How to Understand Intercultural Analysis

Intercultural analysis could be a very confusing field to understand with many different points of view, objectives and concepts. The origins of intercultural analysis in the world of colonialism in the 19th century were strongly based on the concept of cultural evolution which stated that all societies progress through an identical series of different stages of evolution.

The origin of the word culture comes from the Latin verb colere = “tender, keep, cultivate, until”. This concept is a human construction rather than a product of nature. The use of the English word in the sense of “cultivation through education” is first recorded in 1510. The use of the word to mean “the intellectual side of civilization” is from 1805; that of “collective customs and achievements of a people” is from 1867. The term Culture Shock was first used in 1940.

How do we define culture?

There are literally hundreds of different definitions as the writers have attempted to provide the all-encompassing definition.

Culture consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies, and symbols. It has played a crucial role in human evolution, allowing humans to adapt the environment to their own ends rather than relying exclusively on natural selection for adaptive success. Every human society has its own particular culture or sociocultural system. (Adapted from source: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

In general, culture can be seen as consisting of three elements:

  • Values – Values ​​are ideas that say what in life is considered important.
  • Norms – Norms consist of expectations of how people should behave in different situations.
  • Artifacts – Things or material culture: reflects the values ​​and norms of culture, but is tangible and man-made.


Origins and evolution of intercultural analysis

The first cross-cultural analyzes carried out in the West were carried out by anthropologists such as Edward Burnett Tylor and Lewis H Morgan in the 19th century. Anthropology and Social Anthropology have come a long way from belief in a gradual escalation from the stages of lower savagery to civilization personified by Victorian England. Today, the concept of ” culture ” is in part a reaction against earlier Western concepts, and anthropologists argue that culture is “human nature” and that all people have the ability to classify experiences, symbolically encode classifications, and communicate such abstractions. to others.

Typically anthropologists and social scientists tend to study people and human behavior among exotic tribes and cultures living in remote locations rather than doing fieldwork among white-collar literate adults in modern cities. Advances in communication and technology and socio-political changes began to transform the modern workplace, however, there were no research-based guidelines to help people interact with other people from other cultures. To address this gap, the discipline of intercultural analysis or intercultural communication emerged. The main theories of intercultural communication come from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on differences in values ​​between cultures. Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars, Shalom Schwartz and Clifford Geertz are some of the main contributors in this field.

How the social sciences study and analyze culture

Cultural anthropologists focus on symbolic culture, while archaeologists focus on tangible and material culture. Sociobiologists study instinctive behavior by trying to explain the similarities, rather than the differences, between cultures. They believe that human behavior cannot be satisfactorily explained by ‘ cultural’, ‘environmental’ or ‘ethnic ‘ factors . Some sociobiologists try to understand the many aspects of culture in light of the meme concept first introduced by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene . Dawkins suggests the existence of cultivation units – memes– roughly analogous to genes in evolutionary biology. Although this view has gained some popularity, other anthropologists generally reject it.

Different types of cross-cultural comparison methods

Today there are many types of cross-cultural comparisons. One method is the comparison of case studies. Controlled comparison between variants of a common lead is another form of comparison. Typically, anthropologists and other social sciences favor the third type called cross-cultural studies, which uses field data from many societies to examine the scope of human behavior and to test hypotheses about human behavior and culture.

Controlled comparison examines similar characteristics of a few societies, while cross-cultural studies use a sample large enough that statistical analysis can be done to show relationships or lack of relationships between certain traits in question. The anthropological method of holocultural analysis or global intercultural analysis is designed to test or develop a proposition through statistical analysis of data in a sample of ten or more non-literate societies from three or more geographic regions of the world. In this approach, cultural traits are taken from the context of the entire culture and compared with cultural traits in widely diverse cultures to determine patterns of regularities and differences within the broad base of the study.

Goals of the cross -cultural analysis

Intercultural communication or intercultural communication analyzes how people from different cultures try to communicate. It also tries to produce some guidelines, which help people from different cultures to better communicate with each other.

Culture has an interpretive role for members of a group, who share that particular culture. Although all members of a group or society can share their culture, the expressions of behavior resulting from the culture are largely modified by the personality, education and life experience of individuals. Intercultural analysis aims to take advantage of this utilitarian function of culture as a tool to increase human adaptation and improve communication.

Intercultural management is seen as an international management discipline focused on cultural encounters, which aims to discover tools to manage cultural differences seen as sources of conflict or lack of communication.

How lay people see culture

It is an overwhelming challenge to convey the results of research and fieldwork and discuss cultural issues in diverse contexts such as corporate culture, workplace culture, and intercultural competence, as lay people tend to use the word ‘ culture ‘ to refer to something refined, artistic and exclusive for a certain group of “artists” operating in a separate sphere than ordinary people in the workplace. Some typical allusions to culture:

Culture is the section of the newspaper where plays, dances or reviews of written books are reviewed, etc.

Culture is what parents teach their children and grandparents to teach their grandchildren.

“You have no culture” is what people tell you when you put your feet on the table at lunchtime or spit in front of the guests.

“They just have a different culture,” people say about those whose behavior they don’t understand but have to tolerate.

Different models of intercultural analysis

There are many currently valid cross-cultural analysis models. The ‘ Iceberg ‘ and ‘ Onion ‘ models are widely known. The popular ‘ Iceberg model’ of culture developed by Selfridge and Sokolik, 1975 and WL French and CH Bell in 1979, identifies a visible area consisting of behavior or clothing or symbols and artifacts of some form and a level of values ​​or a level invisible.

Trying to define a phenomenon as complex as culture with only two layers turned out to be a challenge and the ‘ Onion ‘ model emerged . Geert Hofstede (1991) proposed a set of four layers, each of which includes the lower level or is a result of the lower level. According to this vision, ‘ culture ‘ is like an onion that can be peeled, layer by layer to reveal the content. Hofstede views culture as ” the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes members of one group or category of people from another .”

Intercultural analysis often graphs ‘ dimensions ‘ such as orientation to time, space, communication, competitiveness, power, etc., as complementary pairs of different attributes and cultures are located on a continuum between these.

Hofstede dimensions to distinguish between cultures

The five dimensions that Hofstede uses to distinguish between national cultures are:

  • Power distance that measures the extent to which members of society accept how power is unevenly distributed in that society.
  • Individualism tells how people take care of themselves and their closest relatives only in contrast to Collectivism where people belong to groups (families, clans or organizations) that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
  • The dominant values ​​of Masculinity focus on achievement and the material success is contrasted with those of Femininity that focus on caring for others and quality of life.
  • ncertidty avoidance measures the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity and tries to avoid these situations.
  • Confucian dynamism . This Long Term versus Short Term Orientation measured the promotion of virtues related to the past, that is, respect for tradition, the importance of keeping face and saving.


Trompenaars dimensions to distinguish between cultures

Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997) adopt a culture model similar to a similar onion. However, your model expands the basic level of the basic two-layer model, rather than the external level. In his opinion, culture is made up of basic assumptions at the central level. These “basic assumptions” are somewhat similar to the “values” in the Hofstede model.

Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner use seven dimensions for their culture model:

    • Universalism vs. Particularism (Which is more important: rules or relationships?)
    • Individualism versus communitarianism (Do we function as a group or as an individual?)
    • Neutral versus Emotional (Do we show our emotions or do we keep them under control?)
    • Specific vs. Diffuse (How far do we get involved?)
    • Achievement vs. Ascription (do we have to prove ourselves to win or are we given just because we are part of a structure?)
    • Attitude over time
      • Past / present / future-oriented
      • Sequential time vs. Synchronous time (do we do things one at a time or several things at once?)
    • Internal vs. External Orientation (do we intend to control our environment or cooperate with it?)
by Abdullah Sam
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