This diary consists of six entries which record my thoughts and reactions to six topics introduced in the module Cultural Differences and People Management. The six topics are The meanings of ‘Culture’, Cultural differences and the importance of lived experiences: ‘The tribe’ by Bruce Parry, The process of cultural adjustment, Models of cultures and Vietnamese culture, Communication in Chinese Culture, and Cultural differences in teams. Some of my personal observations and experiences that relate to each topic are also included in each entry. The conclusion contains reflections on my learning experiences on the module.
Entry 1 - The meanings of ‘Culture’
One of the objectives of the first lecture of the module Cultural differences and People management that I attended today is to define ‘Culture’. To my surprise, defining ‘culture’ is no easy task. Hundreds of definitions have been put forward but none has been widely approved by most researchers. Browaeys and Price (2008) cited in French (2009) stated that ‘culture’ is such a complex concept that no definition can adequately cover all of its aspects. Culture is a ‘multifaceted’ concept due to its reciprocal relationships with a number of factors such as values/shared meanings, political/economic system, religion/philosophical beliefs, economic prosperity, language and education system (French, 2009, p19). Existing definitions often emphasize on parts of the concept (ibid). One approach to define the concept is through values, attitudes and behaviors. Under this approach, the definition of Hofstede (2001) has been the most popular among scholars. He defined ‘culture’ as ‘the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another’ (quoted in French, 2009, p.22). According to Mead (2005), there are three implications from Hofstede’s view. Firstly, culture is unique to one group of people but not others. Therefore, the culture of China is different from that of the USA or Portugal. Secondly, culture is learned through a process in which values are passed down from one generation to the next. They can be learned by individuals from sources such as their family, friends, schools, media and religious organizations. Thirdly, culture consists of a set of values that describe the right way for individuals to behave. For example, Chinese culture values humbleness and face. Thus, when Chinese students obtain achievements, they attribute their success to the instructions of their teachers and helps from their friends. By this, they both express themselves as humble and give faces to their teachers and classmates. French (2009) concluded that the conceptualization of culture is due to the close link of culture with values and attitudes which are first learned and then exhibited by members of a group. Another approach is to define culture by context and communication. This approach is based on the links between culture and communication. According to French (2009), values are communicated to group members either unconsciously via their gradual acceptance of the culture or consciously from agencies such as the education systems. Moreover, the use of language both reflects cultural values and affects meanings transmitted. Via communication, differences between cultures become explicit. In addition, the existence of a culture depends on the level of communication between its members. Hall (1976) defined the concept as ‘Culture is communication and communication is culture’ (quoted in French, 2009, p.25). I first came across the academic definition of the concept when taking the module International Business last semester. In the textbook, culture is defined as ‘a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that when taken together constitute a design for living’ (Hill, 2009, p.89). Before the lecture, I had thought that it was the only approach - through values and norms to delineate the...
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