# Background: The Origins of Understanding Global Cultures

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[MUSIC PLAYING][Background: The Origins of Understanding Global Cultures]

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MARTIN GANNON: My name is Martin Gannon. [Martin Gannon, PhD,Professor, College of Business Administration, CaliforniaState University San Marcos] I'm a professor emeritus at twouniversities, the University of Maryland,College Park, and Cal State San Marcos.Perhaps the best way to introduce the studentto the sixth edition of this book, Understanding GlobalCultures, Metaphorical Journeys Through 34 Nations,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity,is to reflect upon personal experiences leading up to it.Having attended the traditional Jesuit prepschool and its local university in Scranton, Pennsylvaniafor eight years, I was inculcated with the ideathat the individual needed to add value

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: to any project or job for which he or she was applying.In other words, it really didn't matter who you knew,but what value you were bringing to the job or project.From this perspective, culture was of little interestto me, even though Scranton was a multiethnic city at the time,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: with separate neighborhoods for the Irish, Polish, Italians,and so forth.Today in the US, such neighborhoodsexist, but in a much weakened form.[US Disadvantages]US Americans, I believe, are at a decided disadvantage because

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: of this lack of interest and cultural similaritiesand differences.We tend to speak just one language, English,and spend much less time living for three or more monthsin other national cultures than our counterpartsin Europe and elsewhere.At any rate, I first visited several European nations

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: for nine weeks with my wife Doris in 1968.[Distinct Cultural Differences]While the trip was enjoyable, it was just a first exposureand similar to watching a video or film.In 1981, '82, my wife Doris and our two young children

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: lived in Germany, where they attended a German school,while I conducted research and taught.We purchased a car and travelled through 26 nations,six with communist regimes.Every few hundred miles, we were in a new nation,had to show our passports, and wereexposed to drastically different ways of acting and thinking.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: This was particularly true in the Communist nations.Guard dogs and turret towers with armed guardsgreeted us at every communist border crossing.Today, the European Union is facing the possibilityof breaking up into such smaller national entitiesafter striving since World War II to move

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: beyond such Balkanization and become integrated.And it is not just Europe.In 1946, there were 76 sovereign nations.But today, 197.At any rate, I decided to teach in Thailand in 1988,and was astounded that in my visits

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: to several Asian nations, both in 1988 and many timesafterwards, the issues were not only similar,but of greater import.There are distinct and glaring differencesacross national cultures, and evenwithin one national culture.In fact, there are few, if any, national cultures

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: in existence today that include only one ethnic group foundedby a particular geographic area and language.The opposite is the norm, not only in the US, but elsewhere.[Understanding Thai Culture]Before leaving for Thailand to teach in 1988,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: I read extensively about its history, its culture of values,and so forth.However, the amount of ethnic and linguistic varietywas astounding, as described in Chapter 2 of the SixthEdition of Understanding Global Cultures.In particular, I was perplexed by Geert Hofstede's

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: insightful book, Culture's Consequences, Sage, 1980.Using a standard survey in 53 nations,he developed five dimensions of national cultures,the first of which is individualims-collectivism.This has been the most important dimension

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: that writers, since at least the 15th century, have emphasized.Hofstede and others demonstrated that this dimensionis related to various outcomes, such as the airline accidentrate per capita of nations, as wellas the rates of entrepreneurship,the amount of money devoted to corporate education and trade,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: and so forth.Individualism refers specificallyto whether the individual sees himself, herself,as an individual entity, and makes decisions that basicallyseem good for him or her.On the other hand, collectivism refers to the factthat the individual sees himself or herself

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: as part of a larger group, such as a kinship group,and makes decisions that seem best to the group,even when he or she feels that they are suboptimal personally.As the research shows, collectivistic nationsin general have twice the airline accident rateof individual nations per capita, invest less per capita

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: in corporate education training, and exhibitless entrepreneurship, or the creation of new organizationsper capita.Hofstede's study is important, particularlysince many other researchers havebeen able to show such relationships.But there are many major issues associated with the study.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: For example, there are many different typesof individualism and collectivism.And in each of the chapters of Understanding Global Cultures,we try to describe each type.As just one example of the type of individualismfound in the US can be described as competitive and aggressive,with a winner-take-all mentality,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: whereas the type found in Sweden and other Scandinavian nationsis egalitarian.In the US, driving 18 miles over the speed limitresults in identical penalties, regardless of one's assets,whereas such an infraction in Scandinaviais related to one's assets.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: That is, the richer you are, the more you are fined.In extreme cases, this practice has resulted in fineswell over $100,000 for one individual,and$100 for a much poorer individualfor the identical infraction.[Cultural Metaphors]

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: As suggested above, I saw the Thaisbehave in very individualistic and very collectivistic ways,but at different times.For example, a Thai friend deliberatelywent against traffic in the clogged streets of Bangkokto gain rapid access to Chulalongkorn Universityin Downtown Bangkok, which seemed highly individualistic

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: and even America.Once there, he was not able to obtain a parking spot,so he told the attendant that he had a famous American professorwho was to speak in an adjacent building in five minutes.Immediately, we gained access to the parking lot.To me, my friend seemed to be using

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: a collectivistic, power-conscious methodto gain access.After going through several similar experiences,I was perplexed.Finally, I read a book on Thais thatput the matter in perspective, as discussed in Chapter Two.The Thais are highly individualistic,like Americans, and are proud of the fact

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: that Thailand, land of the free, isone of the few nations in the world thathas never been conquered.But it is also highly collectivistic.This is dramatized by the Thai wai.Thais traditionally did not shake handsas we do in the West, a custom supposedly developed

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: by Westerners to see if the other party hada weapon in his hand.Rather, the Thais fold their hands in a prayer-like positionand bow to one another.If equal in status, they bow at the same level.Otherwise, the lower status person

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: bows lower, and sometimes much lower.According to the writers referenced in Chapter 2,Americans tend to be like a string held tightbetween two fingers at most times,loosening periodically for a party or break.However, the ties are much more like the same string

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: that is held only loosely for most periods of time.But the string is tightened when a superiorgives a direct order, and is loosened immediatelywhen the order is completed.This insight led to the development of UnderstandingGlobal Cultures.The concept was to write one chapter using a metaphor.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: That is, the feature of one phenomenonto describe the major features of a national culture,and how these features play out in the dynamicsof interpersonal communications, negotiations,and understanding.In fact, as shown in the book and elsewhere,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: metaphors represent the basic way we learn and think,at least initially.As we develop more experience and understanding,we move onto a higher level of understanding.Thus, the book has 34 cultural metaphors.A cultural metaphor is any phenomenon, activity,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: or institution with which all or most membersof a national culture closely identifycognitively and/or emotionally.In most cases, the phenomenon, activity, or institutionoriginated in that culture.In the book, there are two tablesof contents, the first of which just lists the chapter titles.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: However, the second table of contentsfocuses primarily on each of the 34 national culturesand their major features.For example, Chapter 15 describes the major featureof American football, the tailgate party,pre-game and halftime entertainment, strategy

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: and war, selection, the training camp, and the play book,individualized specialized achievement within the teamstructure, aggression, high-risk,and unpredictable outcomes, huddling,and the Church of Football.The book also has 14 parts into which the 38 chapters fall.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: These parts provide a broadened view of culture.Knowing how the chapters relate to the parts of the bookis a way of increasing understanding.At the same time, a chapter could be classifiedinto more than one part.The 14-part classification systemis just a way of trying to corral a very difficult concept

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: such as culture.Finally, we have emphasized in each chapterthe factors that influence a culture to change, sometimesvery slowly, and sometimes more quickly.These include a nation's history,its various ethnic groups, its religious groups,its linguistic groups, its population density per capita,

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: the age distribution of its population,its male-female ratio, and a few other such factors.[Conclusion]Having such knowledge at one's fingertipshelps to facilitate understanding of the cultures,and how and why they are changing.

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: I hope this introductory lecture is helpful.Good luck in your cross-cultural interactions and journeys,not only in the US, but in the many interesting and excitingnations outside of it.For further reading, please see Martin J. Gannon and RajnandiniPillai, Understanding global cultures:

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: Metaphorical journeys through 34 nations,clusters of nations, continents, and diversity.,sixth edition, Sage publication, 2016.There are extensive references in the bibliography

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MARTIN GANNON [continued]: and throughout the book that you can consult if you wouldlike to do further reading.

# Background: The Origins of Understanding Global Cultures

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## Abstract

Professor Martin Gannon discusses his book, Understanding Global Cultures. He addresses individualism and collectivism, and cultural awareness--particularly through his personal experiences in the United States, Europe, and Thailand.

Background: The Origins of Understanding Global Cultures

Professor Martin Gannon discusses his book, Understanding Global Cultures. He addresses individualism and collectivism, and cultural awareness--particularly through his personal experiences in the United States, Europe, and Thailand.

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