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Understanding Global Cultures
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Understanding Global Cultures

 Summer 2020

List of countries of the world -- Wikipedia

language dictionaries and resources

International Development Indicators -- Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Programme

Global Open Data Index

OWL logo, Online Writing Lab, Purdue University.
topics and resources

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Topics and Resources

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  • your own personal experiences
  • people who are from the country
  • professors who teach area courses

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  • explain the pros and cons of the cultural metaphor chosen
  • What's happening this week in ____________?
    • check the online newspapers
  • What are the country's national symbols?
  • historical profile of the country
    • ". . . but only as it reflects cultural mind-sets, or the manner in which its members think, feel, and act; not a detailed history"
  • economic profile of the country
    • total lifestyle: work / leisure / home and time allocations to each of them
    • "organization and perspective on work, such as a society's commitment to the work ethic, superior-subordinate relationships, and so on"
  • demographic profile of the country
  • political profile of the country
  • social structure
    • class structure (if appropriate)
      • social differentiation (if appropriate)
    • major ethnic groups (if any)
    • roles and statuses of different members of a society
    • power and social control
      • law and legal systems
  • marriage and kinship customs
    • separation and divorce
  • early socialization and family structure
  • educational system
  • language and communication
  • religion
  • national anthem, with lyrics
  • small group behavior
  • public behavior
  • leisure pursuits and interests
  • art
  • music
  • architecture
  • literature
  • holidays
  • special ceremonies and rituals
    • religious
    • secular
  • special traditions and the degree to which the established order is emphasized
  • greeting behavior
  • humor
  • sports as a reflection of cultural values
  • food and eating behavior
  • rate of technological and cultural change
  • aural space
  • health and illness
  • death and dying
  • relationship with neighboring countries
  • globalization?
  • conflict management
  • What are the major social problems in the country?
  • any other categories that are appropriate

Chapter 1: Understanding Cultural Metaphors

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Kluckholn and Strodtbeck note that each society has a dominant cultural orientation that can be described in terms of six dimensions (cf. text, pp. 8-9)

      1. What do members of a society assume about the nature of people, that is, are people good, bad, or a mixture?

        • these kinds of beliefs are sometimes called “existential postulates”

      2. What do members of a society assume about the relationship between a person and nature, that is, should we live in harmony with it or subjugate it?

        • these kinds of beliefs are sometimes called “normative postulates”

      1. What do members of a society assume about the relationship between people, that is, should a person act in an individual manner or consider the group before taking action (individualism vs. collectivism or groupism, in terms of such issues as making decisions, conformity, and so forth)?

      2. What is the primary mode of activity in a given society?

        • that is, being, or accepting the status quo, enjoying the current situation, and going with the flow of things

        • or doing, that is, changing things to make them better, setting specific goals and accomplishing them within specific schedules, and so forth

      3. What is the conception of space in a given society?

        • that is, is it considered private, in that meetings are held in private, people do not get too close to one another physically, and so on

        • or public, that is, having everyone participate in meetings and decision making, allowing emotions to be expressed publicly, and having people stand in close proximity to one another

      4. What is the society’s dominant temporal orientation?

        • past
        • present
        • and / or future
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Edward T. Hall (cf. text, pp. 9-11)

  • made many discoveries in how people learn language

  • analyzed the levels of learning

    1. Context
      • or the amount of information that must be explicitly stated if a message or communication is to be successful

    2. Space
      • or the ways of communicating through specific handling of personal space
        • e.g., North Americans tend to keep more space between them while communicating than do South Americans

    3. Time, which is either

      • monochronic
        • scheduling and completing one activity at a time

      • or polychronic
        • not distinguishing between activities and starting and / or completing them simultaneously

    4. Information flow
      • which is the structure and speed of messages between individuals and / or organizations


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Geert Hofstede (cf. text, pp. 10-11)

  • prominent organizational psychologist

  • research is based on a large questionnaire survey of IBM employees and managers working in 53 different countries

  • especially significant because the type of organization is held constant

    1. Power distance
      • or the degree to which members of a society automatically accept a hierarchical or unequal distribution of power in organizations and the society

    2. Uncertainty avoidance
      • or the degree to which members of a given society deal with the uncertainty and risk of everyday life and prefer to work with long-term acquaintances and friends rather than with strangers

    3. Individualism
      • or the degree to which an individual perceives him- or her-self to be separate from a group and free from group pressure to conform

    4. Masculinity
      • or the degree to which a society looks favorably on aggressive and materialistic behavior

    5. Time horizon (short term to long term)
      • or the degree to which members of a culture are willing to defer present gratification in order to achieve long-term goals

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