Conducting cultural analysis helps organizations set up the necessary parameters for decision making, adaptation to new needs, and the implementation and monitoring of the effectiveness of an organization in the host culture. Running a business in an intercultural environment is very difficult. Each country has its own unique cultural needs, and these must be viewed in a broader perspective. People in China are different from people in Argentina. Eating, living, clothing, language and other habits can vary dramatically from one culture to another.
Culture will also determine if a product with international distribution can be marketed in a particular nation at all. You cannot launch a brand of alcohol in an extremely conservative and orthodox society. Without conducting a background check, the risk of failure greatly increases. A company that has great success in India cannot expect the same result in Saudi Arabia, for example, for purely cultural reasons.
The satisfaction of the end user is also critical, and this, too, has a cultural influence. For example, in some communities, individuals do not eat meat at all. Take Tibet as a country where most monks do not eat commercially cooked foods. The launch of fast food outlets in this country could still be successful because of the number of tourists visiting there. However, any company would first have to consider the basic needs of the environment before proceeding with such an endeavor.
In the process of globalization, the first cultural distinction for newcomers to an environment to take into consideration is in the area of communication. Initially, language differences are easily perceived, but, after a brief period in the new culture, obvious variations in the language spoken become apparent.
Language is the key to culture, and without access to it, people cannot understand the real aspects of the culture. Even when learning the language, outsiders are incapable of understanding the nuances, puns and slang without also learning other aspects of the culture. The learning of both language and culture goes hand in hand, and, by acquiring both, one can develop a certain perception of the values, beliefs and norms of a given culture.
Language is described as the mirror of culture. This statement is true not only in the spoken word but also in the nonverbal language of international business. Messages are transmitted through words by the way they are spoken. In addition, they can be relayed nonverbally by means of gestures, body posture, and eye contact.
Often, language proficiency is required before a person can be introduced to a culture different from his/her own. But language ability must go beyond a technical capacity, because every language has words and phrases that can easily be misunderstood out of context.
Language is not only a way of verbal communication but also leads to non-verbal communication. In international business the articulate words combined with body movement – specifically the hands – are an important part of some cultures, such as the Latino. In other cultures the movement of the body or hands cannot overcome the language barrier and may even cause misunderstandings when these manual symbols are offensive to the culture. It is important, therefore, to always be attentive to the nonverbal expressions that other cultures have and use, as the success or failure of negotiations may rest greatly on this way of speaking.
The globalization process presents challenges for which we must be prepared. Businesses are no longer just “at home.” We must go beyond the borders if we are to succeed in the globalization era. The shift towards dealing with other cultures is almost mandatory and necessary. We need to “soak up” the cultures of other people, together with knowledge of their language, to avoid becoming victims of “global illiteracy.”