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Saudi Managers’ Cultural Issues in a Singaporean Hotel Dissertation



The concept of culture is surrounded by controversies in regards to its definition and conceptualization. This is because it means different things to different people. Many anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists have given their views in regards to what actually constitutes culture and what does not. Even though various authors usually have a different definition of the concept, most of them seem to agree that culture is generally defined as the people’s way of life. However, the concept is best understood by looking at it from three levels, namely the universal, the subgroup and the individual level. Many authors have, however, presented the concept as a homogenous entity, giving the impression that people who share culture usually have similar personality traits and attributes. For instance, Geert Hofstede clusters human beings into different cultures, and five attributes stand out among people in different cultures.

However, this position has been challenged especially by structuralists, who argue that even though culture implies shared values, beliefs and norms, these largely manifest themselves as perceptions, but when it comes to the practical behaviour, people may not necessarily match it with their cultures. Other psychologists who hold a different view include Kroeber and Kluckhohn who think that culture should be defined in a broad sense. These psychologists defer from others and have the view that to define culture is very difficult. Major cultural theories include diffusionism, evolution theory of culture, the ecological perspective, historical particularism and structuralism. The various authors who have made their contribution to the debate on culture include Emile Durkheim, Franz Boaz, among others. The discussion is concerned with how cultural differences affect the efficiency of expatriate managers.


This paper is a dissertation based on the topic of culture. The objective of the dissertation is to critically analyse the Arabian culture in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. The research aims at looking at how cultural differences between Saudi Arabia and Singapore shape the working environment at the Mandarin Hotel in Singapore. The main aim of this paper is to analyse the Chinese culture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the effect of the Arabian culture on the Chinese employees at the hotel and effects of these two cultures at everybody at the hotel. Our research will focus on the administration of the hotel and the overall effect of culture at work with a focus on management and the employees. The paper critically analyses cultural differences between the Arabic managers and the Chinese employees at the hotel from the administrative point of view.

The literature review looks into the aspects of Arabian and Chinese culture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The literature review gathers a lot of data on the subject of culture, especially within the Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Globe as a whole. As a result, during the analysis of the two cultures, we have to conduct a study and look at the effect of culture on the employees and the managers at the hotel. The study of the two cultures was undertaken at the hotel, and the findings were compared to the literature review. The results of the study were compared to the theories put forward by psychologists, such as Hofstede with a view of affirming or disagreeing with these theories. When people move from their own culture to another and especially expatriate managers, they usually experience what is referred to as culture shock, which is a feeling of disorientation (White, 1973).

These cultural differences interfere with their ability to discharge their duties effectively. However, with time, they usually get accustomed to the culture and start functioning effectively and efficiently. Cultural differences between two countries also affect the relationship between the employees and the management, and there is a need for the management to establish a cohesive organisational culture, in which all the employees of the organisation feel part and parcel of the organisation irrespective of their cultural backgrounds. Under the literature review, the issue of cultural diversity is explored with the focus on the Mandarin Oriental hotel where two cultures co-exist in managing the hotel. Culture is diverse, and we have to analyse cultural theories and aspects of culture that affect work at different organisations (Schein, 2010).

For instance, the analysis of the Chinese and Arabic cultures in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel shows differences in culture. This is to say that even though culture may impede good relationships at the workplace, the same culture may be modified through learning and motivation to make all the employees of an organisation feel comfortable while discharging their duties. Studying culture has its challenges, as was the case in the Arabian and Chinese culture at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The culture of these two diverse cultures is difficult to study within a short period of time. Therefore, we rely on a literature review on the two cultures to come up with conclusions or understanding of the two cultures (Vance, 2011). In this assignment, the literature review of the project looks into the challenges and cultural differences between the Arabic and Chinese cultures.

Basically, the research relied on information obtained by interviewing the Arabian managers at the mandarin oriental hotel in Singapore. The interviews were conducted between the Chinese employees and Arabian managers at closed sessions that Information was also obtained about the cultural differences between the two countries. The use of focus groups was useful in getting information concerning the two cultures. The employees and heads of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel were grouped into small groups and undertaken through various exercises to study their cultures. This information was based on Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions (Vance, 2011).

The other chapter is about the findings and analysis of the information about the impact of cultural differences on the efficiency of Arabian managers in Singapore. From the findings and conclusions, we learnt that culture could be learned as experienced between the Chinese and Arabian people in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The last chapter is a conclusion, which sums up the paper by citing the major arguments. The conclusions of the study were used in drawing up recommendations that were captured in the literature review. Also included are recommendations on how expatriate managers can overcome culture shock and the challenges of managing a culturally diverse workforce (William, 2010). The paper uses various academic resources including books, journal publications and information obtained from various websites. The paper concludes that there is a need for expatriate managers to be equipped with training on cultural diversity for them to get knowledge of what they should expect from their new places of work.

Aims of the Research

The main aim of this research project was to specifically analyze the effect of cultural differences between the Arabic managers and the Chinese workers at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. The study will be limited to workers and management affiliated to the hotel, and it will not involve hotel guests.


The objectives of the research include:

  1. Analyse Chinese culture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel
  2. Analyse Arabic culture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel
  3. Analyse the effect of the two cultures on the hotel administration policy
  4. Analyse the two cultures and compare the results with theories advanced on culture.

Literature Review

Several theories have been advanced in the study of culture from different perspectives and locations of the world. The term culture refers to the ability to cherish, and thus culture comprises of things that we can cherish. Our everyday activities describe the actions that we undertake in pursuit of our goals, and this can be described as culture. Several theories have been advanced to explain the differences that exist between different global cultures. Cultural differences have an impact on the way we live and carry out our duties in the society as exemplified by the Arabian managers at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Singapore. One of the prominent researchers in the field of culture is Dr. Geert Hofstede, who defines culture as the interactive and cumulative way of influencing the response to a group to a certain environment. In other words, what Hofstede and many other researchers conclude is that culture is a collection of values, beliefs, customs and attitudes which distinguish a society (Trusted, 2002). However, culture can be learned, shared on international or national levels. Arabians are working in the Mandarin Oriental hotel experience cultural differences that affect their efficiency at the hotel. The review will look at the Chinese culture in comparison to the Arabic culture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Singapore.

Chinese culture is understood to be one of the oldest cultures in the world, and it is heavily influenced by the Buddhist religion. The history of the Chinese culture makes it difficult to analyse due to the long and rich history of its history. The challenge is further worsened by the study of Chinese culture and work ethic. The Chinese culture contains some 70 core cultural values that are easily recognised. The complexity of culture has led many researches to research deep into the field with the aim of coming up with lessons on culture. For instance, Hofstede described culture as the common characteristics that bound certain people to behave in a common way. Chinese culture is influenced by traditional, political and religious factors in their daily life. Past researches suggest that the Chinese have different levels of interaction based on human relations, such as the relationship between friends is built on trust (Newman, 1998). While the relationship between an employee and a boss is built on loyalty and duty.

Arabic culture, on the other hand, is a culture that is heavily influenced by religion and traditions. For instance, most Arabs belong to the Islamic faith, and this helps in guiding the way they behave. Arabs are mostly tolerant of many other cultures in the society due to the misconception that exists in their culture (Nanda, 2011). Most researchers have the view that the Arabic culture has evolved over time, but most Arabs still hold their culture in high esteem.

Cultural Overview

Arabic managers in the Mandarin Oriental hotel face the biggest problem of undertaking their duties since they cannot identify with the Chinese culture. Chinese culture has been identified as one of the unique cultures of the world. Chinese culture is highly affected by political and religious factors. For instance, religions such as Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism affect the way the Chinese behave and interact. Making use of Hofstede value system model, we analyze that the Chinese make use of religion in determining their culture. For instance, values such as filial piety, obedience and submission are strictly adhered to.

The Chinese culture is heavily influenced by socialism, and it is a tradition among the Chinese people to work together. These cultural values might be challenging for Arabian managers working at the hotel to understand. Moreover, the Chinese are more loyal to their kinsmen irrespective of the title or age differences. As a result, the Chinese tend to associate with themselves and are less social most cultures of the world. In some instances, the Chinese might find working with the Arabic managers a little easy since the Arabic, and Chinese culture recognizes the respect for the old, morality and obligation to the family (Steers, 2010). These values were common among the two cultures leading us to question if indeed the Arabic managers could learn and cope with the Chinese culture and work ethic at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

The difference in culture between the Arabic and Chinese people is evident through their diverse religions, social orientation and political structures. The Chinese practice different religions based on their original orientations. For instance, the main religions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism are commonly practised. As a result, many psychologists and researchers have described the Chinese as highly disciplined and close-knit in their societies due to religious ties. The Chinese tend to undertake their tasks and activities more privately, unlike the Arabian who prefer sharing their jobs with different people. Arabic culture is heavily influenced by their religious and social beliefs. As a result, many Arabians who are Muslims rely on religious teachings and the strong sense of belonging to a family unit. As a result, Arabic people tend to keep the tenets of the religion sacred, and thus they rarely drink alcohol or participate in unholy activities. Arabian do not believe in profiting from other people misfortunes and do not charge interests to loans or engage in business such as gambling.

The Chinese political system has been entrenched into the Chinese culture, and their belief in socialism has made them be more reliant on themselves than other cultures. Socialism goes well with the religious beliefs of the Chinese, and thus these people rely on religion and culture. Chinese culture relies heavily on the work system, and they work a lot compared to other people in different cultures (Singh, 2005). This is in contrast with the Arabians who prefer being relaxed when they undertake work. Due to the close connection of family kin in both Chinese and Arabic culture, respect is fundamental in both cultures.

The Concept of Culture

The word culture is derived from two Latin words, namely ‘cultura’ meaning tending and ‘cholera’ meaning to cherish. As per these two words, therefore, culture comprises those things that are cherished or are important to us as people. It’s defined as people’s ways of life and of doing things. It is the accepted and patterned ways of behaviour of people. It’s a body of common understanding, which encompasses attitudes, values, and a history shared by a group of people through language, history and music. Culture exists in three levels, namely the societal level, the sub-cultural level and the universal cultural level (Pennsylvania Bureau of General and Academic Education, 1969).

At the societal level, each person will most likely identify him or herself with a given society distinct from others in terms of language, tradition among other aspects. When people speak a certain language like Zulu, Spanish or French, they are referring to shared medium of communication and symbolism which sets each of them apart from the other (White and Dillingham, 1973).

At the subcultural level, people from different backgrounds live together in complex, diverse and multi-ethnic societies but maintain their original cultural traditions. Due to this, there is likelihood of them being part of a particular culture in the new society. That is, the shared cultural practices will reveal their subculture and set them apart from the society. The members of a subculture share a common identity, food, tradition, dialect, history or religious beliefs. As time goes, the external differences between members of a subculture and the dominant culture disappear. Therefore, the subculture ceases to exist except for their name and declaration on a common ancestry (Bentley, Doherty and Doty, 1974).

At the universal level, there is the argument that despite the fact that there are numerous differences among people. There are some learned behaviours shared by all human beings irrespective of where they live in the world. Some of these cross cutting practices include means of production or economic activities, language, the use of age and gender as a criteria for classifying people, the institutions of family and marriage, sexual division of labour or what are referred to as gender roles, rules to regulate sexual behaviour, body ornamentation, rituals and ceremonies (Reeves-Ellington and Yammarino, 2010).

One characteristic of culture is that it is an adaptive mechanism. This means that people are able to survive in different climatic conditions mainly due to the adaptive nature of culture. Adaption is what made people to survive and live in cold or mild regions in the northern hemisphere. Over time, people have been able to invent fire, warm clothing, warm housing, efficient hunting skills, agriculture and commerce. This has made it possible for humans to inhabit areas which were previously not habitable. Culture therefore gives human beings a major selective advantage in competition to survive in various environments than other species and has made man the most distractive large animal of the land. It has made it possible for more human beings to survive, consequently leading to scarcity of resources, immigration, high population and crime (Nanda and Warms, 2011).

Another characteristic of culture is that it is learned. Babies are born with a genetic capacity to learn and absorb the surrounding environment. They are born absence of any culture except for a fact that their genetic inclination makes it possible for them to learn language and other cultural practices. It is for this reasons that babies are said to have no tribe, ethnic group or race but they are socialised to be members of a given ethnic group or race (Weinshall, 1993).

The other attribute of culture is that it is dynamic, meaning that it is constantly changing as new cultural traits are acquired and some old ones are lost. For example, many traditional practices in many African societies like female genital cutting have been lost while other values like education for the girl child have become very popular. Cultural changes in most cases occur due to invention or dissemination from different societies. This diffusion may be direct, that is, when two societies interact through trade or intermarriage. People also adopt some practices of their neighbours, a process called acculturation which is a form of diffusion in which contact is a must. On the other hand, diffusion may be forced, that is when culture is enforced usually by a dominant group to a minority group. Diffusion can be indirect when say for example ethnic group A is influenced by ethnic group B through ethnic group C, or A influenced by C through B. It can also occur through mass media as well as the electronic and print media.

Culture can also be said to be ethnocentric, which is a tendency to look at one’s own culture as superior to others and to apply one’s own cultural values in judging the behaviour and believes of other people. Our behaviour and interactions in our cultures are natural or familiar to us. In fact, we are unaware of our cultures since we are too close to them; this has been explained using the saying that expecting somebody to be aware and sensitive to his own culture is like expecting a fish to be aware that it is wet. For example, most Africans practice male circumcision, but there are some groups that do not do it and they find it very odd. Similarly, most Western industrialised societies find polygamy quit unacceptable while most Africans and Muslims find it very acceptable. Eating dogs in South East Asia shocks many Europeans and Americans who keep the dogs as pets (Geertz, 1973).

Within a given culture, there are usually differentiations and specialisations. A common trend in most societies is that some knowledge/information is restricted to particular social classes or groups of people. There are also gender based specialisations, that is, roles excepted to be performed by boys as opposed to girls, men and not women, and so on. In the traditional society, some people specialised in certain occupations. Men for example specialised in medicine, rainmaking, and as black smiths among others. In modern society, men specialise in law, medicine, and engineering among others while women specialise in social work, sociology and the languages. Also, people specialise in different modes of production (Weinshall, 1993).

Different cultures allow different kinds of behaviour and therefore something permissible in one culture is forbidden in another. Culture regulates how various activities should be carried out, what is expected of men, women, girls, boys, husbands and wives. The rules that govern the behaviour are usually flexible. What different cultures allow as permissible behaviour can lead to clash of cultures.

Cultures do not exist in isolation. In the world today, there are virtually no societies living in isolation due to the integrative role of the state, improvement of infrastructure, and cultural reorganisation which has enhanced unity among different cultures. Many groups previously living in remote areas unaware of what is happening are no longer there. Western Europe and America and lately China have been extremely influential in shaping the cultural levels and economies of the world.

Culture has got several elements. One of them is the material element which includes tangible traits such as tools, utensils, buildings and artefacts used by a group of people. Cultures also have laws which govern social relationships. There are some rules and guidelines on property, structure of government, relationship with families, clans, and religions. Some sentimental elements of culture include social values, norms, and behaviour standards and they are principles in which believes are placed. Cultures approve and disapprove of certain things. For example, the approval of personal cleanliness, kindness, respect of the elderly by the young and the disapproval of things like theft, robbery, killing and incest (Egger, 2008, p. 26).

Culture and management in organisations

As mentioned above, culture influences the values and norms of a people which vary greatly. It is these variations in values which make expatriate managers have difficulties in fitting into new business and organisational environments. Their managerial skills, strategies and organisational styles may be affected by the variations in cultures which may make it difficult for them to match their skills and competencies to diverse cultural backgrounds (Melkman and Trotman, 2005).

Some cultures value hard work while others do not. Others value honesty, equality, fairness and justice in the distribution of resources within the society while others do not adhere to such values. Religious orientations may also affect management for expatriate managers. Some religions have rules governing the days and hours of work. The days and hours of work are not universal and may therefore affect managers posted in new work environments in different countries. There is therefore the need for expatriate managers to be briefed about the cultural aspects of the country in which they are to work.This may be of help to them in anticipating any challenges which may be associated with the national cultures for various countries in the world (Trusted, 2002.pp.65-66).

The culture of a country is greatly reflected in the culture of organisations and communities residing in the country. Organisational culture refers to shared beliefs, values, norms and practices which characterise an organisation. Organisational structure refers to how the organisation is structured, how power and authority to make decisions are distributed along the structure of the organisation, and who should take what direction or instructions from whom and when (Robbins, 1996).

Organisational culture is a very important aspect in any organisation which aspires to realise its vision and mission. This is because organisational culture determines whether the organisation is able to work together towards the realisation of the vision. Organisational culture is closely related to organisational structure in that the manner in which decisions are made by the top management influences the relationship between the top management and the other employees, which consequently determines the culture of the organisation (Brown, 1998).

Just like culture, organisational culture is learned implicitly through interaction within the organisational setting. The employees learn it through imitating others who they find in the organisation. This imitation happens unconsciously due to the human instinct to adopt behaviours which make him or her fit in the social environment which he or she finds himself or herself in. Through communication and interaction with each other, employees may coin some terms or codes which are unique to the organisation (Schein, 2010).

Employees also learn organisational culture through conditioning and reinforcement. For instance, if certain behaviour is rewarded by the management of an organisation, the employees will tend to perfect that behaviour which eventually becomes part of their culture. Likewise, if certain behaviour is negatively sanctioned by the management, then the employees will tend to avoid it, thus becoming one of the don’ts in the organisation (Vance and Paik, 2011).

A strong organisational culture is found in organisations in which the employees are committed to their work and discharge their duties with little or no supervision while a weak organisational culture is found in organisations in which the employees have little commitment to their duties and are closely supervised so as to discharge their duties effectively (Brown, 1998).

There are various models of organisational culture. One such model is the power culture which is characterised by centralisation of power to some few people within the organisation. This person(s) is usually very influential in the organisation and therefore everybody else tends to foster a good relationship with the person(s). In this culture, employees are motivated to the degrees into which they emulate that central person(s). In this type of culture, decisions are made easily because there are no many hierarchical positions in the structure of the organisation (Gordon, DiTornaso and Farris, 1991.pp.18-23).

There is also role culture, which is characterised by doing things as per ones position, meaning that an employee only cares for what is of concern to him or her or what lies under his or her docket. This culture is also characterised by rigidity in decision making because of the bureaucratic nature of the organisational structure which leads to inefficiency (Fey and Denison, 2003.pp.686-687).

Task culture is characterised by the formation of groups which are composed of people with some expertise or knowledge to perform some specific tasks. In this type of culture therefore, group work is very important and authority as well as supervision play little or no role because the teams are trusted by the management with their tasks (Murray, et al, 2006. pp.45-69).

Lastly, there is person’s culture which is characterised by a feeling of superiority among the employees, who think that they are very valuable to the organisation. In such a culture, unity and cooperation among the employees may be rare because each employee thinks that he or she is the best and therefore not ready to share what he or she knows with others without extra remuneration by the organisation for the same (Murray, et al, 2006. pp.45-69).

Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is a variety of human cultures or societies which live in different parts of the world. It can also refer to the static representation of several cultures in a place and at a particular time, which must be interacting in carefully selected patterns. Cultural diversity is characterised by the minimisation of differences and inequalities as possible and the maximisation of sameness and equality as much as possible. Due to globalisation, today’s society is becoming more culturally diverse day by day, meaning that we are moving towards sameness each day and moving away from differences as time moves on (Chrysanthopoulos, 2010).

There are various authors who have written on cultural variations between different nations of the world. Examples include Dr. Geert Hosftede and Fon Trompenaars. In his research on the influence of culture on values in the workplace, Dr. Geert Hofstede came up with five dimensions of differentiating cultures for different countries. For each country, he analysed and gave a report on five dimensions of cultural differentiation. He also gave the average rankings for all the dimensions of cultural differentiations. Individualism vs. collectivism, power distance index and masculinity were some of the dimensions covered and discussed by Dr. Hofstede.

On his part, Fon Trompenaars came up with seven dimensions outlining how people interact and what drives their interactions. These dimensions include universalism contrasted with particularism, neutral contrasted with affective relationships, individualism contrasted with collectivism, specific contrasted with diffuse relationships, achievement contrasted with ascription, and time orientation (Gullestrup, 2006, pp.43-44).

The cultural differences between people of different countries are sometimes extended to the work environment, especially in regard to how different people perceive work in terms of its importance to them and how to balance or separate work and personal lives. While citizens of some countries like the United States find it very easy to separate work with personal lives and emotions, others like the French find it very hard to do so (Steers, Sánchez-Runde and Nardon, 2010).

Theories of Culture

In a bid to explain culture, anthropologists, sociologist as well as psychologists use theories as guides in developing their arguments about culture. There are many theoretical models of culture depending on the aspect of culture being explained or investigated. This means that a particular theory may be applicable in explaining or understanding aspect A of culture but inapplicable in explaining or understanding aspect B of culture (Usoro and Kuofie, 2006, pp.16-25). Some of the theoretical models which have been widely used in explaining cultures for different countries are the Hofstedes’ cultural dimensions, which were coined by the renowned anthropologists cum psychologists Dr. Geert Hofstede. He defined culture as ‘a collective programming of the mind which distinguishes one group from another’ (Jones, 2007). In his research, he came up with five dimensions of differentiating cultures for different countries which I have already outlined above (Itim International, n.d.).

According to Hofstede, the cultural dimensions are used in analyzing culture in different situations. For instance, power distance is a factor that is utilized in communication when influence is used in making other make decision or influence others. The power distance index (PDI) is mainly used in balancing equality among societies and cultures. A high PDI score is an indication of inequity in wealth and power distribution. Moreover, these inequalities are validated by the society. On the other hand, a low PDI signifies that there are minimal inequalities in distribution of power and wealth within a society. It also means that the citizens do not embrace inequality but fight for equality (Singh, 2005.pp.170-171). Another factor explained by Hofstede is individualism that looks into individual successes and its impact on the society. Among the Chinese interpersonal relationships are strong and the same is replicated among the Arabs. Other factors that are looked include masculinity which looks at the extent to which gender differences affect the distribution and control of power and wealth among citizens of a country.

It also looks at the extent to which men embrace feminine roles and values as well as how the women embrace masculine roles and values. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) has measures that high UAI ranking means that the country is guided by clear rules and laws, which are clearly written down and known to everyone, and therefore does not tolerate any ambiguous situation, unclear or uncertain issue. A low ranking in UAI means that the country is open to different opinions, which may not be rules, regulations or laws governing that country. Long Term Orientation (LTO) is another factor that looks at tradition, culture and innovation at country or global level. A low LTO means that the country does not embrace traditional values which may impede change. This means that the country is open to new ideas and innovations which may make business to thrive even for an outsider (Hofstede and Minkov, 2010). The table below gives the rank of two countries from which the subjects of the study will look into: (Saudi Arabia and Singapore).

Cultural Dimension Saudi Arabia Singapore World’s Average
Power Distance Index (PDI ) 80% 70% 56.6%
Individualism(IDV) 38% 15% 64%
Masculinity(MAS) 52% 42% 51%
Uncertainty Avoidance Index(UAI) 68% 3% 65%
Long Term Orientation (LTO) 36% 42% 48%


The process of studying the Arabian culture in the Mandarin Oriental hotel would look into several factors that are necessary and important in studying cultural difference between Arabians and the Chinese. In the process of studying the impediments to the successful implementation of duties by the Arabians we made use of qualitative and quantitative research methods. The methodology focussed making use of qualitative research methods since we were interested in understanding cultural differences (Nanda, 2011). Some of the procedures used in understanding cultural differences were done through interviews, focus groups and through observations. Several interviews were conducted between the Chinese employees and their Arabic managerial counterparts. The interviews were designed to understand the cultural problems encountered in the process of undertaking work duties. The interviews were conducted outside the workplace since this would give an opportunity for the Arabian and Chinese workers to be at ease in answering the questions. Interviews are good in getting one on one personal touch and information on issues that are personal (Melkman, 2005). The modes of interviews were conducted at the hotel during working hours whereby the Chinese employees were interviewed separately from the Arabian managers. The interviews focussed on the aspects of culture which people from the two cultures felt were difficult to understand.

Another methodology that was deployed in getting information concerning cultural challenges from the participants was use of questionnaires. Questionnaires were designed with many questions some of which were open ended questions that could get straight forward questions from the participants in this search. Focus groups were used in the study f the two cultures in this project. The groups were organised in that employees and the Arabic managers were selected and grouped into groups. The group consisted of Arabic managers and Chinese employees who were in turn questioned on their views of culture. The feedback obtained from the group was crucial in ensuring that challenges and opportunities of culture were learned from the group easily. Through the use of qualitative methods of research we could gauge the responses of the participants and compare it with the theories put forward by many researchers such as Hofstede (Murray, 2006). Qualitative research enables us to get information on the connection between Chinese and Arabic culture.

Limitations of the Methodology

The study conducted on the Chinese culture and its effect on the Arabian managers at the Mandarin Oriental hotel faced a number of challenges. For instance, qualitative methods such as questionnaires administered to the participant could not be entirely relied upon. This is because it is difficult to ascertain the truth when people used questionnaires to answer the questions that were provided. Making use of questionnaires people can easily lie when they answer questions listed in a questionnaire. Moreover, there is the problem of administering questionnaires to a large number of people is difficult. The task is even made difficult when the person answering the questionnaire does not understand the questions being asked. Moreover, the task assessing questionnaires is quite tedious and this makes questionnaires to be suited for small group of people in the process of research (Neuliep, 2006).

Making use of interviews was quite appropriate for the study that we were undertaking. However, the process of interviewing is quite time consuming and difficult to administer especially during working hours. Moreover, it was difficult to get straight or candid answers from some of the employees working in the hotel. It some cases we encountered the problem of uncooperative interviewees who were not ready or prepared to be interviewed (Reeves-Ellington, 2010). This makes it difficult to understand and study cultural differences that exist between the Arabic managers and the Chinese employees. The desired information within an interview was sometimes lost especially when the interviewers and the interviewees drifted away from the interview. As a result, we had to prepare questions to ask in the interview before hand and ensure that the questions would be answered in the best appropriate manner. The biggest challenge in getting results from the analysis of cultural differences was getting observations from the hotel. The methodology of observation is good in gauging the behaviour and difficulties encountered in the process of socialising (Dowling, 2008). The difficulty of observing people is that in this case it is difficult to understand the emotions and adjustment difficulties due to culture.

Findings and Analysis

From the research conducted on the cultural difference between the Arabic and the Chinese we were able to draw some conclusions. Using the qualitative methods such as questionnaires and interviews we came up with the following findings. The Arabian managers found it difficult working and understanding the work ethic of the Chinese workers. This is because the Chinese tend to work a lot and they rarely communicated and interact with people from different cultures. As a result, the management of the Mandarin Oriental hotel might have a problem in ensuring that certain instructions are adhered to since the communication with the Chinese is difficult. Moreover the family connection and position in the family among the Chinese culture is very important. As a result, the Chinese have respect and feeling towards old people in the society (Fey, 2003).

instance, handshake and the bowing culture for old people is highly respected. This cultural practice might bring problems to the Arabian managers especially young managers since they will find it difficult to order or compel older Chinese workers to undertake certain duties. Using the above methodologies, we made use of observations, interviews and questionnaires to study the cultural difference displayed by during the working conditions for the Arabic managers (Egger, 2008). Interviews and questionnaires were important in getting the correct response concerning the participants in the research study. Observations were also important in gauging the working relations between the Arabic managers and the Chinese employees. It was only through the use of this study that we came to note the small differences that existed between the Arabic and Chinese people at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Cultural Differences Impact & Effects

For instance, within the Confucian culture and Chinese culture women play a huge role in the society and thus, the Arabic managers might find it difficult working with women at administrative posts within the hotel. While working at the hotel entails undertaking a lot of job, sometimes it is necessary to be accountable for one’s actions. But within the Chinese culture people usually work and share jobs collectively and therefore it would be difficult to pursue individualism within a Chinese based organisation such as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The main finding found out that the cultural differences that existed would impede the work of the Arabian managers (Holden, 2002). According to Arabian culture women have little role in the society and thus women contribute minimally and they have little role according to the Arabic culture. In contrast, the Chinese culture recognizes the vital role and position women occupy in the society. As a result, the women working at the Mandarin Oriental hotel especially those at the managerial or administrative position will find it difficult working with the Arabian managers.

While at the same time the Arabic managers had a hard time in adjusting to the work ethic of the Chinese person working at the hotel. The major impact was that that the Arabic managers were trying hard to learn the Chinese culture. This is better embodied by the thoughts of two researchers by the names of Terpstra and David who said that culture can be learned. This is because the according to the Arabic culture patience and understanding is called upon by the Islamic faith. Moreover, the Arabic managers were not only interacting with the hotel staff but also other people outside the hotel. Policy changes were also conducted at the hotel to cope with the beliefs and work of the Arabic managers (Hofstede, 2010). For instance, the Arabic leanings towards religion disallow them from drinking alcohol and therefore the Arabic managers might ban sell of alcohol in the hotel. Another major effect that could happen to the hotel would be the change the roles that women undertake at the hotel. For instance, the Arabic managers might switch the women to traditional roles such as working in the kitchen or the hotel accommodation sections.

Conclusions and Recommendations


Throughout the discussion, it has emerged that culture is a very abstract and wide concept. The concept usually has different meaning to different people. However, what is agreeable is that culture constitutes the way of life a given people. Culture exists at three major levels namely the societal, the subcultural and the universal levels. It is learned and passed on from generation to the other though language and other mediums. Culture is also heterogenic, meaning that it may be composed of various aspects of different cultures. It is also dynamic, meaning that it keeps on changing from time to time due to globalisation and other issues like immigration and shifting interests. From our study we get to see the differences that exist between the Arabic managers and the Chinese workers at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

From the study of the two cultures in the Mandarin Oriental hotel we get to see the differences in culture will affect work at the hotel. From the study of the two cultures we come to the conclusion that culture is diverse but it can be learned and transmitted across different people. For instance, the work ethic of the Chinese is quite rigorous but the Arabic managers can adjust to this common Chinese culture. Moreover, the similarity in the Arabic and the Chinese cultures as it concerns the family unit makes adaptations between people in these cultures quite easy. Communication is important in the process of understanding culture across the board in the world. The differences in the two cultures make the management have difficulties in effectively discharging their duties as managers. The biggest challenge for Arabian managers in Singapore was language barrier, but the managers usually build rapport with the employees and got accustomed to the culture.

As a result, we witness that language barrier is a problem to fostering learning culture. Therefore, a recommendation would be to let the Arabic managers to learn the Chinese/Mandarin language so that they could communicate effectively with the Chinese employees. From the results of the research we come to the conclusion that culture is not homogenous since there are similarities between different cultures and the global changes in communication has bridged the cultural differences. One of the famous models of explaining culture is that of Dr. Geert Hofstede, who presented a five dimensional model of studying and understanding cultures of various countries of the world. Those dimensions have however been criticised especially for their assumptions that cultures of countries are homogenous and this was affirmed by the research study.


Several recommendations can be passed from the study of culture as witnessed by the research study undertaken in this research. One of the strategies which can be used to manage a culturally diverse workforce is the creation of awareness on cultural diversity within the workforce. This makes the employees embrace the diversity and see it as strength rather than a weakness for the organisation which in turn increases their productivity (Deresky, 2002). The best strategy in managing work with people of different culture is to come up with an effective way of communicating with each other. As a result, a big hotel such as the Mandarin Oriental hotel is to list one international language such as English to be used in the hotel. One of the best strategies to deploy in a multi-cultural work environment is to integrate the management of the organisation in the employee and management level with people from the different cultures. For instance, in the Mandarin Oriental hotel the management should be made up of Arabic and Chinese managers so that they could teach and learn from one another. This would enable the fostering of cultural understanding and thus help in bridging the gap that exists due to cultural differences.

The other strategy is to do a regular assessment of the environment in which the employees are working in with special attention being given to diversity issues. This assessment should be aimed at identifying any difficulties encountered by employees as they intact with others who have different beliefs, faiths, values and morals. The managers should ensure that they make the necessary changes so that the employees can work in a free and friendly atmosphere (Dowling and Welch, 2008). Managers should also make a point of interacting freely with employees from various cultures with a view of learning and understanding those cultures in terms of the similarities and differences. They should in turn see how they can transform the similarities or differences in cultural backgrounds of the employees to benefits for the organisation without making any section of the workforce feeling marginalised (Holden, 2002). Lastly, the managers should be regularly trained on various cultures of the nations of the world. This should be aimed at equipping them with a general overview of various cultures for various nations so as to be in a good position to manage a culturally diverse workforce. They should more specifically be trained on the five dimensions of cultural differentiations for various countries as studied by the renowned psychologists Dr, Geert Hofstede mentioned above (Rivera-Vazquez, 2010, p.26).


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