Did you ever wonder why those people in distant lands are so strange? They’re just so different; we can’t understand why they do the things they do. They’re too slow, too careful, too careless, they have no sense of urgency, they don’t respect superiors, they treat superiors like friends, they take forever to eat a meal, and on and on and on. Most of us are ethnocentric. We view the world through our own cultural lens and compare experiences to our own culture. I’m not just talking about Americans, this happens in nearly every culture. Do you think you are ethnocentric?
If you happen to work for a global company as I do, it is very beneficial to have an understanding of the broad cultural differences and similarities. There are several dimensional frameworks that classify cultural differences and my favorite is the model developed by Geert Hofstede. In my travels and in working with colleagues from around the globe, I find this model generally true to my experience anyways. I find that understanding the differences and similarities between our own culture and that of our colleagues makes life a lot easier in a global corporation. It is especially important for managers who have direct reports around the globe to understand the cultural dimensions in order to cultivate happy and high performing cross-cultural teams. Without a thoughtful understanding of your team’s differences, it is too easy to draw negative conclusions causing one misunderstanding after another.
Hofstede’s talks about 6 dimensions; Power Distance, Individualism versus collectivism, Masculinity versus femininity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long-term versus short-term orientation, and Indulgence versus restraint. The results are truly fascinating and I encourage everyone to take a look and compare your country’s culture to a colleague’s culture. It might explain a lot about your present interactions.
I’d like to make a strong disclaimer that it’s not wise to try to put everyone from a certain culture into a box. Naturally, there are many other cultural factors that influence each individual. The Hofstede dimensions should be applied more broadly and not so much directly to individuals.
Most Modern Marketers deal with myriad cultures in this modern globalized world, so check out the Hofstede dimensions. I guarantee it will improve your cross-cultural relationships and make your business (and maybe personal) life easier and more productive.