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Managing business across other cultures (Benelux)

Questions:

1. Give three major (unique) features you should consider carefully before engaging in doing business with Belgians

2. Give three major (unique) features you should consider carefully before engaging in doing business with Dutchmen

3. Give three major (unique) features you should consider carefully before engaging in doing business with Luxembourgers

4. Give three major (unique) features you should consider carefully before engaging in doing business with Your Countrymen. Please do not forget to mention your nationality (Malaysian)

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MANAGING ACROSS CULTURES - THE BENELUX

WORKING WITH OTHER CULTURES

It is amazing how different people in other cultures behave. For those who must work in international business, understanding these differences is essential. We tend to believe that 'deep inside' all people are the same. Human instinct tells us that - but in reality we are not all the same. Therefore, when we go into another country to make decisions based on how we operate in our own home country - the chances are we'll make some very bad decisions.

Geert Hofstede's research gives insights into other cultures so that we can be more effective when interacting with people in other countries. If understood and applied properly, this information should reduce our level of frustration, anxiety, and concern about working with other countries.

One example of cultural differences in business is between the Middle Eastern countries and the Western countries, especially the United States. When negotiating in Western countries, the objective is to work toward a target of mutual understanding and agreement; 'shaking-hands' when that agreement is reached is a cultural signal of the end of negotiations; then the business of 'working together' starts. In Middle Eastern countries much negotiation takes place leading into the 'agreement', signified by shaking hands. However, the deal is not complete in the Middle Eastern culture. In fact, it is a cultural sign that 'serious' negotiations are just beginning. This is just one example why it is critical to understand other cultures you may be doing business with - whether on a vacation in a foreign country, or negotiating a multi-million dollar deal for your company.

What are Hofstede's five Cultural Dimensions?

? Power Distance Index (PDI) - focuses on the degree of equality, or inequality, between people in the country's society. A High Power Distance ranking indicates that inequalities of power and wealth have been allowed to grow within the society. These societies are more likely to follow a caste system that does not allow significant upward mobility of its citizens. A Low Power Distance ranking indicates the society de-emphasizes the differences between citizen's power and wealth. In these societies equality and opportunity for everyone is stressed.
? Individualism (IDV) - focuses on the degree the society reinforces individual or collective achievement and interpersonal relationships. A High Individualism ranking indicates that individuality and individual rights are paramount within the society. Individuals in these societies may tend to form a larger number of looser relationships. A Low Individualism ranking typifies societies of a more collectivist nature with close ties between individuals. These cultures reinforce extended families and collectives where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group.
? Masculinity (MAS) - focuses on the degree the society reinforces, or does not reinforce, the traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power. A High Masculinity ranking indicates the country experiences a high degree of gender differentiation. In these cultures, males dominate a significant portion of the society and power structure, with females being controlled by male domination. A Low Masculinity ranking indicates the country has a low level of differentiation and discrimination between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of the society.
? Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) - focuses on the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within the society - i.e. unstructured situations. A High Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has a low tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. This creates a rule-oriented society that institutes laws, rules, regulations, and controls in order to reduce the amount of uncertainty. A Low Uncertainty Avoidance ranking indicates the country has less concern about ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance for a variety of opinions. This is reflected in a society that is less rule-oriented, more readily accepts change, and takes more and greater risks.
? Long Term Orientation (LTO) - focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace long-term devotion to traditional, forward thinking values. High Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country prescribes to the values of long-term commitments and respect for tradition. This is thought to support a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work. However, business may take longer to develop in this society, particularly for an "outsider". A Low Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country does not reinforce the concept of long-term, traditional orientation. In this culture, change can occur more rapidly as long-term traditions and commitments do not become impediments to change.

BELGIUM

The Hofstede Analysis for Belgium has a very high Uncertainty Avoidance Index. This index indicates that Belgium has a low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As of result of this high UAI characteristic, the Belgium society does not readily accept change and is very risk.

Belgium is a highly developed and densely populated country centrally located at the "heart" of Europe. Belgium is a highly industrialized country with an educated and productive workforce and is committed to the principles of free enterprise and free trade. It is one of the founding members of the European Union, and Brussels, its capital, is also the capital of Europe. The standard of living in Belgium is among the highest in the world. It boasts of excellent food, housing, health-care, education and infrastructure, as well as high productivity and low poverty. It is also a significant economic partner to the U.S. with bilateral trade amount to almost $30 billion in 2004. Belgium has a civil law system influenced by English constitutional theory and judicial review of legislative acts. The judicial system consists of a Supreme Court of Justice. Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch.

? Natural Hazards - flooding is a threat along rivers and in areas of reclaimed coastal land, protected from the sea by concrete dikes
? Environmental Issues - the environment is exposed to intense pressures from human activities: urbanization, dense transportation network, industry, extensive animal breeding and crop cultivation; air and water pollution also have repercussions of neighboring countries
? Economy - This modern, private-enterprise economy has capitalized on its central geographic location, highly developed transport network, and diversified industrial and commercial base. Industry is concentrated mainly in the populous Flemish area in the north. With few natural resources, Belgium must import substantial quantities of raw materials and export a large volume of manufactures, making its economy unusually dependent on the state of world markets. Roughly three-quarters of its trade is with other EU countries. Public debt is nearly 100% of GDP. On the positive side, the government has succeeded in balancing its budget, and income distribution is relatively equal. Belgium began circulating the euro currency in January 2002. Economic growth in 2001-03 dropped sharply because of the global economic slowdown, with moderate recovery in 2004-05.

? Industries - engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum
? Communications - highly developed, technologically advanced, and completely automated domestic and international telephone and telegraph facilities

Meeting and Greeting Protocol

1. Belgians shake hands when meetings, although among friends the 'air kiss' is traded times on alternate cheeks. Wait for the Belgian to initiate the move of an 'air kiss'.
2. Three languages are used in Belgium - German, French and Flemish. First names are only usually used between friends. Use Mr., Mrs. or Ms. For the German and Flemish, use Monsieur, Madame or Madamoiselle for the French.
3. Business cards are usually exchanged upon meeting. Try to have cards translated in to the target language of your counterpart.

Business Meetings Protocol

1. To book an appointment in Belgium, ...

Solution Summary

The 5300 word cited solution presents a careful analysis by country.

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