Recent economic globalization has lead to large scale cross cultural contacts and communications. Every group, region and nation has its own distinct cultural characteristic and it is important to be aware and understand cultural differences amongst various groupings so as to ensure success of business relationships and dealings. For the purpose of our study and analysis, nations have been considered as the cultural unit.
Culture has been variously defined by different management gurus. Essentially, it can be said to be a pattern of shared values and norms amongst a group of people. A nation's culture can be understood as having multiple levels or layers and there are many theories in this regard by various management scholars. Ice berg model, one of the more important theory, describes culture as having two levels, a visible tip which manifests in art, customs, outward behavior, etc. and an invisible dimension comprising beliefs, attitudes, values, etc.
Every culture has its distinct traits which makes it different from all others. Hofstede has perhaps best explained the degree of cultural differences amongst various national groupings by developing a model comprising five cultural dimensions. These have been discussed in detail in the main paper and enable us to understand various cultural characteristics on a common scale.
Effective cross cultural communication requires understanding of certain essentials, such as, knowing and modulating one's own behavior, developing certain required personal traits and honing verbal and non verbal communication skills. It is important to know and appreciate other people's culture and also try to look at your own culture through the eyes of the other. A cross cultural exchange may often involve meetings, negotiations, dining, gift giving and taking, all of which need to be tailored to the requirement of the other party for a successful interaction.
The study basically pertains to Islamic countries with particular reference to Middle East/Arab countries/Saudi Arabia. The general concepts discussed in the paper are equally applicable to them but need to be modulated based on these peoples' cultural characteristics. The most important characteristic of these regions is Islamic religion and belief which predominates all aspect of the people's lives and which need to be studied in some detail. People of these regions have certain excusive traits, values and norms and which need to be understood if business success is desired. Hofstede's cultural dimension analysis for the Arab countries will help enhance our understanding of their distinct culture.
An exhaustive check list for doing business abroad has been included in the study under headings of social customs, family life, housing, clothing and food, class and political structure, economic institutions and value systems. Finally, a case study pertaining to interaction between an American business delegation and their Saudi hosts has been presented in the paper along with an analysis of this interaction. The case study will enable the reader to appreciate the differential cultural nuances of this region and how it impacted the business in this case, for better or worse.