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BUS 498
Tom Wang

operations. Further, it should realize that its accustomed way of doing To Changecustoms is LESSON 17 THE CULTURE business may not adifficult thing. be the only or best ENVIRONMENTS FACING BUSINESS way. When doing -Lebanese business abroad, a company should first determine what Proverb business practices in a foreign country differ from those Objectives it’s used to. Management then must decide what, if any, · To discuss the problems and methods of learning adjustments are necessary to operateefficiently in the about foreign country. cultural environments You learned that companies need to understand external · Toexplainthemajorcauses ofculturaldifferenceand environments to operateefficiently abroad. Figure6.1 change illustrates · Toexaminebehavioral factors influencingcountries’ business practices · To examinecultural guidelines forcompanies that operate internationally Introduction The opening case illustrates how important it is for companies to adjust when entering different cultures. PRI’s lack of adjustment led to its failure; Harvey Nichols’s adjustments areleading to its success.The major problems ofcultural collision in international business are when · Acompanyimplements practicesthatwork lesswell than intended. · Acompany’s employees encounterdistressbecause ofan inability to accept or adjust to foreign behaviors. Business employs, sells to, buys from, is regulated by, and is owned by people. Because international business includes people from different cultures, every business function managing a workforce, marketing output, purchasing supplies, dealing- with regulators, securing funds-is subject to potential cultural problems.An international company must be sensitive to these cultural differences in order to, predict and control its relationships and that cultural awareness, especially theneed forbuilding it. differencesbecausepeopledisagree on what they” are, culture- Second, thechapter will discuss the causes ofcultural whether they are widespread or exceptional differences, the differences, rigidities, and changes.Third, thechapter will and whetherthe differences aredeep-seated orsuperficial. specific describe behavioral factors that affect the conduct of Further, culturecannot easily beisolated from such factors learned business internationally. Finally, the chapter will explore as economic and political conditions. Forexample, an norms why businesses and individuals adjustor don’t adjust-to opinion survey ofa country’s citizens that measures, say, based another culture. attitudes toward buying a new product may reflect a on Figure 6.1 Culture Influences on International business response to temporary economic conditions rather than attitudes basic values and beliefs thatwillhavelastingeffectsonthe , values, product’sacceptance. and Somedifferences,suchas thoseregardingacceptableattire, beliefs arediscernedeasily;others maybemoredifficultto that perceive.All people have culturally ingrained responses to exist in given situations and sometimes expect that people from every other cultures will respond the same way as people in nation- their own culture do. For example, in the opening case, is an the British salesmen for PRI budgeted their time and so integral regarded drinking coffee and chatting about nonbusiness part of Cultural Awareness activities in a cafe as “doing nothing,” especially if there external Building cultural awareness is not an easy task, and no foolproof method exists for doing so.As we just said, was “work to be done.” In fact, their compensation environ culture consists of specific learned norms based on system did not give them the privilege of spending much ments. attitudes, values, and beliefs, all of which exist in every time on each business transaction. TheArab businessmen This had no compulsion to finish at a given time, viewed time chapter nation.Visitors remark on cultural differences, experts spent in a cafe as “doing something,” and considered will firstrite about them, and international businesspeople find that they affect operations.Yet controversysurroundsthese “small talk” an indication of whether they could get along examine with potential business partners. Because the Englishmen 154 11.154 believed “you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure,” they The more countries in which a company does business, the became irritated when friends of theArab businessmen joined more cultural nuances it must consider. their conversations. In contrast, theArabs felt “people are more Acompany may handle foreign operations on its own or important than business” and saw nothing private about contract with another company to handle them. The risk of business transactions. making operating mistakes because of cultural misunderstand- Some people seem to have an innate ability to do and say the ings goes down if it turns foreign operations over to another right thing at the right time, and others offend unintentionally company at home or abroad that is experienced in the foreign ormisrepresent what they want to convey. Nevertheless, thereis country. If the operations are contracted to a company abroad, general agreement that businesspeople can improve their then each company needs some cultural awareness to anticipate awareness and sensitivity and that training about other cultures and understand the other company’s reactions. will enhance the likelihood of succeeding in those cultures. Strategies For Dealing With Cultural Differences Researching descriptionsofaspecificculturecanbeinstructive. Aftera company identifies cultural differences in the foreign But managers must carefully assess theinformationthey gather country where it intends to do business, must it alter its because it sometimes presents unwarranted stereotypes, offers customary practicestosucceed there?Howcanitavoidmisrepre- an assessment of only a segment of the particular country, or senting its intent? Can individuals overcome adjustment reports outdated information. In a given society, managers can problems when working abroad?What strategies can a com- also observe the behavior of those people who have the respect pany follow to get host cultures to accept the innovations it they would like themselves. Of course, it helps to study the would like to introduce?There are no easy answers to these overseas market directly. questions. There are so many cultural variations that businesspeople Making Little or NoAdjustment cannot expect to memorize all of them for every country. Wide Although the opening case illustrates the advantages of variations exist even in addressing people. For example, it may be difficult to know whether to use a given name or surname, adjusting, such as Harvey Nichols providing drivers’lounges and prayer rooms in its SaudiArabian department store, which of several surnames to use, and whether a wife takes her international companies sometimes havesucceeded in introduc- husband’s name. Making amistake may beconstrued by foreign ing new products, technologies, and operating procedures to businesspeople as ignorance or rudeness, which may jeopardize foreign countries with little adjustment. That’s because some of a business arrangement. Fortunately, there are guidebooks for particular geographical areas, based on theexperiences ofmany these introductions have not run counter to deep-seated attitudes orbecausethe host society is willing to accept foreign successful international managers.Amanagermay also consult customs as a trade-off for other advantages. Bahrain has with knowledgeable people at home and abroad-from govern- permitted the sale of pork products (otherwise outlawed by mental offices or in the private sector. religious law) as long as they are sold in separate rooms of Not all companies need to have the same degree of cultural grocery stores whereMuslims can neither work norshop. awareness. Nor must a particular company have a consistent Often local society looks on foreigners and its own citizens degree of awareness during the course of its operations. differently. Forexample,Western female flight attendants are Companies usually increaseforeign operations overtime.They permitted to wear jeans and T-shirts in public when staying may expand their cultural knowledge as they move from one to overnight in Jidda, SaudiArabia, even though local women multiple foreign functions or locations, from similar to cannot. Members ofthe host society may even feel they are dissimilar foreign environments, and from external to internal being stereotyped in an uncomplimentary way when foreigners handling of their international operations.Acompany that is adjust too much. Moreover,Western female managers in Hong new to international business may need only a minimal level of Kong say local people see them primarily as foreigners, not as cultural awareness, but ahighly entrenched company needs a women.There and elsewhere, foreign women are accepted as high level of awareness because of its multifunctional opera- managers more readily than local women are. tions in multiple countries. Some countries arerelatively similarto one another, usually Whenacompanyengagesinfewforeignfunctions-forexample, because they share many attributes that help moldtheircultures, when it just exports its home-country production-it must be such aslanguage, religion,geographicallocation,ethnicity,and aware of only those cultural factors that may influence its level of economic development.Acompany should expect marketing program. Consider advertising, which may be fewerdifferences (and haveto consider feweradjustments) affected by the target market’s perception ofdifferent words and when moving within a cluster (an Ecuadorian company doing images.Acompany undertaking apurely resource-seeking business in Colombia) than when moving from one cluster to foreign activity by manufacturing abroad can ignore the effects another (an Ecuadorian company doing business in Thailand). of cultural variables on advertising but must consider factors However, therestillmaybesignificantdifferenceswithinsimilar that may influence management ofa foreign workforce, such as countries that could affect business dealings. Managers may the management styles and operational practices most likely to expect that seemingly similar countries (those within clusters) motivate its workforce. For multifunctional activities, such as aremorealikethanthey reallyare;acompanymaybelulledinto producing and selling aproduct in aforeign country, acompany a complacency that overlooks important subtleties. For must be concerned with a wide array of cultural relationships. example, women’s roles and behaviors differ substantially inaccuratetranslationshavecaused structuralcollapses from oneArab country to another. andairplanecrashes, such as the collision between Communications aircraft fromAir Kazakhstan and SaudiaAir over India. Thusfar,we’veseenhowlanguageaffectsculture-and In contracts, correspondence, negotiations, advertisements, and conversations, words must be international business. We now look at problems of chosen carefully. There is no foolproof way of handling communications-translating spoken and written language. These problems occur not only in moving from one language to another but also in communicating from one country to anotherthat hasthe sameofficiallanguage.Second, wediscuss communications outside the spoken and written language, the so-called “silent language.” Spoken andWritten language Translating one language directly into another can be difficult, making international business communication difficult. First, some words do not have a direct translation. For example, there is no one word in Spanish foreveryone who works in abusiness (i.e., employees). Instead, there is aword, empleados, which means “white-collar workers,” and another, obreros, which means “laborers.” This distinction shows the substantial class difference that exists between the groups, and it affects international business because there may be miscommunication when managers in Spanish-speaking and English-speaking countries come together. Second, languages and the common meaning of words are constantly evolving. Forexample, Microsoft purchased a thesaurus code for its Spanish version ofWord 6.0, but the meaning of many synonyms had changed and become insulting.Thecompany correctedthesoftware afternewspapers and radio reports denounced the program, but by then, Microsoft had alienated many potential customers. Third, words mean different things in different contexts. One company described itself as an “old friend” of China. However, it used the word for old that meant “former” instead of long-term.” Finally, grammar and pronunciation are complex, and a slight misuse of vocabulary or word placement may change meanings substantially. Consider the following examples of signs in English observed in hotels around the world. France: “Pleaseleaveyourvaluesat thedesk.” Mexico (to assure guests about the safety of drinking water): “The managerhas personally passed all the water served here.” Japan: “You areinvited to takeadvantage ofthe chambermaid.” Norway: “Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.” Switzerland: “Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.” Greece(atcheck-inline):“Wewillexecutecustomers instrict rotation.” The above examples offer a humorous look at language barriers, and, in fact, the wrong choice of words usually is just a source of brief embarrassment. However, a poor translation mayhavetragicconsequences.Forexample, translati one person minutes late for a dinner at someone’s home, and a bit ons. go, say, from English to French and a second person laterfora cocktail party. In another Howeve translate the French version back into English. If it r, good comes internati back thesameway itstarted,itisprobably satisfactory. onal · Use simple words whenever possible, such as ban busines instead of s interdiction. manage · Avoidslang.SuchU.S.phrasesasbluechipstocks rs use rules and ballpark figures are likely to be meaningless to such as most the businesspeople outside the United States. followi ng. · When you or your counterpart is dealing in a second language,clarifycommunicationsinseveralways(such · Get asby refer repeating in different words and asking questions) to ence assure s on the that all parties have the same interpretation. · Recognize the need for and budget from the start for peop the le who
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