For the sake of discussion at the inter-cultural dinner, I will be talking about my home country China, and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Globalization has been present for more than past 100 years, and influences: “businessmen, entrepreneurs, public sector employees and professionals communicate with people from other cultures face to face or in an electronic form”. Against this background, people should learn to understand and respect their co-workers from a different background. Their effort to improve their competences and skills will make them more effective at their workplaces, and help create a competitive advantage. Further, culture is not just the way we do things, but it is “shared assumptions, beliefs, values, norms and actions”. It is shaped by our experiences, and it influences the way we view the environment around us. These experiences, which have been carried forward through generations: affect our values; what is considered to be an acceptable behavior; correct and incorrect; and our interpretation of the world. Cognizance of interplay of these factors is very essential in globalized world of business. According to , one of the four key factors of international dimension of global organizational environment is socio-cultural. This includes the social values, beliefs, languages, religion, literacy etc.
China is the second largest country in the world by land area after Russia. As per the , its total land area is 9,596,961 km2. It has the longest combined land border anywhere in the world. It measures 22, 117 km, and extends from the mouth of the Yalu River to the Gulf of Tonkin. China, along with Russia, borders maximum number of countries in the world, which are 14. In South-east Asia, it borders Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. In South Asia, it borders India, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan. It borders Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Along with these it also borders Russia, Mongolia and North Korea. It is estimated that in 2012 its population was 1,350,695,000. According to International Monetary Fund (IMF), China’s nominal GDP stood at US$8.227 trillion, making it the second largest economy in the world. China’s constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But, those religions that lack approval from the government may be subjected to persecution. Over the centuries, the Chinese civilization has been influenced by various religions including: Confucianism; Buddhism; and Taoism. All these three religion remain in syncytium in the form of local culture. The languages spoken in China belong to Sino-Tibetan group of languages. Various important languages of this group spoken in China include: Mandarin; Wu; Yue; Min; Xiang; Gan; and Hakka. The non-Sinitic languages being spoken are Zhuang, Mongolian, Tibetan, Uyghur, Hmong and Korean.
Talking about Chinese food, particularly its dumplings, lets evaluate what it tells us about it culture. Further, how the understanding developed using the food can be applied to management in globalized world. In Chinese cuisine , the ingredients are not same, and they vary according to the region. This reflects on the need to have information about local environment when working in China. Also, one can infer that all the Chinese co-workers cannot be presumed to be having same beliefs. Further, food stuffs that were not native to China have always been added to the local cuisine. One big exception would be milk and dairy products. From this, one can infer that the Chinese are open to foreign influences over time. But there may be a few specific things they would not be able to accept. So, when dealing with China or people of its origin, one should not try to exert external influence. On the contrary, you should expose them to what all worlds has to offer and give them time to imbibe them.
Chinese cuisine is typically characterized by flexibility and adaptability. Since their dishes are not made of single item, its flavor also does not depend upon. This reflects on the Chinese management style as they would not want to keep all eggs in one basket. This also allows the Chinese cook to customize dish according to rich and poor, and as well as times of abundance and scarcity. This even allows them to cook away from their native place, where their ingredients are not available. For example, one can expect customized dumplings according to local taste. This speaks volumes of adaptability of Chinese management style. It becomes very easy for them to adapt to times of growth and recession, and foreign work environments. Just like arranging for right balance of ingredients in foreign lands, they are able to strike a balance in foreign business environment as well.
Elaborating further on the adaptability of their eating habits, there are two major characteristics: their knowledge of local vegetable resources and large variety of preserved food. This seems to have an impact on their business mindset as well. Whether operating in local or foreign environment, they can draw on their ability of developing strong knowledge of local environment. Also, they are likely to preserve and share that knowledge for not so favorable times.
China compared to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan using Theoretical Framework
Using the Trompenaars and Hofstede framework of cultural dimension, we will first analyze the characteristics of China. Later, we will compare it with that of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
We will be elaborating China’s characteristics using Trompenaars under following heading: Universalism versus Particularism; Individualism versus Communitarianism; specific versus diffuse; neutral versus emotional; achievement versus ascription; sequential time versus synchronous time; and Internal Direction versus Outer direction.
People of China can be considered as Particularism, which means that their response to the situation will change based on the circumstances. Chinese people, like their Japanese counterpart, believe in Communitarianism. It gives greater emphasis on group over individual, as it provides help and safety in return for loyalty. They are also very Diffuse in their mindset, as they see overlap between their work and personal life. This also brings into focus the need for good personal relationship in meeting business objectives. Similarly, they can be considered to be very Emotional, and it is acceptable for them to express their emotions at work place. Just like their Japanese counterpart, they are Ascription oriented. It underscores the need for them to be valued, and their position in their hierarchy matters to them. Like their Japanese counterparts, time for them is not discreet, but overlapping. This belief in Synchronous Time, allows them to work on several projects at one time. On the flip side, they view plans and commitment as flexible. Finally, they believe in Outer Dimension, which means that they believe in working with the environment to achieve goals. They do not try to control the environment.
For the sake of comparison, based on information available, we will consider dimensions of Indians similar to Pakistanis. Based on Trompenaars Framework, both Chinese and Pakistanis would be considered as Diffuse. Chinese and Saudi Arabians would be considered as Ascription type of people. And both Chinese and Saudi Arabians would believe in Outer Dimension. In general, Chinese and Pakistanis would be on same side on the entire seven dimensions.
Based on Hofstede framework , we will draw conclusion about China based on all the five dimensions (5-D). Under the dimension of Power distance, almost all Chinese believe that in a society, inequalities among people are quite acceptable. Elaborating further, Chinese believe that ethical behavior demands that inequalities be respected. In practical terms, a person who is older should receive greater respect than the younger or the subordinate. Therefore their management style tends to be more of directive. The manager should be seen as a father figure, and in return, is expected to have a holistic approach towards well-being of those he supports. In terms of Individualism, China ranks highest in their belief that interest of the group is more important than that of individuals. Under the dimension of Masculinity/Femininity, China would be considered as very masculine society, which means it driven by competition and success. Under the dimension of Uncertainty avoidance, Chinese people are quite comfortable with the uncertainties that lie ahead. Finally, under the dimension of Long term orientation, they would be considered as highly long-term oriented. In such society, persistence and perseverance is considered to be quite normal.
Elaborating further on the Chinese style, they follow paternalistic style of leadership. They are very bureaucratic and formal in their approach. They try to carry forward the self-management and are not interested in employee empowerment . According to , in Chinese run organizations humanism is considered to be a desirable value in managers. As the management style is more relationship oriented, behavioral pattern that reflect seniority and good conduct, such as reliability and trustworthiness play a greater role than good performance.
The interpersonal relationship cannot be complete without the multi-dimensional concept called Guanxi . It is a framework based on affective, normative and instrumental ties. Further, it has four principles: it is transferable between those having common connection; is reciprocal; is tangible; and is utilitarian and not emotional.
There are various other management approaches such as , Double Eagle Management Pattern. It advocates looking both at market environment as well as at government’s oversight.
Comparing Chinese characteristics to that of Saudi Arabians and Pakistanis, based on Hofstede framework, we don’t find much of a difference. In comparing China with Pakistan, we find that both are levelled off in Individualism. But differences are quite stark at Uncertainty avoidance and Long-term orientation. Pakistanis strongly believe in avoiding any future uncertainty, whereas Chinese are quite comfortable with it. On the other hand Chinese are very strong on Long-term orientation, whereas Pakistanis are almost negligible. Upon comparing Chinese with Saudi Arabians, it seems the differences are pretty much as those with Pakistanis. Therefore, it seems Saudi Arabians and Pakistanis are very close on all 5-Ds.
Comparison of their Management Style
Based on the frameworks of cultural dimensions mentioned of the concerned countries, it will be interesting to evaluate its impact on their marketing strategies.
We will be first evaluating the Chinese environment on the basis of Trompenaars framework. As the Chinese and the Pakistanis are Diffuse in their attitude, they will give more favorable response to products or product line that give value to both work and leisure. Also, a lot of emphasis should be given on building long term relationships. To take it further, try to know as much as you can about such people, so that you can treat them accordingly. And be open to mixing up with them in social functions.
Further, Chinese and Saudi Arabians would be considered as Ascription type of people. As both believe in power and status, product differentiation is important for them. Therefore, marketing companies, wherever possible, should highlight prestige associated with their products. While managing people, one should always treat them with dignity. This will be especially important while dealing with them in front of others. This reflects slightly differently in Saudi Arabia, , where organizations run along hierarchical lines. Here boss takes the decisions, and conveys it down the line. One of the major fallout is that those decisions that are not specified by the boss typically don’t get done. Similarly, in Pakistan manager have an autocratic style. And the boss is seen as paternalistic figure that is expected to be involved in the personal problems of those he supports. Understanding of this personal relationship will help facilitate any cross cultural communication. One must make not that decision makers might consult the technical experts, but the idea is not to develop consensus, but to gain further information.
Also, Chinese and Saudi Arabians lay greater emphasis on Outer Dimension. Therefore, it is important to provide people with choices, and not take decision on their behalf. Also, managers should give directions and regular feedback to those whom they support. Give reassurance and do whatever possible to boost their morale. And always balance negative with positive feedback. And encourage them to take responsibility.
I would now like to base further evaluation on Hofstede framework . Both Chinese and Pakistanis desire same level of individualism. That means both equally value the praise and rewards for individual performance. They also desire equal amount of autonomy, and the need to be creative. As the differences are quite stark in Uncertainty avoidance, Pakistanis employees would require more information and reassurance about what future entails for them. In contrast, Chinese would be better prepared to brace the future. On the other hand, Chinese are more Long-term oriented, and therefore, more adept in making long-term plans for themselves and their scope of responsibility. Their managers can also expect them to work tirelessly to reach their goal. Therefore, they should be extended continuous support, especially if it is a long-term project.
Upon examining the Saudi Arabian culture and productivity in detail, it can be inferred that there is positive correlation between the two. But, it cannot be close enough to be statistically significant. Also, business is conducted at personal level, and face to face interaction is essential to seal the deal. The decision making needs several layers of approval, and so takes time. It is advisable not to push or try to bypass the chain . Typically, managers take the decisions after consulting major stakeholders. It is then conveyed down to the subordinates to implement, who typically don’t question the decision.
Finally, Saudi Arabians and Pakistanis have a very similar dimensional profile. So, should be treated in similar fashion.
Synthesis and Conclusion
In an increasingly globalized world, challenges come from both outside and inside. Challenges from outside would be because of the fact that companies operate globally, and therefore impacted by local culture. They may be having a very limited knowledge of the place, especially when they are new. Then there are internal challenges, as manager need to take care of employees of diverse background.
As local culture also influences the eating habits and cuisine, managers have a lot to learn from them. Cuisine is something very local, and like behavioral patterns, has been handed down the generations. Therefore, it gives a lot of insight to the managers.
In today’s diverse environment, it is not possible to taste and understand cuisine of the world, something more structured is required. It is in this context that various frameworks of cultural dimensions become critical. Among the more established framework would be Trompenaars and Hofstede framework of cultural dimensions. Both of them in their own way try to elaborate on various dimensions, their characteristics and how they can be applied to business strategies.
In comparing Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, with China, we found certain commonality and contrast. Elaborating on the Chinese cuisine, we inferred the need to understand the local environment within various regions of China. The take away is that one-size-fits-all method cannot be applied throughout the country. Those leading marketing initiative, should be cognizant of local flavors and modify strategy accordingly.
Learning from application of these frameworks, we able to compare and contrast the three countries. Although Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are similar in almost all respects, China stands out under a few key dimensions. Chinese are not that much uncertainty avoiding as the other two, but are very strong on Long-term orientation. This is what makes them very persistent and consistent in their effort.
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