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Intercultural Ignorance: The Cost a Multinational Company Can Barely Afford.

Updated on September 11, 2013

The world that we call now a global village has traveled a long to wipe out the physical distances and to pave way to greater opportunities for bigger organizations operating worldwide, yet under a unique multicultural umbrella. Globalization might have shrunk the world as much as to fit your need, but the undeniable fact is that the basic cultural traits identical to each and every community are too deeply imbedded in people’s soul to ignore. And undoubtedly the intercultural ignorance will cost you too much while operating a business in a multicultural environment. One of the most striking examples regarding this cultural ignorance can be Africa


Africa, now widely considered as the continent with most valuable gifts of nature, was once presented as the continent of darkness, especially in the 19th century, thanks to the greatest writers like Joseph Conrad with celebrated pieces like Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim. Standing as an epitome to what cultural ignorance can cost you, they did indeed make an impression of the semi-human cannibal being worth to be hunted like ferocious animals for seeking some animal pleasures, to be caught by lasso, to be chained and whipped until tamed, and finally, if unfortunately escape death, to be sold as slaves. And the cultural ignorance worked well in the then time world, as long as it kept your guilty conscience slammed from peeping out. My point is that, for centuries, we, the common people had been in darkness about the cultural identity of the second largest continent, partly because of expanding business by ignoring their own culture and coercively instilling in the western culture in the process of colonization. And now we know the impacts of this so called cultural ignorance: the UK long ago lost their track in Africa, the USA is struggling hard to grab the hold of the market of the continent and China has found its way through boosting up its economy using Africa. Now we have pieces coming out of the heart of Africa, sweeping away the clouds once engulfed us; the writers like Chinua Achebe whose Things Fall Apart has been translated in more than 50 languages. And now the bigger organizations or business establishments have had their strategies deflated toward the culture as it is: after all, the marketing policy or the business theory that work in Europe or North America would definitely face an anti-climax in the third world countries like those in Africa.


What cultural factors or, to speak more straightforward, cultural ignorance, can sometimes raise the cost of doing business can be found better orchestration in the Cdn Edition of the book, Global Business Today, by Hill & McKaig. With an example from the UK, the authors bring forth the historical class divisions which are strongly embedded in the British culture. For centuries, because of the failure in managing this cultural trait, a lot many firms operating in the Great Britain found it really difficult to achieve cooperation between management and labor, which eventually “led to a high level of industrial disputes... and raised the costs of doing business in Great Britain relative to the costs in other European countries. "


In fact, cultural ignorance is not the thing you can afford in running a multinational organization; nor can you avoid the driving force of culture in establishing business. For instance, in 1980’s Japanese companies was heard fingering at Canada's official bilingualism policy as one of the reasons they didn't want to set up operations in Canada. They moved instead to the USA where they thought would operate their business in English, only to realize later that to operate in the USA is to operate in English and Spanish, with the demographic changes remolded US in 1990’s.


Atique

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