Group G consists of Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the USA. Germany and Portugal are both European nations. Ghana is located in Western Africa and the USA is the most populous North American nation. Group G is sometimes referred to as the “group of death,” due to its very competitive composition.
Germany is a European nation with a wide variety of historical contexts and a long standing soccer tradition. Punctuality might be more important in Germany than in any other country. German punctuality does not apply to deliveries, things may be delivered late without any notice. If you arrive late to a concert, production, or show, the doors will be locked until intermission. However, the pace of business in Germany is relatively slow compared to most Anglo-Saxon cultures. Most Germans shake hands upon meeting and it is important to slightly nod the head when shaking hands. Germans are known to be aggressive drivers, it is important to be careful when crossing streets. Germany is known (among other things) for making precision-engineered products and fine beer, feel free to discuss this with business partners. But be careful in discussing the country’s 20th century history.
Germany’s high score of 83 indicates that it is a pragmatic country. In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.
Regular readers of this blog will find much more detailed insight on German culture in many of our other articles. Feel free to explore.
Portugal spread its influence worldwide during colonial times, and Portuguese still remains a common language around the globe. Despite Portugal’s proximity to Spain, it is considered offensive when foreigners try to communicate with the Portuguese in Spanish. Honor is culturally important to them, one’s honor can be lost through actions or even the actions of a family member.
Portugal has a collectivist society where family is important and often family members are given positions in business. Portuguese culture also features a low masculinity score, which is why excessive competitiveness or polarization is often not welcome. In feminine countries the focus is on “working in order to live”, managers strive for consensus, people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. Incentives such as free time and flexibility are favored. Focus is on well-being, status is not shown. An effective manager is a supportive one, and decision making is achieved through involvement. If there is one aspect that defines Portugal very clearly, it is uncertainty avoidance. Portugal scores 99 on this dimension and thus has a very high preference for avoiding ambiguity and risk.
Ghana has a tribe culture that is one of the few societies in the world which traces their ancestry maternally. Ghana is a very hierarchical culture where elders are greatly respected and family is important. In fact, family is so important in Ghana, it takes top priority over everything in life. Although there are complex native greetings, meeting a foreigners is typically done with a handshake and smile. It is generally common to wait for a woman to extend her hand first. Titles are important, make sure to use them when greeting. Ghanaians are indirect communicators and while avoiding giving information that may cause conflict. The first business meeting is typically to build rapport, and business may not even be discussed.
Ghana has the incredibly low score of 4 in the pragmatism dimension. A score this low indicates a very strong preference to a normative way of thinking. People in such societies have a strong concern with establishing the absolute Truth; they are normative in their thinking. They exhibit great respect for traditions, a relatively small propensity to save for the future, and a focus on achieving quick results. Combine this with high indulgance score of 72. People in societies like this generally exhibit a willingness to realize their impulses and desires with regard to enjoying life and having fun. They possess a positive attitude and have a tendency towards optimism. In addition, they place a higher degree of importance on leisure time, act as they please and spend money as they wish.
United States of America
The United States is known for being a melting pot (or, mosaic) of many different immigrant cultures, which have amalgamated into a unique culture. Business in the U.S. moves very fast, rapport is built quickly, and relationships can be unimportant. Competition and independence are important values in society. When a U.S. American asks directly what you do, it is an important question which is not considered to be rude. In fact, to many U.S. Americans, what one’s job is defines who he/she is.
This U.S. is one of the most individualistic societies in the world. It is important for everyone to be self-supportive and to help move society forward. The U.S. is also a very competitive society and competition can be encouraged in the workplace.
The fairly low score on power distance (40) in combination with the very high individualism score (91) reflects itself in the following:
- The American premise of “liberty and justice for all.” This is evidenced by an explicit emphasis on equal rights in all aspects of American society and government.
- Within American organizations, hierarchy is established for convenience, superiors are accessible and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise.
- Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative to a degree.
- The society is loosely-knit in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families only and should not rely (too much) on authorities for support.
- There is also a high degree of geographical mobility in the United States. Americans are the best joiners in the world; however it is often difficult, especially among men, to develop deep friendships.
- Americans are accustomed to doing business or interacting with people they don’t know well. Consequently, Americans are not shy about approaching their prospective counterparts in order to obtain or seek information. In the business world, employees are expected to be self-reliant and display initiative. Also, within the exchange-based world of work we see that hiring, promotion and decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do.
The score of the US on Masculinity is high at 62, and this can be seen in the typical American behavioral patterns. This can be explained by the the combination of a high Masculinity drive together with the most individualistic drive in the world. In other words, Americans, so to speak, all show their masculine drive individually. The British, however, have the same culture in this respect. The question, therefore, should be: is the same drive not normally to be seen on the surface? This difference is a reflection of the higher score of the US on Uncertainty Avoidance than of the UK. In other words, in both societies we find the same drive, but Americans show it up-front whereas the British will take you by surprise.
This American combination reflects itself in the following:
- Behavior in school, work, and play are based on the shared values that people should “strive to be the best they can be” and that “the winner takes all”. As a result, Americans will tend to display and talk freely about their “successes” and achievements in life. Being successful per se is not the great motivator in American society, but being able to show one’s success
- Many American assessment systems are based on precise target setting, by which American employees can show how well a job they did.
- There exists a “can-do” mentality which creates a lot of dynamism in the society, as it is believed that there is always the possibility to do things in a better way
- Typically, Americans “live to work” so that they can obtain monetary rewards and as a consequence attain higher status based on how good one can be. Many white collar workers will move to a more fancy neighborhood after each and every substantial promotion.
- It is believed that a certain degree of conflict will bring out the best of people, as it is the goal to be “the winner”. As a consequence, we see a lot of polarization and court cases. This mentality nowadays undermines the American premise of “liberty and justice for all.” Rising inequality is endangering democracy, because a widening gap among the classes may slowly push Power Distance up and Individualism down.
The US scores below average, with a low score of 46, on the Uncertainty Avoidance dimension. As a consequence, the perceived context in which Americans find themselves will impact their behavior more than if the culture would have either scored higher or lower. Thus, this cultural pattern reflects itself as follows:
- There is a fair degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices or food. Americans tend to be more tolerant of ideas or opinions from anyone and allow the freedom of expression. At the same time, Americans do not require a lot of rules and are less emotionally expressive than higher-scoring cultures.
- At the same time, 9/11 and its aftermath has created a lot of fear in the American society culminating in the efforts of government to monitor everybody through the NSA and other security organizations
The United States scores normative on the fifth dimension with a low score of 26. This is reflected by the following:
- Americans are prone to analyze new information to check whether it is true. Thus, the culture doesn’t make most Americans pragmatic, but this should not be confused with the fact that Americans are very practical, being reflected by the “can-do” mentality mentioned above.
- The polarization mentioned above is, so to speak, strengthened by the fact that many Americans have very strong ideas about what is “good” and “evil”. This may concern issues such as abortion, use of drugs, euthanasia, weapons or the size and rights of the government versus the States and versus citizens.
- The U.S. is the one of the only “Caucasian” countries in the world where, since the beginning of the 20th century, visiting church has increased. This increase is also evident in some post-Soviet republics such as Russia.
- American businesses measure their performance on a short-term basis, with profit and loss statements being issued on a quarterly basis. This also drives individuals to strive for quick results within the work place.
The United States scores as an indulgent (68) society on the sixth dimension. This, in combination with a normative score, is reflected by the following contradictory attitudes and behavior:
- Work hard and play hard.
- The States has waged a war against drugs and is still very busy in doing so, yet drug addiction in the States is higher than in many other wealthy countries.
- It is a prudish society yet even some well-known televangelists appear to be immoral.
Regular readers of this blog will find much more detailed insight on U.S. culture in many of our other articles. Feel free to explore.
To learn more about the other 28 cultures represented at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, go back to the main article on this topic.