Ideas of Geert Hofstede Similar Countries and Online Information Sources Other chapter (not listed above)

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Fostering Awareness through Cross-Cultural Comparison

Business -- Crossing Cultures

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Geert Hofstede is most known for his cultural dimensions theory. There is a system and a method of assessment that stems from this theory. The world of the 21st century is increasingly both local and global. In these times, there is more international and intercultural communication, business, and travel. For those who conduct international business affairs, differentiation and awareness of cultural behaviors is essential. One cannot conduct successful business transactions and retain a superficial understanding of another culture. Lack of cultural awareness makes for miscommunications and decreased likelihood of sustained business (or other) relationships. In these ways, we may comprehend the necessity and utility of Hofstede's theories. The paper will focus upon Japan, Brazil, Iceland, and India for the comparative and analytical purposes of the exercise. The paper will take several key elements from Hofstede's theory and apply it to the four countries in question. The paper will offer insight to cross-cultural differences among the countries on more than a superficial or statistical level.

Fostering Awareness through Cross-cultural Comparison

The inter-culture issues in the Country Insights database that help explain difference in Power Distance include Hierarchy and Decision-making, Communication Styles, Conversations, Stereotypes, Preferred Managerial Qualities, and Relationship-building. The Japanese are very much aware of position, status, and class in all social interactions, professional or otherwise. Hierarchies in relationships are ever-present in Japanese culture. In Brazil, personal space is perceived differently. It is comfortable and appropriate to decrease space between bodies when conversing. It is appropriate for colleagues on the same level to offer criticism. In an environment such as Brazil, with a greater variety of ethnicity, a larger portion of the population is likely to understand and empathize with the uneven distribution of wealth and resources. In a place like Iceland where the population is small and most people are the same, Power Distance may not be an issue to the same degree as in other countries simply because there are not too many resources to distribute among a relatively small group of people. India is another country that is heavily invested in caste and class. There are big cities in India, as well as abject widespread poverty. One only need travel across the country to see the Power Distance first hand.

The inter-cultural issues noted in the Country Insights database that help explain differences in Individualism in the respective countries are Geography, Politics, Culture, Communication Styles, Display of Emotion, Stereotypes, and Dress, Punctuality & Formality. It is part and parcel of Asian culture in general to be more group-oriented relative to the west; western cultures tend to be more individualistic. Thus in countries like India and Japan, there are greater senses of collectivism. Japanese organize and participate in many group activities. Japanese people also enjoy long lifespans, and in their culture, one household may house 3 more generations. The practice of lifelong employment has been in use in Japan for centuries. This contributes to their sense of the group. Many Japanese and non-Japanese describe the people as shy or timid. They would be less likely to stand up for themselves, an indicator of a more individualistic society. Large families and networks of extended families are a part of Indian culture as well. Indian people practice tasks for life. India is the home of many yogis, gurus, monks, and other masters. To attain their status as masters, they must practice for a lifetime. Lifetime membership or commitment to a group or activity is indicative of a more collectivist culture. Brazilians enjoy a sense of individuality and collectivism. There are a number of culture activities that unite Brazilians and there is a substantial Japanese population within Brazil, thus they could be influenced by Asian culture as well. Latin Americans do enjoy personal freedom and foster uniqueness in their culture. Most of the citizens of Iceland are of the same ethnicity and religion. Those in of themselves give the people a sense of belonging. But in homogenous cultures such as in Iceland and even in Japan, individuals may make a greater effort to distinguish themselves individually.

Issues such as Stereotypes, Media, Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender, Communication Styles, Displays of emotions, Hierarchy and Decision-making, and Privileges and Favouritism can explain differences in masculinity and femininity. The Japanese are not as emotionally expressive in general, particularly the men. In Japanese culture, women are subordinate to men. India is a more matriarchal society. Women are the heads of household and conduct business. They may also arrange the marriages. Brazilians are relatively more expressive with their conduct. Men kiss each other in friendship and familial love. The femininity of women is celebrated and supported. Nordic and Scandinavian cultures typically regard men and women are more equal grounds. In Japan there is less diversity in the roles available to women. Currently, there are increasing numbers of Japanese women waiting longer to get married or marry at all, and enrolled in education programs. Japanese femininity could be undergoing a transition as we speak.

Uncertainty Avoidance could be explained by Stereotypes, Media, History, Economy and Geography. Japan and Iceland are islands. There are relatively isolated. India and Brazil are bordered on a few sides by other countries and they are also exposed to an ocean. Proximity to other nations and other cultures certainly influence the Uncertainty Avoidance. In a place like Brazil, there are many different looking kinds of people who are all Brazilian. The same can be said in India. In places such as Iceland and Japan where the people are more physically homogenous, the sameness can foster a fear or distaste for the foreign and the unknown. Today in Japan, it can be a very uncomfortable and odd experience if not Japanese. Besides being extremely visually conspicuous, the average Japanese person does not encounter a foreign person. Most people in Japan are Japanese. Japanese people are somewhat interested in foreign people, but from a very closely maintained distance. Moreover, there are a lot of rules in Japan; there are many rules for just about every situation imaginable. This trait displays their high uncertainty avoidance index. While they may be less expressive, they are a deeply emotional people. Brazilians may be more relatively welcoming to outsiders and adapt quickly to what is unknown. Brazil is home to the Amazon Rainforest. Researchers from around the world continue to discover organisms that can heal disease, that can be used as a natural resource, and many other uses. Still, with all the research that has been conducted, the true nature and full power of the rainforest is undiscovered. This physical attribute of the country could contribute to the openness to new things and people within the culture.

Factors such as History, Geography, and Culture help explain Temporal Orientation. Philosophies and/or Religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism permeate Asia. These schools of thought are fundamentally predisposed to longevity and sustained practice. Brazilians and Icelandians are heavily Catholic. There is a sense of infinity in any religion, yet many conflicts regarding key members of the Church and controversial issues in the press may diminish the faith many Catholics once had. In cultures with a fairly long lifespan and a respect for elders, are more oriented toward the long-term. In countries where there are large families and networks of extended families, the inhabitants would also be more long-term oriented.

Exercises and assignments that explore inter-cultural issues are important in business education. There are a few components that contribute to successful business endeavors. A strong product with strong marketing is necessary. Resources such as capital, real estate, and people are important factors, too. Yet business is not always about the business transaction itself, nor it is about the product. In many situations,…

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