This paper presents a cultural analysis of Greece and how this translates into the country’s business practices. The importance in such profiling can be seen in the emergence of many cross-cultural studies that aim to come up with an effective theoretical framework that guides international companies to relate to other companies from different countries with different cultures. One of these frameworks was formulated by a series of national studies conducted by Hofstede in which the author identified cultures according to five indices.
Basically, Hofstede’s approach presents that culture can be described as a set of characteristics ingrained or “wired-in” to the brains and the psyche of the members of a particular society thereby affecting behavior. With such understanding according to national cultures, cross-cultural managers can therefore make use of this information that can serve as a basis for cross-cultural and international initiatives of the organization.
In application, this paper examines Greece according to Hofstede’s five dimensions and how this translates into the country’s business culture; this paper then compares this with the business culture in the United States. The conclusion then leads to the identification of the different points of compatibility and conflict, and the areas which the Greek and the American business cultures can reconcile for a more successful business communications and relations.
Global Business Cultural Analysis: Greece I. Section One Introduction Communication plays an important role in any cross-cultural relations, and in the aspect of business, communication in the international context spans beyond language and includes protocols, perceptions and other elements pertaining to business practices.
According to Hendon, Hendon and Herbig (1996), the challenge is that although two or more parties are trying to reach an agreement aiming to serve each other’s interests, cultural factors — whether in terms practice and perception — significantly contribute to the processing of information that would lead to either the success or the failure of the negotiations or the management strategy should international companies decide to operate together.
As Hendon, et al. (1996) pointed out, cultural aspects influence managers, thereby affecting their behavior; this also reflects at the organizational level thereby the degree of the embodiment of the national culture of these companies is constantly present. Cross-cultural issues have become crucial given that more and more businesses are taking advantage of the opportunities brought by globalization.
One of the issues that emerged from this is that there was an identified potential point of conflict based on the precept that the differences in the values of the different groups may lead to problems, thereby jeopardizing the advantages offered by the global and international markets (Fontaine, 2007). As a result, international organizations have invested in cross-cultural management initiatives in order to create the most effective approach should the company reaches the point of venturing into foreign operations or cross-cultural negotiations.
In addition to the organizational dimension in cross-cultural issues are the elements that can further influence the operations of any business. Kanungo (2006) identified that globalization ha also created a significant impact to the consumers’ behavior now that they are aware of the strong global forces; technological innovation; and the environment. These elements do not only represent modifications in terms of the markets and the societies global businesses cater to but also the potential overall shift and cultural perceptions that resonate at various levels, from the individual to the organizational behaviors.
Which is why given that globalization has become a phenomenon that represents present-day reality (Steger, 2003), even companies who are not “internationalized” are still subject to many global forces such as buying or selling their supplies from sources overseas. It is also possible that the company may have to work with a foreign employee or a worker from a different cultural background. In any case, the instances of a “cultural add-on” has become more and more regular (Berger, 1998, 124).
However, it is important to look at the many theoretical foundations on cross-cultural studies, especially as to how national cultures are perceived as an important influence in organizational and management behavior. There is one distinctive studies that can be considered to have created a substantial buzz in the entire context of cross-cultural studies: Geert Hofstede’s four dimensions, which would later add another component. Hofstede’s studies gave way to conclusions that would help in the different approaches towards understanding different cultures, and how these can also create effects at individual, organizational and national levels.
Hofstede’s Four Dimensions One of the most commonly used model in cross-cultural studies is Hofstede’s four dimensions; these dimensions emerged from Hofstede’s studies on 40 different countries in which he identified four major prevailing factors in terms of the cultural aspect (Bjerke, 1998): ? Power distance ? Uncertainty avoidance ? Individualism/collectivism ? Masculinity/femininity In order to understand these four dimensions, it is important to look at how Hofstede views culture and how this plays a role in global business applications.
Hofstede is renowned for his research on differences among countries in terms of their culture and how these differences are essential. Hofstede operated based on the concept that comparisons among cultures can play a significant role in the making the right decisions based on the acquired information about other cultures; this is deemed helpful when it comes to making negotiations and even designing business strategies should companies decide to enter a foreign market.
Hence, Hofstede’s works have been founded on how the differences of these cultures are influential to behavior across may social levels. Hofstede’s dimensions tend to generalize groups, hence, for instance, multicultural nations are taken as a singular culture (Fontaine, 2007). The four dimensions Hofstede formulated are the main indicators that can identify the points of similarities and differences across these many national cultures (Vinken, Soeters & Ester, 2004). His studies on many national cultures have therefore served as a reference point among many cross-cultural managers.
Hofstede’s approach is known to adapt a more scientific approach as he argued that cultures can be “measured” and analyzed (Hofstede, Neuijen, Ohavy & Sanders, 1990); such can be seen not only in his database which analyzed countries according to their measures in power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, and masculinity/femininity but also in terms of how these factors can impact many organizational tasks such as business negotiations. Culture is therefore an important indicator of behavior and at the same time, it acts as a binding force that defines a group, a society or a region.
The four dimensions Hofstede identified are based on how a culture can be also defined according to relations, attitudes and values; in specific contexts, it can be observed that these four dimensions that pertain to Hofstede’s definition of culture — “the programming of the mind that differentiates one group of another” (as cited in Fontaine, 2007, 125) — presents a predictable framework of characteristics. A fifth dimension was also introduced by Hofstede by including Confucian framework to his dimension, and he identified this as the long term/short term orientation.
The long term/short term orientation, a recent addition to Hofstede/s dimension, was founded on the perceptions of time, and how this can affect the behavior of people. This dimension was based on the Confucian orientation with respect to past, present and future, and for Hofstede, this fifth dimension can reflect a society’s perception of time, especially as to how this affects their perseverance and regard for values, and how societies also wish to command respect and gain stability (Jacob, 2005).
This orientation is seen as an important component as this can reflect how some people can act as based on their expectations with respect to time, such as, for instance, whether their actions are motivated by long-term causes or their short-term goals. The power distance aspect refers to a culture’s orientation towards authority. This orientation includes how people understand power and how power works in their communities. With this component, power distance serves as an indicator of equality such as whether some cultures tend to be more democratic or practices a great amount of inequality (Hofstede, 2001).
Another index identified by Hofstede (2001) is the uncertainty avoidance. Generally, this refers to how society can tolerate uncertainty. This therefore shows how a culture may be more comfortable in a more structured and rational framework because the tolerance of ambiguity is low whereas some societies may tend to live in the uncertainty, hence, their systems do not adhere to strict rules. Individualism/collectivism pertains to how a culture tend to be more individualist and autonomous or the spirit of the collective fills the members of its society (Hofstede, 2001).
In the former, there is a greater sense of independence because the individual is encouraged to think for himself or herself. A collectivist culture, its opposite, tends to have a greater degree of influence according to the social or cultural psyche and norm. Although individuals can be said to initially come from defined groups such as families, the degree of cohesion across social levels differs from one culture to the next. Last but not the least, the masculinity/femininity index measures gender roles in a culture, especially as to how each of these genders are positioned in the society.
The values among these two genders are among the fundamental elements in any society because one tends to dominate the other, if not, the attempt to equalize roles can be said to be also present in some cultures (Hofstede, 2001). In addition to the aspect of the relevance of power in these roles, this indicator also describes whether the country is “masculine” or “feminine”; the former associates the culture as more assertive and competitive, thereby embodying the male characteristics whereas feminine cultures are viewed as caring and more modest.
The strength of Hofstede’s approach is that the study and the gathered data have come up with a set of information that generally describes the national cultures thereby demonstrating a general sense how people in a certain country can be expected to behave. The five dimensions have served as an important framework and Hofstede’s model has served many nation-level researches especially as to how the applicability of his collected data can be regarded to be valid at a certain point (Smith, 2006).
However, the model is not without any criticisms as this brings the issue on how many dimensions must be used as a means to measure culture (Smith, 2006). Another study conducted by Blodgett, Bakir and Rose (2008) that the model has limitations especially as to its validity among individuals. From this, it can be gathered that applicability of Hofstede’s framework mainly gives a good reference for a cultural overview of nation, but in more specific terms, there is still some debate as to the design of a more effective cross-cultural analysis model.
II. Section Two Greek Culture: an Overview Greece can be easily associated with its glory during the antiquity, with the country immersed in a rich culture of intelligence and might, in addition to the production of several works of art and architecture that can be considered to still have an influence in the modern world. Hence, Greece has always had the impression of classicism, especially with the mark left by Hellenism in the world and Greek history transcending fact and has become an interesting subject for literary works.
From political thought to mythology, Greek as a culture remains to be an object of fascination, especially as it has founded an important definition where the Western world begins in this Mediterranean archipelago. Culture can be basically defined through customs and traditions, and in Greece, albeit its development into modernity, has maintained a strong grasp for tradition; this tradition is defined by the roles played by religion and paganism in the country.
Greece is dominantly Orthodox Christian although some variations of the faith, as determined by paganistic influences, can be seen to be present and also vary from island to island. This is why Greek culture is generally regarded to have a higher degree of mixed beliefs and that Greeks also tend to be superstitious (Buxton, 1999). Early Greek civilization has demonstrated a significant amount of intellect yet at the same time, the society was also driven by its mythological past.
Such combination can be seen to present an attempt to balance myth and reason, and in modern Greece, this can be seen to have developed as modern Greek society remains to take pride in its past through the continuous presence of its customs and traditions, yet at the same time, modern Greek culture has demonstrated significant social changes that have take place in the last century. This is discussed by Mouzelis (1978) who mentioned how societal values remain to be dictated by its core values, and these core values, evidently, play a significant role in the definition of a society’s culture.
The economy, in the past centuries, has created a significant impact to the social development of any society, and Greece, as it moved on to the modern times, had adapted to these changes. In the social context, Greece had demonstrated the ability to adjust to these new economic demands, and its society, inevitably, has redefined social classes. Its economy also started to redefine itself especially as to how it would define its role in the modern world. All in all, the modernization of Greece has created a degree of impact to its modern culture, but interestingly, Greek culture has strongly maintained what it has always been.
As previously mentioned Greek culture has been distinct in terms of the roles religion plays in the lives of the people; this religion fuses the more organized leanings of the Christian Orthodox Church and the more paganistic or mythical practices that many Greeks still practice today. In addition to customs and traditions, Greek culture has maintained its strong identity across many cultural facets, from its art, music, food and wine. The Greek people has demonstrated a strong sense of resilience considering the number of wars they had to endure in the modern times.
These wars include its conflict with the Ottomans in which the country fell under rule for a long time, the Balkan Wars, the First World War, and the Greco-Turkish wars. The country also fell under military dictatorship from 1967-1974. With their wounded past, the Greek people had redeveloped a strong national character that had adapted to the realities they faced, especially as Greece’s glory would seem to be stuck more in the past and the modernity seems to have favored more the Western nations (Chilton, Dubin, Edwards, Garvey, Fisher, & Ellingham, 2008).
Interestingly, as Greece would struggle to find its place in the modern world, the Greek society and the people had gone through periods of diaspora in order to escape the conflicts at home. Those who were left behind would be stuck in the chaos of the country in which the economy would find a hard time adjusting to the greater powers coming from the western world, more specifically Europe. The Greek people experienced lack of opportunities in addition to poverty, especially as the country would prove to lack in enough economic resourcefulness until recently.
Greece, for a significantly portion of the 20th century, was under-developed, but it was not until in the 1980s that the country would start to catch up and become more integrated with the rest of Europe (Chilton, et al. , 2008) There are some interesting factors in Greek culture that can be regarded to have influenced attitudes of its people. One of these concepts is filotimo. Although hard to translate, filotimo generally refers to the Greeks’ love for deep honor that they should possess; this goes well with anther important Greek characteristic of integrity which is about behaving as an upright individual.
Although a sense of deep honor, as a translation, does not provide enough interpretation of the concept, filotimo can be considered to refer to a character that is highly desirable, but basically, it can be associated with a sense of self who is intrinsically good (Makedon, 1995). In addition to the concept of filotimo, modern Greece had emerged with additional cultural concepts in terms of character, and these are leventia and palikaria. Leventia refers to a sense of “manly excellence” thereby emphasizing the importance of having certain male characteristics.
Leventia is paired with palikaria which also refers to the same meaning. As pair, possessing or being leventia and/or palikaria is about the ability to survive through hard times, especially if the individual or the family has been subject to a critical amount of duress. Having leventia and palikaria can gain an individual substantial admiration from those around him because of the display of a strong sense of self as seen in courage or proactiveness that addresses the source of any problem (Makedon, 1995).
Last but not the least, albeit its painful periods of oppression, the Greek people have a great amount of love towards freedom. The love for liberty has always been a Greek characteristic, as seen from the ancient Greek civilization to the modern Greek society. Many themes in the Greek arts have portrayed the importance of freedom, and evidently, as the cradle of democracy, Greek culture had long wanted to fight oppression and aimed for a more liberal and democratic society in which they get to possess a certain amount of freedom despite the restrictions posed upon them (Makedon, 1995).
Generally, these characteristics show how modern Greece have managed an important element of its identity, and that is its Orthodox church; however, despite the practice of orthodoxy, this aspect of “freedom” is practiced in such a way that the Greek people remains to have an open mind towards its paganistic past. In a way, the Greek culture can be regarded to have managed to lessen the conflict between mythos and logos, and today, the Greek people has been finding ways to make room for the modern and how it fits to its long standing tradition.
Greek Business Culture Studies on the Greek business culture has had references to Hofstede’s cultural framework. In terms of the scores of Greece according to Hofstede’s four dimensions, Greece has the following measures in these four indices (Hofstede, 2001): ? Power distance index: 63 ? Individualism: 35 ? Masculinity: 57 ? Uncertainty avoidance index: 112 In terms of Greece’s score in the power distance index, this score shows how its people, according to Hofstede’s framework, demonstrates the emergence of the social classes in Greek society.
This is to say that people are aware of the powers that are present in the society and they know their place with respect to that power. The score of the country in this index can be considered to be average, hence, demonstrating that although people do recognize the presence of inequalities in its society, they see the presence of means to get over certain barriers. The median score for this index is 55, and with Greece at 63, the amount of inequality is above average yet not as drastic as compared to other countries.
Basically, this shows how hierarchy plays in the society which can be considered as a paradox considering the Greeks’ love for liberty and democracy. In a sense, such score shows how the Greeks have embraced reality and that certain powers have created a strong influence in the country. The next score shows that the country has lower measures of individualism thereby showing that Greece is a highly collective society. This shows how Greeks have a strong regard for family and community, and how individuals are strongly influenced by their environment.
Kessapidou and Varsakelis (2002) mentioned that when Greeks enter an organization, there is already the expectation that the Greek employee expects to work for this company for the rest of his or her life, and at the same time, in exchange for this loyalty, they expect that the firm will also look after their family. The next indicator is masculinity, and Greece scored slightly above the global average of 50 (Hofstede, 2001). This is an interesting score as generally, the Greek society has demonstrated the strong male influence in terms of their position in the family and the society.
The roles between males and females have been regarded to be also more distinctive, in which case the women know their positions and the limits of their power and influence. The uncertainty avoidance index shows the highest score for Greece, and based on this, there are many rules that prevail in the Greek society. Again, this is an interesting score because this contradicts the Greeks’ love for freedom, but then again, such rules and restrictions may have brought the Greek people to be hungry for more liberty in its societies.
The many bounds in Greek society can be seen in its history where the country went through oppression through foreign occupancy and dictatorship. Overall, as employees, Kessapidou and Varsakelis (2002) discussed the characteristics of Greek employees, as follows (273): “For Greek people, the working culture is based on sense of honour, dignity, loyalty, and sense of duty reflected in the Greek word ‘filotimo’… which is similar to the concept of ‘face’ as reported for China…
in these societies, ‘filotimo’ or ‘face’ becomes an asset for organizations. In cases, however, where expectations are not met, the personnel can be alienated”. From the results of Hofstede’s study, Greece can be summarized as “high power distance, strong uncertainty avoidance, collectivistic and masculine” (Joiner, 2001, 232). This profile, as translated into Greece’s business culture, strongly demonstrates its association with societal values.
According to Hofstede (2001), among the four indicators in his cultural model, the most relevant in the aspect of organizational design can be attributed to power distance and uncertainty avoidance which is why these factors are important in assessing the relationship of national cultures and the organization. In the organizational context, the Greek business culture shows a strong sense of hierarchy and the partenalistic relations that exist in Greek companies; this is evident in the high score in the power distance.
In further putting this with respect to Hofstede’s description of this dimension, the Greek society as well in Greek organizations, there is the accepted presence of inequalities in terms of the distributio of power. The acceptance in human inequality, interestingly, may not fair well with the Greek fundamentals on democracy but apparently, such cultural characteristic is more of an indicator of a strong sense of respect towards authority (Joiner, 2001). Leadership is therefore emphasized in Greek organizations, and in business, there is much dependence on the company’s leaders when it comes to making decisions.
Such cultural factor can then be attributed to the historical development in Greece which, accoding to Psychogios and Szamosi (2007), lived in a society with the centralized Greek political system that highlights the “powerful state and the large public sector” (8). In terms of the reflection of Greece’s high uncertainty avoidance index, many studies have actually revealed that groups with hih uncertainty avoidance index demonstrate a fear of making decisios, hence, the presence of many rules that can be easily referred to.
In Greece, according to studies by Bartholomew (1995), Bourantas, et al. (199), among others (as cited in Joiner, 2001), fear of decision-making has been found among Greek managers and subordinates, hence, much of these activities are left to the upper management. There is indeed the influence of culture in terms of the business’ own practices. Although this may not be true in all cases, the general perception towards Greek businesses reflect how the business culture have its foundations according to its societal values, these values are which influenced by the country’s culture.
III. Section Three In Comparison with the US Business Culture Based on Hofstede’s cultural model, Greece scored high in power distance index, masculinity and uncertainty avoidance index, whereas it scored low in individualism. These scores translate to the Greek business culture of centralization, concentrated power, more distinct gender roles, and high reliance on the organizations to take care of the employees’ family. Greek employees are also found to possess the characteristics of loyalty, integrity and dignity, as guided by the concept of filotimo.
In comparing this to the American culture, the contrasts can be immediately seen the differences in the scores Hofstede gave the United States (Hofstede, 2001). The US scored high in individualism, low in power distance index, uncertainty avoidance index, and long term orientation, whereas in terms of masculinity, the US scored above average. The similarities can be therefore seen in the masculinity aspect in which both shows that gender roles remain to be differentiated in the American business culture. However, the similarities end there.
Based on the scores, the American culture can be described as highly individualistic, with a greater sense of equality and fewer rules thereby showing greater tolerance in new ideas and beliefs. Basically, the American business culture does embody these characteristics. As the country embraced capitalism and industrialization earlier than Greece, the country’s business culture tends to have a more progressive and liberal approach. There is a strong presence of market economy forces in the United States, and employees are also driven by the economic opportunitis presented to them.
One of the important aspects in the American business culture is the presence of competition, and competition is present not only among businesses but among individuals as well (McCraw, 2000). Hence, unlike in Greece where a bulk of the important responsibilities are left to upper management, American organizations and their employees grab these opportunities to hold more responsibilities because it means more opportunities for them to gain better positions. Competitive is therefore a characteristic of the American business culture, and this makes sense according to the results of the scores of the United States according to Hofstede’s model.
Although these scores and comparisons between national and business cultures can be regarded to be applicable, it should be noted that the degree of relevance may not be true in all cases. In addition to the challenges as to the validity of Hofstede’s model (Blodgett, et al. , 2008), there is also the case of change that can possibly take place at social and business levels. As discussed in the first section, the applicability is limited as to the relevance of national cultures to business cultures although the fundamentals of a national culture tends to become apparent generally.
For instance, the Greek concept of filotimo can be considered to be true even at business levels, and at the same time, the collective spirit can be seen in how many Greek corporations are family-owned. Such is true in the case of the United States in terms of the masculunity scores. Although in some instances gender roles remain defined in the US, in the business world, more and more women have started to hold significant positions across many organizations.
Therefore, the relevance of national culture perceptions are only true up to a certain extent but information such as those gathered by Hofstede’s studies serve as useful references to the basics of the social and business dynamics in a country. IV. Section Four Opening an American Business in Greece Based on the scores in Hofstede’s cultural framework, the USA’s national culture distance from Greece is at 3. 47 according to 42 surveyed American firms in the country (Kessapidou & Varsakelis, 2002).
With this number, it can be assumed that there will be greater difficulty in the successful establishment of the American company in Greece; however, this may not be the case, and the same is true even if the company has a Greek affiliate. According to Kessapidou and Varsakalis (2002), the strength lies in the Greek’s characteristic to be collective, hence, they tend to comply with the requirements of the company. In addition, the concept of filotimo can drive Greek employees to perform better, thereby filotimo, in a sense, serves as a source of competitiveness, which is compatible with the American busines culture.
However, there may be some problems in terms of the management aspect between the American and the Greek managers, or the Greek managers needing to comply with the demands of American management practices. Although there are highly centralized American companies, the delegation of power and responsibility is one of an American’ company’s assets, hence, should decisions need to be made, even some subordinates may step in and show a sense of leadership. This may intimidate Greek managers and employees, especially if the firm would have American employees working in the Greek operations.
In addition, the Greek employees may think that the Americans are too aggressive and ambitious in the workplace, thereby possibly creating a rift among the employees. Hence, the recommendation is that prior to the establishment of the American operation in Greece, both sides need to be educated about the cultures they are about to encounter. Since that Greece is going to host the company, the American company needs to comply more with the Greek culture, but since it is the American company that is going to establish the business, the Greek employees and managers also need to
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