Cultural differences manifest themselves in different ways and differing levels of depth. Symbols represent the most superficial and values the deepest manifestations of culture, with heroes and rituals in between.

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Figure 1. Manifestation of Culture at Different Levels of Depth


People even within the same culture carry several layers of mental programming within themselves. Different layers of culture exist at the following levels:


A variable can be operationalized either by single- or composite-measure techniques. A single-measure technique means the use of one indicator to measure the domain of a concept; the composite-measure technique means the use of several indicators to construct an index for the concept after the domain of the concept has been empirically sampled. Hofstede (1997) has devised a composite-measure technique to measure cultural differences among different societies:


Cultural awareness:

Clustering cultures:

Determining the extent of global involvement:

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Figure 2. Cultural Awareness and Extent of Global Involvement


Hofstede, G. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the mind. New York: McGraw Hill.

Some recent publications

Culture Shock Challenges Firms Looking Abroad

The U.S. construction industry has always been adept at winning work overseas, but the lure of reconstruction contracts in places like Afghanistan and Iraq could draw some firms in over their heads. Large international firms have many resources to deal with the enormous challenges of working in the global marketplace. But the massive reconstruction of countries devastated by war could trip up the best of them.

Political and physical risks are the most treacherous and must be reckoned with. Language and cultural differences can't be ignored either. Addressing them sensibly can unlock many opportunities for success.

The U.S. government's conference on rebuilding Afghanistan, held in Chicago last week, went a long way to outline opportunities there. These outreach programs are a good start because many firms need an education on how to work abroad. The first lesson is to drop ethnocentric views that the world should accommodate our method of contracting rather than the other way around.

In a separate meeting, also held in Chicago last week, ENR brought together construction executives at its annual leadership conference. U.S. firms interested in China's Olympic building plans and other work, particularly those willing to listen patiently through translation, heard rich detail from Chinese representatives.

Patience, attentiveness and sensitivity are not common construction traits, but they can help in cultures different from our own.

Language and cultural differences can be treacherous to negotiate.

[ ENR (2003). Culture shock challenges firms looking abroad. Vol. 250, No. 23. New York: McGraw Hill.]

Do We See Eye-to-Eye? Implications of Cultural Differences for Cross-Cultural Management Research and Practice


Although observation is a common research technique, little attention has been given to the effects of culture on observer judgment making. These researches argue that consideration of cultural differences is critical when applying observation techniques in cross-cultural research as well as in the applied contexts of performance appraisal and international management. A laboratory study was conducted to examine the potential for discrepancies in observer judgment making among Asian American and Caucasian American subjects. The results of the study affirm the importance of cultural influences in research and management.

[Li & Karakowsky (2001). Do We See Eye-to-Eye? Implications of Cultural Differences for Cross-Cultural Management Research and Practice. The Journal of Psychology, 135(5), 501-517.]

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