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Culture in international business

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The cultural environment is one of the critical components of the international business environment and one of the most difficult to understand. This is because the cultural environment is essentially unseen; it has been described as a shared, commonly held body of general beliefs and values that determine what is right for one group, according to Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck. National culture is described as the body of general beliefs and values that are shared by a nation. Beliefs and values are generally seen as formed by factors such as history, language, religion, geographic location, government, and education; thus firms begin a cultural analysis by seeking to understand these factors. Firms want to understand what beliefs and values they may find in countries where they do business, and a number of models of cultural values have been proposed by scholars. The most well-known is that developed by Hofstede in1980. This model proposes four dimensions of cultural values including individualism, uncertainty avoidance, power distance and masculinity. Individualism is the degree to which a nation values and encourages individual action and decision making. Uncertainty avoidance is the degree to which a nation is willing to accept and deal with uncertainty. Power distance is the degree to which a national accepts and sanctions differences in power. And masculinity is the degree to which a nation accepts traditional male values or traditional female values. This model of cultural values has been used extensively because it provides data for a wide array of countries. Many academics and managers found this model helpful in exploring management approaches that would be appropriate in different cultures. For example, in a nation that is high on individualism one expects individual goals, individual tasks, and individual reward systems to be effective, whereas the reverse would be the case in a nation that is low on individualism. While this model is popular, there have been many attempts to develop more complex and inclusive models of culture.

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