I will use Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Model to show the importance of understanding people by understanding their culture. I will base my argument on the movie, ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy'. In this analysis paper, I would like to show how taking time to understand the differences among people from different cultures, can help people to live in harmony because there will be no issues of misunderstandings, regardless of the intercultural situations people from different cultures might have to face together. In my discussion, I will show how cultural differences can hinder intercultural communication and how individuals can overcome cultural differences with sincerity, mutual respect, and open communication. I will use the six Hofstede's Dimensions to show the different scenarios whereby the cultural differences can get in the way of communication between people from different cultures and give my views on how people ought to act in such scenarios to avoid communication breakdown.
The Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory is a system that addresses the reasons why people from different cultures behave differently when they face different situations. According to Geert Hofstede, the person who devised the framework, the system shows how values of the members of a culture make them behave in different situations. The framework is very important, especially in the business world, because it helps business leaders to know how to treat people from different cultures according to their values (Soares et al. 280). It is also important in communication because values of a given people determine how they communicate among themselves and with others.
‘The Gods Must Be Crazy' is a 1980 comedy movie. The writer and director of the movies is Jamie Uys. It involves people from different cultures crossing each other's paths in ways that necessitates that they communicate with each other so that they can accomplish their missions. It starts with a person in a plane throwing a bottle of Coca-cola from a plane and it lands at the heart of a bushman's community. The bottle becomes a disaster in the community and one Xi, a committed member of the community, decides to take it to the ‘end of the world'. In his journey, he meets with people from different cultures and the need for communication clearly comes into play in such meetings.
The six dimensions as suggested by Hofstede, are very important in analyzing this movie. They show why Xi, the bushman, behaved the way he did in different situations in the movie and why the people he interacted with from another world, the civilized world, behaved the way they did in the same situations. The movie helps someone to see the real meaning behind the six dimensions because it gives the viewer a chance to compare how they come into play depending on the culture of people. It gives meaning to the theory and strengthens it. It creates an opportunity for the viewer to understand the dimensions perfectly.
The movie portrays the dimension of power distance appropriately. In the bushman world, power distance is very small. There are no leaders and no followers. People are equal and everyone is important. It is clear that the people share the bottle to do their work regardless of the age or gender. Since it brings about hatred among the people, there is need that it is returned to ‘the Gods' so that the people can remain peaceful like they have always been. It is clear that there is participative decision-making process because Xi consults the elders before leaving. While trying to reach the end of the world, Xi feels hungry and decides to hunt. He shoots a goat and is ready to eat it. However, an officer sees him, tries to take the goat away from him, and orders him to stop hunting. The officer fails to understand that in the bushman society there are no rules or one party making the decision. Had he understood this, he would have understood Xi and would not have arrested him but would have tried to make him understand the way of life in the new world.
The movie helps one to understand the dimension of uncertainty avoidance. The bushman society's uncertainty avoidance is very strong. They do not love to deal with things they do not understand. For example, the real reason why Xi has to ‘return the gift to the Gods' is, his society fears what might happen if it continues having the bottle in future. While in the mission he finds ‘the Gods' but they refuse to take the bottle. Had the white people understood why Xi desperately wanted him to give the bottle away, they would have taken it to save Xi and his family the problem of dealing with an unknown object.
The movie portrays the dimension of individualism versus collectivism effectively. The bushman society believes in collectivism. They hunt together and share everything among themselves. No one owns a particular thing because it belongs to the whole society. When the officer found Xi hunting, he took the goat away and Xi thought that he was being selfish and even tried to kill another goat. Had the officer understood where Xi was coming from, he would not have used the force he used in trying to take the goat because he would have known that he only needed it for food and was ready to share with him also.
The movie shows the dimension of indulgence versus restraint appropriately. The bushman society practices indulgence in that they are not hesitant to do things that help them achieve gratification especially when those things pertain to basic human drives. This explains why Xi killed the goat when was hungry. The officer obviously did not understand this because had he understood, he would have let Xi enjoy the meal.
One needs to understand the dimension of masculinity versus femininity in order to understand how they should deal with individuals from cultures that practice either. The bushman society is a masculine culture with clearly defined roles for both genders. For example, hunting and protecting the community is a male role. Andrew Steyn seems to have understood this concept because he gave Xi the role of administering the anesthetic to the bodies of the criminals to make them sleep until they can apprehend them. Had he failed in giving this role to Xi, they may have never accomplished their mission.
The movie shows how understanding the dimension of long-term versus short-term orientation can help in intercultural relations. For example, when Xi helps Andrew Steyn in bringing the criminals led by Sam Boga behind bars, Andrew Steyn pays him in form of money thinking that the bushman considers its value in the same way that he does. However, Xi throws the money away because he has no concern for future long-term goals. Had Steyn understood this, he would have given him something like food for the day to take to his family, as Xi would have appreciated this more than the money.
Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions theory is important because it addresses the reasons for the difference in character for the people from different cultures. The theory is informing when it comes to dealing with people from other cultures. Looking at the movie ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy', failures of applying the theory in real life led to the characters from different cultures not relating effectively. Had the characters understood each other perfectly they would have related in a perfect way. This analysis shows that taking time to understand the differences among people from different cultures, can help people to live in harmony because there will be no issues of misunderstandings, regardless of the intercultural situations people from different cultures might have to face together.
Soares, Ana Maria, Minoo Farhangmehr, and Aviv Shoham. "Hofstede's dimensions of culture in international marketing studies." Journal of business research 60.3 (2007): 277-284.
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