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Article
Publication date: 1 July 2006

Leandra Celaya and Jonathan S. Swift

The variety of differences encountered when interacting with people from other cultures can be daunting for foreign nationals operating in another country. Consequently…

Abstract

Purpose

The variety of differences encountered when interacting with people from other cultures can be daunting for foreign nationals operating in another country. Consequently, many companies send their managers on some form of cultural orientation training, before beginning their duties in a foreign country. The problem for companies is: “Which programme to choose?” This paper seeks to examine forms of cross‐cultural training, and assess the relative effectiveness of each.

Design/methodology/approach

Potential participants were identified using a stratified random sample of companies that do business in Mexico. Individuals received a personal e‐mail, requesting their participation in the research. Those who agreed to participate completed a questionnaire and cultural understanding survey online.

Findings

The data showed that meetings with experienced international staff were the most common type of training. The second was lecture training. Behaviour modification methods and field experiences were the methods that were the greatest help to US managers in understanding Mexican culture. Analysis of the data would seem to support the idea that there must be factors other than training that influence a US managers understanding of Mexican culture. A possible explanation is the level of psychic distance between the cultures of those involved in the interaction.

Research limitations/implications

Some respondents felt that the scenarios were somewhat generalised and did not account for regional differences in Mexico, or for the great degree of cultural convergence that is occurring between the USA and Mexico, especially along the border between the two countries. However, another respondent uses very similar scenarios in her consulting and training practice. It appears, therefore, that the debates regarding generalised national cultures are as evident among business people as they are among academics.

Practical implications

Companies should use meetings with experienced expatriates as a central part of their training programme. Field experience, despite its obvious resource implications, should be considered as a key element of training for those preparing to work in Mexico. Companies should place greater emphasis on cross‐cultural skills for expatriates, both in terms of their initial selection, and their subsequent training. There is also the issue of the length of time spent in training: 20 of the 29 participants surveyed either had no training, or had less than one week's training. Companies that claim to take the issue seriously must be prepared to devote a correspondingly serious level of resources to the issue.

Originality/value

The paper shows how companies should look at cultural training not in terms of time‐limited, task‐specific, discrete chunks, but should seek to develop programmes that aim to educate the whole person.

Details

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, vol. 13 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1352-7606

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