Cultural Differences Affecting Meaning and Understanding

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How do cultural differences affect meaning and understanding? In today’s business environment, the mechanics of global business seem to be working on a surface level. We can make quick money transactions by phone or by computer. Consumers can purchase products from all different countries in one transaction. Although trade barriers are still a major topic, they are slowly decreasing. As we sick below the surface, we will see that Global business is still in major jeopardy because of a newly emerging challenge: Cultural differences. (Funakawa, Transcultural Management, p8) Culture is the pattern of beliefs or expectations that inevitably shape the behaviours of individuals and teams within organisations. It is concerned with the basic assumptions, values, attitudes, food and feeding habits, dress and appearance, relationships, a sense of self and space and norms shaped by members of an organisation or country. These elements of culture are usually taken for granted and guide others perceptions, thoughts and actions. For example, the Culture at McDonald’s fast food chain emphasises efficiency, speed and consistency. It orients employees to company goals and charters and suggests the necessary behaviours for success. Many educated, business people may say “But we are getting closer and closer to each other, we don’t have any cultural problems’. Yes, it is possible to transcend cultural differences; however statements like this can be misleading to many people. (Funakawa, p18) Geert Hofstede, a successful cross-cultural management researcher, observes five different dimensions within a culture:

Power/Distancing – This refers to the degree of inequality that exists and is accepted among people with and without power. High Power distancing cultures conclude that society accepts an unequal distribution of power and people understand "their place" in the system. Low Power Distancing means that power is shared and well dispersed. It also means that society members...
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