Discussion Topic: Use “Euro-Disney Stumbles”

Discussion Topic: Use “Euro-Disney Stumbles” (p. 130) from the textbook. (Adams & Galanes)

The third dimension is that of context. In a low-context culture, such as that of the United States and New Zealand, the verbal part of the message carries the meaning—what you say is exactly what you mean. If you say that you like my proposal, I can trust the fact that you really do like it. In a high-context culture, such as most Asian and Native American cultures, features of a situation or context are more important than the words themselves. So if you tell me you like my proposal, I’d have to take into account the setting, the people, the purpose of our conversation, and other factors to know for sure whether you really liked it or you were just being polite to avoid hurting my feelings. High-context cultures tend to be collectivist, with group harmony an important value. Ambiguity and indirectness may help preserve this harmony by allowing disagreement to happen gently, in a way that doesn’t upset the balance of the group.

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Group members from low-context cultures sometimes try to force others to be direct and clear. They may perceive members who are not straightforward as manipulative or insincere. On the other hand, members from high-context cultures perceive members who are verbally blunt as rude and aggressive. As the earlier example demonstrates, the advantage of being clear, like Sam, is that your meaning is unmistakable. However, the advantage of being tentative, like Nguyen, is that you allow discussion to occur without polarizing members’ opinions or making them lose face.

Appreciation of cultural differences in a group is very important. The United States is a pluralistic culture to which many different cultures have contributed and continue to contribute. This means that little can be assumed or taken for granted, including assuming that a person’s cultural identity predicts everything said and done in a group. Small group researchers like John Oetzel remind us, that individuals within a culture vary.27 As Oetzel points out, we are individuals acting within cultures; thus, we must not oversimplify the situation by using only culture to predict individual behavior.

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Oetzel argues that whether we define ourselves as independent or interdependent has a significant bearing on our social behavior. Those group members who have an independent image of themselves see themselves as unique, with their thoughts and feelings as their own. They are goal-driven, seek clarity, and attend less to nuances of context. Those who hold interdependent images of themselves define themselves in connection to others. They value helping others meet their goals. They value fitting in, work to uphold the self-image of the other, and also try to avoid negative assessments of themselves. These two types of self-image are found in everyone, regardless of their cultural identity. What is important to note is that Oetzel has found that both cultural inputs and personal self-images influence the contributions of members.


Euro-Disney Stumbles

According to Carl Hiaasen in Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World,* Disney’s venture in France, Euro-Disney, got off to a slow start when it opened in 1992. Disney executives decided to import the Disney concept intact when they created their European theme park. The Disney parks in the United States have a clean-cut image—at least, as Americans define clean-cut. Those who work in the park, mostly young people, abide by strict rules of dress and demeanor. For example, they must not wear bright nail polish, heavy makeup, or facial hair. In addition, the parks do not serve wine or other alcoholic beverages, which contributes to the clean-cut image in the United States.

However, these rules seemed offensive and ridiculous to Europeans, particularly the French. Not serve wine in France? Unthinkable! These factors contributed to Euro-Disney’s dismal early performance. However, Disney rethought its rules and relaxed several, in particular the makeup, facial hair, and wine rules. Euro-Disney is beginning to catch on in Europe, the way it has in the United States.

1.Are there any other “rules” or communication patterns observed by North Americans that Europeans might consider silly?

2.Are there any “rules” or communication patterns observed by Europeans that North Americans might consider silly?

  1. What does the above story suggest to you about cultural practices, particularly applying in one culture practices that are normal in another?
  2. Disney executives are intelligent and experienced. What factors do you think might have contributed to this not-well-thought-out decision by Disney?


Please use your own words

Expert Answer

  1. Are there any other rules or communication patterns observed by North Americans that Europeans might consider silly? The rules Europeans consider silly as observed by the North Amer
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