Business Cross Cultures Essay
Business Cross Cultures
The above article is about a western suburb of Sydney, called Greenacre. The article, aptly named “What happened to the suburb I used to know” is a reflection and analysis of the past and current status of the suburb and how, over time it has changed from what was described as a “home” to “a minefield, or a battlefield, or a refuge of drug dealers, criminals, drive-by shooters and terror” (Roberts, 2013). This report will discuss and explore a number of theoretical principles and topics of cross-cultural management in the everyday life of Australian’s living in this suburb, through such theories and topics as Oberg’s six-month cycle of culture shock, Cultural dimensions- Ethnocentrism/stereotyping/parochialism, Hofstede’s value dimensions theory, as well as Harris’s and Moran’s cultural profiles. Oberg’s six-month cycle of culture shock
Oberg’s theory identifies 4 major stages of cultural shock and explains the “typical” transition process for a foreigner adjusting to a new county/culture. Below is a list of the stages and a brief description for each-
1. Honeymoon- minor problems will be over looked, with the excitement and anticipation of learning new things. This phase can last from a few days, up to a month. 2. Crisis/hostility- the new environment begins to seem less idealistic and can therefore lead to focusing upon the negative aspects of the host country. This period is characterised by frustration, and confusion and typically lasts up to two/three months. 3. Adjustment/humour- a respect, understanding and a further adjustment to the local culture occurs, and with this a change in attitude toward the new environment- occurs around the four/five month mark. 4. Mastery/honour- acceptance of the new culture, a sense of eagerness to help other integrate and even absorbs the habits of the new society which in turn makes him feel secure and develops a sense of dual cultural identity (biculturalism)- occurs in the 6-12 month time frame.
The article focuses on the perspective of the writer and his experiences, however it does explore some of the above stages. In particular, it is apparent in Roberts recount of his memories of his parents, in the way that they stereotyped the foreigners to be “wogs, unless they were Asian… which were dirty” (Roberts, 2013). This stereotype has evidently been infused in the culture and attitude towards the “foreigners” and due to this it appears that the people seem to be stuck in the crisis/hostility stage of Oberg’s culture shock. Roberts recounts that they were just told this hostility was “multiculturalism (and this) was the justification of all things hard to accept” (Roberts, 2013).
Furthermore, they were told that this was just “…part and parcel of the greater good, of the New Australia, of the emergence of alternative cultures – it’s just a settling-in process” (Roberts, 2013)- potentially moving toward the adjustment period. However, this was over 50 years ago and it appears not a lot has changed with this “drive-by shooting” culture, which seemingly still has a firm grasp on the suburb, with “local residents living in permanent fear of reprisals” (Roberts, 2013). Cultural dimensions/effects
Culture is made up of a number of dimensions and each has its effect on the culture as a whole. Below is a list of dimensions that collectively make up a culture-
– Religion – Languages – Education – Economic system – Norms – Values – Social stratification
The prominent religion in Greenacre is Islam, with 38.9% of the surveyed population identifying that as their religion. Furthermore, 73.6% of the population was born overseas and 42.2% of the population speaks Arabic as their first language (statistics gathered from Census 2011). These statistics are indicative of the overall population within Greenacre and as a result of this, the impending culture that was formed because of it- “little Lebanon, with all the worst features from a failed country to a new one” (Roberts, 2013).
Religion is such a fundamental part of these peoples lives, and ultimately underlies both their moral and ethical norms and in turn has a dramatic affect on how their overall culture is formed. In Greenacre, 36.1% of people were attending an educational institution. Of these, 27.6% were in primary school, 23.6% in secondary school and 18.8% in a tertiary or technical institution. Evidently, from these statistics there isn’t a huge amount of the population continuing onto further education after high school. This may be a contributing factor to the increased crime rates, as this age group turn to alternative methods of income and ways of applying themselves (not necessarily in a positive manner).
It is evident through the above statistics and the article, that the overseas culture has imbedded itself within the suburb and as a result, so too has ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is an attitude whereby doing things ‘their way’ is the only way, no matter the situation. Unfortunately, this subculture that has subsequently developed within Greenacre, has become somewhat of a dominant part of the overall culture and has more than likely prevented the progression/transition through Oberg’s cycle of cultural shock.
Although it is very apparent that ethnocentrism is rife within Greenacre, so too is parochialism. Parochialism is where people from the host nation (in this case Australia), expect people from another country to fall into the same patterns and behaviours as them- which isn’t plausible, at least not fully. Because of this, it proves difficult for a subculture/society, such as that in Greenacre, to become apart of the greater culture of Australia and can be unfairly stereotyped. Stereotyping, particularly in a social context, is unfortunately inevitable.
Hofstede’s value dimensions theory/ Harris and Moran’s cultural profiles Furthermore, Hofstede’s value dimensions theory discusses- in this case, a high-level of- uncertainty avoidance and the extent in which the feel threatened by ambiguous situations. Although this isn’t highly prevalent in Australia, it is however relevant to this situation, as there are signs of high levels of violence and misconduct (in the eyes of the law). This demographic of people also has a high level of collectivism, as they have heavy focus on family/ religion (nepotism) and also high external locus of control. They also tend to have more of a masculine skew to their culture, with “assertiveness, materialism and a lack of concern for other” (Christopher and Dersky, 2012). Recommendations
Due to the situation exponentially becoming worse, it is recommended that the local and state governments provide a number of induction/education seminars on Australian culture, to aid in the transition into Australian life. Another recommendation would be to provide information days (in the local area and at high schools) for universities/TAFEs to encourage high school students to further their education- resulting in them applying themselves in a positive fashion, rather than turning to violence due to lack of mental stimulation, which will then lead to gainful employment. This would not only assist immigrants in the gradual transition into the local culture, but also would facilitate their acceptance within the greater community and encourage the youth further their education and community involvement.
By proactively aiding in this transition and encouraging the youth to further educate themselves, it may reduce the amount of conflict between cultures and also hasten the “cycle of culture shock”, described by Oberg- ultimately resulting in a happier community. And not resulting like it did for Peter Roberts, having to move “to a safe haven on the north side- looking back not in anger, but disbelief” (Roberts, 2013). Conclusion
This article depicts how cultures can often not mix well together and furthermore how if it isn’t managed efficiently and effectively it can lead to devastating consequences. Although this is an extreme case, with shootings, rapes and general discriminative behaviour, it shows that if the transition isn’t properly managed how far it can go wrong.
Through the explanation, analysis and use of theoretical principles and relevant cross cultural management topics, it is clear that people can make a relatively smooth transition into a new culture and society, if it is managed efficiently and effectively. This would occur not only in the situation that has been exemplified in the article, but also in a within a business context- where it is markedly more important.