As business organizations become increasingly global in their structure and marketing, they face communication
problems resulting from cultural misunderstandings.
YOUR TASK. Based on what you have learned in this chapter, describe several broad principles that could be applied in helping individuals involved understand what went wrong in the following events.
What suggestions could you make for remedying problems?
Alert Driving, a firm that provides online driving training courses to companies with vehicle fleets, expanded into more than 20 countries before realizing that its product had cultural flaws. In Japan its product was poorly translated and failed to address geographic nuances, but the company's Japanese customers were slow to voice dissatisfaction. As a result, the company had to spend about $1 million to revamp its product line after it was already in the market. What cultural trait caused the delay in negative feedback?
The owners of the British food company Sharwood spent millions of dollars launching a new curry sauce called Bundh. The firm was immediately deluged with calls from Punjabi speakers who said the new product sounded like their word for "backside." How important is it for companies to test product names?
During a festive dinner for a delegation from Singapore visiting the government of the Czech Republic, the conversation turned to the tasty main course they were eating. One of the Czech hosts explained to the inquiring foreign guests that they were enjoying a Czech specialty, rabbit, known for its light white meat. The Singaporeans' faces mirrored shock, embarrassment, and irritation. As inconspicuously as possible, they put down their silverware. Only later did the Czech delegation learn that rabbit is a pet in Singapore much like the house cat in European or North American households.
The employees of a large U.S. pharmaceutical firm became angry over the e-mail messages they received from the firm's employees in Spain. The messages weren't offensive. Generally, these routine messages just explained ongoing projects. What riled the Americans was this: every Spanish message was copied to the hierarchy within its division. The Americans could not understand why e-mail messages had to be sent to people who had little or nothing to do with the issues being discussed. However, this was accepted practice in Spain.
As China moves from a planned to a market economy, professionals suffer the same signs of job stress experienced in Western countries. Multinational companies have long offered counseling to their expatriate managers. Locals, however, frowned on any form of psychological therapy. When China's largest bank hired Chestnut Global Partners to offer employee counseling services, Chestnut learned immediately that it could not talk about such issues as conflict management. Instead, Chestnut stressed workplace harmony. Chestnut also found that Chinese workers refused one-on-one counseling. They preferred group sessions or online counseling.
What cultural elements were at work here?