CROSS-CULTURAL MANAGEMENT 7
Accordingto Edward Taylor’s definition, culture is a complex way of livingthat involves a community knowledge, beliefs, moral values, andcustoms and is passed from one generation to another. Geertz gaveanother definition of culture and defined it as a historicallytransmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols and systems ofinherited conceptions. People use symbolic forms to communicate anddevelop their skills and knowledge, as well as their attitude towardslife. One can learn culture through direct instruction (conscious) orthrough observation (unconscious) by spending some time with themembers of that particular community. On the other hand,cross-cultural is a situation whereby one has to deal with twocultures. In most case, there is misunderstanding between twocultures. Cross-cultural is a vital issue especially in aninternational business whereby the success of the business depends onthe good interaction and understanding of different employees fromdifferent cultural background. People from different companies indifferent nations have different ideas, views, language, anddifferent ways of conducting their business. The case study, “AnAmerican Gaucho in Argentina” by Charles A. Rarick is a goodexample to use while illustrating cross-cultural differences inbusiness.
Fromthe case study, Peter Fuller is an American businessperson, and he isan executive with Great Plains Foods Company in Iowa (Rarick, 2006).Great Plains Foods, Inc. is a company that manufactures and marketsconsumer branded meat products. Peter traveled from his country, Iowato Buenos Aires to persuade Comidas Gaucho, an Argentine beefprocessor, to form a business partnership. Although the partnershipappears to bring benefits to both companies, Peter’s trip is notsuccessful due to cross-cultural indifferences. Difficulties emergedduring the trip that made Peter to reconsider the potentialrelationship and his trip fruitless.
Dresscodes in different cultures differ a lot. Some of the clothing wornby certain communities during some seasons, other communities wearsthem in other seasons. For instance, when Peter arrived at theairport, he was surprised to see people wearing coats. He concludedthey are doing so because it was on July and they were SouthAmericans. On the other hand, Peter was wearing a short-shelved knitshirt that did not protect him from the cold weather (Rarick, 2006).When he left Miami, the weather was warm but he realized it was coldin Argentine. When Jorge Antonio Martinez, a Comidas Gauchorepresentative came to pick Peter at the airport, he also noticed adifference in his outfit. He even asked Peter about the beach inMiami. According to Martinez, Peter’s outfits corresponded to beachoutfits in Argentine. Much later, when Peter met with Juan Garcia, henoted a difference with their dress codes. Garcia was handsomelydressed with a tailored suit, silk tie and a cuff, and it waspossible for a person to detect he was the company CEO. This was onthe contrary to what Peter who had worn a sport coat and did not havea tie. In South America, people do not have to wear official dresscode in business meeting unlike in the Argentine.
Duringhis first day in Argentine, Peter’s business associates invited himfor a night out in their town. Peter enjoyed the tango and the greatmusic though he would not understand the meaning of the songs. Thisis because the songs were in a different language that he did notunderstand. For instance, a particular song kept ringing his head “miNoche Triete”which his business associate translated it as MySad Night.Accordingto Rarick (2006), Peter was not sure if that the exact meaning of thesong, but he just believed them. At other instance, Garcia and hisworkmate used Spanish language that Peter did understand. Forinstance, Garcia secretary would communicate to Garcia using Spanishlanguage.
Further,there were cultural differences on how these two communitiesconducted themselves. Jorge spent most of his time drinking some wineand smoking some cigarette. He also criticized Peter by referring himas a non-smoker and saying, “North Americans who think they canlive forever” because they do not smoke nor take alcohol (Rarick,2006). In United States, it is a rude behavior for a person to smokein public before seeking permission. On the contrary, it is normalfor a person in Argentine to smoke anytime anywhere. Jorge does notbuy Peter’s idea, and he is thankful that he was not born in theUnited States hence, he does not have to abide to those rules. Thisalso contributes to the failure of Peter’s trip.
InArgentina, it is normal for people to be late for meeting unlike inAmerica. Peter was time conscious when planning to attend anymeeting. For instance, he had an appointment with Garcia at 10.30 Amin his office. Unfortunately, by 10.15 Am Jorge had not picked himfrom the hotel. He called Jorge who explained that he was late butwould arrive in about ten minutes. However, Jorge arrives thirtyminutes later and he does not show any worries of being late. Hecomfort Peter by telling him that everything will be fine. Rarick(2006) urges that it is not norm for Peter to be late for anymeeting. They arrive in the office at 11.00 Am, but to Peter’ssurprise, Mr. Garcia was also late. Peter does not understand how theArgentines are always late.
InMiami, it is common for people to give out gifts. Peter had carriedsome of the gifts (premium steak knives) that his company gives toits customers to give to Comidas Company executives together withtheir representatives. During one evening, he gives one gift to Jorgewho is thankful for it. At the office, Peter also gift Garcia thegift of steak knives as they discussed business issues. However,there is no a time in the case study an Argentine is found giving agift.
Inone morning, Peter woke up very early and prepared how he wouldconvince Comidas executives to enter into partnership with GreatPlains Foods Inc. He laid down all the benefits and responsibilitiesof each company after the partnership. The Comidas would provide themeat products and would be in charge of the expansion of the SouthAmerican market. On the other hand, the Great Plain Company would beresponsible to provide and maintain the brand name for the companyand market its products (Rarick, 2006). Unfortunately, when Peter metwith Garcia, he realized he was fluent in English than him. Inaddition, Peter would not understand some terms that Garcia used. Forinstance, while in the office Garcia asked Peter if wanted some mate.Unfortunately, he did not understand the meaning of the word matehence, he declined the offer. At last, Garcia did not buy Peter’sidea just because he was an American and he handed him to EduardoGuillermo, the vice president of the company.
Towardthe end of Peter’s visit, Jorge and Eduardo invite Peter for anevening out where they promise to discuss his proposal. They filledthe table with great food and wine, and the room was full of sweetsongs. Peter enjoyed their company and got a good opportunity todiscuss again his proposal with them. Jorge and Eduardo pretended tobuy the proposal idea, but they suddenly stop their advice and theirassessments. Peter sensed their reactions and he questions Eduardowhy he does not accept the proposal. In his response, Eduardocompliments the idea, but he urges that it would be good to firstvisit the Great Plains in Iowa. However, Peter agrees with him thoughthere was a clear evidence that he does not like the proposal(Rarick, 2006). From this incidence, several communicative patternsshow cross-cultural differences between these two nations. Forinstance, the Americans have a business indivisibility and directnesswhile dealing with business matters while the Argentines areindirectness to express their stand. Eduardo cannot face Peter totell him that he does not like the proposal. Instead, he startedgiving excuses as to why he would not sign a partnership agreement atthat particular moment. This incidence also shows the bluntness thatexists in the Argentine culture.
Thecase study gives enough evidence that different people have differentpractices, beliefs, and can never be universal. Culture is a verysignificant aspect in person because it helps one to relate well withothers and it enhance understanding between people from the samecommunity. It is a vital in a community because its enable people toconduct their daily activities without negotiation the meaning oftheir actions every moment. The cross-cultural can enhance success orfailure of a business agreement.
RarickC.A. (2006). AnAmerican Gaucho in Argentina.Science Electronic Publishing.