Cross-Cultural Tourist Research
From the onset, it would be prudent to offer a concise definition of two of the terms that will be variously used in this text, i.e. cross-cultural interactions and culture. Culture, according to Hofstede (as cited in Bowe and Martin, 2007, p. 80), is “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.” It, hence, has got to do with that cumulative deposit of roles, societal hierarchies, as well as values and beliefs adopted by a group of people over a long period of time. In that regard, therefore, cross-cultural interactions are in line with the ability of an individual or group of persons to not only form but also foster and enhance relationships with those who may not be members of their own culture. On this front, successful cross-cultural interactions are essentially based on the knowledge and understanding of many factors. These include, but they are not limited to; understanding of other culture’s inter-personal communications, decision-making approaches, social structure, as well as values. Essentially, cross-cultural interactions have their own sets of challenges. Is now a foregone conclusion that the world has become a global village. The relevance of having the skill to relate well with people from other cultures cannot therefore be overstated. As Bernard Baruch once pointed out, “we didn’t all come over on the same ship, but we’re all in the same boat.”
In basic terms, “tourism and culture are highly intertwined” (Uysal, Perdue, and Sirgy, 2012, p. 158). To enjoy their stay in the diverse locations they visit, tourists ought to have significant understanding of the dominant culture of their host. This is particularly the case given that they are likely to be immersed in different cultural patterns — they are likely to meet people with orientations that are different from those of their own.
Cultural Differences Using Hofstede’s Dimensions
In what could be regarded a landmark study, Hofstede came up with several dimensions that could be used to great effect to distinguish between the people of diverse nationalities. In this section, I not only explain the dimensions but also highlight several counties’ scores on Hofstede’s model. The said countries include Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Dubai, and the Philippines.
All five of Hofstede’s dimensions include; individualism vs. collectivism, power distance, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term vs. short-term orientation (Bowe and Martin, 2007). The last dimension is the latest addition to the dimensions, which were originally four in number.
With regard to individualism vs. collectivism, Hofstede expressed that “individualist cultures place a higher emphasis on individual goals in comparison to group achievements in collectivist cultures” (Bowe and Martin, 2007, p. 81). While individualist people allocate more emphasis on themselves and perhaps their immediate families, those seen as being collectivist subscribe to collectivities (or in-groups).
Next, we have power distance which in the opinion of Mueller (2008, p. 88) has got to do with “societal desire for hierarchy or egalitarianism.” Here, there is a tendency for those who happen to be less powerful to accept unequal distribution of power. When it comes to masculinity vs. femininity, Hofstede (as cited in Bowe and Martin, 2008, p. 81) “defines a masculine culture as that which has a ‘preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material success’, whereas a feminine society is viewed as having a ‘preference for relationships, modesty, caring for the weak, and the quality of life.'”
The other dimension worth considering is uncertainty avoidance, which is, in basic terms, “the degree to which members feel uncomfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty” (Bowe and Martin, 2007, p. 81). In this case, ambiguous situations sufficiently threaten people — and it is for this reason that people come up with institutions as well as beliefs that attempt to avoid the said situations. Lastly, we have long-term vs. short-term orientation which as I have pointed elsewhere in this text is the latest addition to Hofstede’s dimensions. This dimension, according to Hofstede and Bond (as cited in Mueller, 2008, p. 88), has got to do with “the cultural perspective on a long-term vs. A short-term basis.” It is important to note that each of the dimensions presented in this case has a measurement basis of 0-100. Table 1 places the dimensions mentioned above in the context of five countries namely: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Dubai, and the Philippines.
United Arab Emirates
Source: The Hofstede Centre
A higher score means that the dimension under consideration is more exhibited in society.
Cultural Differences in Tourist Behavior
As Reisinger and Turner (2012, p. 55) point out, “most inter- and cross-cultural tourist-host contacts are characterized by interaction difficulties caused by cultural differences in rules of social interaction.” It is important to note that, as the authors further point out, each and every culture has its own rules of engagement when it comes to not only the demonstration of respect but also expression of personal views or opinions. For instance, as Bochner (as cited in Reisinger and Turner, 2012) found out, the most difficult situation foreign tourists faced in Britain was the development of personal interactions. In an attempt to demonstrate just how much cultural differences in tourist behavior count in as far as cross-cultural interactions are concerned, Stringer (as cited in Reisinger and Turner 2012, p. 55) points out that “in bed-and-breakfast establishments, even different customs of handling cutlery and eating habits caused irritations, and were grounds for interaction difficulties between tourist and hosts.”
The tourist-host mutual perceptions have also been found to be impacted upon by cultural variations in social interaction rules. This effectively means that positive or negative perceptions could be created as a consequence of the said social interaction rules (Reisinger and Turner, 2012). As a matter of fact, being socially skilled as far as the rules of a particular culture are concerned does not automatically make one skilled in foreign culture rules. This according to Bochner (as cited in Reisinger and Turner, 2012, p. 55) could result in feeling of inadequacy, frustration, and embarrassment on the part of tourists and hosts alike; thus leading to what the author refers to as the development of “negative perceptions of the nationals of a foreign culture.” Lack of cultural awareness could also lead to what is often referred to as culture shock. Culture shock is defined by Reisinger and Turner (2012, p. 57) as the surprise individuals experience once they are immersed in a culture different from that of their own. In the words of the authors, this particular shock is brought about by the “inability to come in a new cultural environment, being overloaded with unfamiliar stimuli one cannot comprehend, confronted with different ways of life and doing things,” amongst other things (Reisinger and Turner, 2012, p. 57).
The all important question that arises in all this is: what should be done to eliminate the challenges inherent in social interactions between tourists and hosts? To eliminate such challenges, Reisinger and Turner (2012) recommend that both hosts and tourists become aware that their cultural backgrounds are different. For instance, when it comes to physical contact, it would be helpful for an individual to be aware that in reference to two countries with different cultures, this could, inter-culturally speaking, be a delicate issue. While a peck in the cheek could be regarded an acceptable gesture (as a form of greeting or appreciation) in Paris, the same could be frowned upon in conservative jurisdictions such as Saudi Arabia.
Individual/Collectivism and Service Quality
When it comes to this particular dimension, as I have pointed out elsewhere in this text, Hofstede expresses that “individualist cultures place a higher emphasis on individual goals in comparison to group achievements in collectivist cultures” (Bowe and Martin, 2007, p. 81). In that regard, therefore, individualism has got to do with the preference for a social framework that is not tightly-knit. Here, persons are expected to give their needs and those of their families first preference. On the other end of the spectrum, we have collectivism, where a loosely-knit social framework is frowned upon in preference for one that is tightly-knit. On this front, persons can expect members of a group (outside their immediate families) to care for them. The reward in this case is usually enhanced loyally. With regard to the dimension under consideration and expectations of quality, Furrer and Lieu (as cited in Hong and Lee, 2014, p. 3) point out that “based on a survey of personnel from 16 different countries” it was found out that “customers from a collectivistic culture tend to have a higher intention to praise the service provider when they experience service quality than customers from an individualistic culture.” It should also be noted that as the authors further point out, collectivistic customers are not likely to voice their disapproval of a service, or even change a service provider as a result of their displeasure with the said service.
Bowe, H. & Martin, K. (2007). Communication across Cultures: Mutual Understanding in a Global World. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Hong, J.K. & Lee, Y. (2014). The Influence of National Culture on Customers’ Cross-Buying Intentions in Asian Banking Services: Evidence from Korea and Taiwan. New York, NY: Routledge.
Mueller, B. (2008). Communicating with the Multicultural Consumer: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing.
Reisinger, Y. & Turner, L. (2012). Cross-Cultural Behavior in Tourism. Burlington, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Uysal, M., Perdue, R., and Sirgy, J. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of Tourism and Quality-of-Life Research: Enhancing the Lives of Tourists and Residents of Host Communities. Blacksburg, VA: Springer.