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Culture Defined

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Culture can be defined as the specific learned norms of a society that reflect attitudes, values, and beliefs. Major problems of cultural collision are likely to occur if a firm implements practices that do not reflect local customs and values and employees are unable to accept or adjust to foreign customs. A very serious cultural mistake can negatively affect a firm's relationship with the host nation.

Consistent with the notion that culture is the set of shared collective cognitions, Hofstede (1991) defines culture as "the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another". He also emphasizes that culture is not a property of individuals, but of groups. Hofstede (1980) suggests that the relevant dimensions of culture should be identified and investigated when conducting international research. To examine national culture, Hofstede (1980) surveyed the values and perceptions in 53 countries and three multi-country regions: Arabia, West Africa, and East Africa. His data were collected from employee attitude surveys undertaken between 1967 and 1973 within IBM. Based on statistical analysis, he suggested that national cultures may be differentiated along four dimensions: power distance, collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity, and uncertainty avoidance. Power distance (PDI) is "the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally". Individualism (IND) pertains "to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: [E]veryone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family". Collectivism "as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive ingroups, which throughout people's lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty". Masculinity



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