Author Archives: Grayson

Looking back to a post we made in 2009 on Kraft’s mission to sell Oreos in China, we’ve seen some major progress, according to this recent NPR story. In fact, The Oreo has become the best-selling cookie in China.

Kraft initially responded to Chinese taste buds by reducing sugar content in the cookies. For the masses, it was too sweet. They took further steps by looking at other flavors the market craved, resulting in Oreos with green-tea and mango flavored filling. They also changed the shape to resemble a rolled wafer, much easier to eat in the traditional Oreo fashion for a country that isn’t accustomed to “dunking” their cookies in (soy) milk. The imprint Americans have for eating Oreos (“Twist, Lick, Dunk”) doesn’t exist in China. To address this, “Oreo launched a series of TV ads where cute children demonstrate to their parents and other adults how to eat an Oreo cookie in the American style,” says the NPR story, effectively teaching children and adults at the same time.

Lorna Davis, head of the global biscuit division at Kraft, told NPR what she learned:

Any foreign company that comes to China and says, ‘There’s 1 1/2 billion people here, goody goody, and I only need 1 percent of that’ … [is] going to get into trouble. You have to understand how the consumer operates at a really detailed level.

Culture encompasses all the detail to which Davis refers. Culture informs the preferences we develop at a young age, which influences our behaviors for life.

What other foods have you seen undergo this kind of cultural transformation as it migrates from country to country?

RW3 CultureWizard

Your China Blog, which covers intercultural issues in China, posted on Chinese women’s expectations of dating, serious relationships and marriage.

Several young men in China told us that the girls they courted would, before even agreeing to a date, inquire about their means and intentions of purchasing a flat.

According to the blog, many young women agreed that this form of stability, directly connected to the purchase of an apartment or house, was a critical prerequisite to considering a relationship. Chinese culture is founded on a strong motivation to maintain harmony and stability, and housing is a key ingredient. Of course, there are a few responses that were unconventionally missing the expectation of a flat, alluding to a cultural shift as China emerges as the second largest economy in the world.

Conversely, the typical European response is that love, loyalty and a strong personal connection are the most important requirements for starting a relationship. According to the respondents, there are no financial commitments required. Of course, these values come from the resource rich environment in which European culture has evolved. Chinese culture has been informed by a more challenging environment, where housing is not taken for granted, thus leading to a discussion about the different trajectories of each region’s economic histories and their influence on culture.

Watch the video below from Your China Blog. What strikes you as uniquely cultural about the individual responses?


RW3 CultureWizard

According to the New York Times, Nestle is establishing a research center in India to develop products in tune with Indian taste buds and preferences.

Nestlé already caters to India’s love of spice by making Thrillin Curry two-minute noodles and a Sweet Chilli Sauce that it packages like ketchup…The research center will be predominantly staffed by Indians, and will develop products relying on Indian cuisine, traditional ingredients and spices.

Below: Nestle’s Maggi Masala-ae-Magic: “The first ever fortified taste enhancer that can be used across different cuisines in India. It is not a simple masala, but is unique in that it efficiently enhances the taste inherent in the food ingredients already present.”

What a culturally astute way to develop consumer products! How well do you think Nestle sets an example for other companies to follow? How else can global business be supported through intercultural learning?


RW3 CultureWizard

The Harvard Business Review interviewed Mansour Javidan, dean of research at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, who also wrote an article for the same publication called “Managing Yourself: Making it Overseas.”

According to this article, employers frequently assume “that a good track record at home is a predictor of success in the global arena, and that exposing high performers to new cultures will set them on the path to becoming effective multinational leaders.” While international assignments are certainly an important developmental tool for potential leaders, an individual desire to learn and know about different cultural perspectives and people with a certain intellectual curiosity, among other qualities, are vital to success abroad.

This mind-set has three main components: intellectual capital, or knowledge of international business and the capacity to learn; psychological capital, or openness to different cultures and the capacity to change; and social capital, the ability to form connections, to bring people together, and to influence stakeholders—including colleagues, clients, suppliers, and regulatory agencies—who are unlike you in cultural heritage, professional background, or political outlook.

RW3 CultureWizard’s Global Leadership Development Tool, developed in collaboration with Dr. Paula Caligiuri, is an assessment which identifies a leader’s strengths and abilities in working with and managing people from other cultures. It enables leaders to examine their readiness for global leadership and the areas in which they may need to develop. Specifically, the tool can:

+ Assess the scope of your global leadership activities
+ Create an awareness of your intercultural behavioral style and experience
+ Suggest approaches for enhancing your global leadership skills
+ Direct you to learning resources to maximize your global leadership effectiveness

What do you think are the key skills global leaders need? What is your experience with leaders moving between domestic and international contexts?


RW3 CultureWizard

A brilliant article by Lera Boroditsky in the Wall Street Journal makes an important link between cognition and language, a link many of us have experienced. One reader’s comment on the article sums up the feeling:

That language embodies different ways of knowing the world seems intuitive, given the number of times we reach for a word or phrase in another language that communicates that certain je ne sais quoi we can’t find on our own.

An old language tree

Noam Chomsky’s contribution to the idea that languages around the world contained a “universal grammar” is debunked by new research on the ways we experience space, time and causality. Below are some examples from the article of how language affects our perception of the world.

Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.

Some indigenous tribes say north, south, east and west, rather than left and right, and as a consequence have great spatial orientation.

The Piraha, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities.

In one study, Spanish and Japanese speakers couldn’t remember the agents of accidental events as adeptly as English speakers could. Why? In Spanish and Japanese, the agent of causality is dropped: ‘The vase broke itself,’ rather than ‘John broke the vase.’

Words in Chinese and Japanese for specific positions within a family’s hierarchy, e.g. oneesan (“older sister”) and otoutosan (“younger brother”), convey the importance of knowing one’s role, which impacts the cognitive process. The use of kinship terms like “mother” and “brother” between strangers in Arabic-speaking countries is connected to the predominant sense of family and community. It seems that examples abound for the argument that language informs and reinforces culture and logic, which means our thought processes vary according to the language we speak.

What kinds of challenges does this idea pose to global business and cross-cultural interaction, even if people can speak in the same language? How does this affect the minds of multilingual people? Are they able to switch modes of thought, just as they switch from one code or language to another?


RW3 CultureWizard

Provided by Dawn Shine of Thomson Reuters Ireland

Every 17th of March Ireland celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day, a national holiday, and holds festivals and special events to commemorate the Saint who reportedly banished snakes from the Emerald Isle. Saint Patrick is also the Patron Saint of Ireland and influenced the migration of Christianity to the country.

Traditionally, people wear something green on Saint Patrick ‘s Day, which is known in the Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S. and other countries that celebrate the day as “the wearing of the green.” Regardless of cultural background, everyone wears green because on this day, everyone is considered to be Irish. In Ireland, however, the wearing of the green is not customary. Instead, Irish will wear shamrocks to symbolize the teaching of the holy trinity by Saint Patrick. A shamrock is a green plant, also known as a clover (see photo below), and a small bunch of shamrocks is pinned to the breast of one’s coat.

Do you celebrate Saint Patrick’s day in your country?

Akio Toyoda

What is culturally distinctive about Akio Toyoda’s apology to US Congress? Why does he mention himself in relation to the damaged Toyota cars? During his apology, he said, “All the Toyota vehicles bear my name. For me, when the cars are damaged, it is as though I am as well. I, more than anyone, wish for Toyota’s cars to be safe, and for our customers to feel safe when they use our vehicles.”

Read more about Toyoda’s apology.


RW3 CultureWizard

A BusinessWeek article explains how new Dean Peter Henry of New York University’s (NYU) Stern School of Business plans to re-focus the school towards industries outside of finance. Since the troubled financial industry is no longer the best option for new job hunters, Henry plans to transform the school’s orientation into one that is global, equipping its students with the skills to go beyond the environs of New York.

Dean Peter Henry

“Henry tells the story of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company who once told him that he knew emerging economies would be the best place to grow his company, but he was terrified of sending employees because they lacked the skills needed to operate in that environment. ‘At Stern we want to create leaders who say it is a corporate imperative that we train people who are as comfortable in the Middle East as they are in Manhattan,’” he explained. Intercultural training is typically conducted in classrooms, but innovative technologies can recreate the classroom into a virtual one, allowing students, graduates and professionals to build cultural awareness online through e-learning tools and resources.

Henry moved to the US from Jamaica when he was 9 years old. He “…knows how to assimilate and adjust to new cultures, and he wants Stern students to do the same.” One of his challenges will be to develop the academic materials and courses required to produce the kinds of graduates that global organizations want.

Click here to jump to the article.



The following will come in handy when you are in Israel or when you work with Israelis.

+ Native-born Israelis, versus those who immigrate, call themselves “sabras,” which is the fruit of the cactus (otherwise known as a prickly pear). Like their namesake, Israelis pride themselves on having a tough exterior that covers a warm, hospitable interior.

+ Israeli families are close-knit and form the foundation of the social structure. The unique background of Israelis (Holocaust survivors, their descendants and immigrants) makes them especially aware of the importance of family.

+ In Israel, there are 6 days in the work week, and the universal day of rest is Saturday, or the Sabbath. The Sabbath starts at sundown Friday evening when public transportation shuts down, and shops and businesses are closed. The work week restarts on Sunday.

+ Most of the population is secular, and while there is complete freedom of religion, the Jewish nature of the State is very clear.

+ Unless otherwise specified, most restaurants adhere to Jewish dietary laws, (kashrut or kosher). Meat and dairy are served separately and shellfish and pork are not eaten. It will be important to be aware of your guests’ dietary practices if you entertain at home.

+ Israelis will judge your professional competence by how knowledgeable you are in your field. They are not impressed by titles. This is a culture where actions speak more loudly than words.

+ Israelis are often passionate and expressive communicators. This means that they may raise their voice when speaking. They may yell and scream at someone one minute and, a few minutes later, hug the person. Conversely, if an Israeli speaks in a low tone and smiles for hours, he or she is not relaxed.

+ Israel is a relationship-oriented culture where feelings and emotions can be more important than facts. In many ways, the country is one large extended family, so it is acceptable to dispense with formality and be direct and honest with everyone.

- from RW3′s CultureWizard™ Country Profiles