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The interactions between different cultures often become the subject of many empirical studies and theoretical discussions. Furthermore, this question is of great importance to business administrators who frequently interact with people representing different countries, societies, and even civilizations.
Much attention is paid to such a concept as cultural convergence which can be defined as people’s tendency to adopt the values, behavior patterns, or the lifestyles of a different culture group (Pitzl 2004, p. 41). This term suggests that cultures are more likely to become similar to one another (Pitzl 2004, p. 41).
Overall, it is possible to argue that different cultures do come closer together, and this trend manifests itself in various areas of life, including workplace relations, consumption, mass media, and so forth. Admittedly, there are cultural conflicts, but they arise due to economic inequalities and discrimination. This is the main thesis that should be elaborated more closely.
Theoretical aspects of cultural convergence
There are different various models which are aimed at examining the interactions between people who may have different value systems, behavioral norms, and worldviews. For example, it is possible to speak about cultural convergence theory according to which the differences between cultures will become blurred in the process of international communication (Fung, 2008, p. 347).
This tendency is more likely to be widespread, if different participants see that a certain behavior is beneficial. Furthermore, this process has become more intensive at the time when information technologies significantly contribute to the spread of ideas and cultural icons (Fung, 2008, p. 347).
Overall, this theoretical framework should not be overlooked by managers. In particular, they need to remember that the traditional views on cultural distinctions may not be valid. For example, in many cases, researchers rely on the theory of cultural dimensions developed by Geert Hofstede. This model is premised on the assumption that it is possible to measure the differences between national cultures by using criteria, as individuality, uncertainty avoidance, or power distance (McSweeney, 2002, p. 89).
This approach is often used by managers, for example, when they design HR policies of international companies. The main problem is that such distinctions cannot be always observed (McSweeney, 2002, p. 89). Therefore, the decisions of business administrators can be based on flawed assumptions. This is one of the issues that should be considered.
This misconception can affect various areas of life. For instance, one should remember about the danger of stereotypes. For example, it is often believed that people, who come from Asian countries, are less likely to take initiatives. The main issue is that such assumptions are not confirmed in an empirical way.
More importantly, they can result in the discrimination of an individual. Certainly, Hofstede’s dimensions can be useful for the analysis of people’s behavior. Nevertheless, these tools are often misapplied by business administrators who should not disregard the threat of stereotypes. This is one of the pitfalls that should be avoided. Furthermore, they should remember that theoretical frameworks cannot always describe the behavior of groups and individuals in an accurate way.
The examples illustrating cultural convergence
It is important to show that cultural convergence is not a mere theoretical concept which has no real-life applications. There are numerous cases suggesting that cultures can exchange different elements and eventually become much more similar. In particular, the study carried out by Vjiayan Munusamy et al. (2007) indicates that cultural peculiarities of workplace behavior can change dramatically. It is often assumed that in some countries, people tend to be collectivistic.
In other words, they first try to consider the interests of the majority before taking any decisions. However, this research indicates that people tend to become individualistic as the economy develops (Munusamy et al. 2007, p. 37). Moreover, they begin to place more emphasis on independent initiatives and their own interests. This cultural convergence can be observed during the period of rapid economic growth when the purchasing power of people increases significantly. (Munusamy et al. 2007, p. 37).
This issue should be considered by managers, especially if they work in international companies. For instance, this knowledge is important for the development of HR policies. Moreover, these data show that Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions is not always valid since cultures are much more dynamic. This is one of the arguments that can be put forward.
Secondly, one can speak about the connections between cultural convergence and leadership styles used by senior executives. In many cases, it is assumed that in non-Western cultures, the power distance between leaders and employees is very high. In contrast, people often believe in the United States and Europe, the relations between these people are more egalitarian.
The main issue is that leadership patterns depend upon the context (Wong-Ming et al. 2014, p. 79). For example, senior executives may develop leadership styles that best help them interact with people belonging to various ethnic, religious, or racial groups. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about international companies in which the representatives of different cultures often interact with one another (Wong-Ming et al. 2014, p. 79).
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In these organizations, managers are usually more aware about the difference in value systems and behavior patterns established in various countries (Wong-Ming et al. 2014). Therefore, one should not suppose that organizations operating in countries have inconsistent cultures.
This is one of the points that should be made. This issue is critical for people who may interact with foreign companies. They need to remember that organizational behavior does not always follow the patterns which were identified in purely theoretical discussions which are not always accurate.
There are other forms of cultural convergence that should not be overlooked. In particular, there are statistic data suggesting that lifestyles and purchasing behavior of people can be affected by cultural convergence. For instance, it is often assumed that the consumption of wine is not popular in some countries many of which are located in Asia (Bianco, Boatto & Caracciolo 2013, p. 219). Many people believe that this alcoholic beverage is not traditionally included in the cuisine of some cultures.
In contrast, Europeans are thought to consume larger quantities of wine. The main issue is the patterns in the consumption of wine have changed significantly over the last two decades. The retailers of this product argue that the sales rates of this alcoholic beverage have increased in those regions of the world where wine was not popular several decades ago (Bianco, Boatto & Caracciolo 2013, p. 219). In turn, the consumption of wine reduced in many European countries.
These results show that people, who represent different countries, tend consume the same quantities of certain products (Bianco, Boatto & Caracciolo 2013). This study shows that the lifestyles and purchasing decisions of people can become similar to one another. More importantly, this trend cannot be explained only by changes in the income level.
More likely, they can be attributed to the increasing intercultural contacts. Thus, cultural congruence can take different forms. This is one of the details that should not be overlooked by business administrators who may work on the development of marketing strategies.
Additionally, the concept of cultural convergence includes such an element the ability of people to recognize the symbols and ideas which were created in other countries. The main issue is that nowadays cultural symbols and icons can be easily recognized at an international level. For example, the study carried out by Drew Martin (2012) shows that in Japan, advertises are more likely to include the images of foreign females such as actresses or athletes into their commercials.
The main issue is that this trend was not very widespread several decades ago (Martin 2012; Okazaki 2012). It should be mentioned that in the past, these popular icons might not be always recognized by the viewers (Martin, 2012).
Therefore, one can say that the process of cultural convergence can have profound implications for businesses. To a great extent, this change can be attributed to the intensifying intercultural communication between various people who come from various countries. This is one of the details that should be taken into account.
Furthermore, in some countries, the representatives of various countries can be more willing to accept the cultural values of one another. This tendency is peculiar to the United States. Such researchers as Jose Vargas and Markus Kemmelmeier (2013) argue that people, who grew up in America, do not differ in terms of such criteria as collectivism, individuality, or power distance (Vargas & Kemmelmeier 2014, p. 195).
The key issue is that they represent groups that have different values, norms, or worldviews (Vargas & Kemmelmeier 2014, p. 195). Thus, these results indicate that individuals are more willing to accept the elements of foreign cultures, even though they have different backgrounds (Vargas & Kemmelmeier 2014). On the whole, these examples show that cultures do not normally remain isolated from one another. In contrast, continuous contacts and exchange are critical.
To a great extent, these examples suggest that cultural convergence is a widespread phenomenon which affects various human activities such as business administration, workplace relations, advertising, and consumption of products. The main issue is that people can accept the behavioral norms and values which are peculiar to foreign cultures. Moreover, they can recognize the symbols and icons which were not initially present in their own culture.
This is one of the points that can be made. Admittedly, one can raise some objections. For example, in many cases, conflicts within organizations can be explained by cultural differences (Choi 2014, p. 57). In many cases, workers cannot accept the idea that other people can have different value systems or worldviews (Choi 2014, p. 57).
Such situations can be observed in various countries such as China, Malaysia, and Korea (Montesino 2011, p. 115). In some cases, these confrontations require the adoption of new laws that empower people belonging to some cultural groups (Choi 2014). So, one cannot suppose that cultural difference never give rise to any problems.
These conflicts are not related only to workplace. They can be observed in various societies that are engulfed by civil wars or other military conflicts (Bigg 2013, p. 25). Under such circumstances, racial, ethnic, religious, or cultural distinctions often give rise to hostilities. Certainly, these counter-examples should not be overlooked. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that such confrontations are usually aggravated by economic inequalities (Bigg, 2013, p. 25).
Under such circumstances, people treat the representatives of foreign cultures with hostility, even though these differences do not pose any direct threat to them (Bigg, 2013, p. 25). Therefore, one can say that cultural differences cannot be the underlying cause of hostility.
More importantly, an individual is more willing to tolerate the values of other people, if he/she is not affected by poverty and discrimination. So, cultures can be prone to conflict only if there are considerable social problems. This is one of the aspects that can be distinguished.
On the whole, this discussion shows that cultural convergence is a global phenomenon which is observed in various areas of life. The results of empirical data suggest that the boundaries of between cultures become blurred because people can accept new values or worldviews, especially if they are not affected by economic inequalities or discrimination.
Conflicts occur at the time, when people begin to view other cultures as the underlying cause of their misfortunes. Managers should take into account that in the globalized world, people belonging to cultural groups, tend to disregard such differences. More importantly, they are more willing to accept the value systems and beliefs of one another.
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