Chapter 10 – International Projects

10.5. A Look at Cross-Cultural Conditions and Human Resources

Women pray during the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth inside a temple in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh
Women pray during the Hindu festival of Karva Chauth inside a temple in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh by Ajay Verma CC-BY-NC-SA

It is important to take a closer look at cross-cultural conditions as it relates to projects and how it aligns with human resources. Culture affects all aspects of life within a specific population of people including beliefs, values, the norms of the society, and its people’s customs. It even relates to how a society dresses, the manners used by its people, their rituals, religions, and the language spoken and written. A culture may be an entire country, a region within the country, ethnic groups, and religious groups. Culture is without borders.

Examples of Cultural Differences

Canadian culture advocates equality between men and women,  peace and safety for its citizens, being polite and friendly, and the love of hockey. Canada is a widely diverse country with many ethnic groups. It is a country of dual nationality, French Canada and English Canada, which dominates political and societal issues. It is a constitutional monarchy which means the British Monarch is the head of state, although the Monarchy has limited powers. Maple syrup and pancakes are some of the Canadian’s favourite foods (Commisceo, 2022a).

Indian culture: where its people value religion, joint family structures (entire family through generations live together), marriage and arranged marriage, symbols such as fasting, and festivals for every season. Architecture is important as symbols of culture and religion. They have a relaxed approach to timekeeping and punctuality. People remove their shoes before entering a home. Indian food many not require utensils. Southern food tends to be spicier than food from the North. Indian clothing made with colourful silks are worn that has origins of Ancient India (Zimmermann, K.A. & Gordon, J. ,2022).

Swedish culture: is very egalitarian meaning all people are equal regardless of gender, race, religion, or age. They have one of the best rights for children in the world and offer dual parental leave from work for 18 months. They are humble and believe boasting is not acceptable. They are great listeners, they speak softly and calmly, do not show emotions publicly, are not excessive or “flashy”, and competition is not encouraged (Commisceo, 2022c).

Italian culture enjoy patriotism. In other words, people remain a geographic expression. This means they identify with their own home region, rather than to the country. Being an old country, they have assimilated many other cultures into their own such as French, Austrian, Greeks, Arabs, Albanians, and Africans. Food is important and maintains ties among friends and family members. There are social classes, and big differences between the rich and poor. There are class boundaries in what people eat, what they wear, and the amount of leisure time spent. Prestige is important. Soccer is important to everyone. They tend to show outward emotion in public. They like to embrace and kiss when greeting people (Commisceo, 2022b).


If you were leaving your home country to work/live in a host country, what do you think would be the most challenging thing for you?  Why?  How would you overcome this?

National cultures provide a keystone for helping human resources to understand different values, habits, customs, and etiquette. Project teams need to not only be aware of different cultural aspects, but they also need to adjust to them when working abroad.

While working on multicultural projects, project managers can have difficulties with ethics of certain cultures. Human resources can serve as a sounding board to work through these ethical dilemmas. It is important that human resources specialists’ study international cultures to gain a deeper understanding and provide support the project managers and the team. Cultural diversity is important to more productive and higher performance. Also, it offers an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Preparing expatriates for assignments abroad is no easy task. It is almost impossible to understand all the differences in all the countries in the world. Still, the effort needs to be made to bridge the gap between cultures.

Human Resources may offer cultural briefings with project managers and teams. They may provide cross-cultural training, bring in trainers to teach the team who have or do live in the foreign country, and send the team to the foreign country for visits prior to the project starting. Regardless, the project team and the project need to be carried out in a way that honours the foreign country’s customs, traditions, and values.


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Strategic Project Management Copyright © 2022 by Debra Patterson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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