Internationalisation is the process of making a company more internationally oriented. When internationalising, a company has to find a balance between globalisation (having one corporate interface for everyone) and nationalisation (forming to the local culture). In this way, a company keeps it own identity, but adjusts itself to the local values and habits.
There are a lot of types of differences between countries all over the world which need to be bridged or at least taken into account when internationalising. A lot of social, behavioral and geographical differences are visually represented on websites such as [] and [].
When expanding your company internationally, cultural differences need to be taken into account both internally (amongst employees) and externally (communication with and needs of locals). This applies to amongst others these aspects:
- Context in communication
Hofstede described that the behavior of people is influenced by their national culture in six cultural dimensions:
- Power distance (PDI) - the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This distance is high in Latin countries, Asia, Africa and the Arab world, whereas it is low in Europe and the USA.
- Individualism versus collectivism (IDV) – the degree to which a person is expected to take care of himself or is looked after by the group in exchange for loyalty. Europe and the USA are quite individualistic, whereas the rest of the world is more collectivistic.
- Masculinity versus femininity (MAS) – the importance of achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success versus cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life play a role in society. Northern Europe is very feminine compared to the rest of the world.
- Uncertainty avoidance (UAI) - the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. In Latin countries, southern Europe and the Arab world the uncertainty avoidance is somewhat higher than in the rest of the world.
- Long-term versus short-term orientation (LTO) - respect for traditions, little propensity to save for the future, and a focus on achieving quick resultsversus adapt traditions to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest and perseverance in achieving results. Especially in Latin countries and Asia the focus lies much more on the long-term.
- Indulgence versus restraint (IVR) – the importance of gratification, natural human drivers and enjoying life versus surpressing gratification and regulating with strict social norms.
Context in communication
Hall described these six aspects for effective cultural communication:
- High Context versus Low Context – the amount of context that is given in communication (implicit versus explicit). High context communication often happens in Asia and southern Europe, whereas the USA and nothern Europe need to add a lot of verbal context in their communication. This can for example be seen in the use of icons. If the context is high, abstract figures, such as cartoons, can be used. If the context is low, more pictures are used. With a medium context, symbols are often the way of representing something.
- Monochronic versus Polychronic Time – chronologic, structured time schedule versus elastic time experience. Monochronic time is often related to low context cultures.
- Personal Space – the amount of space that we need for ourselves. When others enter this area we feel uncomfortable. Personal space is often larger in low context cultures.
- Fast and slow messages
- Fast and slow information flow
- Action chains