International Business Center Newsletter
Volume 2 - Issue 4

Welcome to this issue of the

In this issue:

International Business Center Newsletter

- Quick Intro

- Is an Expatriate Assignment for You?

- International Marketing Focus
The International Takeoff of New Products: The Role of Economics, Culture, and Country Innovativeness

- Geert Hofstede Q&A
by Stephen Taylor, Executive Director IBC

- Book Review
Beating the Success Trap:
Negotiating for the Life You Really Want

Is an Expatriate Assignment for You?

An expatriate assignment is the goal of many global business people. It affords the opportunity to experience life in another country, gain valuable international business experience, and increase the chances of achieving greater career success. However, a number of expatriates have found that an 'overseas' assignment can be a negative experience, both personally and career wise.

Since readers of the International Business Center Newsletter may be offered an expatriate assignment in the future, we have listed six important questions to ask yourself when that time comes. These six questions are from the Website.

1) Do you tend to be judgmental?

The single most important factor in working in another country on an international assignment is your ability to accept and work within the culture, customs, beliefs, and attitudes of that country.

The majority of successful business executives achieve their success through a strong personality and making decisions based on their personal background and experience.

However, when moving to another country, the executive is placed in a new environment where his or her background has little relationship to their new surroundings. The first reaction is frequently to 'take control' of the situation and apply that strong personality. Nothing could be worse!

The only way to be successful in an overseas assignment is through relationships that encourage the local employees to cooperate with the expatriate manager.

2) Do you enjoy people, or are you more task oriented?

As a manager working in an international assignment, your primary job is certainly to accomplish the corporate goals and objectives.

However, in many cultures throughout the world, the most important aspect of life is the support of the community, the people, the family. Unless there is a clear understanding of the motivations of employees, the manager may create animosity and jeopardize the productivity of the company's operation.

It is strongly recommended to learn everything possible about the culture you are potentially going into. A great place to start is with a detailed review of the Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions for that country or region. You can access this information by selecting the country or region from the lower left side of the Country List page.

3) Are you flexible and welcome change?

Dealing with the unexpected is common in many countries, and can be especially challenging for U.S. managers who go overseas, since they are more accustom to a relatively stable business regulatory environment.

The involvement of governments and politics in business is not unusual in many countries around the world, and especially in economically under-developed countries.

The ability to be open to unexpected situations and challenges, some of which may be uncontrollable, is another important attribute for the international manager.

4) Do you like family and friends around you?

It is less likely in today's economic environment that companies will pay for full family relocation to foreign countries. More often, expatriate assignments are made with shorter term contracts of 12-18 months, rather than the older 2-3 year agreements.

This allows the company to circumvent the more costly relocations. However, it is not unusual for one of these shorter term assignments to be extended before it ends.

Therefore, many international assignments will require your ability to function effectively away from home, away from friends, and away from family for periods that may be extended up to 36 months.

Another recent trend is extending the time interval between 'home leave'. Home leave is when an expatriate periodically returns home for one or two weeks. Again, these delays, or in some cases cancellations, are motivated by the company's desire to reduce costs and increase profitability.

5) Is it good news if your spouse can go with you?

This is a hard question to answer. Having a spouse on a foreign assignment certainly can be nice --- If the spouse enjoys the assignment! In the majority of spousal relocations, it is not likely they can also be employed in the foreign country. So what do they do all day?

Therefore, it is important that the spouse of an expatriate also answer each of the questions on this page, as he or she will be just as immersed in the new environment as the employee.

In fact, overseas assignments are frequently much more difficult for the spouse because he or she is not working 10-12 hours a day, which easily fills the employee's time. For the spouse, sitting in a home or apartment in a country that may have a different language creates isolation, which can be a real problem.

6) How willing are you to take risks?

The world has become a more risky place for certain nationalities. In particular, citizens of the United States are considered legitimate targets by many international terrorist groups.

While the chance of being injured by a terrorist act is very small, anti-American attitudes in many countries, including those that have been close allies, can make for a psychologically hostile and unhappy working and social environment.

More information on international business careers can be found at

International Marketing Focus
The International Takeoff of New Products:
The Role of Economics, Culture, and Country Innovativeness

by Gerard J. Tellis, Stefan Stremersch and Eden Yin

Sales takeoff is vitally important for the management of new products. Limited prior research on this phenomenon covers only the US. This study addresses the following questions about takeoff in Europe:

(1) Does takeoff occur as distinctly in other countries, as it does in the US?

(2) Do different categories and countries have consistently different times-to-takeoff?

(3) What economic and cultural factors explain the inter-country differences?

(4) Should managers use a sprinkler or waterfall strategy for the introduction of new products across countries?

We gathered data on 137 new products across 10 categories and 16 European countries. We adapted the threshold rule for identifying takeoff (Golder and Tellis 1997) to this multinational context. We specify a parametric hazard model to answer the questions above. The major results are as follows:

(1) Sales of most new products display a distinct takeoff in various European countries, at an average of 6 years after introduction.

(2) The time-to-takeoff varies substantially across countries and categories. It is four times shorter for entertainment products than for kitchen & laundry appliances. It is almost half as long in Scandinavian countries as in Mediterranean countries.

(3) While culture partially explains inter-country differences in time-to-takeoff, economic factors are neither strong nor robust explanatory factors.

(4) These results suggest distinct advantages to a waterfall strategy for introducing products in international markets.

For the full PDF version of this paper, press here: Takeoff

Gerard J. Tellis, Marshall School of Business, the University of Southern California
Stefan Stremersch, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Eden Yin, Judge Institute, Cambridge University

Geert Hofstede Q&A
by Stephen Taylor, Executive Director of the International Business Center

We encourage and receive a number of questions submitted by visitors to the International Business Etiquette, International Business Center, International Business Careers, and Geert Hofstede Websites. We share some of these questions and answers here for IBC Newsletter subscribers.

Question from France - South Korea is ranked as a rather feminine culture. However as I can acknowledge it in the company I work in, I would rather say that they have a more masculine
culture (it matches with the descriptions of masculinity anyway). How can you explain that ? Do you think the south korean culture has evolved so much in the past decades ?

Answer - Dr. Geert Hofstede's Masculinity Dimension refers to the differentiation of male and female gender roles. His foundation for this Index was based on the assumption there was less variation among women's values country-to-country, than among men's values. Therefore, the Index is a relative number that reflects the delta, or difference, between the male and female members of the surveyed population, with the female population establishing the baseline.

With this in mind, it may be possible that if the female population of a specific country has developed a more masculine value system than other countries in the survey, then the Index may not display a high numeric value.

It is also interesting to compare the Hofstede Dimensions of South Korea to El Salvador, as they have a close correlation:

Another interesting fact is that South Korea has the highest Christian population of any Asian country at 49%. The next highest is Hong Kong at 10%.

Your question on whether the South Korean culture is changing is an excellent question, and one often asked about Hofstede's Dimensions. Unless new surveys were given to these populations, it is not possible to accurately have an answer.

However, if we presuppose that cultures around the world have developed over hundreds or thousands of years, then it is unlikely that significant change has occurred within a period of ten years. But, if a culture is faced with a significant and dynamic revolutionary change (compared to an evolutionary change) - such as Russia in 1917, then it may be possible to see a significant cultural shift over a relatively short period of time. We also see that religion is a significant contributor to culture, therefore a dramatic religious realignment in a country can have a potentially significant cultural impact.

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Question from the Netherlands - I am enjoying very much reading all the articles related to negotiation and how culture influences the negotiation styles of every man around the world. I am really proud that there is such a website like this since this is very useful for every people around the world regardless their profession.

Recently, I am studying seriously how culture influences the negotiation styles of Chinese Indonesian. I know that Hofstede had made a research of the elements of culture in Indonesia (power distance, collectivism, etc). Nevertheless, Chinese Indonesian, which accounts only 3.5 % of total population, dominate much of Indonesian businesses until now.

How does this possibly happen? Just because of the history background that happened to benefit Chinese in doing business or is there something to do with the culture of Chinese Indonesian or their negotiation styles?

Answer - If we compare the Hofstede Dimensions for China and Indonesia we find the following, a very close approximation:

The first issue is who were the people that Geert Hofstede surveyed in 1967-1973 in Indonesia for his cultural Dimensions. The answer is IBM facility employees. That being the case, I anticipate that during that period (1967-1973) the majority of surveyed employees at IBM Indonesia were Chinese-Indonesians that reflected their Chinese Cultural heritage, not the indigenous Indonesian culture.

Therefore, it is likely that the Hofstede Dimensions for Indonesia did not accurately portray the majority of the Indonesian population at the time, but rather the very small Chinese-Indonesian population that held the majority of businesses in Indonesia for many years.

So where does that guide us? One way is to conduct a new survey with the majority of indigenous Indonesian population, however that is not likely to occur. The other possibility is to try and find correlations between the majority population and extrapolate how they might index on the Hofstede Dimensions.

Since religion is a primary correlating factor with Hofstede's Dimensions, we could look at another culture with a similar religious background, in this case the Arab World with the Muslim religion. The Arab World's scores are:

It appears from this that the primary difference between Chinese and Muslims is Uncertainty Avoidance. If we look at this Dimension we find that it identifies the culture's acceptance or resistance to risk, or uncertainty. Therefore, we could postulate that, when the Chinese immigrated to Indonesia, they were less risk averse and more inclined to take chances on establishing a variety of businesses.

However, there were likely other factors that also came into play. The Chinese had a long history of commerce, going back thousands of years. Their techniques would likely have included negotiation tactics, supply control, pricing, and capital management. This background, particularly for the Chinese frontier's person exploring new lands (Indonesia), had to be an asset and advantage over the indigenous population.

Also, the Chinese culture, as with many other long lived cultures, tends to keep their 'dealings' inside. That is, the real money making ventures are kept 'in the family' and not shared with outsiders. This is a very productive way to do business, but can also create, over time, a hostility and resentment from the 'outsiders' in the population.

So in reflection, the dominance of Indonesian business by Chinese-Indonesians is neither surprising nor unexpected. It appears to be a combination of cultural tenets, business experience, and capital management and control.

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Mr. Taylor received his Masters of Arts Degree in International Management Studies from the University of Texas at Dallas. He has held executive management positions in international business development and marketing at leading global companies, including Henkel, Unilever, and 3M.

Beating the Success Trap: Negotiating for the Life You Really Want and the Rewards You Deserve by Ed Brodow

Whether it is Summer or Winter where you live, both seasons are great for sitting back and reading an interesting book. This month we preview a new release from Harper Collins that offers an interesting perspective on business and careers.

In one of the chapters of the book, 'A New Perspective on Failure' the author offers five myths about failure: 1) Failure is the Opposite of Success, 2) If you fail at something, the only appropriate response you can have is shame, 3) Success can only lead to more success, failure to more failure, 4) If you're genuinely good at something, you can't fail, 5) Failure is never acceptable.

He then details why each of these statements is not true and explains why failure is not only necessary, but a useful tool in creating our ultimate successes.

The thrust of Brodow's book is that for many successful business people, their 'success' does not translate into happiness, contentment, or fulfillment. Rather, the more power and wealth they acquire, the more frustrating their lives become.

For those who feel they have been chasing after the wrong goals in life, this book may offer insights and ideas for solutions. You can read more at: Beat the Success Trap

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About the International Business Center newsletter
The IBC Newsletter is sent monthly to international executives, managers, supervisors, and international business school students. The Newsletter focuses on issues, information, and trends of importance to conducting business on a Global perspective.

For more information and resources for Global Business visit our website at: International Business Center

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