Holden and Von Kortzfleisch, 2004). As such the definition of culture and the amount of explanatory power attributed to it affects communication which is a social activity, that is, it is something people do with and to each other manifested in their behaviors (Samovar and Porter, 1997, p.9)
With the advent of globalization people are frequently moving or being called to work in environments beyond their local territories. Moreover the studies opportunities for graduate and undergraduate programs in adult and higher education globally are causing interactions beyond own cultures. This is causing cross-cultural challenges in communication, adaptation, foods, and social interactions among many other cultural issues (Marouli, 2002).
A country’s culture greatly affects the behavior of its citizens and institutions therein. For instance in some country’s cultures people prefer to act as a group rather than individually. Moreover a nation’s unique cultural attributes contribute a vital role in determining the selection of management and leadership style in institutions thus making an effective leadership style in one cultural setting ineffective in another. Thus identifying and fostering appropriate leadership behaviors relevant to the given cultural situation is very important (Reilly and Karounsos, 2009, p. 2).
For global leaders such as professors and others in international institutions recognizing cultural differences and learning to amalgamate them to their advantage rather than attempting to ignore them or letting the cause problems is an important step in cross cultural management (Adler, 2002). Nonetheless every culture is prone to evolution and this renders most of the previously learnt norms, traditions and behaviors irrelevant thus up to date cultural information should be used in the process of cross-cultural management.
Culture Shock and Cultural Stress
Culture shock is an emotional feeling of disorientation given to the reality that a person has changed culture and has to communicate and cooperate with someone who perceives a situation differently and performs things differently. This can be a stressful situation depending on the intensity of how strongly the worker perceives the cultural departure to be and the support accorded by the new culture’s colleagues (Zde?ka, 2006).
The desire to protect one’s identity as a result of feeling of threat and is one of the causes of cultural stress that people experience after change of cultural environments. This happens on the level of an individual as well as organization or institution. Mores in which man lives and the basic presumptions, values and norms that he shares with the others provide the feeling of unity, patterns of behavior, firm and predictable environment and thus emotional wellness.
In case of organization or institutional culture the extent of emotional wellness and identification with a certain culture depends on how much the organizational culture corresponds with personal principles and internal customs of an individual. However, organizations have their own identity connected to their history and are proud about their mark and tradition, which the staff identifies with, shares and tends to protect.
Every managers’ or administrators’ effort in planning, organizing, motivating, and controlling their subordinates, so as to enable success in achieving the firm’s and institutional objectives cannot be realized without thoroughly studying and understanding the cultural environment inside which they function (Larsen, et al., 1999; Hofstede, 1997; Shipper, et. al., 2003).
Cultural uniqueness plays an important role in determining the selection of preferred and effective leadership style. Nevertheless cross cultural leaders must match their leadership styles to the various cultural conditions because by using the suitable behavior in the corresponding cultural environment, they enhance subordinate enthusiasm, which, in turn, can lead to organizationally desired outcomes such as enhanced performance (Adler, 2002).
Reasons for Ignoring Cultural Differences
Cultural differences exist within most institutions where international or more than two cultures will have to interact. There are many reasons for organizations or institutions for ignoring the management of cultural differences. To start with most organizations may be having insufficient awareness of existence of differences and thus are not concerned with them. Secondly there may be insufficient understanding by managers knowledge about the existence of culture, and moreso they might not understand this issue and thus underestimate the culture impact and do not have any need to deal with it.
Thirdly there may be insufficient willingness by administrators and managers who then knowingly decides not to deal with culture. This may be due to their explanation that managing of cultural dimensions is not a sufficient priority for them because though they are important, they are not as pressing for them as pressure to reach results. Additionally they may be focusing their vigor on economic issues or procedural problems thus they do not have enough time to manage cultural differences.
To them cultural problems means to deal with people, behavior, emotions, make decisions in a different way, which causes discomfort, fear and uncertainty. Moreso care of cultural amalgamation is not “attractive” enough for them because cultural amalgamation is not easy to quantify, its contribution cannot be expressed in monetary terms and thus it is not possible to prove success. Fourthly there is inadequate level of abilities and skills as managers may be conscious of the need for cross-cultural management and they may even try to do it, but they fail due to lack of intercultural competences such as appropriate skills, lack of knowledge, and intercultural sensitiveness.
Teaching and Learning in a Multicultural World
According to Longman Dictionary of Teaching and Linguistics (2002 p 311) people view the world wholly or partly according to the structure of their native language. Therefore in a situation where two people of different local languages meet they have a different view of the world, patterns of behavior and beliefs. Cultural interactions especially in universities and other institutions of higher learning are a reality in this modern era thus problems concerning cultural orientations are a daily occurrence to tutors and students in universities and higher institutions of higher learning. Learning in a multi cultural setting has its advantages and disadvantages.
Among the many negative aspects of multicultural setting that affects students according to Boutte (1999) and McGowan (2000) is that students enrolled in courses taught by professors coming from different ethnic or linguistic backgrounds experience uneasiness, nervousness and disagreements. Similarly Professors may experience reservations towards foreigners and thus may face problems when marking their work and trying to be honest. Attitudes towards opportunities created by interaction by culturally diversified people and towards minority professors are another challenge faced in a multicultural setting.
This has a great effect on the students as they avoid enrolling in courses being taught by foreign professors limiting their opportunities and on the other hand that of the professor as they may not have sufficient people to teach. To the professors this may lower their self confidence because of the thinking that they have failures in some competencies such as language and/or their professional enough for the students.
Another problem of learning in a multilingual setting is culture shock experienced by some students or lecturers coming to a foreign country. Ots (1998) stated that nearly all overseas students coming to a new country admitted experiencing culture shock. According to the report the students were shocked among many other things because of the loose organization of the studies, the poor knowledge of English on the part of staff members, accommodation conditions and cultural differences between people from other countries.
On the other hand the teachers experienced shock with regard to the manners of students, the way they dressed and the way that the teachers themselves had to address some students. Furthermore the temperature was a problem for some students and lecturers coming from warmer countries to cold countries and for those coming from cold countries to warmer countries. In conclusion therefore, the problems encountered by teachers and students are racial problems, culture shock, problems of communication among staff and students because of poor foreign language abilities, the lack of knowledge of different cultures which often results to misunderstandings concerning students’ behaviors.
On the other hand learning and teaching in a multicultural setting has its advantages as well. To begin with it helps to build up the students’ intellectual, social, and personal abilities. In addition cultural diversity at the universities helps students and professors to retain their own cultural and ethnic identity, take pride in their own cultural heritage and at the same time promote the appreciation and respect for other cultures that enrich the diversity of the universities (Lee and Janda 2006).
Preparation of for Operation in Multicultural Conditions
If cultural differences are not managed actively and proactively mutual disbeliefs, misunderstandings, disillusion, decrease of moral and productivity are the result. Therefore efficient and proper management of intercultural differences should be adopted. Both the persons and institutions to where these persons are to work should follow up a rigorous and flexible process in managing and helping these persons to manage the expected cross-cultural differences.
Preparation of workers to perform tasks in the international environment depends to a great extend on the form of cooperation between the partner institutions which are represented by the individual workers. To some organizations and institutions the selection and preparation of workers takes place rather on informative and individual level while in some cases it is more complex and very intensive and it concerns workers of the whole company (Zde?ka, 2006).