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Values and Cultures in Integrating Business A Comparison of Bulgaria, Finland and Japan

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Abstract

Along with globalization, values from a cross-cultural perspective have awakened great interest in recent years. Value types differ in different cultures. On the other hand, however, it may be assumed that globalization and economic unionism may merge the values. Anyway, knowing the relationship between values and cultures can assist the businessperson in better understanding the intercultural differences within regions. In this paper, values in terms of value types were compared in three different cultures. The sample consisted of 79 Bulgarian people, 453 Finnish people and 304 Japanese people. It was found that there are culture-based stresses in the values that must be taken into consideration in international business, but in all, the differences were not that big as could be expected taking into consideration the large difference of the cultural, economical, and religious backgrounds of the countries concerned.
World Journal of Management
Vol. 2 No.1 March 2010 , Pp.55-64
Values and Cultures in Integrating Business
A Comparison of Bulgaria, Finland and Japan
Vesa Routamaa, Tiina Hautala and Yukie Tsutzuki
Along with globalization, values from a cross-cultural
perspective have awakened great interest in recent
years. Value types differ in different cultures. On the
other hand, however, it may be assumed that
globalization and economic unionism may merge the
values. Anyway, knowing the relationship between values
and cultures can assist the businessperson in better
understanding the intercultural differences within regions.
In this paper, values in terms of value types were
compared in three different cultures. The sample
consisted of 79 Bulgarian people, 453 Finnish people and
304 Japanese people. It was found that there are culture-
based stresses in the values that must be taken into
consideration in international business, but in all, the
differences were not that big as could be expected taking
into consideration the large difference of the cultural,
economical, and religious backgrounds of the countries
concerned.
Field of research: Leadership, Expatriates, Cultures, Values
1. Introduction
In spite of the possible assimilation of values along with globalization and economic
unionism, international business, foreign direct investments, expatriates´ work and any
international cooperation require understanding of differences between cultures. For
example business negotiations, expatriate managers and professionals, management of
foreign personnel, and cross-cultural teams presuppose good knowledge of cultural
differences (cf. Routamaa & Rautiainen, 2002). However, research on expatriates
indicates that failed expatriate assignments are still costly and numerous. Studies
abound with recommendations on how to increase expatriate success in a new culture.
Black, Mendenhall and Oddou (1991) introduced three main skill areas that expatriates
need to focus on to survive in a new culture: skills related to maintenance of self, skills
relating to fostering relationships with host nationals and skills that promote a correct
perception of the host environment and its social systems.
Prof. Vesa Routamaa, University of Vaasa, Finland, vmr@uwasa.fi
Dr. Tiina M. Hautala, University of Vaasa, Finland, thau@uwasa.fi
Dr. Yukie Tsutzuki, Seijo University, Japan, tsuzuki@seijo.ac.jp
Acknowledgment: The authors are thankful to the Academy of Finland for the financial support to this
project.
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
56
The three strategies for coping with this adjustment process introduced by Berry, Kim
and Boski (1988, p.63) were: expatriates psychologically adjusting by adjusting their
behavior to the environment, changing the environment, or moving to a more congenial
environment. Hofstede (1984, p.21) defines culture as 'the collective programming of the
mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from another'. Tylor (1871)
defined culture as 'that complex whole that includes knowledge, beliefs, art, laws,
custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society'.
Fundamental webs of culture constitute patterned ways of thinking, acting, feeling, and
interpreting (see e.g. Kluckhohn 1951, p.86; Ting-Toomey, 1985, p.75). Ronen (1986,
p.18) sees culture as 'the frame of reference' of individuals, and Harris and Moran (1987,
p.102) discuss 'mental frameworks' which groups, organizations and nations develop.
The more individuals conform to each other in terms of background variables such as
nationality, education and sex, the more probably they perceive their social environment
similarly and in that way share the same subjective culture (Hofstede 1984). Dealing
with values here, the subjective culture is of special interest instead of the objective
culture, which is composed of the more concrete infrastructure (cf. Routamaa & Pollari
1998).
In spite of the criticism (see e.g. Spector, Cooper & Sparks, 2001; Hofstede, 2002;
Spector & Cooper, 2002), Hofstede's definition referring to the collective programming is
a good frame of reference in analyzing values in a cultural context. It is to be
emphasized that there are also alternative cultural concepts available in
addition to Hofstede's dimensions (see e.g. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner 1998).
However, based on its wide-ranging scope, Hofstede's research is useful choice as
frame of reference also by design to avoid remeasuring of cultures of countries
concerned. Studying work-related values at the societal level, Hofstede (1984) identified
four dimensions: Power distance can be defined as the extent to which the less powerful
members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power
is distributed unequally. Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between
individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her
immediate family. Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from
birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in groups, which throughout people's
lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. Uncertainty
avoidance is defined as the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by
uncertain or unknown situations. This feeling is expressed e.g. through nervous stress
and in a need for predictability: a need for both written and unwritten rules. Masculinity
pertains to those societies in which social gender roles are clearly distinct, and femininity
pertains to societies in which social gender roles overlap (Hofstede, 1991, pp.23-158).
Also a fifth dimension, long-term versus short-term orientation, has later been identified
in a survey with the Chinese Value Survey instrument carried out by M. H. Bond
(Hofstede, 1993).
In this paper, values in terms of value types will be compared in three different cultures.
The basic question is, are there relationships between national cultures and values to be
taken into account in international business in terms, for example, leadership and
expatriates' work. First, the cultures concerned will be compared in terms of Hofstede´s
cultural dimensions. Next the values based on Schwartz's studies used here are
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
57
described. Finally, methodology and research design, results and conclusions are
presented.
2. Bulgarian, Finnish and Japanese Cultures
Comparison of power distance and masculinity dimensions between Bulgaria, Finland
and Japan reveals that both are higher in Bulgaria and Japan. Finland is characterized
by small-power distance, and a feminine cluster. In the individualism-collectivism
dimension, Finland is in the individualism cluster whereas individualism is lowest in
Bulgaria and low also in Japan. Uncertainty avoidance is higher both in Bulgaria and
Japan (See Table 1).
In feminine cultures, the preference for resolving conflicts is compromise and
negotiation. In masculine cultures, there is a feeling that a good fight should resolve
conflicts: Let the best man win (Hofstede, 1991, p.92). In feminine cultures a humanized
job gives more opportunities for mutual help and social contacts. The masculine
leadership culture is assertive, decisive, 'aggressive', and a decision-maker is looking for
facts rather more than a group-discussion leader. The management in a feminine culture
is less visible, more intuitive than decisive and more consensus seeking than the
counterpart in a masculine culture (Hofstede 1991, p.94). In weak uncertainty
avoidance, masculine cluster, achievement and esteem are typical whereas security and
belongingness are typical of strong uncertainty avoidance, feminine cluster (Hofstede
1991, p.125).
Countries with strong uncertainty avoidance but small power distance have
organizations on the well-oiled machine model, the activities structured without
concentrating the authority. In the large-power distance, weak-uncertainty-avoidance
countries, a family organization with an omnipotent owner-manager is characteristic;
concentration of authority without structuring of activities (Hofstede 1991, pp. 142-143).
Table 1. Comparison of Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions in the case of Bulgaria, Finland
and Japan.
Cultural dimensions Bulgaria Finland Japan
Power distance Higher Small Medium
Masculinity Somewhat
masculine Feminine High
Individualism-
collectivism High collectivism Quite high
individualism Rather
collectivist
Uncertainty avoidance Higher Lower Higher
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
58
3. Values
Theoretically, there are several definitions of values. The types of values used here are
based on Schwartz's (1992) and Schwartz and Boehnke's (2004) definitions (Table 2)
that are used in many international comparisons.
Table 2. Types of values and sub-values of the study
Achievement - Implies personal success through demonstrating capabilities respecting
the social standards that the individual has to respect. The associated values include
ambition, influence, capability, success, intelligence and self-respect.
Benevolence - Is associated with the values of being helpful, responsibility, forgiving,
honesty, loyalty, mature love and true friendship.
Conformity - The restraints on action, inclination and impulses that are likely to upset or
harm other individuals or groups and violate social norms or expectations are the
relevant goals here. The associated values include obedience, self-discipline, politeness
and honoring of parents and elders.
Hedonism - Pleasure and the sensuous gratification of oneself are the defining goals
here, leading to pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment of life.
Power - The attainment of social status and prestige and control or dominance over
others and resources define this motivational type. Associated values include social
power, wealth, authority, preserving public image and social recognition.
Security - Safety, harmony and the stability of society, of relationships and of self-
preservation are the defining goals of this value type. The relevant values include
national security, reciprocation of favors, family security, a sense of belonging, social
order, health and clean living.
Self-direction - Independent thought and action in choosing, creating, exploring
creativity, freedom, choosing one’s own goals, curiosity and independence.
Spirituality - Implies meaning and inner peace through the transcendence of everyday
life. Associated values include a spiritual life, meaning in life, inner harmony and
detachment.
Stimulation - Values derive from the assumed need of individuals and groups for
variety and stimulation in order to maintain an ideal level of activity, motivating an
exciting life, a varied life, and a daring outlook.
Tradition - It springs from commitment to, and acceptance of, the customs and ideals
that are imposed by an individual’s culture or religion. The associated values are
tradition, devotion, acceptance of one’s ‘lot in life’, humbleness and moderation.
Universalism - This motivational type is defined by understanding, appreciation,
tolerance and protection for the welfare of all other people and of nature. The associated
values include equality, unity with nature, wisdom, a world of beauty, social justice,
broad-mindedness, protecting the environment and a world at peace.
Along with globalization, value types from a cross-cultural perspective have awakened
great interest in recent years (e.g. Abramson & Inglehart, 1995; Hofstede, 1980, 1991;
Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Schwartz, 1992; Schwartz & Bardi, 1997; Schwartz & Ros,
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
59
1995; Smith & Schwartz, 1997; Inglehart, 1997; Triandis, 1990; etc.). In accordance with
Hofstede's 'social programming', values are seen as 'abstract social cognitions' that help
people's adaptation to the environment (Claxton & McIntyre, 1996). According to Comte,
value consensus is usually defined as concurrence among members of a society
concerning their values (see Schwartz & Sagie, 2000).
Lewis (2003) has analyzed and compared different countries and cultures around the
world in ordinary terms typical for each country in their historical context. He (2003, p.
331) states that “the Finns, probably on account of exceptional historical and
geographical circumstances, have a higher degree of national self-consciousness than
most peoples.“ He added that “it is hard for the British and French to imagine a nation
that has triumphed over so much adversity can fall prey to an inferiority complex!”
Actually, Lewis saw some congruence between the Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, and
also French values due to the history in spite that the Finns are less chauvinistic. It may
also be assumed that the rapid economical growth and internalization of Japan have
brought it nearer western culture. Bulgaria has recently joined the EU. Along with years
to come, it will be seen how much the EU will affect Bulgarian values. The collapse of
Soviet Union made it possible for Bulgaria to get closer Western Europe. Anyway, Lewis
(2003, p. 319) stated that “Bulgarians are cooler and more pragmatic than many Slavs;
quiet and soberness are valued. Values tend to be rural, with homespun virtues.”
4. Methodology and Research Design
The research aimed at comparing value types in three different cultures in terms of
Hofstede´s cultural dimensions. Of course, the use of Hofstede´s cultural dimensions
could be criticized for example in terms of the aging of Hofstede´s research. The world
has changed and cultures may have converged a little since that time. However,
Hofstede´s research serves as useful, common frame of reference in this comparison.
The sample consisted of 79 Bulgarian people, 453 Finnish people and 304 Japanese
people who completed the questionnaire. Unquestionably, the number of observations
from Bulgaria is small. But, on the other hand, as pretested, the value factors loaded
logically in that sample. Further, the possible effects of the sample size and composition
will be considered in conclusions. The Finnish sample is most heterogeneous whereas
the Bulgarian sample consists on average of younger, military career oriented people.
The Japanese sample is stressed to young adults. According to earlier studies (e.g.
Routamaa, Hautala & Mohsin 2007; Routamaa & Heinäsuo 2006), possible minor in-
culture discrepancies do not obscure cross-cultural comparisons. In case of the value
questionnaire (Schwartz), a 7-degree scale was provided for respondents to indicate
how important the values presented are. The means, F-values, and significances of the
values, value rankings and post-hoc orders will be reported.
5. Discussion of Findings
In Table 3, the means, F-values, and significances of the values in three cultures are
presented, and in Table 4, the rankings of the values in each country are listed.
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
60
When comparing the samples of each culture, some bigger but mainly smaller
differences could be found. However, no fewer than eight of the ten values differed
significantly (see Table 3). The ranking orders do not necessary differ that much. For
example, three least ranked values are the same (see Table 4). However, as can be
found in Table 3, there are clear significant differences between different cultures. The
degrees of importance differ a lot. Masculine and highly collective Bulgarian culture
valued highly significantly more achievement, self-direction, tradition, power and
security. Probably due to historical background, in Japanese culture universalism,
conformity and hedonism are most highly valued. Feminine, individual cultures were
also enjoying life valuing hedonism significantly and benevolence that was also highly
valued in Japan. Pleasure and enjoyment are important for both cultures, probably due
Table 3. The means, F-values, and significances of the values in Finland, Bulgaria and
Japan.
Power Achieve-
ment Hedon-
ism Stimu-
lation Self-
Direc-
tion
Univers-
alism Bene-
volence Traditi-
on Confor-
mity Securi-
ty
Fin
n=453
Mean
2.83 (10)
1.25
4.36 (7)
1.20
5.04 (2)
1.17
4.14(8)
1.33
4.87 (4)
0.95
4.47 (6)
1.04
5.23 (1)
0.91
3.10 (9)
1.13
4.45(5)
1.08
4.82 (3)
0.98
Bulg
n=79
Mean
4.35 (8)
1.46
5.34 (1)
0.84
4.67 (6)
1.46
4.18(9)
1.41
5.25 (3)
0.96
4.78 (5)
0.93
5.26 (2)
0.96
3.86(10)
1.17
4.48(7)
1.08
5.10 (4)
0.96
Jpn
n=304
Mean
3.56 (10)
1.14
4.53 (7)
1.03
5.57 (1)
1.02
3.86(8)
1.36
4.95 (5)
0.95
5.04 (4)
0.86
5.17 (3)
0.88
3.59 (9)
1.11
4.86(6)
1.09
5.27 (2)
0.83
F-
value 67.577 26.181 28.181 4.336 5.303 31.056 0.591 25.880 13.754 21.605
Signifi-
cance
0.000*** 0.000*** 0.000*** 0.13 0.005** 0.000*** 0.554 0.000*** 0.000*** 0.000***
Table 4. Value Rankings of the Total Samples in Bulgaria (left) and Finland (middle) and
Japan (right).
Bulgarian values:
1. Achievement
2. Benevolence
3. Self-Direction
4. Security
5. Universalism
6. Hedonism
7. Conformity
8. Power
9. Stimulation
10. Tradition
Finnish values:
1. Benevolence
2. Hedonism
3. Security
4. Self-Direction
5. Conformity
6. Universalism
7. Achievement
8. Stimulation
9. Tradition
10. Power
Japanese values
1. Hedonism
2. Security
3. Benevolence
4. Universalism
5. Self-Direction
6. Conformity
7. Achievement
8. Stimulation
9. Tradition
10. Power
Routamaa, Hautala & Tsutzuki
61
to different reasons based on history and culture. Benevolence in terms of being helpful,
responsible, forgiving, honest, loyal, capable of mature love and true friendship was the
only common value among the three top values of three cultures. Universalism was
more typical of collectivist cultures even. Achievement is usually a more typical value for
masculine cultures than feminine ones (cf. Routamaa, Hautala & Mohsin 2007). That is,
orientation towards work is also more serious than that found in feminine cultures, and
that should be recognized by those coming to work from a different culture. The
achievement rankings of Japan and Finland were the same, but with the Japanese
mean a little higher and deviation smaller. The small difference may also be explained
as a result of westernization. Bulgarians ranked achievement highest of all values.
Power was very low valued, in general, but especially low in feminine, individualistic and
low power distance cultures. (See Tables 4 and 5) It may be noted that in addition to
power also stimulation and tradition were among the three last ranked. Referring to
Lewis’ comment above on Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, and French values and history,
the low ranking of stimulation is understandable. Similarly, corresponding to Lewis’ view
of Bulgarians compared to other Slavs, low ranking of stimulation is explicable. Taking
into consideration the culture differences presented in Table 1, the rankings of values
were natural even though, for example, histories and economic situation of the countries
may be reverberated to the peculiar values. Actually, the ranking differences quite well
correspond the intensity of cultural dimensions specified between those three countries.
Table 5. Ranking Orders of Significantly Different Values
Self-direction
Bulgaria > Finland, Japan
Universalism
Japan>Bulgaria>Finland
Achievement
Bulgaria >Finland, Japan
Security
Bulgaria, Japan>Finland
Conformity
Japan>Bulgaria, Finland
Hedonism
Japan>Finland>Bulgaria
Tradition
Bulgaria>Japan>Finland
Power
Bulgaria>Japan>Finland
6. Conclusions
This study confirmed the earlier studies that there are culture-based stresses in the
values that must be taken into consideration in international business. Secondly, the
study revealed that there is a certain amount of conformity among members of society
concerning their values. That is there are some culture based shared values over the
individual values.
62
Bulgaria, Finland and Japan all have different cultural and historical backgrounds. In
terms of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, Bulgaria and Japan are nearer each other’s,
whereas Finland represents low power distance, feminine, individualistic, and low
uncertainty avoidance cultures. The most typical values for the low power distance, low
uncertainty avoidance, individual and feminine culture were benevolence and hedonism.
However, the higher power distance, higher uncertainty avoidance, somewhat
collectivist and masculine cultures, Bulgaria and Japan had only one common value
among the three top values that was benevolence. It may be noted that the ranking
order is not the main criteria but the absolute rating of each single value. Surprisingly,
and differing from earlier results of masculine culture (cf. Routamaa, Hautala & Mohsin
2007), achievement was not that highly valued in Japan. One can assume that
westernization and transition are bringing cultures closer together. However, there are
certainly bigger differences between the values of generalizations in Asia than there are
in Europe (cf. Routamaa & Heinäsuo 2006). In Japan, the top three values were
hedonism, security and benevolence whereas in Bulgaria Achievement, Benevolence
and self-direction were most valued. It cannot be denied that the Bulgarian sample of
relatively young, military career oriented people may affect the ranking. It may be
assumed that hedonism in Japanese culture originates more from historical rite than
hedonism in feminine and individual cultures where it may be more individual way of life.
The lowest value rankings of the three countries were surprisingly similar; power,
stimulation and tradition were the same. It might be assumed that in old Japanese
culture, tradition were valued higher but, on the other hand, younger people especially
have become considerably more westernized during the last twenty years, and the
Japanese sample consists mainly of young adults. In global business, the
businessperson or traveler should recognize the intercultural differences within regions
in order to succeed in business or leisure relationships. The great number of
unsuccessful expatriate recruitments is a good example of the limited understanding of
cultural differences of values. To succeed, a manager in foreign culture needs training
and coaching in self-knowledge and cultural differences in terms of values. For example,
a manager in masculine, collective, high-power distance, and high-uncertainty-
avoidance Bulgarian culture has to take into account achievement and security which
demand quite task-oriented leadership behavior while benevolence and hedonism
require more human orientation. A manager from an individual and feminine culture may
also have difficulties in applying task oriented and collective leadership style when used
to working in work communities colored by hedonism and benevolence. Correspondingly
an expatriate coming from high-power distance, high uncertainty avoidance, collectivism
and masculinity culture to the opposite culture may feel insecure and inactive in an un-
collective milieu of hedonism. In a global world, business communities are more
multicultural, despite the country they are. That is why knowledge of cultural dimensions,
values, and knowledge of the relationships between them is a big challenge for leaders.
(Cf. Routamaa & Hautala 2008).
63
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... Although these instruments seem to represent success factors within western countries (Gudacker, 200;Kotter, 2008;Scholz, 2000;Unger, 2007), it is questionable if they are a magic bullet and work as efficiently in a different cultural context (Barmeyer, 2003;Beitel, Mußhoff & Uhlaner, 2010;Genkova, 2009). In a comparison between Bulgaria, Finland and Japan, Routamaa et al. (2009) found indications that there are small culture-based differences that must be taken into consideration in international business. In similar fashion Alves et al. (2006) highlighted that the concept of self-leadership and its application differs from culture to culture. ...
... These hypotheses were chosen to give implications for further studies and for practical use regarding international M&A. While employee involvement seems to be a factor of success during international M&A in a western context it may not be regarded as very useful in order to reduce resistance forces in a different cultural environment in which high power distance and high uncertainty avoidance predominate (Bibu & Brancu, 2008;Catana & Catana, 2010;Davidkov, 2004;Neculaesei & Tatarusanu, 2008;Routamaa et al., 2009;Steyrer et al., 2006;Takei & Ito, 2007 A quantitative research design was chosen to identify the importance of employee involvement (e. g. participation in different task groups, participation in preparatory seminars) and to analyze relevant characteristics of a good leader. Therefore, managers and employees working for a multinational company in Bulgaria and Romania were questioned. ...
... Only Romanians named the lack of employee involvement as a factor of failure. Furthermore, most Bulgarians and Romanians didn´t participate in any preparatory seminars but were involved in the process itself -however, one-third of the participants had to attend these workshops as an obligation Therefore, it is unclear whether they wanted to participate and be part of the process or whether -due to a high power distance index (Bibu & Brancu 2008;Hofstede 2006;Routamaa et al., 2009) -Bulgarians and Romanians had to participate as it was obligatory. Therefore, it is difficult to draw a final conclusion whether Bulgarians and Romanians reject participatory instruments or not. ...
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