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Arg Mex Tha HK Chi Ido CIS Ven

Source: Adapted from information found in Fons Trompenaars, Riding the Waves of Culture  (New York: Irwin, 1994); Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars, “A World Turned Upside Down: Doing Business in Asia,” in  Managing Across Cultures: Issues and Perspectives, ed. Pat Joynt and Malcolm Warner (London: International Thomson Business Press, 1996), pp. 275–305.

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Chapter 4 The Meanings and Dimensions of Culture 141

Universalism (no right)

Canada 96 United States 95 Germany 90 United Kingdom 90 Netherlands 88 France 68 Japan 67 Singapore 67 Thailand 63 Hong Kong 56 Particularism (some or definite right)

China 48 South Korea 26

As noted earlier, respondents from universalist cultures (e.g., North America and Western Europe) felt that the rules applied regardless of the situation, while respondents from particularist cultures were much more willing to bend the rules and help their friend.

Based on these types of findings, Trompenaars recommends that when individuals from particularist cultures do business in a universalistic culture, they should be prepared for rational, professional arguments and a “let’s get down to business” attitude. Con- versely, when individuals from universalist cultures do business in a particularist environ- ment, they should be prepared for personal meandering or irrelevancies that seem to go nowhere and should not regard personal, get-to-know-you attitudes as mere small talk.

Individualism vs. Communitarianism Individualism and communitarianism are key dimensions in Hofstede’s earlier research. Although Trompenaars derived these two relationships differently than Hofstede does, they still have the same basic meaning, although in his more recent work Trompenaars has used the word communitarianism rather than collectivism. For him, individualism refers to people regarding themselves as individuals, while communitarianism refers to people regarding themselves as part of a group, similar to the political groupings discussed in Chapter 2. As shown in Figure 4–10, the United States, former Czechoslovakia, Argentina, the former Soviet Union (CIS), and Mexico have high individualism.

In his most recent research, Trompenaars posed the following situation. If you were to be promoted, which of the two following issues would you emphasize most: (a) the new group of people with whom you will be working or (b) the greater responsibility of the work you are undertaking and the higher income you will be earning? The following reports the scores associated with the individualism of option b—greater responsibility and more money.48

communitarianism Refers to people regarding themselves as part of a group.

Individualism (emphasis on larger responsibili- ties and more income)

Canada 77 Thailand 71 United Kingdom 69 United States 67 Netherlands 64 France 61 Japan 61 China 54 Singapore 50 Hong Kong 47 Communitarianism (emphasis on the new group of people)

Malaysia 38 Korea 32

 

 

142 Part 2 The Role of Culture

These findings are somewhat different from those presented in Figure 4–10  and show that cultural changes may be occurring more rapidly than many people realize. For example, findings show Thailand very high on individualism (possibly indicating an increasing entrepreneurial spirit/cultural value), whereas the Thais were found to be low on individualism a few years before, as shown in Figure 4–10. At the same time, it is important to remember that there are major differences between people in high- individualism societies and those in high-communitarianism societies. The former stress personal and individual matters; the latter value group-related issues. Negotiations in cultures with high individualism typically are made on the spot by a representative, peo- ple ideally achieve things alone, and they assume a great deal of personal responsibility. In cultures with high communitarianism, decisions typically are referred to committees, people ideally achieve things in groups, and they jointly assume responsibility.

Trompenaars recommends that when people from cultures with high individualism deal with those from communitarianistic cultures, they should have patience for the time taken to consent and to consult, and they should aim to build lasting relationships. When people from cultures with high communitarianism deal with those from individualistic cultures, they should be prepared to make quick decisions and commit their organization to these decisions. Also, communitarianists dealing with individualists should realize that the reason they are dealing with only one negotiator (as opposed to a group) is that this person is respected by his or her organization and has its authority and esteem.

Neutral vs. Emotional A neutral culture is one in which emotions are held in check. As seen in Figure 4–10, both Japan and the United Kingdom are high-neutral cultures. People in these countries try not to show their feelings; they act stoically and maintain their composure. An emotional culture is one in which emotions are openly and natu- rally expressed. People in emotional cultures often smile a great deal, talk loudly when they are excited, and greet each other with a great deal of enthusiasm. Mexico, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are examples of high emotional cultures.

Trompenaars recommends that when individuals from emotional cultures do busi- ness in neutral cultures, they should put as much as they can on paper and submit it to the other side. They should realize that lack of emotion does not mean a lack of inter- est or boredom, but rather that people from neutral cultures do not like to show their hand. Conversely, when those from neutral cultures do business in emotional cultures, they should not be put off stride when the other side creates scenes or grows animated and boisterous, and they should try to respond warmly to the emotional affections of the other group.

Specific vs. Diffuse A specific culture is one in which individuals have a large pub- lic space they readily let others enter and share and a small private space they guard closely and share with only close friends and associates. A diffuse culture is one in which public space and private space are similar in size and individuals guard their public space carefully because entry into public space affords entry into private space as well. As shown in Figure 4–10, Austria, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Switzerland all are specific cultures, while Venezuela, China, and Spain are diffuse cultures. In specific cultures, people often are invited into a person’s open, public space; individuals in these cultures often are open and extroverted; and there is a strong separa- tion of work and private life. In diffuse cultures, people are not quickly invited into a person’s open, public space because once they are in, there is easy entry into the private space as well. Individuals in these cultures often appear to be indirect and introverted, and work and private life often are closely linked.

An example of these specific and diffuse cultural dimensions is provided by the United States and Germany. A U.S. professor, such as Robert Smith, PhD, generally would be called “Doctor Smith” by students when at his U.S. university. When shop- ping, however, he might be referred to by the store clerk as “Bob,” and when golfing, Bob might just be one of the guys, even to a golf partner who happens to be a

neutral culture A culture in which emotions are held in check.

emotional culture A culture in which emotions are expressed openly and naturally.

specific culture A culture in which individuals have a large public space they readily share with others and a small private space they guard closely and share with only close friends and associates.

diffuse culture A culture in which public space and private space are similar in size and individuals guard their public space carefully because entry into public space affords entry into private space as well.

 

 

Chapter 4 The Meanings and Dimensions of Culture 143

graduate student in his department. The reason for these changes in status is that, with the specific U.S. cultural values, people have large public spaces and often conduct themselves differently depending on their public role. In high-diffuse cultures, on the other hand, a person’s public life and private life often are similar. Therefore, in Germany, Herr Professor Doktor Schmidt would be referred to that way at the uni- versity, local market, and bowling alley—and even his wife might address him for- mally in public. A great deal of formality is maintained, often giving the impression that Germans are stuffy or aloof.

Trompenaars recommends that when those from specific cultures do business in diffuse cultures, they should respect a person’s title, age, and background connections, and they should not get impatient when people are being indirect or circuitous. Con- versely, when individuals from diffuse cultures do business in specific cultures, they should try to get to the point and be efficient, learn to structure meetings with the judi- cious use of agendas, and not use their titles or acknowledge achievements or skills that are irrelevant to the issues being discussed.

Achievement vs. Ascription An achievement culture is one in which people are accorded status based on how well they perform their functions. An ascription culture is one in which status is attributed based on who or what a person is. Achievement cultures give high status to high achievers, such as the company’s number-one salesper- son or the medical researcher who has found a cure for a rare form of bone cancer. Ascription cultures accord status based on age, gender, or social connections. For ex- ample, in an ascription culture, a person who has been with the company for 40 years may be listened to carefully because of the respect that others have for the individual’s age and longevity with the firm, and an individual who has friends in high places may be afforded status because of whom she knows. As shown in Figure 4–10, Austria, the United States, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom are achievement cultures, while Venezuela, Indonesia, and China are ascription cultures.

Trompenaars recommends that when individuals from achievement cultures do business in ascription cultures, they should make sure that their group has older, senior, and formal position holders who can impress the other side, and they should respect the status and influence of their counterparts in the other group. Conversely, he recommends that when individuals from ascription cultures do business in achievement cultures, they should make sure that their group has sufficient data, technical advisers, and knowledge- able people to convince the other group that they are proficient, and they should respect the knowledge and information of their counterparts on the other team.

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