Just like cross-cultural cuisines, which have different implications in different places, culture also must have different impacts on management strategy in different places. It is the role of organizational managers to identify the place of culture and uphold the culture of any given society of operation.
The understanding of the dining cultures and comparison of dinners across countries, which include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Bulgaria and China, brought to light the differences that cultures can bring to a management scenario. These countries will be analyzed using the two frameworks of Hofstede and Edward Hall. The countries will then be compared based on their human resource management approaches.
Saudi Arabia Analysis
Covering about 830,000 square miles, Saudi Arabia is the largest Arab state located in Western Asia, and the second largest Arab state in the world after Algeria. It is bordered by Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, UAE, Oman and Yemen on various directions (World Fact Book, 2014). It is the world’s largest oil exporter and producer and also has the world’s second largest hydrocarbon reserves. The economy of Saudi Arabia therefore depends mostly on oil. The Saudi Arabian GDP was 718,500 USD in the year 2012.The table below gives a comparison of GDPs across the five countries of interest (World Fact Book, 2014).
|GDP per Capita 2012||390,000||502,000||14,400||9,330,000||718,500|
Table 1: Comparison of selected countries’ GDP (CIA World Fact Book 2003 – 2013)
The population of Saudi Arabia is predominantly Muslim, with religious suppression being a common occurrence across other religions. Approximately 85 to 90 percent are Sunni Muslims while 10-15 percent is Shia Muslims (Goldstein & Brown-Foster, 2010). Around 21 percent of the 26.9 million citizens of Saudi Arabia are immigrants from various places including Africa and Asia. The national language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic, with the three variants being Hejazi, Nedji and Gulf Arabic. These variants are spoken by 6 million, 8 million and 0.2 million speakers respectively (World Fact Book, 2014).
The culture of Saudi Arabia is characterized by the upholding of Islamic values such as moderation in dressing and behavior. Puritanical Islam is highly practiced both socially and legally. The party culture is common with princes throwing parties frequently and encouraging the same amongst citizens. Traditionally Muslim foods form an important part of the Saudi Arabic culture. The role of cuisine in the enhancement and propagation of culture is undeniable (Goldstein and Brown-Foster, 2010).
Dining etiquette encourages the coming together of individuals during meals and thus aids in the passing down of cultural practices and religious beliefs. Islamic dietary laws are upheld, making pork prohibited and ensuring that other animals are slaughtered for consumption only according to halal. The Saudi Arabian cuisine has been affected to a large extent by the cultures of surrounding countries and continents such as Africa, Turkish, Indian and Persian foods (Bowen, 2007).
Geert Hofstede’s cultural Dimensions
Geert Hofstede provides a framework for the analysis of the cultural aspects of countries. According to Hofstede’s framework, the cultural values that distinguish countries from each other can be divided into five clusters, which include Power distance (PD), individual versus collectivism (IvC), masculinity versus femininity (M), uncertainty avoidance (uA) and long term orientation (LTO) (Hofstede et al, 2010). The application of this framework leads to a comparison between countries resulting in the allocation of a score, which depends on the cultural aspects of the country.
Figure 1: Comparison of Countries according to Hofstede’s framework
Power Distance: The power distance cluster expresses the community’s attitude towards social differences. Saudi Arabia records a score of 95 on the power distance cluster. This indicates that there is high degree of social stratification. People accept the existence of a hierarchical order as part of life and there is no effort made to change the system. The other countries are similarly high in Power Distance, with UAE scoring 90, both Nigeria and China having scores of 80 while Bulgaria has a score of 70.
Individualism: the individualism dimension gives the degree of interdependence amongst community members. A score of 25 for Saudi Arabia gives a reflection of a collectivist society, where there is a lot of interdependence within the community. In a collectivist society such as Saudi Arabia, loyalty and interpersonal trust are paramount in fostering relationships (Glackin, 2013). In comparison; both Nigeria and Bulgaria have a higher score of 30 while UAE and China have scores of 25 and 20 respectively, hence all the countries are collectivist to a greater extent than they are individualistic.
Masculinity: the definition of life as based on what one does rather than on what one likes is the differentiating factor between masculinity and femininity. In a highly masculine society such as Saudi Arabia, the sole driving purpose in life is work. People live in order to work. The country records a score of 60 percent in this. In the compared countries, China has the highest score of 65 while Nigeria, UAE and Bulgaria have 60, 50 and 40 respectively. Bulgaria can therefore be said to be more feminine thus people place more importance on how they do their work (Minkov and Hofstede, 2011).
Uncertainty Avoidance – the risk taking capacity of the country is determined by the percentage of risk avoidance tendencies. For instance, a score of 80 as that obtained by Saudi Arabia indicates high levels of risk aversion. Such countries exhibit mainly rigid cultural and social behaviors and intolerance to unprecedented changes. In China, uncertainty avoidance is relatively low, with a score of only 30.This shows a society that is open to risk taking. On the other hand, the other countries score 80, 85 and 65 for UAE, Bulgaria and Nigeria respectively.
Long term orientation: countries with high scores in the pragmatic cluster often take actions and make decisions that may impact their lives in the long term. The reverence placed on traditions determines the degree of suspicion with which non- traditional values or actions are considered. Saudi Arabia shows a score of 36 on the pragmatism hence indicating a high reverence for traditions and a suspicious view of change. The outlook of long term orientation goes hand in hand with the aspect of uncertainty avoidance. A reserved society will be less pragmatic in most cases. Both Bulgaria and Nigeria have significantly high scores in the long term orientation cluster i.e. 69 and 86 respectively. China has a score of 13 while there is no score available for UAE.
Although Hofstede’s framework is good for cultural dimensionality in work place applications, it may not be effective. Critics argue that Hofstede’s frame work uses a limited number of dimensions in determining the culture of a country. In addition to this, one of the major limitations of the frame work lies in its assumption of homogeneous cultural practices across any given country. In order to complement this framework, it may be necessary to include other aspects of culture such as employment, education e.t.c.
Edward Hall’s Framework
Hall’s framework of cultural distinction is based on two contexts. The framework describes cultures as low context/ high context and monochorionic/ polychorionic. High context cultures are characterized by information dissemination through the use of non-spoken media while low context refers to passing information through spoken and/ written media (Kaufman and Lindquist, 1999). The latter deals predominantly with non-verbal body language. On the other hand, monochorionic society’s emphasis is placed on doing one activity at a time while in polychorionic societies; the mode of performing an action is not distinguished. Any number of activities can be performed at the same time (Hall and Hall, 1990).
Saudi Arabia is a significantly low context country, with the verbal communications highly acceptable due to the presence of a common national language. On the other hand, China, Nigeria and Bulgaria are slightly higher in context due to the diversity of cultures including language while UAE is average in terms of communication. In the UAE, there is a balance of verbal and non- verbal communication due to the prevalence of diverse cultures combined with common religious values. In terms of monochorionic and polychorionic societies, Saudi Arabia is considered to be more monochorionic in culture in comparison to the other countries of study. In this framework, the other countries have higher time framework levels i.e. are more polychorionic compared to Saudi Arabia.
Critics of the Edward Hall framework of cultural distinction assert that it is ineffective for the intended purpose since it is based on limited concepts. It does not put into consideration the major features of culture in a society such as gender stereotyping, social stratification, and community interactions. At the same time, it does not have a numerical score card that can be used to compare countries hence all comparisons are qualitative and thus subject to researcher bias.
Culture and Marketing
One important feature of effective management in organizations is the ability of the management to put in place marketing structures that align the company deliverables to the customer needs (Murchison 2010). The aim of any organization being to make profits, the value added by using culture as a foundation for successful marketing cannot be ignored. Consequently, as cultures change across borders, it is imperative that managers realize that as other features of consumer cultures change, so does the need to have flexible management systems that will enable change in the marketing structure. Other factors that also play an important role in successful marketing include the customer demographics and political environments (Black et al, 1999).
The culture of Saudi Arabia is mostly Islamic. Similarly, the regional markets such as the GCC countries provide common bases in terms of acceptable currency and availability of common market. In aligning organizational product marketing with the customer demands across the region, it is possible for organizations to reach wider market bases (Murchison 2010). Similarly, the role of culture in the determination of marketing strategy cannot be ignored. For instance, in a predominantly Muslim community, there are reservations regarding dressing and behavior. It would thus be unreasonable to bring on board marketing strategies in which the importance placed upon conservative behavior and clothing is ignored.
In most cases, organizations in Arab countries have no need to segment their markets due to the limited restrictions placed particularly on the culinary products. It is therefore necessary that as cross border organizations strategize their marketing methods, they consider the impacts of cultures on customer needs (Solomon and Schell 2009).
From the available communication frameworks, the use of verbal communication in marketing is highly sustainable and profitable in Saudi Arabia. Although not done on a face to face basis, advertising strategies make use of the low context communications in the Saudi Arabia to attract consumer attention. The use television advertisements, plays an important role in product promotion. Apart from the product promotions, most organizations in the Saudi Arabia engage in the motivation of their employees through the provision of incentives, particularly during festive seasons as outlined by the Islamic religion. This is recognition of the principles of effective management that purport that a satisfied work force results in client satisfaction (Hamden-Turner and Trompenaars 2010).
China is a country that boasts of a diversity of cultures, both in terms of tradition and religion. The country is liberal with regards to behavior and dressing reservations. The importance of communal interdependence guides the purchasing characteristics of the Chinese populace (Fan, 2000). Besides this, several cultures also exist in China, with each placing value on a particular cultural dish, clothing or general behavior. Other cultures of importance in the Chinese consumer market are the respect for elders, market entry and product pricing. Chinese play a lot of divisive politics in the demand for goods (Fan, 2000). Organizations1intending to cut through Chinese markets should therefore uphold the values of communal interdependence and respect for elders.
Bulgaria, Nigeria and the UAE
In Bulgaria, there is liberalism in communication through various media outlets. Besides this other prevalent cultures include secularism, unique cuisine and the appeal of visual art. Organizations based in Bulgaria can therefore use the acceptable and liberal media outlets as well as the varied art forms for the advertisement of their products. The mode of product marketing depends on the nature of the product and the culture it touches upon (Schneider and Barsoux 2003). The most commonly used marketing strategy is through visual media such as televisions and artwork.
In Nigeria, the existent cultural diversity may necessitate a variation of marketing strategies. The target markets also have to be highly segmented to enable the creation of effective marketing plans (Trompenaars and Hampden 1998). Cultural cuisines determine consumer needs which in turn determine the demands for various products. Creation of a visual impact of various products and the portrayal of products as supportive of the country’s culture and the consumer needs is elemental in customer acquisition and retention (Schein 2010). Every customer only desires to purchase goods which satisfy a given need.
In the case of UAE, the demand for exquisite products is one of the defining characteristics of the customers. Organizations are therefore focusing on the search for exotic markets. An important aspect of organizational management is structure (Schein 2010). The structure of an organization determines the flexibility of that organization to change (Schneider and Barsoux 2003). It is therefore clear that as the exotic cultures vary and fashionable products, particularly clothes change, the market needs and subsequently marketing strategies must also change. Organizations marketing strategies must always be in line with the consumers purchasing tradition (Awang et al, 2014). The UAE market is renowned for the provision of exemplary goods, particularly for clothes and accessories and attracts the interest of consumers from international communities. As Adler and Bartolomew (1992) opine, a culturally diverse work place requires management with a similar cultural diversity.
In this report, a group of five countries are analyzed using the two frameworks of Hofstede and Edward Hall. These countries include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Bulgaria and China. The differences in the cultural features of these countries are diverse and affect organizational management in various ways. One of the management aspects affected by the culture of a country is the marketing strategies for various goods (Browaeys and Price 2010; Johansen, 2015). It has been observed that the impacts of culture in marketing are dependent on the product and different for given aspects of culture. For instance, it has been observed that the cuisine of a given country may influence the ability of consumers to purchase a given food type from vendors (Cameron 2000). At the same time, conservative cultures may prohibit the purchase of revealing clothes.
It is therefore important that organizations analyze the cultures of the target market prior to setting up in any given country. Saudi Arabia is a country of limited diversity in culture in comparison to the other countries. It is therefore easy for organizations to align their marketing strategies to the regional market requirements due culture similarities than in other countries. Other aspects of management that are influenced by culture are employee recruitment and employee motivation.
Adler, N. and Bartholomew, S., 1992 Managing globally competent people. European Journal of Cross- cultural Competence and Management, vol 6 (3): 52-56.
Awang, F., Shafie, Z., and Pearl, R., 2014. The multicultural organizations: Perceptions of diversity challenges and initiatives. Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies, vol 8.
Black, J. S., Morrison, A. J., and Gregersen, H. B. 1999. Global Explorers: The Next Generation of Leaders. New York and London; Routledge.
Bowen, W., 2007. The history of Saudi Arabia. Routledge.
Browaeys, M-J, and Price, R., 2008. Understanding Cross-cultural management. Harlow: Prentice Hall.
Cameron, S., 2000. Understanding Cultural Differences. Camping Magazine. Accessed December 2014. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1249/is_4_73/ai_64519577.
Fan, Y., 2000. A classification of Chinese culture. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 7 No. 2, p .3 – 10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13527600010797057
Glackin, S., 2013. Contemporary Urban Culture: How community structures endure in an individualized society. Culture and Organization, vol 21(1):23-41.
Goldstein, N. & Brown-Foster, W. 2010. Religion and the State. p. 118.
Hall, E.T., and Hall, M.R., 1990. Understanding Cultural Differences: Germans, French and Americans. Intercultural Press.
Hampden-Turner, C. and Trompenaars, F., 2000. Building Cross-Cultural Competence. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Hofstede, G. H., Hofstede, G. J. & Minkov, M., 2010. Cultures and organizations Software of the Mind: International Cooperation and its Importance for Survival. Rev. and Expanded 3rd ed. USA: McGraw-Hill.
Johansen, D., 2015. Strategic logic and Marketing Resources: A Case Analysis Approach to Emerging Market Success. Journal of International Business and Cultural Studies, vol 9.
Kaufman-S.C., and Lindquist, J. D. 1999; Time Management and Polychronicity: Comparisons, Contrasts, and Insights for the Workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology. Vol. 14. No. 3-4, p. 288-312.
Minkov, M., and Hofstede, G., 2011. The evolution of Hofstede’s doctrine. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal. Vol. 18. No. 1, p. 10 – 20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/13527601111104269
Murchison, J. 2010. Ethnography Essentials. Designing, conducting and presenting your research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schein, E. H., 2010. Organizational Culture and Leadership. 4th ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Schneider, S., & Barsoux, J.L., 2003. Managing across Cultures. London: Hall
Solomon, C., and Schell, M., 2009. Managing across cultures: the seven keys to doing business with a global mindset. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Trompenaars, C., & Hampden–Turner, F., 1998. Riding the Waves of Culture: Understanding Cultural Diversity in Business. 2nd ed. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
World Fact Book 2003 – 2013. cia.gov. Retrieved 2014.