Cultural Dimensions Essay
Culture is one of those terms that have no specific definition because of its diverse nature. It can be looked at from any point of view. However, a basic definition that includes all the important aspects of a culture is ‘the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations’ (Webster, 2008). Culture is very important if one wants to study a society. It can tell a lot about different aspects of the society and this is the reason why different countries deal with issues differently.
This paper will outline and discuss the cultures of China, Saudi Arabia and United States of America and will show how, because of differences in cultures, issues like strategy, team communications, influence tactics, conflict management etc are dealt differently in these countries. Towards the end, recommendations to avoid cross cultural differences will be outlined. United States of America The population of United States of America is very diverse. It has people from many backgrounds. However in general, the American culture is said to be one of the most individualistic culture in the world.
This means that people are less integrated in forms of groups. They do not depend on each other and are more concerned about themselves than about others. The country also has a higher than world average score for masculinity. This means that there is differentiation between genders to some extent in the American culture. On the other hand, the score in power distance dimension shows that there are not many differences in societal levels. This can be seen in organizational, family or governmental settings. People expect that power will be distributed equally to a greater extent even if someone is lower in the level of hierarchy.
Besides this, the score on uncertainty avoidance is also lower than the world average. This means that people are tolerant to uncertainty and there are few rules and regulation present to control results (Hofstede, 2003). One important characteristic about the work culture in United States is that hard work and integrity is appreciated and also, punctuality is valued. Both mean and women are expected to dress according to the surroundings, situation and weather. The culture does not promote or support gift giving in business as it may be considered as bribe (International Business Center, 2003).
As mentioned above, because of the cultures individualistic nature, privacy is valued. The lifestyle in general is causal and informal. Americans believe in voicing their opinions and although this direct speaking is sometimes considered as rude in other cultures, it is totally normal among Americans (American Graduate Education, 2007). From the above details, we can tell a lot about how issues like strategy, team communications, influence tactics and conflict management get affected. Since people believe in voicing their opinions, the strategy is usually bold.
In addition to this, since any kind of strategy requires its actors to put in all the effort they can possible put in. Be it in an organization, government or even in one’s personal life. The team communication is very effective because of the low power distance characteristic and informal nature of the American culture. The belief that the power distributed to everyone is equal and the informal nature in groups inhibits any kind of barrier in effective teamwork. Gift giving or anything close to bribery is considered very insulting and inappropriate therefore this approach is not widely used in influence tactics.
Conflict management is usually done openly without an arbitrator or a third party (American Graduate Education, 2007). As mentioned above, Americans believe in voicing their opinions so this plays a major role in conflict management strategies used nationwide. In order to remove the communication barriers, in my opinion, one would not have to change much about himself because of the presence of a diverse cultures in the population. However, it is suggested that English is used to communicate any kind of verbal information as this is understood and accepted by almost everyone (American Graduate Education, 2007).
Regarding dressing, one is suggested to dress appropriately considering the time of the day, weather, occasion and gathering. China Now we come to the Chinese culture. The culture of the people of China is very different from the American culture just discussed above and it is said to be the exact opposite of the America culture. In fact, the Chinese culture is very different, unique and peculiar if one compares it with the rest of the cultures in the world. It is difficult to understand for those who are not a part of it however one does not need to completely understand it before blending in (Think Quest, 1998).
We will now look into this in detail. We can prove the above hypothesis correct by comparing the individualism dimension of the American and Chinese cultures. Unlike the America culture, the people of china are very collectivistic. They are integrated tightly, they look after each other and they are highly dependable on the people around them. This can be seen in their family structures and organization values etc. Both the Chinese and American cultures are similar when it comes to the Masculinity dimension.
They both score approximately 68 on a scale of 1 to 100. This again is higher than the world average which means that there are slightly more differences between genders in the Chinese culture compared to the rest of the world. The uncertainty avoidance is slightly higher than United States which means people are more tolerable to not have complete information as compare to the American culture. The fourth dimension of Power Distance is also quite higher than the United States meaning that people expect more differences in organizational hierarchies.
The American score on Power distance was 45 while the Chinese score is 85 therefore one can imagine the amount of differences in the structures of organizations, governmental institutions and families etc. One major difference is in the long term orientation dimension of the two cultures. While the American culture was more on the lower side of this dimension, the Chinese culture is known to have the highest ranking factor when it comes to long term orientation. These means that people tend to overcome obstacles with time and not with will and strength (Hofstede, 2003).
Some other important details of the Chinese culture include being used to the communist form of government. The Chinese culture is very hospitable and accepts people from all backgrounds. Since there is no one particular religion that is followed in the country, anyone can adjust easily (International Business Center, 2003). All these cultural characteristics largely influence many issues in business. For instance any strategy usually requires everyone to stick together and work collectively because of the collectivistic nature of the culture and also teamwork is very effective as people realize that they are dependent on each other.
However, because of high power distance, both strategy and team communication is affected. Communication within team becomes more broken as it has to be passed through several levels of hierarchy. The cultural values are imbedded in the he influence tactics. For example these tactics project the idea of togetherness as it is evident from their advertisements that promote family ties and bonds etc (Lin, 2001). The approach to conflict management is including a third party to settle issues. In order to remove the communication barriers, a few things need to be kept in mind.
Firstly, it is suggested to not use too much of hand movements as this distracts the audience. Besides this, there are other non verbal gestures that must be avoided. For instance pointing finger may be considered rude therefore such things must be kept in mind in order to ensure effective communication. English is understood widely in the corporate world therefore this is preferred after Chinese of course (International Business Center, 2003). Saudi Arabia Now we will start discussion on the culture of the last country of the paper. This country has also been selected to be studied because of its different and unique culture.
The Chinese and Arabian Cultures are similar in the power distance dimension of their cultures. Unlike the American Cultures, the high power distance ranking indicates the inequality of wealth throughout the Arab world. Because of this, the rich of course have more power than the poor. The uncertainty avoidance dimension of the Arabian culture is also very different from the Chinese and the American cultures. While the Chinese and Americans ranked lower than world average on the uncertainty avoidance ranking, the Arabian culture has a higher score in this dimension.
Meaning that people do not tolerate uncertainty at all and this can be the reason why there are so many rules, policies and regulations are implemented in the country. Surprising as it may sound, the Arabian culture scored low on the masculinity dimension considering all the restrictions on the Arabian women etc. The score was 52 which is only slightly higher than the world average. The reason for low masculinity ranking could be that all the restrictions on the women of the country are because of the religion and not the culture. The Arabian culture, like the Chinese culture, is more collectivistic.
It had an average ranking of 38 which is way lower than that of the American culture and also the world average for that matter. This means people prefer to stick together and remain integrated (Hofstede, 2003). The Arabic culture is largely shaped by its history and religion (Saudi Embassy, 2006). Therefore history, religion and language are valued the most in the Arabian culture. These cultural characteristics affect many practical issues. The strategy devised by Arabs in any situation usually calls for people to remain cohesive.
Also because of high uncertainty avoidance, there are many rules, regulations and policies that must be followed. Because of high power distance, like the Chinese culture, effective team communication is affected. But on the other hand, this is compensated for because of collective nature of the culture. The influence tactics are devised keeping the religion in mind. Anything such as bribery or use of women models in advertisements are avoided because this is against Islam. Conflicts are also managed according to the rules of Shari’ah which is the Islamic or Sacred Law (Hooker, 1996).
Also, because of the collectivistic nature of the culture a third party is often included in managing conflicts. There are many cultural traits that must be kept in mind in order to improve communication. Firstly, one must keep in mind that during communication, anything he says or does not offend or insult Islam. The people are very sensitive when it comes to the religion therefore one must dress, talk and behave appropriately. There are certain non verbal gestures that are considered offensive such as the thumbs up sign and crossing of legs etc. Therefore one should avoid these.
Arabic is preferred by the people there therefore it is preferred is one communicates or at least uses some words from Arabic. One must not ask too many questions are the inquisitive one is considered as the most unimportant and lastly, if an Arab offers a gift, not accepting it may be considered offensive (International Business Center, 2003). References American Graduate Education (2007) U. S. American Culture & Values. Retrieved Oct 1, 2008, from American Graduate Education. Web site: http://www. americangraduateeducation. com/folder2/subfolder2/americanculture. htm Hofstede, G. (2003).
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