Dutch Culture Compared to United Arab Emirates and Colombia
Culture can be defined as the way in which a group of people solve problems and reconcile dilemmas. Culture has a high influence in the process of doing business and managing. The main objective of this essay is exposing the main social differences between our host country, the Netherlands, and the two potential export destinations, the United Arab Emirates and Colombia. The main method used to discoverer the cultural differences is based on Parson’s five relational orientations.
In terms of relationships and rules Dutch culture is highly universalistic, this means that the behavior from most Dutch individuals tends to be rule-based. In Dutch society, every person is treated the same; there are no exceptions to the rule. In situations such as asking a special favor from a friend that would violate Dutch legislation, it is likely that the friend will deny the request. The situation is the opposite in both Colombia and the United Arab Emirates, both societies being fairly particularistic. Judgments in these countries tend to focus on the nature of the present circumstances, rather than the general rule. Colombians would not think twice before helping a good friend in the previously mentioned situation, neither would Emiratis.
Exporting flowers to a particularistic country would imply careful considerations in terms of negotiating contracts, timing a business trip, and job incentives and rewards. Negotiating contracts in the Netherlands is a common business standard, yet it might be seen as an offensive display of mistrust to your business partners when setting up a venture in the UAE. Particularistic cultures value personal relationships more highly than legal documents, and will commit to all verbal agreements in order to maintain a worthy business partner.
In terms of Human Resource Management the Dutch manager in a Particularistic culture will have to understand the importance of relationships and focus on building informal networks to create private understandings.
The next highly influential factor that could affect any business relationship between the three countries is the way feelings are demonstrated within society. Colombian culture is particularly affective; they tend to publicly display any emotions that arise at any given moment.
The UAE and the Netherlands, while more emotionally neutral than Colombia, are situated in the middle of the rank. It is the norm to see a Colombian worker screaming, enraged after a certain project failed, yet this does not mean that he is more emotionally affected than a Dutchman in his same situation, the Colombian just expresses his anger in a different manner. Another notable difference between affective and neutral cultures is their tone of voice.
In Latin cultures, such as Colombia, tone of voice tends to swift from low to high tones, demonstrating emotional attachment behind what is being said. For more neutral cultures, like the UAE, this might seem distractive and exaggerated. Our Dutch manager will most likely have no problems when dealing with Emirati employees; on the other hand he should avoid being emotionally unattached in order to gain the affection of his Colombian co-workers.
How people accord status to each member in society is another highly variable factor that should distinguished between the three previously mentioned countries. Every society gives some members a higher status than others; the difference is on which basis do they do so. Achievement-oriented societies focus on the personal accomplishments. Ascriptive societies, conversely, place emphasis and are more influenced by the virtue of a person’s age, class, gender, education and so on.
Both Colombia and the UAE are considered to be highly ascriptive societies, the Netherlands lies somewhere in the middle. Members or friends of the governing families in ascriptive countries have quasi supra-legal powers and advantages over the rest of the population. This can have serious effects on the way business is conducted. One example of a situation where the Dutch company could encounter problems is when sending a bright young manager to negotiate with a team of senior Emirati CEOs.
While the Dutch manager could be more than capable of managing the situation, the Emirati CEOs would not take him seriously and might even feel insulted. It is therefore recommended that the Dutch company makes sure the negotiation team has an older, formal position-holder to provide a better impression to the Emirati Company. The Human Resource department should also take into account the importance of titles when recruiting employees, as assigning an employee without sufficient titles might cause tension within a work unit.
An individualistic society is that in which each individual’s actions are oriented towards the self. On the other end of the spectrum a communitaristic society has common goals and objectives. Dutch society is highly individualistic, Emiratis are somewhere in the middle, and Colombians are highly communitaristic. Colombia’s communitaristic roots lie on both its Catholic beliefs and the influence communism enforced over the country a few decades ago. The implications of setting up a business and employing individuals in a communitaristic society are mostly motivation related. The Dutch manager should assign group-oriented tasks and give credit on a department-based basis, in order to satisfy and motivate Colombian employees.
Another factor that should be considered is how responsibility is assimilated in a both societies. Individualistic employees would accept guilt and responsibility in most situations, while communitaristic employees would quickly place blame on his workgroup. When providing negative news managers in Colombia should avoid using “you” as the object of the sentence, and instead explain the problem indirectly.
Finally, the last factor that should be considered when deciding to export abroad is how specific or diffuse a culture is. In specific-oriented cultures each member’s role in society varies according to each particular situation; that is to say, somebody’s manager is only his superior during official corporate situations, in all external situations they are both equal members of society.
The Netherlands is ranked as one of the most highly specific cultures in the world, the UAE ranks somewhat below the Netherlands, and Colombia is positioned amongst the most diffuse. It is recommended that managers coming from a specific culture allow private and business issues to interpenetrate. Another issue that should be considered when setting up an HRM strategy in a diffuse culture is the appreciation for ambiguous and vague instructions, which allow for subtle and responsive interpretations through which employees can exercise personal judgment.
Due to the cultural similarities between Dutch and Emiratis societies, it would be recommended that the UAE is the chosen country to set up a business venture; however special attention must be given to factors such as the way society accords status, area which the two countries have the greatest differences.