A Classic Study of International Cultural Differences

A classic study by a Professor identified other international cultural differences. For example, societies differ in power distance – in other words the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions accept and expect an unequal distribution of power. The conclusion is that acceptance of such inequality was higher in some countries (such as Mexico) than in others (such as Sweden).

Similarly, compared to US employees, Mexican workers expect managers to keep their distances rather than to be close, and to be formal rather than informal. In Germany you should never arrive even a few minutes late and should always address senior people formally, with their titles. Such cultural differences are a two way street. For example in the Intel Booklet things you need to know about working in the USA topics for incoming workers from abroad include sexual harassment, recognition of gay and lesbian rights, and Intel’s expectations about behavior (Visitors abroad will also notice that globalization in blurring national differences in cultures as people come to share common cultural experiences Like McDonalds)

In any case, cultural differences do influence human resource policies and practices. For example, American’s emphasis on individuality may help to explain why European managers have more employment related constraints for instance with regard to lying of workers. As another example, local cultural norms can undermine employers’ attempts to institute uniform codes of conduct. Thus in countries with a history of fascist rule, employees often had to divulge information about their coworkers. Here, whistle blowing rules, popular in America are frowned upon.

Economic systems

Differences in economic systems, also translate into differences in human resource management policies. For one thing some countries are more wedded to the ideals of free enterprise than are others. For instance, France – though a capitalist society imposed tight restrictions on employers’ rights to discharge workers and limited the number of hours an employee could legally work each week.

Differences in labor costs are also substantial. Hourly compensation cost in US dollars for production workers range from $2.38 in Mexico to $5.41 in Taiwan , $17.47 in the United Kingdom , $21.33 in the United States and $25.08 in Germany for instance.

As another example, there are wide gaps in hours worked. Portuguese workers average about 1,980 hours of work annually while German workers average 1,648 hours Several European countries, including the United Kingdom and Germany, require substantial pay to departing employees, usually equal to at least one year, service in Germany. Compared to the usual two or three weeks of US vacation workers in France can expect two and a half days of paid holiday per full month of services per year and Germans get about 18 vacation days after six months of service.

Legal and industrial Relations factors

Legal as well as industrial (the relationships among the worker, the union, and the employer) factors also vary from country to country. For example the US practice of employment at will does not exist in Europe where firing or laying off workers is usually expensive. And in many European countries work councils replace the informal or union centric worker management mediations typical in US firms. Work councils are formal employees elected groups of worker representatives that meet monthly with managers to discuss topics ranging from no smoking policies to layoffs.

Code termination is the rule in Germany and several other countries. Code termination means employees have the legal right to voice in setting company policies. Workers elect their own representative to the supervisory board of the employer, and there is a vice president >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

For labor at the top management level. The United States, HR policies on most matters such as wages and benefits are set by the employer, or by the employer in negotiations with its labor unions. The co determination laws, including the Work’s Constitution Act, largely mold human resources policies in German Firms.


  • Col Virendra Kumar

    Very informative article.Since, lot of Indians are working abroad and travelling for business purposes, it is better to be wise.We are paid less for the same quality of work than the Americans, thatswhy lot of outsourcing.Sooner or later, we will catch up.We have to learn a lot from Europeans and Americans in terms of labour welfare, where sometimes management does not care much or workers also behave in an irresponsible way. Employees welfare should not be neglected and they should not be made to pay for management’s inefficiency.

    Col Virendra Kumar

  • Anne

    Thanks for a fascinating glimpse of this topic. Where can I learn more about these differences?

  • Constance G Konold

    This article has no references of its sources. You can’t just say “A classic report by a professor…” without undermining the entire article and making it useless academically. Further, the workhour statistics do not correspond with other reliable sources.

    While your articles are often apparently useful, I would like to see them be more professional.