Target customers from different cultures

Many people believe going international with your business means just translating your website and calling it a day. After all, all homo sapiens sapiens are the same, right? Well, wrong. The world might be pretty globalized already, but there are still huge differences to be found within various cultures. And these differences might be what could make your otherwise perfectly planned market penetration go terribly wrong.

Luckily enough, there are several things you might do to avoid a cultural faux pas. You can start with focusing on the ways locals celebrate different holidaysin your target country. The Christmas or Easter traditions oftentimes tell you a lot about the mentality of the people you’re dealing with. You can examine their relationship towards religion, find out about their eating habits. Last but not least you can take a closer look at what the cultural specifics really are.

Cultural insights à la Hofstede – what makes Russians Russian

Apart from a lot of stereotypes about different cultures of the world, there are always several common signs that most of members of a specific cultural group share. We all have in our head a certain idea of Russian people being strong and competitive. We also know that in Latin America, family goes always first. And the list goes on and on. It is difficult sometimes, though, to tell the difference between a prejudice and a cultural fact.

Many marketers, sociologists and anthropologists dedicated their life to collecting the little pieces of this multicultural puzzle and creating a theory that would, once for all, set guidelines for how are the cultures of the world different and why. Arguably the most famous of them is Geert Hofstede, a Dutch professor currently lecturing in Maastricht. In his work, he defines six cultural dimensionsuncertainty avoidance, masculinity, power distance, indulgence, individualism and long-term orientation.

Cultural Dimensions

Source: Work with Vietnamese

No surprises for Germans, please!

The first dimension, uncertainty avoidance, expresses how a society is tolerant towards ambiguity and unexpected turns of events. In other words, it say how a person from a given culture reacts to situations in which he or she doesn’t have all the necessary information. UAI also goes hand in hand with xenophobia, conservatism and even racism.

Let’s demonstrate it on an example. In Germany, there is an UAI (uncertainty avoidance index) of 65, which is relatively high. Germans like to know their whereabouts, be it in the offline world or in digital terms. Just go and visit a German online webshop, for instance. You’ll see all the prices, certifications and other documentsdirectly at the homepage – German people like it that way. Also, there is this thing called impressum, which is something like a short version of the entrepreneurs business plan. In Germany, the impressum needs to be accessible directly from the home page.

On the other hand,we can find low UIA index in some of the of the greatest economies of the world (USA – 46, UK – 35). These people are much more comfortable with waking up not knowing what lays ahead. After all, the british expression “muddle through something” speaks for itself.

Uncertainty Avoidance World Map

Source: Geerthofstede.com

Being feminine is not an insult

Masculinity describes the very fundamental system of values that are kids being taught since the elementary school. This dimension shows how much people from different countries are driven by the notion of success and competition.

It hardly comes as a surprise that a lot of southern European countries, such as Italy, reach high score in the masculinity dimension (70). This means that the competitivity there is rather high. As an entrepreneur, you can expect a high level of competing within your employees, who are driven mainly by the vision of their career progress.

The exact opposite can be found in majority of northern European countries, namely Denmark or Iceland. These are the countries with strong social system and rather flat organizational structurein companies.

Masculinity vs Femininity

Source: Geerthofstede.com

In Malaysia, be sure to keep your distance.

The PDI (power distance index) indicates how power is distributed within members of different institutions and organisations. It is also very much connected to how big is a chance of an individual to rise in a society.

With the PDI no less than 100, Malaysia belongs to one of the countries with the highest PDI whatsoever. This shows a strong sense for hierarchy, order and respect, which can also be seen in other East Asian countries.

On the other side of the ledger, we can see that in Australia, the PDI does not exceed 36. In business world it means that information in a company is shared equallyand there is a strong reliance of managers on their employees. Power distance also influences the tone of voice; the higher the PDI is, the more formal communicationyou can expect.

Power Distance

Source: Geerthofstede.com

“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing”

One of perhaps not that famous quotes of Mick Jagger, British singer best known for his career with the Rolling Stones. This explains his attitude towards indulgence, that is the ability to fulfill one’s wishes and enjoy lifein general. Seeing this quota, it’s no surprise that UK has the Indulgence index of 69 and belongs to the more indulgence-inclined countries.

Much lower indulgence (only 29) can be seen in Poland. That indicates that the Polish society inclines more to restraint way of living. This is usually connected with a certain pessimism and in extreme cases even inability to enjoy leisure time. That needs to be taken into consideration when designing, for instance, benefit programs for your employees.

Indulgence

Source: Geerthofstede.com

Individualism is what makes cooperation worth living..in the US

Ever noticed how people in the USA tend to rely on themselves rather than on the others? Individualism as a Hofstede’s dimension explains exactly that. In individualistic countries, the ties between individuals are more looseand people tend to look after themselves at the first place. It also lays ground for the everybody-can-be-rich attitude, so often to be seen in American culture.

An obvious counterexample is to be seen in China and many other Asian countries. In the collectivistic countries, the “we” is bigger than “I” and the needs of the majority outweigh the needs of an individual. When working in a team, be prepared for a great sense of cooperation within it, while showing a cold, even hostile attitude towards outcomers.

Individualism and Collectivism

Source: Geerthofstede.com

Long-term Orientation

Long-term orientation is said to draw the line between East and West. This dimension describes how members of a certain cultural group are able to think ahead and postpone immediate pleasures in order to achieve bigger successesin the future. Also, the degree to which a culture is long-term oriented usually correlates with the development of the country.

Having said that, it comes as no surprise that Western European countries like Germany or France all reach high numbers when it comes to the long term orientation. At the other side of the spectrum we can find most of the African countries. Keeping that in mind will help you great deal when closing deals with people from different cultures.

Long Term Orientation

Source: Geerthofstede.com

Web Design Around the World – McDonald’s Using the Power of Power Distance

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Power distance reflects extent to which members of a society accept an unequal distribution of power as a de facto element of life. Wealth disparities, political agency or lack thereof, and social hierarchies are all facets of how power might be distributed and exercised in a given country.

The Power Distance Index (PDI) assigns a numerical score to each country based on the degree to which individuals there embrace or reject the notion of a hierarchical society. Countries with a higher PDI may have substantial wealth gaps, unequal access to services, and a top-down concentration of political power. Conversely, countries with […] Read more

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Hofstede’s dimension of uncertainty avoidance refers to a society’s general tolerance of ambiguity or the unknown. This is reflected in the extent to which a given culture will utilize rules, societal norms and standardized procedures to reduce uncertainty with regard to future events, decisions or occurrences.

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) assigns numerical scores to quantify the level of uncertainty avoidance held by individuals in various countries. People in cultures with high uncertainty avoidance prefer to minimize uncertainty with careful planning and regulation as well as a reliance on tradition. Conversely, cultures with low uncertainty avoidance are more open to change […] Read more

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