I. Conceptualization of culture

Culture can’t be defined specifically because it the meaning is different for each individual. It is dependent on the circumstances in a society someone grows up and any other influences in daily life. The definition of culture develops with the individual’s experiences. If a person is talking about its culture just a personal view how the person itself understands culture can be expected. Scientists often try to find a definition for what culture is, like Kroeber and Kluckholm (1952) who identified 164 definitions.

There are several concepts of culture like from

  • „Kroeber A.L. and Kluckholm C. (1952). Transmitted patterns of values, ideas and other symbolic systems that shape behaviour.“,

  • „van Maanen J. And Schein E.H. (1979). Values, beliefs and expectations that members com to share.“,

  • „Hall E.T. and Hall M.R. (1987). Primarily a system for creating, sending, storing and processing information.“*1

There are no definitions which describe the term culture exactly/precisely. Most cases are accompanied by stereotypes which probably describe a country’s or group’s culture roughly (best). Alike stereotypes of course just reflect the basics of a culture which might also not always suit/fit. During the process of adapting to/learning a culture’s specific (secret) niceties in most cases we get taught and guided by people of our society which know the cultural background like teachers, friends etc. This means learning in the way groups behave. The most important influence do have our parents which reach us also the right moral understanding they have learned as our cultural tradition because you are not born with an understanding of culture.

Culture varies obviously from country to country. If you talk about a nation’s culture there are often prejudices involved. Which definition or explanation ever is chosen they have all one in common. And that is – they are all based on personal experiences. This is definitely the best way to proof and fine out something about a culture. Researcher are depending on firsthand observation and experiences to understand various types culture. As well as managers, if they want to be international competitive.

Being able to operate in a multi cultural environment it is important to know and be aware of the cultural differences and peculiarities. It is obviously not enough to categorize Italians as people spending most of their time in the sun while eating pizza and drinking wine. There is more that has to be learned to become successful in a foreign market. A major challenge for managers is to overwhelm their myopic view. It takes time to develop an open attitude and a cultural sensitivity which enables managers to look carefully to the foreign market and point out the customers needs there and not transferring the domestic market needs. Lee calls that Self Reference Criteria (SRC).

A bad example for what management can do wrong if not looking specifically to the foreign market is Eurodisney in Paris/France. The Disney management definitely ignored many basic questions they should have asked themselves before launching this project. One of their mistakes was also related to a cultural aspect. E.g. did Eurodisney prohibit drinking alcohol inside of the park. Especially the French visitors were embarrassed about that where drinking wine to a meal belongs to the typical French culture. Disney has changed the regulation later on but in the beginning they didn’t respect or take the foreign culture into account.

To avoid those mistakes about cultural differences or at least to minimize them the four step approach of Lee (1966) can be used:

  • 1) Determining the problem or goal in terms of home country culture, habits and norms.
  • 2) Determining the same problem or goal in terms of host country culture, habits and norms.
  • 3) Isolating the SRC influence on the problem and how it complicates the issue.
  • 4) Redefining the problem without the SRC influence and solving it according to the specific foreign market situation.

*1 „Managing Cultural Differences – Strategies for Competitive Advantage“, Lisa Hoecklin (1996), page 28