and image. Appearance, presentation and dress must be impeccable. Status and prestige also matter.
  • Greece
    • Greeks like to discuss and bargain. It is permissible, even accepted, to exaggerate when one tells a story.
    • Relationships are very important, as is living life
    • We have smoke free workplaces, Greeks joke that they have work-free smokeplaces.
    • Be prepared to go out for dinner at 9 or 10, then drinks later, get home at 3 or 4, and go to work in the morning
  • Germany
    • Throughout Europe, titles are important. In Germany, they are essential. If someone has multiple titles, use all of them…Herr Professor Doktor Braun. Always use the title until you are invited to use someone’s first name. This may take 10 years.
    • Emotional distance is important in Germany. Friends and relatives may greet with nods and handshakes. This is completely unacceptable in Italy.
    • High German will be spoken in all business conversations (or English).
  • France
    • Except for lunch (2 hours), the French sense of time is casual. Subordinates should be prompt, but superiors can be late.
    • Expect meetings to be rescheduled…this is the norm
    • French schools are highly competitive and value linguistic ability, putting immigrant children from non-French speaking cultures at a distinct disadvantage
    • Non-French are often mistrusted, despite claims to the contrary
    • Competition is what happens on the soccer field…it is often not associated with business
  • Britain
    • Brits, while sophisticated, are a bit touchy about conversations involving family, privacy is valued
    • Decorum and formality are valued
    • Building morning coffee and afternoon tea breaks into meetings
    • Tolerance, compromise and resolution by committee are common occurrences
    • Fine manners and good etiquette are expected at all social occasions