UNITED STATES
CULTURAL DIFFERENCES



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

FAMILY
In the U.S. work tends to come before family.  Children are taught to be independent and the wife is often both a mother and a provider.  Families will often move according to job opportunities.  Part of the reason for the moves is the large size of the United States as compared to many smaller countries.
EDUCATION
U.S. education begins with nine years of full-time grammar school and is followed by full-time school through the age of 17 years of age.  U.S. education provides analytical, practical, and specialized knowledge.  Additional specialized education is available after high school graduation.
ECONOMY
America has the most powerful economy in the world.  This market oriented economy is driven by the decisions of private businesses which supply the public as well as the government with goods and services.  Many smaller nations depend on the strength of the U.S. economy for the strength of their own economies.
POLITICS
The U.S. political system is a federal republic with a democratic tradition.  The United States is very strong politically and bases its rules and regulations on the Constitution of the United States of 1789. 
RELIGION
Religions primarily consist of Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, and Judaism.  Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution.
ASSOCIATIONS
American society includes a plethora of associations from religious to professional.  While Americans work better as individuals, they have a very social culture.
HEALTH
The U.S. health care system is primarily privately owned.  The federal and state governments run many institutions for those without insurance or the funds to pay for treatment.  However, these institutions are typically not of the same caliber as the privately owned institutions. 
RECREATION
Recreational time in America is utilized with the future in mind, whether relating to fitness or business.  U.S. society is typically training, studying, networking, etc. with a plan to improve things in the future.
VALUE DIMENSIONS
Power Distance:
The power distance value dimension in the United States is low.  A low power distance reflects society's intolerable attitude toward an unequal power distribution.  American workers acknowledge the hierarchical structure but look for their subordinate/boss relationship to be more cooperative in nature.
Uncertainty Avoidance:
Uncertainty avoidance in America is at a medium level.  A medium level of uncertainty avoidance shows that American society is looking for an average level of security.  While workers in the United States look to have some sense of stability they do take calculated risks. 
Individualism:
Individualism in the United States is very high.  U.S. workers are loyal to themselves and there family.  Individuals are much more productive when working alone rather than being forced to work in groups.
Masculinity:
The United States is a more masculine society.  However, it is not high in masculinity traits.  While the U.S. is more assertive and focuses on materialistic things it does focus a small amount on relationships. 

 

The case "Moto: Coming to America" captures the essence of cultural differences between Japan and America when a project director is sent to America to make a decision on which contracting company to use as well as to work out pricing details.  The case also shows the misconceptions and problems caused by these differences throughout the business process between KKD (a Japanese auto parts supplier) and Allmack (an American building contractor).
    The case begins by describing Michio Moto's first experience with an American retail clerk.  Because she smiled and was a pleasant person, Moto made the decision that Americans were nice.  This shows just how quickly opinions are formed and how important first impressions are in international business relations especially when the Japanese stereotype of Americans is that they are "lazy."
    In Moto's first business meeting with the President of Allmack, John Crowell, neither gentleman was familiar with the other's culture leading to the confusion of Moto.  Crowell was not confused as he was oblivious to the situation.  In Japan, the business card is an important instrument to learn about the other party as well as to give them respect for the effort it took to get to their current position.  Apparently, Crowell was unaware of this as he barely glanced at Moto's card before putting it in his pocket.  Moto was somewhat hurt because he did not realize that this was a somewhat typical in America and that Crowell did not intend to hurt his feelings.  Next, after Moto told Crowell that "KKD is pleased to do business with Allmack" and began to talk about the history of the two companies, Crowell grew impatient as many American businessmen do believing that time is money he tried to speed up the process and sell Moto on the greatness of his company.  Moto was confused as he already knew that Allmack was the best.  In fact, that is why he was there in the first place.  The really uncomfortable situation arose when Moto presented Crowell with a gift of the kokeshi dolls which his wife went to great lengths to pick out for Crowell.  Crowell's foolish response was "they look like Russian dolls.  Hey, thanks a lot, my daughter will love them" completely embarrassed Moto so he ignored the situation. Later on in the case Crowell messed up again when he dropped both Moto and the vice president of KKD off at a golf course and did not stay to play.  He apparently did not understand the relationship building process in Japan nor the importance executives entertaining executives.
    Crowell next introduces Moto to George Kubushevsky who will be responsible for introducing Moto to all of Allmack's suppliers and any other significant business relations.  Again the issue of the business card came up as Kubushevsky did not even reciprocate with a business card stating "thanks, never carry those" after taking Moto's card.  And again the present of a KKD pen was not appreciated by Kubushevsky.  Over the next few weeks Kubushevsky drove Moto around introducing him to all of the necessary business relations.  However, when Moto finally asked Kubushevsky about the written five year histories of the suppliers he responded by telling him to not worry about the past, worry about now, and to trust him.  This situation made Moto quite uncomfortable as he was required to get the figures and did not understand what trust had to do with it.
    The relationship between Moto and Kubushevsky improved after their first night out at a bar where Kubushevsky informed Moto that he would be leaving the company in the near future.  For four months they worked great together and Moto was supplied with any information that he needed.
    In the final negotiations a timing issue arose that Moto had worked out prior to this meeting which upset the president and vice president of KKD.  Moto was not as concerned with losing face as he would have been in the past.  They just did not understand.  He realized that things were different, he was different, and they were in America now.  Too often bad situations arise in cross cultural business transactions due to lack of knowledge, caring, and attention. The possibility of cultural conflicts makes it imperative for global management to learn much more than additional languages, they must understand different cultures.
 
 

Sources
CIA - World Factbook - Germany
Deresky, Helen. International Management: Managing Across Borders.Third Edition.Prentice Hall.2000. p114 and 209-212.
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