Group H consists of Belgium, Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. Belgium and Russia are both European nations, Algeria is located in North Africa, and South Korea in East Asian.
Belgium is over 90% Roman Catholic, and this can be a significant factor for the cultural orientation of the country. Belgians hold privacy as very important. Office doors are kept closed, knock and wait to be let in, and make sure to close the door behind you. Belgians are considered more friendly and flexible than their Dutch neighbors. Belgium is considered a very safe country and often it is joked that the only hazard to foreigners are the high prices. Belgians will often make belittling comments about themselves; this is accepted but foreigners are not to make these comments.
With 54 on average, Belgium has an intermediate score on this dimension. Balancing in the middle of this dimension contradictions can be found. A confrontational, win-lose negotiating style (typical of the US and Anglo countries) will not be very effective in Belgium. This could mean that the decision process may be slower, as each point of view is considered so that consensus can be achieved. Belgians strive towards reaching a compromise, winning a discussion is generally less important than achieving mutual agreement.
A deeper look into the difference between the Northern part of the country (Flemish) and the Southern part (French) shows a difference in the Masculinity value. The Flemish is at 43, and the French at 60. This certainly explains partly the difficulties the 2 communities experience. The need for the Flemish to “close the circle” and “stay between natives” is a necessity to establish consensus, typical for a more Feminine culture. The cultural priority for the French-speaking part is the opposite: to be part of a “global Latin culture” typically made of “universal values”.
Algeria is 99% Islamic Sunni, which is an extremely important factor for the behavioral preferences in Algerian society. Islam is the state religion, and Algerians have a strong concept of family and honor. Both are defining factors of the culture. The family or group always come before the individual. When meeting Algerians, it is important to ask about family, health, or something of that nature. When meeting women, wait for her to extend her hand for a hand shake. Do not ask personal questions about women. Personal relationships and rapport are very important.
Since Russia was the leading power in the former USSR, its socialist past still plays an important part on the culture today. Russia has an outstanding literacy rate of approximately 99%. Due to the size and diversity of the country, it is difficult to generalize about the culture as a whole. However, Russians in general rank high on uncertainty avoidance and pragmatism. They also accept and expect to see power distributed unevenly throughout society. Compromise is sometimes considered a sign of weakness to Russians and often they can be tough negotiators. Russian law and business practices can be complicated and ever changing; it is important to be prepared to contact a law professional and to take time negotiating a final deal. It is important to seem sophisticated and cultured as the Russians often judge foreigners to the same standards as themselves. The American “okay” sign, and any shaken fist gesture are considered offensive.
Due to its socialist past, Russians tend to be very collectivist and often competition is not as important. Besides a commonality for drinking, Russians are not a very indulgent society. The restrained nature of Russian culture is easily visible through its very low score of 20 on this dimension. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to indulgent societies, restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.
South Korea has a history of being invaded and this can cause them to be defensive in general. The Republic of Korea, or South Korea is not to be confused by their northern neighbors, North Korea, who can be polar opposites of the modern capitalistic society in South Korea. Eye contact is not as strong as most North Americans, and typically eye contact is not to be made with a superior. Strong eye contact is often associated with anger or hostility. Although Korea is religiously diverse, Confucianism has had a significant impact on the culture and views of the society. The first business meeting with Koreans is often to build rapport and relationships. Although traditional values run deep, the younger generation is open to globalization and modernization. Business in Korea can be more emotional than in many western societies. Physical contact is not accepted unless there is an established friendship. Feet are considered unclean and must be kept on the floor during formal situations. Touching the left palm to the right elbow while shaking hands is used to convey respect to elders.
South Korea, with a score of 18 is considered a collectivistic society. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member “group,” be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group. In collectivist societies offense leads to shame and loss of face, employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link), hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group, management is the management of groups.
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.