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Colombia’s and the US’ Cultural Dimensions Essay

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Updated: Sep 7th, 2022

Interpretation of cultural differences and cultural sensitivity is of utmost importance in today’s globalized economy. Success in an international market is determined by knowing the culture of behavior and communication of foreign business partners. According to the textbook, “effective business communication involves understanding of – and adaptation to – cultural nuances and differences.” (International and Intercultural Interpersonal Communication, 2020, para. 3). The purpose of this paper is to compare Colombia and the USA through the length of the six cultural dimensions model proposed by Geert Hofstede and to examine the similarities and differences.

Similarities and Differences of 6D models

The first difference we can see between these two countries is a significant gap in power distance. Colombia scores relatively high (at 67 points), implying that the notion of inequality is present in society and is “embedded in all its layers” (Hermosa, et al., 2018, p. 213). The United States, however, scores low at 40 points, which means that the way an average American employee communicates with the superior is more informal. The second, and even more significant difference of 78 points, can be noted in the individualism dimension. Colombia, with only 13 points, is a highly collectivistic community where every person feels safer being a part of a group. Americans, on the contrary, choose a more individual approach; therefore, personal status is of greater importance. One more difference we can observe is in the dimension of uncertainty avoidance. The USA score is only 46, which means that Americans are emotionally prepared for any outcome and perceive uncertainty as what Hermosa et al. (2018) refer to as “an opportunity for innovation” (p. 214). Colombians, with 80 points, view uncertainty as to the risk they would rather avoid; thus, it is challenging to implement changes.

In terms of masculinity, the USA and Colombia show similar numbers (62 and 62, respectively), classifying them both as masculine cultures. Thus, people in both cultures are highly motivated and success-oriented. The difference here lies in the fact that Colombians prefer to reach their goals while being part of a group while American culture promotes individual success. The USA and Colombia show similar scores for long-term orientation dimensions (26 and 13, respectively), classifying them as normative societies. Like most Latin American countries, Colombia is very traditional, and emphasis on short-term goals is placed when conducting business. Kelly (2018) notes that American shareholders, for example, “emphasize the importance of taking advantage of immediate opportunities” (p. 19). In terms of the indulgence dimension, both countries score above average. The USA, with an upper-middle score of 68, is known for its “work hard, play hard” attitude. Colombia scoring 86 in this dimension proves to be an indulgent culture, placing a high value on enjoyment and leisure.

Intercultural Communication Business Scenario

The existence of cultural differences between Colombia and the USA can have a specific impact on communication between organizations located in these countries involved in business relations. It is beneficial for both companies to employ bi-lingual specialists, as it would decrease misunderstanding in business communications. Apart from a different language, the tone and style of conversation are very different. Colombian verbal style is more volatile and emotional than American, and it is normal for two parties to interrupt each other. Management should also be prepared to use an appropriate manner to great business partners. Colombians prefer a more informal way that may include a standard handshake or kiss on the cheek, which may not be appropriate for an American executive. Personal space norms are also different for Colombians and Americans. It is a custom in the US to give more personal space, especially in business communication, whereas close physical contact is considered a norm in Colombia.

Thus, it is advisable to implement cultural training or seminars within companies that would not only provide information materials but also role-play cross-cultural situations to address potential differences or peculiarities of intercultural business communication. It would also be beneficial to implement language courses for the employees to improve their foreign communication skills. Creating awareness within the Company by implementing diversity training will promote employees’ mindfulness and adaptivity when communicating with foreign work partners of different backgrounds.

References

  1. Hermosa, S. A., Kosuri, R., Hattox, N., McCluskey, K., Nasser, A., Tran, K. K., Elesawi, M., Zuberi, A., Lewis, C. D., & Kraman, S. G. (2018). Institute for Global Business Research Conference Proceedings, 2(3), 213-217. Web.
  2. International and intercultural interpersonal communication. (2020).
  3. Kelly, A. C. (2018). The intercultural communication of the business world: A review of the literature and application to Colombian and English-speaking professionals [Unpublished honors program thesis]. University of Northern Iowa.
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