Quick guide to learn a new culture fast

Opening an office in a new country takes more than just translating material and hiring local staff. According to a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), cross-cultural communication plays a major role in commercial success.

Respondents to the survey regarded “differences in cultural traditions” (51%) and “different workplace norms” (49%) as the greatest threats to the smooth functioning of cross-border relationships.

Reported by Cynthia Dearin, from Dearin and Associates, “Misunderstandings rooted in cultural differences present the greatest obstacle to productive cross-border collaboration”. Cynthia joins a growing number of experts who provide cross cultural communication and international expansion services to organisations from across the globe.

Another cross cultural expert and Dutch social psychologist, Dr. Geert Hofstede, undertook studies on the impact of different cultures in the workplace and identified 5 dimensions of culture. His research is based on years of collected and analysed data from over 100,000 people across 40 countries.

“Culture is often a bigger source of conflict and differences in culture can become a real nuisance that can lead to disastrous results.”

— Dr. Geert Hofstede

His solution; understanding the culture and values of the workforce you’re working with by identifying the varying degrees of importance in each of the following dimensions:

1 PDI – Power Distance Index

This dimension is focused on how much equality or inequality exists between people belonging to different countries. If the PDI is high then it shows that there are major inequalities of both power as well as wealth. What’s more, this index also shows that the foreign society is one that uses a caste system and it keeps its citizens more or less in their normal place in life. On the other hand a low PDI shows that the society does not place much emphasis on differences of wealth and power and that there is more equality in the society.

2 IDV – Individualism

This dimension is focused on the degree by which society strengthens an individual or society as a whole in regard to their achievements and relationships with each other. If the degree for this dimension is high then it shows that that society places maximum importance on individuality and personal rights.

3 MAS – Masculinity

This dimension is focused on how much a society strengthens or does not strengthen the traditionally held notion that men are the main achievers and power society. A high score shows that the country has much gender diversity.

4 UAI – Uncertainty Avoidance Index

This is a dimension that shows how tolerant a society is in regard to uncertainty and ambiguity. A high score shows that the country does not have a high tolerance.

5 LTO – Long-term Orientation

This is a dimension that is focused on whether or not a society embraces long-term devotion to values that are traditional and futuristic. A high degree shows that the society values its traditions and this buttresses a stronger work ethic. Businesses that operate in such an environment will not find it easy to merge with society, as they will be considered outsiders.

By Cynthia Dearin