IMG_4849Globalisation is an economic phenomenon: the fact that it is now possible to communicate with clients all over the globe, advertising, taking orders and delivering goods and services.

It is a common mistake to think that globalisation will lead to forming a single culture, washing out the different cultures existing all over the world.

Culture is formed of layers, and as such it has been often compared to an onion. The outer layers are more visible and were described by Geert Hofstede as symbols, rituals and heroes. These outer layers are more easily changed and are more affected by globalisation. They include, for instance, clothing, eating habits and music.

The core of culture, lying at the center of the onion, is the set of unwritten values that determine whether a community/region/nation behaves in a certain way or another. This should not be confused with stated/espoused values, which belong in the outer layers. Edgar H. Schein called the core values “assumptions,” to highlight the difference between the underlying values and the overtly stated values. An example: France has the overtly stated values of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity); yet, research has shown that is a rather hierarchical society, compared to other countries like the US or The Netherlands. Equality, therefore, in France, is a stated value, but not an underlying value; the core value in France, regarding that aspect, is respect for authority.

The core values are very resistant to change; they change very slowly, if at all. They have remained almost the same for centuries in most countries.

Think of culture as a giant spinning onion, approximately of the same size as Planet Earth. The linear velocity of the Earth’s rotation, on the surface, is roughly 1,000 miles an hour; the linear velocity at the planet’s core is just 1 mile per hour. Similarly, culture changes much faster on the surface, than at its core.

People in Zambia and in Zanesville, Ohio, may use the same brand of smart phones, may drink Coke and wear jeans, but that does not mean that they have the same culture values. The superficial layers of culture may be moving towards a single culture, but the core differences are still there, pretty much intact.

Will culture change faster in the future? Will even the core be more affected by globalisation, because of the increasing penetration of the internet? Maybe.

People everywhere are now more exposed to the superficial aspects of culture. Americans now eat sushi and the Japanese eat hamburgers. However, the core values of each culture are determined by the way children are brought up, before they are ten years old. If this changes in such a way that suddenly kids are brought up the same way in Arkansas and in Afghanistan, then both cultures will become very similar, with similar core values. Until that happens, the way people interact at home, at work and in their communities in general, will continue to be quite different, influenced by very different core values. Globalisation will affect the surface of culture, but will have much less impact on the core values.

For more info, see my books on Amazon.