1) Cultural Variables: There are different cultural variables or cultural dimensions that can be used to compare different cultures to each other. One of the theories in this respect is based on Trompenaars and is as follows:
a) Universalism – Particularism: This dimension helps leaders and expatriots to measure the standards of relationships. Universalist societies consider general rules and obligations important and a strong source of reference. Particularist societies regard particular circumstances more important than rules.
b) Individualism – Communitarianism: This dimension enables leaders and expatriots to see the difference between individualistic and communitarian cultures more clearly. Generally, this dimension is based on the constant conflict between individual interests and the interest of the community and the group that individual belongs to. This conflict exists in all cultures but differs based on the unique cultural values and history of a country. Individuals in a society tend to be more or less individualistic. If a society expects its members to respect the seniors, this leads to certain expectations in the society such as taking care of one's own parents. In certain societies it is not considered acceptable to send his/her parents to a seniors' home. In a business encounter between two different business people from these two spectrums of cultural dimensions, such innate differences may potentially lead to misunderstandings and even mistrust when, in casual conversation, one mentions the fact that his/her parents are staying at a seniors' home. Nevertheless, one should also take into account that even the most communitarian societies in Asia and Africa are going through major changes, especially in big cities, as people tend to become more and more individualistic. On the other hand, in communitarian societies, decisions during negotiation processes are taken in groups.
c) Specific – Diffuse: This dimension differentiates between specifically-oriented cultures and diffusely-oriented cultures. In specifically-oriented cultures, elements are analyzed separately first and then placed back together to consider the whole as the sum of its parts. This approach relies on hard facts. On the other hand, people from diffusely-oriented cultures look at each element in the light of the complete picture considering all elements in relation to each other. This cultural dimension is related to our degree of involvement in relationships. In specifically-oriented cultures, leaders separate the task relationship from private life, whereas in diffusely-oriented cultures there is no clear-cut separation between business and private lives and all seems interwoven and interrelated.
d) Neutral – Affective: This cultural dimension gauges how members of a certain culture express emotions. This can be done by facial expressions, gestures, hand movements, vocal pitch and intonation and even the choice of certain vocabulary. These factors are ruled by strong cultural norms in each society. In affective cultures, people readily show their emotions, get close to each other in conversation and move their hands about. In neutral cultures, people control their emotions and hardly show any feelings especially in public.
e) Achievement - Ascription: This cultural dimension concerns the way in which personal status is assigned in a certain culture. In some societies status is assigned because of individual performance, while in other cultures status is assigned due to age, gender, education, class or caste or other factors. Promotion in the corporate world can be affected by this factor.
f) Time Orientation: This cultural dimension deals with two aspects. On the one hand, it deals with the relative importance that cultures place regarding the past, present and future, and on the other hand, how cultures structure time. If a culture is mainly oriented towards the past, people consider the future as a repetition of the past. Whereas if it has an orientation towards the present, people are directed by day-by-day experiences. On the other hand, if oriented towards the future, people concentrate on future prospects and consider the past as a less significant factor. Structuring time can be done either sequentially or synchronically. A sequential time structuring views time as a series of passing events. In such approach, members of a certain community or culture do one thing at a time and take time commitments seriously. On the other hand a synchronical time structure considers past, present and future as interrelated, hence objectives are desirable but fall short of being commitments.
g) Internal – External: This cultural dimension deals with the meaning people assign to their environment. Cultures with an internally controlled mechanistic view of nature, with the belief that one can dominate nature consider themselves as the point of departure for deciding the right action. On the other hand, cultures with an externally controlled view of nature focus on the environment.
Based on the cultural dimensions above, we set up a country analysis for our clients. We use up-to-date research materials and field experience to prepare our clients to deal effectively with the country in question. Among them, we use the above-mentioned cultural dimensions to establish a useful cultural profile for the host country.
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