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3. Cross-national Cultural Differences
A cultural orientation describes the attitudes of most people most of the time, never of all the people all of the time
(Adler 2002: 22)

3.1 Introduction
This chapter covers the studies that define cross-national cultural differences and shows how these cross-national cultural differences affect professional behavior in general. In § 3.2, a short exposition on the definition of national culture is provided, including the general understanding of what is meant by national cultures based on the studies of Hofstede (1980, 2001), Schwartz (1992, 1999), Trompenaars (1997), and House et al. (2004). § 3.3 discussed the cultural dimensions defined by House et al. (2004, Project GLOBE) in more detail. Levels (e.g., values, beliefs, and behaviors), layers (e.g., individual, organizational, and occupational cultures), and other relevant cultural phenomena and caveats are covered in § 3.4. A summary and conclusion is included in § 3.5.

In the context of drivers of professional behavior, the focus of this chapter is on national cultural differences influencing behavior in general. This can be illustrated as follows:
Psychological and cognitive factors

National culture


Contextual factors
- Professional context
- Organizational context

External / environmental factors

Figure 2 – The focus of Chapter 3: national culture in the context of drivers of professional behavior

How cross-national cultural differences have their impact in the specific context of auditing and auditors’ professional behavior is covered in Chapter 4. 71

The Behavior of Assurance Professionals – A Cross-cultural Perspective

3.2 What are national cultures?
3.2.1 In search of a definition of (national) culture
When talking about culture, one quickly notices that many different understandings and definitions derived from different methodological assumptions exist. Culture is hard to grasp in concepts, let alone to define in precise terms. Although many scholars in different disciplines have tried to come up with an all-inclusive and universal definition of what culture actually is, to this day a universally agreed-upon definition of culture is lacking (e.g., Magala 2005: 6). What then is culture? A number of relevant definitions include the following:

Culture consists in patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional (i.e., historically derived and selected) ideas and especially their attached values (Kluckhohn 1951: 86).

Culture is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes members of one group or category of people from another (Hofstede 2001: 9). Culture is a way of life of a group of people, the configuration of all the more or less stereotyped patterns of learned behavior which are handed down from one generation to the next through means of language and imitations (Adler 2002: 16). Culture is a set of parameters of collectives that differentiate the collectives from each other in meaningful ways. Culture is variously defined in terms of several commonly shared processes: shared ways of thinking, feeling, and reacting; shared meanings of identities; shared socially constructed environments; common ways in which technologies are used; and commonly experienced events including the history, language, and religion of their members (House et al. 2004: 15, 57).

Based on such interpretations, generally speaking, culture seems to distinguish one group from another based on:

a certain set of values, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes; which is shared, interpreted, and transmitted over time within a collective; and that makes the collective unique and distinguishes that collective from other collectives.

This study focuses on...
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