A very common misperception we at GBA often encounter is the expectations that globalization will “smooth out” cultural differences, that in the future the world will be one big homogeneous cultural. After all, look how the world has pretty much adopted one language for business, English. English, though not the largest in terms of number of speakers, is certainly the most widespread spoken language. Much international business is conducted in English, as well as diplomacy, not to mention that all air traffic controllers dealing with any international flights, must speak English – and the pilots as well. We are also edging to a single global currency, the US dollar. Virtually any where one goes, dollars are accepted in addition to the local currencies. International trade is almost exclusively done in US dollars.
So then, it intuitively follows that the trend would be to a blending and evening out of cultural differences, right? Observations, from GBA and other cross-cultural professionals seem to indicate the opposite is in fact happening. As globalization accelerates, cultural differences are becoming more important and relevant, not less so. Theories abound as to why this seems to be the case. The most likely explanation is, as we become more connected we find ourselves interacting more than ever with those from different cultures, and not simply our neighboring cultures, even those cultures very geographically different thus with very different cultural styles than our own. For most people, their identities are tied to their cultural identities, if their culture changes, they feel their identity changes and even is lost. Therefore the tendencies are to cling to one’s cultural styles to keep their current cultural styles and traits. This may seem silly to some readers, others will resonate with this. Regardless, cultural differences are here to stay, and are going to become more relevant as globalization proceeds. Indeed, there has even been backlash against some trends of globalization. Countries like China are becoming more assertive in the use of their own languages, and even a push to unseating the dollar as the sole global currency (The IMF “special drawing rights”, or SDR, has often be proposed, which is a basket of major currencies). Business professionals who develop cross-cultural proficiency will stand out and can benefit from globalization, rather being a victim of it. At GBA we can coach and train you or your employees to develop cultural awareness and theoretical understanding that will help your business thrive in international operations.