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Cultural Environment of International business

  1. T.J. Joseph Cultural Environment of International Business
  2. Introduction  International business success requires cross-cultural literacy  An understanding of how cultural differences across and within nations may affect the business  Ex: In China, guanxi (relationships backed by reciprocal obligations), are central to getting business done, but in West it is bribery or corruption  EX: Class divisions led to high level of industrial disputes and thus high cost of doing business in Britain compared to Switzerland, Germany or Japan
  3. What is Culture? “Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society.” - Edward Tylor “A system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that when taken together constitute a design for living.” - Hofstede, Namenwirth, and Weber
  4. Components of Culture Values • Abstract ideas about what a group believes to be good, right, and desirable • Reflect a person’s sense of right and wrong or what “ought” to be. Norms • Norms are the social rules that govern people’s actions toward one another Society • Society refers to a group of people who share a common set of values and norms
  5. Values • Values forms the bedrock of a culture • They provide the context within which a society’s norms are established and justified • They include attitudes toward – Individual freedom, Truth, Justice, Honesty, Loyalty, Social obligations, love, sex, marriage, etc. • Values are also reflected in the political and economic systems
  6. Norms • Folkways: Routine conventions of everyday life – Little moral significance – Generally, social conventions such as dress codes, social manners, and neighborly behavior Ex: Attitude towards time • Mores: Norms central to the functioning of society and its social life – Greater significance than folkways – Violation can bring serious retribution • Theft, adultery, incest and cannibalism Ex: Alcohol drinking in US and Saudi Arabia
  7. Culture, Society, and the Nation State • A society is a group of people bound together by a common culture • There is not a strict one-to-one correspondence between a society and a nation state • Nation State: – Is a political creation – May contain a single culture or several cultures
  8. The Determinants of Culture
  9. Social Structure • Social structure refers to its basic social organization • Two dimensions that are particularly important include: – The extent to which society is group or individually oriented – Degree of stratification into castes or classes
  10. Religious and Ethical Systems • Religion: a system of shared beliefs and rituals • Ethical systems: a set of moral principles, or values, that are used to guide and shape behavior Most of the world’s ethical systems are the product of religions • Among the thousands of religions in the world today, four dominate in terms of numbers of adherents: – Christianity with 1.7 billion adherents – Islam with 1 billion adherents – Hinduism with 750 million adherents – Buddhism with 350 million adherents
  11. Language • Language is one of the defining characteristics of a culture • Spoken language – Language-based cultures or stratas – Learning local language has considerable advantage Ex: GM’s Chevrolet ‘Nova’ in Spanish • Unspoken language – Include body languages Ex: A circle with thumb and the forefinger – a friendly gesture in US, a vulgar in Greece and Turkey
  12. Education • Formal education plays a key role in a society – It is the medium through which individuals learn many of the language, conceptual, and mathematical skills that are indispensable in a modern society – Also supplements the family’s role in socializing the young into the values and norms of a society Ex: Respect for others, obedience to authority, honesty, neatness, being on time – Schools teach basic facts about the social and political nature of a society, as well as focusing on the fundamental obligations of citizenship
  13. Culture in the Workplace How a society’s culture affects values in the workplace? • Management process and practices of international business need to vary according to culturally determined work-related values • Most famous study by Geert Hofstede, a psychologist worked for IBM • Collected data on employee attitude and values for more than 1 lakh individuals from 1967 to 1973 across 40 countries • Different cultures were summarized into four dimensions and created an index score for each of them
  14. Culture in the Workplace Hofstede’s Four dimensions of culture – Power distance - cultures are ranked high or low on this dimension based on the particular society’s ability to deal with inequalities – Individualism versus collectivism - this dimension focuses on the relationship between the individual and his/her fellows within a culture – Uncertainty avoidance - this dimension measures the extent to which a culture socializes its members into accepting ambiguous situations and tolerating uncertainty – Masculinity versus femininity - this dimension looks at the relationship between gender and work roles
  15. Work-Related Values for 20 Selected Countries
  16. Problems with Hofstede • Assumes one-to-one relationship between culture and the nation state • Research may have been culturally bound • Survey respondents were from a single industry (computer) and a single company (IBM)
  17. Cultural Change • Culture is not a constant; it evolves over time – Since 1960s American values toward the role of women have changed – Japan moved toward greater individualism in the workplace • Globalization will continue to have impacts on cultures around the world
  18. Managerial Implications • Cross-cultural literacy • Culture and competitive advantage • Culture and business ethics
  19. References 1. Chapters 3, ‘International Business’ by Charles W. Hill and Arun K. Jain, Tata McGraw Hill publication. 2. Chapter 2, ‘International Business’ by Oded Shenkar and Yadong Luo, Wiley publication.