How to measure social culture and organizational culture of one country is an important issue (Miroshnik, 2002). Culture can be defined as the way of life of the group of people, which includes beliefs, art, law, morals, customs, and any capabilities and habits acquired by a man as a member of society, and enables people to communicate with others, provides the knowledge and skill necessary, and anticipates how others in society are likely to respond for the actions (Miroshnik, 2002).
In other hand, managers frequently view culture as the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one human group from another and the interactive aggregate of common characteristics that influence a groupâ€™s response to the environment (Harvey, 1997).
Culture also has a profound influence on all aspects of human behavior. Cultural influences change and culture evolves as political, social, economic, and technological forces reshape the cultural landscape (Craig, 2006). Therefore, it becomes increasingly essential to take into account the character of culture and to understand the culture effects between countries in associated with business. In this paper, the cultural research will be discussed further as well the implications on the managerial practices.
Indonesia and Singapore Cultural Research
Indonesia is located at Southeast Asia and the archipelago composed of about 13,000 islands. The Bahasa Indonesia has been officially adopted as national language. Hindi, Buddhist, Islam, Protestant, and Catholic are the main religions in Indonesia, where Islam has become the dominant religion (Munandar, 1996). The climate typically produces high, even temperatures and heavy rainfall. Indonesia has the worldâ€™s fourth largest population after China, India, and United States, with population estimated 238,452,952 in July 2004 (â€œCountry profile: Indonesiaâ€, 2004 ). There are about 350 ethnics in Indonesia, where Javanese dominated with 45 percent of the population. The production of palm oil has expanded rapidly in recent years, and takes into account in economic sector, despite the fact that Indonesian economy is mostly influenced in agriculture sector, including forestry and fishing (Economist, 2005).
Indonesia has power distance as the highest ranking on Hofstedeâ€™s value dimension and accepted by the society as part of their cultural heritage (Hofstede, 2004). This can be seen where senior levels of hierarchy demand respect from the lower status (Makmur, 2002). This example can be implemented into business side, where a manager demand respect positively from employees.
The second highest ranking for Indonesia is uncertainty avoidance. This indicates Indonesian societies have low level of tolerance for uncertainty, and strict rules, laws, regulations are adopted and implemented to minimize this level of uncertainty (Hofstede, 2004).
The level of individualism is low in Indonesia. This level indicates the Indonesian society is high in femininity as compared to masculinity. High in femininity means the society fosters strong relationship where anyone takes responsibility and concern for fellow members of their group (Hofstede, 2004).
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world with 88% of their population practicing the Muslim faith (Hofstede, 2004). Thus, Indonesian culture is mostly influenced by the Muslims and highly rule-oriented by the Muslims.
Indonesians respect for status, position, and age. It is important to be polite in the presence of oneâ€™s elders in order to show respect. In business, social acceptance is considered important. In fact, the contacts of personal friend may be the priority in a business relationship than the quality of a product or service (Makmur, 2002). This situation can be say that Indonesians tend to be more human orientation, because in the society or business, relationship with others is the priority.
Generally, Indonesians tend to preserve dignity. This characteristic can be a threat in dealing business, because Indonesians tend to be assertive and excellent in performance orientation (Makmur, 2002). For examples, Indonesians avoid admitting lack of knowledge, inability to complete something, or deny something that it is actually true in order to show dignity.
Indonesians are polite people. Upon meeting and leaving, it is usual to shake hands with both men and women. The other example is Indonesians avoid using left hand when offering something to others, because it is regarded as the unclean hand. It is also rude to point someone with a finger (Makmur, 2002). The fact is Indonesian cultural values do not adapt or include some of the elements in the western societies.
Singapore is located in Southeast Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia. Singapore was part of Malaysia in 1963-1965. The government of Malaysia decided to separate from Singapore in order to avoid further violence between Chinese dominated Singaporean and Malay Muslim communities. Through the 1990s, Singapore experienced sustained economic growth along with â€œFour Tigersâ€ which are Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan. The economy depends heavily on export trade, particularly on manufacturing and electronics sector. Singaporeâ€™s population was reported by the government at 4,351,400 in July 2005, and the ethnic Chinese make up 76.8 percent of the population. Malay is the national language and one of the four official languages, along with Chinese, Tamil, and English, whereby, Chinese is the majority language, spoken about 76 percent of the population. Buddhists and Daoists are the majority of the religion, which made up 51.0 percent of the population, followed by the Islam (â€œCountry profile: Singaporeâ€, 2006).
The highest ranking on Hofstedeâ€™s value dimension for Singapore is power distance (Hofstede, 2004). This situation indicates there is a gap between high level and lower level in the society. It is polite to break eye contact and lowering oneâ€™s eyes when speaking is a form of respect, which is especially important when speaking to those higher rank or age (Chwee, 2005). Basically, those in high level have greater power in the society than those in the lower level.
Singapore has low level of individualism (Hofstede, 2004). This level indicates Singaporean society is high in femininity as compared to masculinity. This can be reflected in the society, where Singaporeans placed relationship and needs of society more important (Chwee, 2005).
The lowest ranking on Hofstedeâ€™s value dimension for Singapore is uncertainty avoidance. This level indicates that the rules, laws, and regulations have been highly implemented in the society, which leads to certainty in living conditions (Chwee, 2005).
Chinese dominated the population in Singapore. Chinese are hard working and believe that success is closely related to survival and planning is become one of the traditions besides harmony and paternalism are the bases upon which most business are formed (Chwee, 2005). Therefore, Singapore is said to be high in long term orientation, and this is thought to support a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work (Hofstede, 2004).
Singaporeans rarely say â€œnoâ€ in order to â€œsave faceâ€. In this case, Singaporeans tend to be assertive and high in performance orientation (Chwee, 2005). Therefore, it is best to listen carefully when Singaporeans say â€œnoâ€, because that can actually mean â€œyesâ€ or vice versa.
Human orientation is reflected in dealing with business. Relationships are more important than the company. One should not be surprised if asked personal question regarding family, marriage or children (Chwee, 2005). Thus, it is important to be respect, patience, and polite to maintain good working relationships in Singapore. There are other cultures such as Singaporeans are customarily shake hands before sitting down for a meeting, one should speak in low quiet tones and maintain a modest behavior.
There is evidence which occurred during Chinese New Year, where children, service people, and employees receive a monetary gift or hong bao. Hong bao is given in red envelope. Employers will give Hong bao usually equivalent of 1-monthâ€™s salary to the employees (Chwee, 2005).
For dining etiquette, although Singapore has adopted many Western ways, there are still some differences. However western utensils are almost always available, chopsticks are the most popular eating utensils amongst the Chinese. Singaporean Malays will generally use a spoon and fork, while for Indians will often eat with right hand. Compliments to the host are appreciated, but may be denied as a sign of modesty (Chwee, 2005).
Assessment of the Indonesia and Singapore cultural research
Firstly, the graph above shows that both the level of power distance in Indonesia and Singapore are the highest among other value dimensions, where Indonesia has higher level in power distance than Singapore. In this case, social hierarchy is more important in Indonesia society and inequalities and status differences tend to be seen positively.
Secondly, second highest ranking for Indonesia is uncertainty avoidance, while for Singapore it is at the lowest level. In this part, there is significant different at the level of uncertainty avoidance. Thus, the society and living condition in Singapore is more certain, organized, and the laws, regulations are more highly implemented in the society.
Next, level of masculinity and long term orientation of Singapore are at the same level. While in Indonesia, the level of masculinity is at the third highest level. However, the level is lower than in Singapore and Indonesia does not implement long term orientation in the business practices. These situations describe that Indonesia is higher in femininity than Singapore, which means Indonesia more emphasizes relationship with others. In relation to these situations, Singapore is one step ahead in thinking values, since Singapore implemented long term orientation in business practices.
Based on the cultural research above, Indonesia and Singapore are both implement humane orientation, assertiveness, and performance orientation in business practices. This situations identified by both countries tend to preserve dignity, and relationship with partner is more important than the business it self.
Lastly, Singapore is more individualism than Indonesia, which means Indonesians are more concern about the needs of society than themselves compared to Singaporeans.
Management Implications of the Research
Managerial system use by one country is different from another country which can lead to perceive the threats and opportunities of the changes in significantly different ways and reflected in different management styles (Sweeney, 1994).
Singaporeans dominated by Chinese. Chinese, members of a collective and femininity cultures, emphasize group goals and strive to maintain relational harmony (Miller, 2003). In relations to this situation, Indonesians are members of collective and femininity cultures as well. Under the influence of these cultures, in negotiations and problem solving, both countries can implement and take into account the interest of groups, instead of seek individual value of freedom and interests.
The high level in power distance in Singapore also can impact in decision making process. In this case, those in the higher level have more power to influence the decision than the lower level. Indonesia can easily accept this situation since Indonesia also has high level in power distance. Respect and empathy can be implemented in order to maintain the balance between the gaps.
Uncertainty avoidance level for Singapore can be a threat for Indonesia and has impact in work performance. Low level in this level defined that everything in Singapore is very certain, and the laws and regulations are highly maintained. In contrast, Indonesia has to be flexible, able to adapt, and improve the culture sensitivity with the Singapore living conditions, since this level is high in Indonesia. The ability to adapt can make Indonesia able to follow the businessâ€™s rules and regulations and maximize the work performance in Singapore.
Assertiveness and high in performance orientation in Singapore and Indonesia can be other threats since both countries prefer dignity in dealing business. This situation can lead to misunderstanding and fault in business performance. Therefore, in order to success in dealing business and avoid misunderstanding in interaction, openness of inability is the key that both countries has to implement.
Cultural research is essential and has an influence in all aspect of human behavior. In the cultural research, the five Hofstedeâ€™s value dimensions of culture, which are power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long term orientation, are used to describe, compare, and contrast the cultures of Indonesia as the home country and Singapore as the host country. Singapore countryâ€™s structure and Indonesia countryâ€™s structure are relatively similar, since there are many similarities found in the five Hofstedeâ€™s value dimensions, although some differences also might be seen in the cultural research above. The differences can be threat for Indonesia to start business in Singapore, unless Indonesia can be flexible and able to adapt with the culture differences. Thus, in order to success in dealing business, there is fundamentally important to do cultural research for that particular country before start a business.
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