Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Utilizing Cultural Theory as a Basis for Cross-Cultural Training: An Alternative Approach

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Utilizing Cultural Theory as a Basis for Cross-Cultural Training: An Alternative Approach

Article excerpt


Generally speaking, today's business managers and public administrators are required to meet and negotiate with both domestic and foreign businessmen and government officials on a regular basis. A common requirement for most of these activities is that the manager be able to communicate and work with persons who have grown up and become socialized in different cultural environments. Current cross-cultural training (CCT) falls under two general categories: international (comparison of national cultures) and intranational (diversity) approaches.

Numerous articles and books deal with issues of cultural differences based on generalized national culture in a particular country but most of them fail to identify particular cultures (i.e., cultural types). Literature in the area of business and public management deals only with the question of how to manage differences or biases without examining various types of cultures and basic assumptions about them. If one can better develop a cross-cultural training model based on cultural theory, managers can be better equipped to understand cultural biases and differences. This article will hopefully lead to the development of appropriate behavioral strategies in the competitive international arena.

In addition to the international dimension, one of the areas that requires a great deal of attention is the area of cultural diversity (or diversity training) within a society. In a society like the United States with diverse racial/ethnic groups, there is a need for concern about the issue of cultural diversity because of the changing demographics in America. So far, the term "diversity training" has sometimes been narrowly defined in terms of race/ethnicity per se and sometimes more broadly defined to cover race, gender, age, and disabilities.

This article argues that, although this training intends a good purpose, diversity training per se is limited because it does not take into account many important similarities and differences across these cultures.

Cultural theory, therefore, offers an alternative and complementary basis and framework for developing cross-cultural training (CCT) in the United States and abroad. A brief overview of current CCT methods is followed by cultural theory as an alternative CCT method, providing a framework for applying cultural theory to CCT and has significant implications for business and public managers.


Most literature related to cross-cultural training has been introduced only since the Vietnam War. U.S. military services, foreign services, and the Peace Corps established in 1961 have actively utilized several intercultural programs in much of their activities and research. Several approaches to the content and methods of cross-culture training are identified in Exhibit 1.

In an effort to furnish a conceptual framework for the classification of CCT programs, Downs (1970) specified the four training models as the (1) Intellectual Model; (2) Area Simulation Model; (3) Self-Awareness Model; and (4) Cultural Awareness Model. The Intellectual Model consists of lectures and reading materials about a host culture. It is presumed that such an information exchange about another culture could be effective groundwork for living in that culture. The Area Simulation Model is a culture-specific training program. Culture assimilator training programs have been developed for many foreign countries such as Japan, the Arab countries, and Latin America and are based on the belief that an individual must be training to enter a specific culture. The programs involve simulation of future behavior in the specific culture or a particular setting. The Self-Awareness Model is based on the presumption that understanding and accepting oneself in any culture is crucial to comprehending another person from a different culture. Sensitivity training, such as diagnosing one's difficulties in intercultural Ucommunication and becoming aware of one's ignorance of other cultures, is very important in this method. …

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