Dimensions to measure cultural differences – continuation

Hall also provides a cultural difference dimension popularly referred as high/low context. In this classification the degree to which communities regards the context of the message to be of equal importance as the message itself is the distinguishing factor (Bhagat & Steers 2009). Whereas low context societies would offer their message in a direct and frank form disregarding the context; high context societies convey the information in their messages indirectly via the context through which the message is delivered (Bhagat & Steers 2009). Hall also proposed a time difference in cultures in respect to how people tend to perform each task at its own time (monochronic) or perform multiple chores concurrently [polychronic] (Bhagat & Steers 2009). Finally Hall’s dimensions also take into account the degree to which individuals “are comfortable sharing space with others” – centre of power versus centre of community (Bhagat & Steers 2009, p. 4, Table 1.3).

These conceptualizations of national culture have however faced a lot of criticism. One of these has been that nations could have sub-cultural orientations that differ significantly with regard to cultural dimensions advanced (Jacob 2005). In fact when two or more people exhibit some kind of relationship over a period of time then it is arguable that a unique culture could develop (Tayeb 2001). This then would mean that countries exhibit various cultural mixes that individuals would represent ‘hybrid’ cultures of the groups they hold membership in and not necessarily a nation (Jacob 2005; Baskerville 2003). Another argument would be that one could hold a bias – based on ones culture – that objective research on somebody else’s culture is lost despite the knowledge of aspects of that other person’s culture such as language and religion (Tayeb 2001). With such propositions then research into culture on the basis of these dimensions could prove valueless. On the other hand other studies have observed that national cultures provide a pointer to the similarities and differences that can better the process towards realization of quality global management (Alessandra & Brennan 2009). Despite these opposing views the assessment of cultural differences (distance) is advanced to be important not only in management but also in strategic marketing decisions involved in business expansions to foreign nations (Ghemawat 2007). A comparison of cultural differences based on Hofstede’s, Trompenaars’ and Hall’s dimensions is thus presented for the US and the UK.

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