Cultural Imperatives, Cultural Electives, Cultural Exclusives, Causes of Political Instability, Attributes of International Marketers

Cultural Imperatives, Cultural Electives, Cultural Exclusives, Causes of Political Instability, Attributes of International Marketers

Culture has a pervasive impact on our business negotiations. Describe the four areas where differing cultures among parties may impact our negotiations with examples.

1. Language

Language is one of the most important components of a country’s or person’s culture, and when it comes to business negotiation, impacts of lingual differences shouldn’t be underestimated.

If two parties of a business deal speak different languages, both parties should expect that there may be misunderstandings, confusions, misinterpretations, or meanings lost in translation occur during the negotiation, it’s normal. Direct translations of words or sentences may result in a completely different meaning in another language. Therefore, parties should be careful about understanding the counterpart correctly.

I remember in my business meetings in Turkey, we frequently had meetings with lawyers from certain Asian countries to negotiate over a contract (I was a lawyer back then), and they would frequently talk among each other during the meeting. One day, I had asked this to my senior colleague, and he said ‘’They’re probably doing it to clarify what we said in English as their language is rather different than English and they don’t want to misunderstand or misinterpret the terms of the deal. So it’s a good thing, not a disrespect’’.

2. Nonverbal behaviors

Language is verbal, but there is also a non-verbal language that is as much important as the verbal language. Non-verbal language and behaviors carry sometimes more meaning than verbal language.

Some cultures use non-verbal cues such as facial expressions or body language more than other cultures. For instance, in one study, Americans say they find Japanese negotiators ‘’hard to read’’ because they lack facial expressions. Or, I’m from the Mediterranean culture, and we are known as being an open book and using our body language A LOT, which means we make it visible and obvious with our hands, bodies, and facial expressions what we think in our mind. We even say if we cannot understand each other by talking, nema problema, we do it by using our body language.

3. Values

Values of culture are harder to predict or fully learn because they are more subtle than language or non-verbal cues. Cultural values are rooted in the country’s or people’s traditions, customs, beliefs, history, even geography, religion, etc. It’s almost impossible to know your counterparty’s all values and act accordingly in a business deal. You may have a general opinion, but you cannot be 100% on the spot because every individual’s values differ too.

For instance, Scandinavian people or Germans would be very strict about timing and punctuality, but that’s not the case in the Middle Eastern culture. So, a German executive shouldn’t feel offended or disrespected when her/his Arabic counterpart doesn’t show up on time to the meeting.

4. Thinking and decision-making processes

This is a very subtle one too. Every culture inherently allows its people to compose different thinking and decision-making process. Business decision-making steps differ between the cultures. It’s not right to expect every party in a business deal would discuss the issues or terms in the same way or sequence, or come to a conclusion at the same time or with the same method.

For instance, in Asian cultures, it’s expected that the parties should build a trust relationship before discussing anything related to business. However, in European culture, for example for Germans, that can be confusing because Germans want to speak business when they come together with their soon-to-be business partners. It can be considered a waste of time for Germans to spend several hours on relationship building before any business discussion happens with their Asian partners.

Explain the differences in each the concepts of Cultural Imperatives, Cultural Electives and Cultural Exclusives including the use of examples.

1. Cultural Imperatives

Imperatives are the customs, or expectations that must be met between the parties. These are considered almost mandatory to occur for success in the business.

For instance, for an Arabic company’s business negotiation deal happening in their country, they can expect the women in the counterparty team to come to a meeting with a modest or conservative outfit. This can be a strong expectation on their end, and if not met, they can even end the meeting before it starts because they take it as a disrespect to their values or culture.

2. Cultural Electives

As the name suggests, electives are optional behaviours or acts that are advisable to do, but not mandatory. Conforming with electives may help you build a better relationship with your business counterpart and get a more successful deal.

For instance, Russians love when a foreign counterpart speaks their language in a business deal. If you start the negotiation by saying some basic, simple words in Russian, they automatically like you and it’d be so easy to get what you want as terms and conditions in such a deal. I’m talking from own experiences as we used to try this technique when I was practising my profession in Turkey. I speak Russian and whenever we had a client from any Russian-speaking countries, I’d be present in the meeting room and speak in Russian here and there to show our sympathy toward their language which is part of their culture.

3. Cultural Exclusives

Exclusives are the opposite of Imperatives, these are the behaviours or actions that the foreigners should NOT conduct. These are only for locals, and outsiders must not partake.

For instance, French can become very critical about their government, country, or culture, but if you as a foreigner say anything against the French culture or country, they don’t take it lightly. They can be very patriotic when it comes to defending their nationality against a foreigner, but they feel free to critique as a local. Foreigners should refrain from getting comfortable with a French about critiquing their country or culture, because that can cost a relationship for the parties. 

Political instability is a key issue when performing a country analysis with the objective of investment and business development in that country. Describe and discuss the five causes of political instability with examples.

For an international marketer who conducts business overseas, or considers expanding to different countries, the political instability of such country is the very first thing to assess and analyze. If a country doesn’t have political stability, then conducting business in such country may be painful, may bring harms more than benefits, or cost more than generated revenue. Politically stable countries attract foreign investment, and foreign businesses.  

Causes of instability can be summarized as follows:

1. Inherent instability

According to the textbook, some forms of government are unstable inherently. There are three common forms in use today: monarchy (or dictatorship), aristocracy (or oligarchy), and democracy.

The textbook implies that some forms are better than others. I don’t agree with this idea as I don’t think the ‘’naming’’ is important. Naming your government setting as ‘’democracy’’ doesn’t mean that your country is the best, there are many ‘’democratic’’ governments in the world which are close to dictatorship. Or, having a monarchy in the country doesn’t mean that the government is doomed to fail. For instance, the UK and Saudi Arabia have the same form: monarchy. Or, Belarus, United States, and Congo have the same form: democracy (republic). Can we say these countries are governed in the same way? No. So, instability is not inherent in the governmental forms in my opinion.

2. Political shifts / Change in power

Instability can come with a change in political parties in power in a country. A political shift in a country may bring instability if it occurs frequently, or if the change brings a party in power from an opposite wing.

For instance, Trudeau is a member of the liberal party and Trudeau’s actions represent liberalism and liberal values. If conservatives come to power in Canada, that can increase the country’s right-wing-orientation, and shift many policies and actions in the country’s politics to an opposite direction.

3. Nationalism

Nationalism is a very dangerous attribute. It’s an intense, sometimes a radical feeling or opinion of a person’s pride in his country. Trump’s ‘’Make America Great Again’’ campaign is the representation of nationalism.

Nationalism trend in a country pushes the foreign investment and business away as nationalists develop anti-foreign business bias and see foreigners as a threat. Extreme nationalism may support damaging, harming, harassing any foreign brands or companies in a country.

4. Animosity toward specific countries

While nationalism is conducted toward all countries, animosity is targeted to one or more, specific countries. For instance, some African or Arabic countries embrace US companies, whereas some of them hate any company or brand that’s associated with the United States. So, a US company should be very careful to expand business or set up branches in such countries where animosity towards anything American is dangerously high.  

5. Trade disputes

International trade disputes between countries may bring instability to both parties. Recent steel crisis between the US and Canada, the recent meat crisis between China and Canada, sanctions posed by the US to Iran can be given as examples to trade disputes.

Describe six attributes of an international marketer (person) with good cultural skills? Do you think such attributes are important? Describe one that you have?

An international marketer (or in general a person with good cultural skills) would have the following attributes:

  • Being respectful in communications with people from different cultures and having positive sense and genuine interest in different cultures.
  • Being tolerant of cultural differences and ambiguity arising from such differences, and having the ability to handle them without getting frustrated
  • Displaying empathy to other people’s lives, needs, behaviours, actions, etc. before criticizing
  • Refraining from being judgmental about other people’s lives, behaviours, words, actions, or values, beliefs, rituals.
  • Having awareness about self-reference criterion and recognizing that our own culture and values will unavoidably influence how we see others
  • Good sense of humour toward the frustration or challenge arising from unexpected or unplanned situations

These skills help us to be able to relate to a different culture even if we are totally unfamiliar with it. The good thing is these can be learned like any other social skills. If we would like to better cope with cultural differences, we should work on these skills to develop or improve to the point that will allow us to survive in, say, a diverse workforce such as Canadian workforce.

I believe I carry these attributes, each to a certain extent. In my view, knowing the self-reference criterion concept bring huge self-awareness to a person. I’ve been 22 countries so far, and I lived in 5 of them, I don’t usually find myself judging, criticizing or challenging any cultural differences anymore, but I remember in my first trips abroad, it was an easy way to judge others without thinking that this judgmental behaviour comes from the mere fact that I have limited awareness about SRC or ethnocentrism. My then limited interaction or familiarity with different cultures would keep me from being open or tolerant.

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