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1 Using Hofstede’s four cultural dimensions as a point of reference, what are some of the main cultural differences between the United States and France ?
Extracted from the recent study conducted by Hofstede is the visual representation of the five cultural dimensions1.
1.1 Power Distance Index (PDI)
France’s PDI higher value than USA shows a clear cultural difference, with a higher tendency towards bureaucracy in France. (27.3% of the French Active Population is state employed2). On the opposite side USA and its constitution oriented towards federal states have been since their independence implementing a decentralized government including education, law and justice. This tends to give a lower dependence and acceptance of power by the Americans.
1.2 Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
Individualism describes the relationship between individuals and the collective in a society. Collectivism is connected to group decisions, training opportunities, good working conditions, getting use of skills and abilities, conformity and job security.3
Although American look like being more independent than many European and French, there is not so much difference between the two countries, it is in Latin America or Asia that people really move towards collectivism. Despite France being one of the countries at the origin of Socialism, individualism is still preferred.4
1.3 Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)
The USA is being categorized with a Moderate Masculinity while France with a high Femininity. Consequently the USA is often seen as moderated in its approach to equality and balance. On the other hand France “feminine” is where social needs will tend to be more important; this could explain the fact that France is one of the unique western democratic countries still having a communist party participating to whole of the election since its creation in 1920 and still influencing the country’s political life.
1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
USA is having a low Uncertainty Avoidance with its people characterized by not liking rules being applied to them while they are more willing to accept the risks associated with the unknown. Yet the French want to really know where things stand as they have tendency to look for security and belief in experts that can emphasize this feeling. This safety needs may be much more important than thought, the job for the whole life is more important than having a more interesting and challenging position.5
2 In what ways has Trompenaars’ research helped explain cultural differences between the United States and France?
The dimensions of culture identified by Fons Trompenaars while similar to Hofstede’s findings in many ways, provide additional insights into cultural differences. Trompenaars found that cultures differ also on universalism versus particularism, neutral versus affective, and achievement versus ascription dimensions. Other dimensions on which cultures differ include high and low context, interpersonal space, monochronic versus polychronic time, and orientations toward the past, present and future. Managers must work with and through others in order to be effective. However, the most effective way to work with and through others really depends on the cultural norms of the parties involved to a great extent. People from different national cultures have different expectations for how a person should act.6
Two countries which Trompenaars highlight with respect to their preceding quote about cultural contrasts are France and USA. Their model, based on cultural dimensions, identifies the causal elements which differentiate how a country=s managers approach business dilemmas. On their first two dimensions (universalism-particularism and individualism – communitarianism) there are marked differences between France and the USA.7
The French see Americans as naive and unprincipled. Americans, in turn, view the French as emotional with a strong sense of hierarchical solutions. Yet, even with these cultural variations, Trompenaars identifies a series of similarities between the two countries regarding norms and values.
3 In managing its Euro Disneyland operations, what are three mistakes that the company made? Explain.
Disney had a very successful foreign theme park in Japan in addition to the wonderful Florida main park, their movies, books, cartoons are globally known even and visitors from all over the world make the travel to USA only to visit their American parks. There was absolutely no imaginable reason that a Disney theme park in Europe would not become a rapid success. Euro Disney’s cultural misunderstanding is some of the possible explanation to the lack of success of the operation. Cultural insensitivity ruled Disney decisions from the very first.
3.1 French Farmers
In order to simply assemble a plot of land large enough for a theme park, hundreds of small French farmers were forced from land that had been in families for centuries. Buying out farmers is so common in the USA that no one at Disney could conceive that this would be more than a minor annoyance in their plans. But the French, even those who live in cities, are more than a little sentimental about their farms. The French farmers are the most vocal, politically active, and sometimes violent agrarians on earth. To make their point, they will strike and boycott and shut down trains, airports, highways. Farmers like that do not exist in the USA. 8
3.2 French Unions
French unions are very militant, ideologically Marxist, and politically powerful. Disney Company has a long and forceful anti-union history. This attitude caused only minor problems in Orange County California or Florida but it was certain to trigger concerns in Europe where all countries have powerful Socialist parties. 9
During the construction period Disney managed to reduce the concerns of the unions but when beginning the park operations their practice of enforcing a strict dress code by full-time employees caused a spasm of outrage. Disney used to USA attitude of workers that are ready against a job to give many of their rights did not understood carefully this issue.
3.3 French Chauvinism
Chauvinism is one of the strongest French feelings and most French would be ready to fight for his country culture. From the first days of school, the French are taught the glories of their philosophers, their scientists, their writer and poets, or engineers. Since the 70’s a group guardians of French culture are presenting the English language and any related culture as a potential threat. Modern Frenchmen no longer dream of their country as imperial power and that French is no longer the universal tongue of diplomacy; nevertheless French’s strongly believe that her culture is superior.10
A storm of protest was raised by many French intellectuals against Disney thus protesting against the American contamination of their culture. Disney management did not seem to be much more concerned as past history has brought them strong example when intellectuals have not been very much successful in their attempts.11
However many parents all over France and even Europe were wondering whether it was a good idea to expose their beloved children to the Disney Experience. Between the farmers, the labor interests, and the cultural threat, not only the French parents but also the European’s had been provided with enough information through all possible media to withstand any sort of pressure their children might use to go to Euro Disney. The weather finally did not help much; Disney’s executive did not understood that the park would have needed to be designed taking into account that specificity.
4 Based on its experience, what are three lessons the company should have learned about how to deal with diversity? Describe each.
4.1 Tokyo Disneyland copycat
Disney did not anticipate the huge differences between themselves as consumers and the Europeans – especially the French. The entire resort was designed along the same guidelines as the original Disneyland. Much of the reasoning behind this strategic approach can be attributed to the success Disney had with the opening of Tokyo Disneyland. According to Marty Sklar, Vice Chairman and Principle Creative Executive of Walt Disney Imagineering, “The Japanese told us from the beginning, ‘Don’t Japanese us.’ What that meant was, ‘we came here for Disney. We came here for America. Don’t give us Japan, we know Japan.” Disney determined that the Europeans would want the same as
the Japanese – an Americanized Disneyland. However, the general sentiment among the French was one of indignation at what some called ‘cultural imperialism’. Therefore, Euro Disney was not accepted among the European culture.12
4.2 Euro Disney location and estimate of demand
When the Walt Disney group started to plan for Euro Disney, building on their experience with their existing theme parks the management assumed that they had the appropriate know-how to adjust the very American Disney concept to other cultures. They were convinced that Marne-la-Vallï¿½e as a central location in Europe, its proximity to the Paris region, which is densely populated and a popular tourist destination, and for its excellent accessibility by motorway, by rail and by air was the best selection for the location of their European park; Thus Euro Disney was looking at a huge market.
Disney was aware that developing a theme park in Europe some cultural differences would need to be taken into account. General categories are patterns of holiday and leisure activities, the influence of climate on these, cultural heritages, tastes, buying patterns, working conditions, service mentality and others. Euro Disney remained a very American and Disney-like attraction. Disney simply adopted what worked well in its other parks in Japan or USA.
4.3 Europe’s requirement for a specific Marketing Strategy
Euro Disney originally used a direct marketing strategy to promote the park activities and the resort during the early stages of development. As Disney gradually began to understand the distribution system, television advertising and billboards were added to the marketing mix. However, Disney did not develop partnerships with travel agents or investing businesses in hopes of broadening their marketing strategy. In the early stages of development and operation of Disneyland Paris, Disney management primarily made their decisions using SRC – an unconscious reference to one’s own cultural values, experiences, and knowledge as a basis for decisions (Cateora).Ethnocentrism, the notion that one’s own culture or company knows best how to do things (Cateora), was also an obstacle which had to be overcome before management was able to make culturally adapted decisions.1
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