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Journal of Public Affairs

J. Public Affairs 8: 261–280 (2008)

Published online in Wiley InterScience
(www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/pa.290

Cultural theory in use: the

intersection of structure, process and
communication in business practice
Camille P. Schuster 1*, y and Michael J. Copeland 2z
College of Business Administration, California State University San Marcos, USA
Proctor & Gamble, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

 Examining and understanding the culture of 200þ countries to determine how business
is conducted in those countries is a daunting and overwhelming prospect. By combining
theories of culture, it is possible to create a Classification Of Cultures Model using Time,
Task and Relationship concepts. However, this model does not suggest how to adapt when
conducting business in a particular political/economic environment. Continua of cul-
tural elements related to conducting business are created based upon structural elements,
process elements and communication elements. Combining the continua with the
Classification of Cultures Model creates the Global Business Process Model. This frame-
work is a way to capture the array of cultures, identify similarities and differences in
business practices, and provide a starting point for creating adaptive strategies and
Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Introduction As a concept, ‘culture’ has been a topic of

interest in sociology, anthropology, ethnogra-
phy, psychology, communication and edu-
Culture is a total way of life held in
cation. Investigations of culture are multi-
common by a group of people. Learned faceted leading to many different definitions,
similarities in speech, behavior, ideology,
areas of study and theories. Each discipline
livelihood, technology, value system and examines culture from its particular perspect-
society bind people together in a culture. It
ive: how groups function, how the culture
involves a communication system of functions, how to learn about cultures, how
acquired beliefs, perceptions and attitudes
people within a cultural group think, the
that serves to supplement and channel relationship between culture and communi-
instinctive or inborn behaviour (Jordan
cation style and how people in a particular
and Rowntree, 1986).
culture learn.
*Correspondence to: Dr Camille P. Schuster, College of Just a few years ago, ‘cultural pioneers’ were
Business Administration, MH 355, California State Uni- the only people responsible for knowing
versity San Marcos, San Marcos, CA 92096, USA. and acting appropriately in another country.
E-mail: schuster@csusm.edu
Professor of Marketing.
With today’s communication vehicles, suppli-
Human Resources Manager (retired). ers, account representatives, order processors,

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
262 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

contact centre employees or purchasing depart- languages are the Swiss, German, Scandinavian
ment employees may be working in another and North American. An explicit language,
country, so every interaction has potential according to Hall (1976), is one in which
cultural connotations. Business practices are words have specific meanings. Context plays a
embedded within a culture, so learning cultures, small role in ascertaining the meaning of what
monitoring changes in culture and understand- is said because meaning is specifically related
ing the impact of culture on business practices is to the words being used. The cultures in the
important for success (Yip, 1995; Kanungo, middle of the continuum are French, English
2006). Every employee who interacts across and Italian. The high-context cultures using
borders needs to be culturally aware and adept implicit languages are Spanish, Latin American,
at adjusting personal style as appropriate to the Arabian and Japanese. An implicit language,
situation. Remembering, retrieving and applying according to Hall (1976), is one in which
each individual piece of information from every words have many meanings depending upon
cultural group around the world are not feasible the relationship of the people and companies
or practical techniques in a dynamic business involved in the conversation, the topic and the
situation. Success, however, depends on being context. Words are ambiguous and have many
able to modify the home country approach to meanings. For example the Japanese word
business practices in international locations. ‘sumimasen’ means ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘I’m
In any given culture, government policies, sorry’ or ‘excuse me’, depending upon the
legal systems and/or the use of hierarchy for situation. This concept of explicit and implicit
decision-making create the structure within languages is an important and useful con-
which business functions. How activities flow, tinuum used in many contexts. However,
adherence to norms of punctuality and the Hall’s (1976) work excludes the languages of
integration of one’s public life with business a number of emerging countries that are now
activities create the process of how things strong players in the global economy such as
happen. The role of truth, use of words, style of Russia, India, China, Indonesia, Ghana, Nigeria,
language and forms of logic create expec- Hungary, Czech Republic or Estonia. While the
tations for the role of communication in high/low-context concept is significant, the
business activities. absence of countries and languages important
The purpose of this paper is to establish a in today’s marketplace is not helpful for
cultural model that creates a theoretical guiding adaptation in many current business
perspective for understanding the intersection situations.
between general concepts of culture, including Hall (1959, 1983) also identified a number of
the structure of public affairs, the process of cultural constructs related to time. Monochro-
conducting business and appropriate forms nic time views time as sequential or linear;
of communication, as they apply to the practice western cultures are identified as monochro-
of business. The first section of the paper will nic. Western cultures structure time around
address theories of culture commonly used in tasks and view time as money in business
the marketing literature. The second section situations. This orientation is consistent with a
will present new models. The third section will belief by western countries that governmental,
address the intersection between the models political and legal systems, processes and
and provide examples of adaptation. policies provide the structure for completing
tasks efficiently. Polychronic time views time
as simultaneous with several events happening
Theories of culture
at the same time and is associated with
U.S. anthropologist Edward T. Hall distin- those cultures that are less task oriented and
guished cultures on a continuum of high- more relationship oriented. Eastern and Latin
and low-context communications (Hall, 1976). American cultures have a more flexible view of
The low-context cultures using explicit time, believe that family and relationship

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
Cultural theory in use 263

activities are an equally valid use of time and defining market clusters, product policy, brand
complete tasks when time permits, but not at image, price policy, distribution channels,
the expense of personal or familial require- communication, advertising, personal selling
ments. Asian and Middle Eastern countries and negotiations. In this book, concepts of
view relationships as the gateway for doing culture, such as time, face, need for precise
business so maintaining relationships is more answers or loyalty, are examined and related to
important than completing a task. marketing decisions. The breadth and depth of
Hofstede (1980) began his work by studying the material in this book is excellent and an
the values of people who worked for IBM important tool for thinking about how culture
in over 50 countries and identified four affects marketing decisions. However, as with
dimensions of culture: power distance, collecti- Hofstede’s and Trompenaar’s work, there is no
vism versus individualism, femininity versus unifying model for understanding how to use
masculinity and uncertainty avoidance. The multiple concepts across several countries to
research results identify a score for each country create marketing strategies.
on each dimension. Knowing the relative The Cultural Orientations Model created by
position of each country on each dimension Walker et al. (2003) is a ‘framework for
reveals similarities and differences among exploring and mapping the components of
countries. When examining similarities and culture at any level’. The 10 dimensions in this
differences across countries, it is relatively easy model include those that provide a basic
to determine how one country scores on all five shared orientation for behaviour at any level
dimensions compared to your home country. in social life. Using these dimensions to
These concepts have formed the basis of explore a culture is an excellent basis for
much empirical work, some of which supports understanding many levels of social behaviour.
the use of these concepts and some of which The book provides an in-depth examination of
does not (Hoppe, 1990; Smith, 1994; Akour each dimension and how it applies to cultural
et al., 2006; DeJong et al., 2006; Harzing, 2006; analysis. However, that is a level of detail that
Lee and Croker, 2006; Srite and Karahanna, businesspeople are not likely to use when they
2006; Guss and Wiley, 2007; Johnson, 2007; have a very limited time to prepare for a trip
MacNab et al., 2007). One major work addres- abroad, which may include more than a single
sing the challenge of integrating concepts and country or culture and meetings with partici-
countries (deMooij, 2005) applied the concepts pants from a variety of locations at the same
across countries in an analysis of how the time.
concepts are portrayed in advertising. The theories and models created by these
The results of Trompenaars’ (1998) studies giants in the field focus on specific elements of
have many similarities with the research results culture such as time, language, values, space
of Hofstede (1980, 1983, 1997) in that the or competitiveness. They do not specifically
approach is to examine and compare countries address the interdependence of concepts within
on individual values. Comparing many and across countries applied to the conduct of
countries on one value is relatively straightfor- business. The next section presents a model that
ward. Comparing more than two countries creates a visual tool representing the interplay
on many values is difficult. The insights are between public structure, process and com-
valuable but application of the model is munication related to business practices.
difficult for businesspeople who generally
find themselves both short of time and asked
to make comparisons and decisions about Cultural models, public structure
groups of countries within a close deadline.
and business practice
Usunier’s (1996) book specifically addresses
applications in marketing: consumer beha- Commercial, political and economic systems
viour, market research, marketing strategy, have become increasingly interdependent over

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
264 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

the past three decades. Political and economic throughout the world. While 24 hours a day is a
systems are part of the public structure that constant throughout the world, people use
interacts with personal and organizational that time differently. Hall’s (1959, 1966, 1976,
culture to impact business practice in a 1983) concepts of time relate to how people in
particular geography. All parts of an organiz- particular cultural groups use time. Those
ation now routinely operate across multiple who perceive time as monochronic see time
time zones and cultures. Since not every as linear or sequential, even referring to this
employee is a student of culture, and many intangible ‘as money’ and are quick to not
still do not accept that culture has any ‘waste’ it. Time must be used wisely to
relevance to their objectives, a model that accomplish tasks. Spending time, developing
represents the application of cultural con- and/or maintaining relationships are less
structs in business situations would be a useful important than accomplishing tasks by the
tool to orient and guide planning, decision- designated deadline to those with a mono-
making and adaptation. chronic view of time. Those who perceive
Several caveats are necessary regarding the time as polychronic find it normal to allow
two models presented in this section. First, the several events to happen at the same time
fundamental culture of a country changes or for time to expand like ‘rubber’. While
slowly over generations or in response to accomplishing tasks may be an important
specific traumatic national events. Therefore, a goal, developing and/or maintaining relation-
static assessment of a culture is generally ships may be equally or more important
representative but not specifically descriptive. meaning that time can be taken away from
That said, cultures are dynamic and in a task accomplishment to use on deepening,
constant evolutionary state, albeit somewhat developing or repairing a relationship. Those
invisible to the outsider. This is paradoxical, with a polychronic approach to time expect
but evident in surface behaviours, trends and interruptions involving important issues that
fads, which appear to be sudden and dynamic, may be family, relationship or task related.
but have little lasting affect on the culture of a Completing a task by a deadline may not be the
country or region. Second, each country most important goal if a more important issue
exhibits a range of cultures. Each region, involving a critical relationship surfaces.
major city and/or ethnic group has its own set Hofstede’s (1980, 1983, 1997) concepts are
of cultural assumptions that are related to the helpful for identifying how people work within
country’s overall culture but are not identical. organizations. The concept of uncertainty
Third, each person’s personal socialization avoidance relates to the need to know or
and development affects his or her cultural control what will happen. Germany has a
assumptions. Therefore, a static set of cultural moderately high score (65) and, in Germany,
assumptions, based on a general understanding agendas are normally circulated well before a
of norms or specific behaviours, might not be meeting so everyone will arrive prepared to
appropriate for the individual with whom one discuss the items on the agenda (www.
meets to conduct business. The models geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php).
presented here are meant to guide thinking Japan has a very high score (92) and, in Japan,
not to represent the behaviour of specific meetings are generally very formal with the
individuals. expectation that no decisions can be made
regarding an idea proposed at that meeting
because the group needs to meet to develop
consensus on the new idea. The concept of
Classification of Cultures Model
personal distance refers to how accepting
Assumptions regarding the use of time, the people at lower levels of society are to the
approach to the task at hand and the role of idea that those who have higher levels of status
relationships in making business decisions vary and power should be allowed to follow

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
Cultural theory in use 265

different rules. The patriarchal society of was adapted by Michael Copeland (1987,
Mexico has a high score (81) so decisions in 1988, 1993) at Procter & Gamble. After a
Mexico are made by those who have status and modification by Ballon, (1994) at Sophia
authority at the top of the hierarchy. Sweden, University in Tokyo, Schuster and Copeland
on the other hand, has a low score (31) and is (1996) published the Cultural Classification
a country in which management practice Model that places countries or regions on a
encourages individual empowerment and continuum anchored by the concepts of Task,
decision-making. The concept of individual- Relationship and Time.
ism/collectivism refers to whether decisions In the succeeding 10 years, eastern and
are made for the benefit of individuals or central European countries have changed
groups. With a low score (18), South Koreans considerably during their transition to a free
generally make decisions as a group so one or marketplace. China continues in its journey
two representatives attending a meeting to create a socialist, free marketplace philos-
usually do not have the authority to make a ophy. Countries in Africa are developing at
commitment for the company. With a high different stages and are becoming more active
score (90), Australian businesspeople are participants in the world economy. India is
usually empowered to make decisions on behalf also emerging as a strong economic player.
of their company. The concept of masculinity/ The concepts used as anchors in the model
femininity refers to the importance of accom- continue to be important dimensions of
plishments versus the importance of nurturing cultures related to how time is spent on
efforts. With a relatively high score (69) business activities. Decisions about classifying
Mexicans are more concerned with accom- countries or regions depend upon whether
plishment, while Swedes with a low score (5) the differences within a group of countries
are more concerned with making sure everyone are greater or smaller than the differences
is assured quality of life. All of these concepts with the groups on either side in the model.
are embedded in the structure of government The classification has been updated in the
and the process of doing business. Classification of Cultures Model (Schuster and
Studying concepts individually yields great Copeland, 2006) to reflect the different
insight and understanding about people of a positioning of countries as their orientation
particular culture, how they look at the world, towards Task, Relationship and Time adjusts
or might behave in a particular business during their transition to a free marketplace
situation. However, remembering the specific (Figure 1).
position of each country on each of Hofstede’s, This model is a useful tool for identifying
Trompenaars’, Usunier’s, the Cultural Orien- similarities and differences among countries by
tation Model’s, or Hall’s dimensions and how visualizing where a country or region is placed
those dimensions interact with each other to on the model. This is important for business-
create the structure, process and communi- people who move quickly from one area of the
cation norms that impact business practice world to another or who are going to a country
across countries is extremely difficult. for the first time. The model provides a broad
Since many employees in organizations face framework for quickly placing a country in
the challenge of conducting business with terms of the Task, Relationship and Time
people from other countries, often in second dimensions. However, there are other import-
or third languages, often having little time ant elements of culture that are distinctive,
for preparation, there is a need for cultural need to be included in business planning and
information to be classified in a way that makes have significant impact on the conduct of
it easy to recall and apply. Tucker (1982) business. The Classification of Cultures Model
created a model that placed countries on a is not sufficient for an in-depth understanding
continuum based upon these concepts and of culture and/or knowing how to adapt to do
presented it at Procter & Gamble. The model business successfully in a country or region,

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
266 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

Figure 1. Northwestern and Central Europe includes the countries to the north and west of Switzerland including the
city of Paris but not the rest of France. Mediterranean Europe includes France (with the exception of Paris), Spain,
Portugal, Greece and Italy. Eastern Europe and Russia includes the former Soviet block of countries.
From Schuster and Copeland. Global Business Practices,1E. # 2006 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc.
Reproduced by permission. www.cengage.com/permissions

but it does provide a sound basis for information and describes how it impacts the
preparation and planning. practice of business. Doing business in a
particular country or region is directly affected
by that country or region’s cultural approach
to the structure of the business environment
Elements of business culture
which is created out of cultural norms towards
continua model the role of government, rule of law and
Every culture has a unique view of the world; sense of hierarchy in that culture (Yip, 1995;
every community or organization within that DeJong et al., 2006; Kanungo, 2006; Yasin
culture has its own method of operation within and Yavas, 2007). Doing business is also
that culture; every individual has his or her constrained by the accepted and expected
own personality and set of values. While processes for doing business—how activities
successful businesspeople adapt to individuals flow, expectations regarding punctuality or
in specific business situations, understanding the separation between private and public
the world as billions of individuals is not life (Yasin and Yavas, 2007). These constraints
feasible for people involved in either global affect where and when business takes place.
government or commerce. Business is also affected by the way people
Identifying and understanding the elements communicate. Whether words have explicit
of culture is an important first step but does not or implicit meaning has a major impact on
necessarily address the conduct of business. the role of contracts. Both style, whether
Classifying cultures according to Task, Relation- direct or indirect, and the form of logic
ship and Time is also helpful for comparing how determine how information is presented
groups view business tasks. However, neither and whether it is perceived as persuasive
of these approaches takes the conceptual (Harzing, 2006; Guss and Wiley, 2007).

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
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Cultural theory in use 267

Truthfulness has an immediate and con- Structure (Role of Government,

sequent effect on the credibility of communi- Rule of Law, Sense of Hierarchy)
cation which is foundational when establishing
relationships or creating agreements. The The governing philosophy in a country
combination of beliefs, attitudes and values in determines the degree of freedom companies
each country or region creates different have for conducting business, resulting, in
positions on all of these elements. Countries general, from the government’s adoption of a
can be placed on each of these continua by free trade or central control philosophy or
combining theoretical and empirical infor- some variation of the concept. For example the
mation. The next section describes positions legacy of noblesse oblige in Europe carries
on each continuum (Figure 2). through in the current government which is

Figure 2. Elements of Business Culture Continua.

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
268 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

empowered to protect its companies and take Stripp, 1991). These systems, procedures or
care of its citizens. Transitional countries may laws can be relied upon and are consistently
not have a strong system of government or enforced, thereby creating transparency in
well-established rule of law. As a result, business practice. At the other end of the
hierarchy, status and place within a strong continuum, countries, such as Russia, Indone-
social structure provide the constraints lacking sia or Nigeria, have not created systems and
in the political system. Western countries with procedures that are routinely and equitably
a strong task and time orientation rely heavily enforced throughout the country but rely
on a legal system that specifies either what more on a situational or pragmatic approach
business must do or what business cannot do. to conducting business (Renwick, 1982;
Consistent enforcement of the laws creates Gosling, 1990; Wosinski and Zischke, 1992).
transparency and determines the reliability of While difficult to accept for some business-
these political systems. In countries with people, ends often justify the means in
unstable governments and legal systems, the countries without an established or respected
informal hierarchy among citizens in that rule of law. Adherence to norms, established
country provides the constraints, guidelines within accepted networks, is often more
and protections for doing business. important than abiding by laws and govern-
ment policies.

Role of Government
On one end of the continuum are countries Sense of Hierarchy
such as the United States, Australia and Canada,
Countries, such as Australia and the United
which were founded on Adam Smith’s view of
States espouse the value of equality on one
a laissez-faire government that creates policies
end of the continuum, meaning that each
to allow business activities to flourish in a
individual has the same set of rights, obli-
free marketplace (Harris, 1982; George, 1983;
gations and duties (Fieg and Blair, 1975;
Miller, 1987; Zemke, 1988). On the other end
Wallin, 1976; Winham, 1979; Hofstede,
of the continuum, are countries, such as
1980, 1983, 1997; Graham and Herberger,
Taiwan or Cuba, that allow government, either
1983; Hawrysh and Zaichkowsky, 1983;
central or local or both, to be directly involved
Nadler and McScoggins, 1993; Campbell,
in business activities (Rotzoll, 1986; Zamet and
1994). No one has special privileges because
Bovarnick, 1986; Garten, 1992; McGregor,
of position, birth or wealth. Individuals
1993a,b; Marble and Lu, 2006). A more centrist
are empowered to make decisions, take
approach is taken in countries such as Japan or
risks, undertake new ventures or solve
Singapore, in which government provides
problems on their own or as delegated by
policies, goals or directions for the business
their organization. At the other end of the
community but is normally not a partner in
continuum, countries, such as Argentina
business agreements (McCooey, 1984; About,
and Japan, have hierarchical systems in
which people of high status are expected to
have special privileges (Yoshimo, 1968;
Guittard, 1974; Wallin, 1976; Hofstede,
Rule of Law
1980, 1983, 1997; Hawrysh and Zaichkowsky,
At one end of the continuum, countries, such 1983; Copeland and Griggs, 1986; Hartman,
as Germany or Great Britain, believe that 1987; Mendosa, 1988; Hill and Birdseye, 1989;
systems and procedures created by an Harris and Moran, 1991; Chatterjee et al.,
approved process establish the guidelines that 2006; Marble and Lu, 2006). Individuals know
govern business transactions (Ghauri, 1986; their position within the hierarchy and adhere
Nye, 1987; Harris and Moran, 1991; Moran and to the norms of the group. In countries with

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
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Cultural theory in use 269

known and respected hierarchical systems, as well as when personal or business topics are
the comfort and familiarity of implied expec- appropriate for discussion.
tations make it easy for the local people to
conduct business, while creating a difficult
dynamic for the uninitiated foreigner, who Punctuality
may not understand with whom to deal or
Some countries, such as the United States and
when to ask for third parties to intervene. In
Netherlands, view time as fixed and linear;
countries without well-established and well-
time can be segmented into discrete blocks
enforced political and legal systems, the
(Kennedy, 1967; Wallin, 1976; Saxe and Weitz,
hierarchies within informal networks create
1982; Galante, 1984; McCaffrey and Hafner,
and enforce group norms.
1985; Copeland, 1986; Bryan and Buck, 1989).
The form of government, rule of law and/or
Time is valuable and not to be wasted on
importance of hierarchy determine how
non-task activities. The mark of a professional
businesses can interact with one another and
is the ability to strictly adhere to timelines. On
to what guidelines of individual behaviour
the other end of the continuum, in countries
individuals need to adhere for success when
such as Indonesia or Saudi Arabia, time is
conducting business.
flexible and stretches like rubber to cover all
important or predestined tasks (Alghanim,
1976; Rand, 1976; Lee, 1980; Ghauri, 1986;
Process (Punctuality, Flow of Wasnak, 1986; Schuster, 1987; Fadiman, 1989;
Activities, View of Privacy) Harris and Moran, 1991; Moran and Stripp,
1991). Important people have many demands
Time is conceptualized in a number of
on their time and will attend to all important
different ways. A monochronic view perceives
tasks as soon as possible.
time as moving forward in a linear and
sequential fashion with segments clearly
defined (Graham and Herberger, 1983;
Flow of Activities
Hawrysh and Zaichkowsky, 1983; Copeland,
1986; Miller, 1987; Joy, 1989; Laurent, 1991; On one end of the continuum are countries
Salacuse, 1991). A polychronic view perceives such as Germany or Canada that view time as
time as moving forward in a nonlinear and linear, looking backward to the beginning of
simultaneous fashion (Alghanim, 1976; Lee, time and forward to the end of time (George,
1980; Catoline, 1982; Copeland, 1986; Cope- 1983; Miller, 1987; Harris and Moran, 1991;
land and Griggs, 1986). A flexible view of time Snyder, 1993; Drabble, 1994). Activities are
perceives that there is always more time to be divided into discrete blocks of time with each
used on a given activity (Huneeus, 1984; activity relegated to specific time periods: meal
Mendosa, 1988; Laurent, 1991; Moran and time, bedtime, family time or study time. In
Stripp, 1991). A cyclical view of time perceives other countries, such as Japan or Chile, time is
time as moving in phases with each event seen as cyclical, with time devoted to each
being given the amount of time it needs phase of life: birth, growth, death and rebirth
(Renwick, 1982; Hawrysh and Zaichkowsky, or regeneration. As a result, time is not so
1983; Ghauri, 1986; Fadiman, 1989). Knowing limiting as in the more linear countries where
how a particular culture views time is time is treated more as a commodity (Davis,
important for understanding how business 1970; Wallin, 1976; Kazuo, 1979; Huneeus,
activities will likely flow and how individuals 1984; Mendosa, 1988; Banthin, 1991; Harris
are expected to use time. The value of a culture and Moran, 1991). Accomplishing tasks means
regarding the separation of public and private that sufficient time must be spent on all
life is important for understanding which phases rather than rushing through phases to
activities are appropriate in which situations meet a deadline. Time may not be perceived as

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
270 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

linear so activities can and do happen which holds that there are universal truths so
simultaneously. ideas, activities and constructs are often
viewed as good or bad, right or wrong or true
or false. Eastern philosophies have hierarchies
View of Privacy as a foundation of their worldview so the goal
of interaction is to preserve harmony as
On one end of the continuum, in countries opposed to working within a framework of
such as Germany, Netherlands and Japan, absolutes. Many of the Eastern cultures
individuals keep their private life and business recognize that there may be several variations
life totally separate (Ballon, 1977; Ramsey and of ‘the truth’ and view nothing as absolute.
Birk, 1983; March, 1985; Biggar, 1987). Time When using implicit languages (e.g. Chinese,
for family is spent with extended members of Arabic, Japanese), words need to be inter-
the family or close friends and does not preted in light of how they have been used to
impinge upon time set aside for work. On maintain harmony within the group in a
the other hand, family obligations are central to particular situation. In those cultures oriented
both social and business life in Brazil or towards maintaining harmony, relationships
Thailand (Davis, 1970; Wallin, 1976; Lee, are extremely important. Conversation tends
1980; Copeland, 1985; Copeland and Griggs, to be indirect to avoid upsetting harmony.
1986; Alghanim, 1976; Mendosa, 1988; Harris When using explicit languages (e.g. Swedish,
and Moran, 1991). Business discussions are Dutch, English), words are used in a concrete
conducted within a family group or small way, so that what is written in a contract is
network so need not be continued only at the behaviour that will be expected. In those
official meetings. A business network includes cultures oriented towards universal truths,
family members so there is little, if any, language is direct and specific so that all
separation between private and public life. participants are clear about directions, expec-
There is just all-inclusive life. tations and deadlines. In western countries,
These elements determine how and when logic is formal based on the philosophies of
business can be conducted—whether business Aristotle and Plato. Evidence is critical and
activities are separate from family events or arguments must adhere to specific rules. In
part of family events, whether business other cultures, forms of logic may be based
activities take place within discrete time peri- upon a sense of honour, long-term relation-
ods, whether social activities include business ships or intuition. As a result, creating
discussions, whether time is flexible and the persuasive arguments and using appropriate
importance of deadlines. forms of evidence will vary. Objective data and
charts or spreadsheets are not persuasive in all
Communication (Truth, Words, areas of the world. In some cultures, such as
Taiwan, asking for a favourable decision based
Style, Logic)
upon the length of a relationship may be more
Understanding the language of a particular persuasive than objective data.
cultural group is valuable for learning how
members of that culture view the world.
English presents a linear view of the world;
whereas, Chinese presents a holistic view of
the world. Learning the philosophical under- Countries with a dominant Judeo-Christian
pinning of a culture’s perception of truth is religious tradition, such as Israel, Italy or
critical for determining how to rely on the Canada tend to believe in a universal truth—
meanings of words when negotiating a deal or things are either right or wrong, and some
crafting a contract. Western cultures are based truths are always true (Ramsey and Birk, 1983;
upon the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle Garten, 1992; Hofstede, 1997; Trompenaars,

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Cultural theory in use 271

1998). Countries with a different religious et al., 1991). In these countries, it is often
tradition, such as India or Japan, have a said that people should ‘say what they mean
pragmatic view of truth, with every situation and mean what they say’. On the other end of
and each person’s perspective being different. the continuum, in countries such as Mexico,
Maintaining harmony is an important goal in Indonesia and India, ‘saving face’, maintaining
these countries and truth tends to be relative harmony or respecting the other person’s
rather than absolute (Fieg and Blair, 1975; honour requires the use of an indirect form of
Ballon, 1977; Ramsey and Birk, 1983; Joy, communication in which there are many
1989; Mortenson, 1992; Hofstede, 1997; ways to convey information without stating
Trompenaars, 1998; Chatterjee et al., 2006). something literally or directly—especially
There may even be several competing truths in disagreeable information that might upset
a given business situation. Cultures with a the harmony (Fieg and Blair, 1975; Hawrysh
Judeo-Christian foundation want one version and Zaichkowsky, 1983; Hall, 1976; Zamet and
to be accepted as ‘true’ or ‘right’. Cultures with Bovarnick, 1986; Biggar, 1987; Graham, 1987;
a pragmatic view are comfortable with several Zhang and Kuroda, 1989). Understanding ideas
versions of the truth existing at the same time. conveyed may depend upon what is not said,
as much as or more so, than what is said during
a conversation.
In countries in which English or a romance Logic
language is the native language words refer to
Forms of logic, on the one hand, are formal,
specific objects, people or ideas (Hall, 1959;
syllogistic deductive arguments used in
Ballon, 1977; Ghauri, 1986; Miller, 1987;
Western countries such as France or Great
Campbell et al., 1988). Precision requires
Britain in which it is critical to have sound
the use of the specific words to convey
premises, or inductive arguments such as
thoughts accurately and efficiently. On the
those used in the United States, in which
other end of the continuum, languages such as
objective evidence and representative exam-
Japanese or Chinese use groups of symbols to
ples are critical (Davis and Silk, 1972; Fisher,
convey thoughts, ideas and objects while
1980; George, 1983; Galante, 1984; McAlister
maintaining face with participants (Zamet
et al., 1986; Perdue et al., 1986; Campbell
and Bovarnick, 1986; Brunner and You,
et al., 1988; Laurent, 1991; Fisher et al., 1993;
1988; Hofstede and Bond, 1988; Stone, 1989;
Snyder, 1993). On the other end of the
Zhang and Kuroda, 1989). Individual symbols
continuum, alternative forms of heuristics
have significantly different meanings depend-
are legitimate, such as circular logic or
ing upon the combination of symbols, relation-
arguments based on honour or relationships
ships between speakers or context of the
(Alghanim, 1976; Radway, 1978; Catoline,
1982; Chatterjee et al., 2006; Kazuo, 1979;
Fisher, 1980; Graham and Sano, 1984; Graham,
1985a,b; Copeland and Griggs, 1986; Ghauri,
1986; Mendosa, 1988; Harris and Moran, 1991;
Countries such as Sweden or the United States Moran and Stripp, 1991; Salacuse, 1991;
value language that is direct, to the point and Graham et al., 1992; Mortenson, 1992).
concise (Willett and Pennington, 1966; Effective communication depends upon a
Olshavsky, 1973; Foy and Gadon, 1976; Hall, thorough understanding of not only the
1976; Fisher, 1980; Donohue, 1981; Graham language, but also the style, sense of truth
and Herberger, 1983; Donohue et al., 1984; and logic that is used by a particular cultural
Soldow and Thomas, 1984; Schuster and group. Assuming only one approach to com-
Danes, 1986; Schuster, 1988; Alexander munication and/or assuming that everyone

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DOI: 10.1002/pa
272 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

speaking English as an acquired language is 1983), Hofstede (1980, 1983, 1997), Schuster
using an American/British approach to business and Copeland (1996, 2006), Usunier (1996),
decisions is a recipe for disaster. Understand- Trompenaars (1998), Walker et al. (2003) and
ing the form of communication used by a the research cited in the previous section, as
particular cultural group allows for appropriate well as empirical work conducted by the
adaptation. authors over 40þ years and validation from
The purpose of the next section is to businesspeople in these cultural groups was
combine the two models presented in this used to place countries on either end or in a
section and create a framework that can be more central position on each continuum. This
used to suggest how behaviour can be adapted information forms the horizontal part of the
by those doing business in other countries. The matrix resulting in the GBPM (Figure 3).
next section presents a matrix created by Two observations are immediately apparent
locating the countries or regions identified in from the matrix: (1) no two country groups are
the Classification of Cultures Model on each of identical and (2) there are major differences
the continua identified in this section. between ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ business
practices. This is a good visual representation
of ‘psychological distance’ while providing
Intersection of theories of culture substance as to the nature of that distance. The
accepted business practices from any one
and business practice
country group will generate some level of
Theories of culture in isolation or theories of success in the country groups located next to
general cultural constructs are useful for many them in the matrix. The further distant the
activities and for understanding a given other country is on the matrix from one’s
cultural group. However, learning how to home country, the more dissimilar business
use that information to adapt one’s behaviour practices will likely be.
when conducting business activities in other An advantage of using the matrix is that it
countries requires a different framework. immediately identifies major similarities and
Learning the specific cultures in each of differences as a starting point for adaptation.
200þ countries and how the cultural values Without having to learn everything there is
of each country affect business activity is an to know about a country’s culture, the matrix
impossible task—especially for a person’s encapsulates a considerable amount of infor-
first overseas assignment or for someone mation that can be used as a guide for
who has to troubleshoot a problem and is adaptation. Once differences and similarities
being sent to a new country in 2 days. The across concepts are identified, the person or
model that follows incorporates cultural team who will be representing the company
information relevant for business activity in can spend time preparing strategy, materials,
an easily retrievable manner so decisions about arguments and style of communication that
adaptation can be made. will be most effective when doing business in
The countries and regions in the Classifi- the identified country or region. This section
cation of Cultures Model (Schuster and Cope- will provide brief examples of a few forms of
land, 2006) were used to form the vertical axis adaptation to consider.
of the Global Business Practices Model (GBPM; In those areas with a black square in the
Figure 3). When creating models some level of Role of Government column, expect to use
detail is generally lost in an effort to present a time meeting government officials, forming
useable framework. While differences occur relationships with government officials and
within and across countries and regions, these seeking their approval or involvement with
differences are less significant than the differ- business transactions. When doing business in
ence between groups. Areas of consensus countries that have a grey square, taking time
across the work of Hall (1959, 1966, 1976, to understand the role of government is

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Cultural theory in use 273

Figure 3. Global Business Practices Model. Role of Government: white, the government sets parameters and
constraints to create the environment for doing business; black, direct involvement of government in business as
a business partner. Rule of Law: white, reliance on systems and procedures; black, pragmatism or situational
considerations. Sense of Hierarchy: white, assumption of equality; black, assumption of status difference. View of
Privacy: white, business and private matters are separate; black, business and private matters are all part of one reality.
Sense of Time: white, fixed time; black, flexible or ‘rubber’ time. Flow of Activities: white, time works in a linear
fashion; black, time works in a cyclical fashion. Truth: white, universal truth; black, many truths exist at once. Words:
white, words have explicit meanings; black, words have implicit meanings. Style: white, communication is direct and
forthright; black, communication is indirect. Logic: white, formal deductive reasoning; black, alternative heuristic.
From Schuster and Copeland. Global Business Practices, 1E. # 2006 South-Western, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc.
Reproduced by permission. www.cengage.com/permissions

important. In some countries, the government in an objective manner making decisions based
may be in a transitional phase creating new upon the merits of a case when complaints are
regulations requiring permits or approvals, brought to the court. Therefore, creating a
may have incentives for certain industries or contract is a serious undertaking specifying
may have high tariffs for some products. In who will do what within what time frame with
some way the government participates in what results. Obtaining a signed contract is an
shaping the marketplace. In the countries important goal of business. With a signed
with a white square the government is not document, all parties understand what specific
normally involved in specific industries, with expectations will be fulfilled. That is what is
the exception of national defence. expected of a transparent business system. The
In those countries with a white square in the rest of the countries or regions have a grey or
Rule of Law column, the legal system is highly black square signifying that the legal system is
developed and relied upon to create the not as well developed. Either the laws have not
parameters for doing business. The laws are been created or are not enforced. In these
expected to be followed because enforcement regions, business activity cannot solely rely
is routine. The legal system typically operates upon the terms of a contract being fulfilled or a

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DOI: 10.1002/pa
274 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

complaint being upheld in court. Taking the participate. Demonstrating appreciation for
time to understand the system and to create art, cuisine, history, sports or architecture
relationships with respected businesspeople is often helps to establish relationships. In
critical for success. Managing the terms of the those areas with a dark square, there is little
contract by continued personal contact is separation between public life and private life.
essential for success. Legal issues regarding Business may take place anywhere at any time
gifts and bribery need to be understood about with different combinations of participants. An
the area in which business will be conducted important part of doing business is getting to
and in the home country of the company doing know one another as individuals so business is
business. being conducted even when business is not
In the countries with a white square for the the topic of discussion. As a result, waiting for a
Role of Hierarchy there is an expectation formal meeting to discuss business is not an
that businesspeople have authority to make effective practice and will result in lost time
decisions, that people at many levels in the and opportunity.
organization are empowered to make de- In those areas with a white square for
cisions regardless of their title, and that Punctuality the expectation is that business
ceremony or formality is not highly valued. meetings will start on time, that all members
When doing business in the areas that have a will be present and that business should be
grey square, titles and status are more concluded within the timeframe of the meet-
important. Skipping over people to talk with ing. Those countries with a grey square are
someone higher in the hierarchy is not looked generally more flexible about the start time of
upon kindly. Ceremony, formality and eti- business meetings. Important people have
quette are highly valued. In those countries many commitments and cannot be expected
with a dark square, systems and processes are to be prompt at every meeting. Important
not well established so the hierarchy and issues that emerge have to be addressed, but
norms of networks are very important. Taking each meeting will be given an appropriate
time to identify the members of a network, to amount of time when it begins. Punctuality in
become accepted and introduced to others in those areas with a dark square is much more
the network, to understand the concepts of flexible. Sometimes the infrastructure requires
saving face and/or maintaining honour, the flexibility because of traffic jams; sometimes
personal obligations of membership and the other more important business or relationship
legality of adhering to obligations are concepts issues arise and have to take precedence. In
that need to be understood before doing many countries, the question about what time
business in these areas. All three of these is being used for meetings is becoming
concepts (government, law, hierarchy) create common; participants want to know which
the structure within which companies con- time frame is being used for a specific meeting.
duct business. In those areas with a white square for Flow
In those areas that have a white square for of Activities, time is linear, specific and
the View of Privacy, the expectation is that dedicated to specific activities. Decision-
business will be conducted in an office, making, planning and collaboration occur in
conference room or maybe during a meal discrete time periods dedicated to specific
with only the participants involved in the tasks proceeding in a linear fashion by
proposed business transaction. These activities considering issues one at a time. In those
are separate from family life or general social areas with a grey square, time is more flexible
activities. In those countries with a grey with meetings starting later, stretching longer
square, meal times and social activities and including business as well as social
are more often part of business, but also activities. Rushing to keep things on schedule
include relationship dimensions. Friends or results in frustration. The areas with a dark
other business associates are often invited to square have a longer perspective on time often

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Cultural theory in use 275

including cultures that are thousands of years confrontation, respect and disrespect can be
old. Given this perspective, time often flows conveyed by the choice of words. In those
without a sense of haste. Schedules can countries with white squares, words have
change; social and business activities are both specific meanings. When making agreements
important. Since people are important, taking the words used create specific expectations for
time to know people before making business future behaviour so choosing words carefully
decisions is critical for success. Decisions are is important.
not made on each issue in a sequential fashion. In those countries with a white square in
All the issues need to be discussed and the Style column businesspeople tend to have
considered first, so decisions can be made in direct conversations. Some areas may be more
a holistic manner. All three of these concepts formal than others but identifying problems,
(view of privacy, punctuality and flow of issues, alternatives and solutions is pretty
activities) determine when business is con- straightforward and direct. Yes/no questions
ducted with which people and at what pace. are often asked. Yes responses indicate
In those areas with a white square in the committed agreement with expectations of
Truth column, universal truths are perceived future behaviour. In those areas with a grey
to exist. These truths cover all people in all square, topics may be addressed in a direct
areas of the world with expectations that manner but the style of conversation is more
everyone should adhere to them and that there tactful and nuanced. Agreements and disagree-
is only one truth. In those areas of the world ments are equally polite and pleasant so paying
with grey squares, adherence to an absolute attention to the words used is important. In
truth is tempered with the need to protect those countries with a dark square the
network members, preserve one’s honour and preferred style is indirect. Words have ambig-
demonstrate loyalty to family. As a result, truth uous meanings so a yes response does not
can have several versions. In those areas of the indicate committed agreement; rather, it
world with dark squares there is no perception represents polite acknowledgement. Listening
of a universal truth. Different truths can and do to what is not said or to what is implied is just
exist at the same time. It is often necessary to as important to understanding a conversation
say what must be said to maintain harmony and as is listening to what words are used. Asking
save one’s face. As a result, agreement does not direct yes/no questions results in no useful
necessarily equate to commitment. Probing information. Learning to ask indirect questions
beyond the obvious meanings of words is is important for success.
important for success. In those countries with a white square for
In those areas of the world that have a black Logic, objective data (generally numerical) are
square in the Words column, the meanings of important. Referring to data from credible
words are altered by the relationship between sources is also effective. The form of argument
people, the topic and circumstances. There- is usually deductive in which conclusions
fore, asking several questions in different ways, follow from accepted premises. Careful con-
spending social or personal time with people sideration is necessary when agreeing to
and listening to how they say things or what is premises. In those areas with a grey square,
not said are all important. Identifying differ- acceptable forms of logic may be deductive,
ences in what words mean, probing for inductive, based upon friendship or appeal to
consistency and learning to interpret levels one’s honour depending upon the people
of formality are critical for success. In countries involved. Generally objective data are helpful
with grey squares, nuanced or double mean- when creating persuasive arguments but
ings of words are often relevant during arguing from circumstance or precedent can
discussions. Developing a sophisticated voca- also be effective. In those areas with dark
bulary and paying attention to specific mean- squares deductive, circular or emotional argu-
ings during conversations is important. Tact, ments can be made based upon honour or

Copyright # 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Journal of Public Affairs, November 2008
DOI: 10.1002/pa
276 Camille P. Schuster and Michael J. Copeland

precedent or religious principles. Preparing particularly relevant to conducting business,

arguments that can be effective in different were used to create a set of continua.
areas of the world is a useful tool. All four of Combining those two perspectives resulted
these concepts (truth, words, style and logic) in the GBPM which is the intersection between
will have a part in determining the most theory and business practice.
effective communication in a country or Knowing what elements of culture impact
region. This framework, while having to be business activities in ways that are similar or
modified based upon the individuals with different between one’s home country and the
whom you are doing business, provides a country in which business is being conducted
filter for interpreting the words and actions of is important for success. Knowing where to
the people with whom you are conducting focus efforts in examining cultural differences
business. and how they relate to business behaviour is a
The value of the GBPM is that it provides a significant step forward in understanding how,
framework for condensing a great deal of where and when culture impacts business
cultural information and demonstrating how practice. The models portrayed in this paper
cultural differences intersect with business provide a theoretical framework that can be
practices. While the GBPM does not provide a used for future research. As countries change,
prescriptive list of how to do business as business practices evolve and as cultures
guidelines in any particular culture, the evolve, testing these relationships at different
framework can be used to facilitate prep- time periods is important so that continued
aration, to guide a search for additional modifications in the GBPM can be made.
information and to interpret behaviour. The Remember the caveat: each individual’s
GBPM is an important heuristic to use when culture is determined by one’s country, family,
preparing to work effectively within other ethnic group, educational system and com-
cultures. Instead of being left on one’s own ‘to pany training. Therefore, no two individuals
adapt to the local culture’, the matrix provides from any country will act in an identical
guidance for working through decisions of fashion. The matrix presented here, however,
how and when to adapt and what the nature of creates a useful framework for beginning to
the adaptation should be to be successful. adapt behaviour and providing members of the
team with a repertoire of tools to be used.
Deciding whether and when to use them is left
up to the team members in a specific situation.
Many theories of culture exist and are useful Having more knowledge and tools increases
for understanding the way people in a culture the possibility of success when doing business
think, behave and live. However, these with people from another cultural group.
theories do not necessarily focus on how
business is conducted in that culture or how
Biographical notes
one can prepare to do business effectively with
people in that culture. The purpose of this Camille P. Schuster (Ph.D. from The Ohio
paper is to create an intersection between the State University) is currently a Full Professor
theories of culture and the practice of of Marketing and Management at California
business. State University San Marcos and President of
Using the Classification of Cultures Model Global Collaborations, Inc. Dr. Schuster has
identifies major cultural groups rather than also taught at Virginia Polytechnic Institue
having to process cultural information for and State University, Arizona State University,
200þ countries. Elements of culture, such as Xavier University, Thunderbird School of
structure (government, legal and personal), Management, and Indiana State University
process (time and people) and communication Northwest. Dr. Schuster has authored
(style, words, truth and logic), that are over 30 articles in professional and academic

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DOI: 10.1002/pa
Cultural theory in use 277

publications and has conducted seminars and Campbell J. 1994. Despite labor costs other factors
worked with over 60 companies in more than make Pacific Rim attractive. Business Record
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