You are here

Understanding Global Cultures

Understanding Global Cultures
Metaphorical Journeys Through 34 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity

Sixth Edition
Additional resources:

March 2015 | 680 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
In the fully updated Sixth Edition of Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys Through 34 Nations, Clusters of Nations, Continents, and Diversity, authors Martin J. Gannon and Rajnandini Pillai present the cultural metaphor as a method for understanding the cultural mindsets of individual nations, clusters of nations, continents, and diversity in each nation. A cultural metaphor is any activity, phenomenon, or institution that members of a given culture consider important and with which they identify emotionally and/or cognitively, such as the Japanese garden and American football. This cultural metaphoric approach identifies three to eight unique or distinctive features of each cultural metaphor and then discusses 34 national cultures in terms of these features. The book demonstrates how metaphors are guidelines to help outsiders quickly understand what members of a culture consider important.

Preface: Understanding Cultures in Depth
Part I. Introduction
Chapter 1. Understanding Cultural Metaphors
Language Barriers  
Using Cultural Metaphors  
Constructing Cultural Metaphors  
Using Metaphor  
Reading and Using This Book  
A Two-Dimensional Typology of Cultures  
A Scaling Perspective  
Defining Culture or Identifying Its Determinants?  
When Culture Does, and Does Not, Matter  
Part II. Authority-Ranking Cultures
Chapter 2. The Thai Kingdom
Loose Vertical Hierarchy  
Freedom and Equality  
The Thai Smile  
Chapter 3. The Japanese Garden
Corporate Cultures  
Garden as Metaphor  
Wa and Shikata  
Seishin Training  
Combining Droplets or Energies  
Similarities and Contrasts  
Chapter 4. Bedouin Jewelry and Saudi Arabia
History and Geography  
The Desert Bedouins  
Bold Form  
Handcrafted Appearance  
Traditional Design  
Female Ownership  
Chapter 5. Dòn Gánh: The Two Sides of Vietnam
History of Occupation  
The French Defeat and Division Into Two  
The Metaphor: The Dualities of Dòn Gánh  
Chapter 6. Kimchi and Korea
South Korea  
The 60th Birthday  
Strangers by Day, Lovers by Night  
Kimchi’s Public Role  
The Irish of Asia  
Part III. Scandinavian Egalitarian Cultures
Chapter 7. The Swedish Stuga
Early History  
Modern Evolution  
Social Democracy  
The Swedish Summer Home  
Love of Untrammeled Nature and Tradition  
Individualism Through Self-Development  
Chapter 8. The Finnish Sauna
From Survival to Political and Economic Success  
Sauna: A Secular “Holy” Place of Equality  
Communication: Comfort With Quietude  
Chapter 9. The Danish Christmas Luncheon
Interdependent Individualism  
Geographic Ambivalence  
Part IV. Other Egalitarian Cultures
Chapter 10. The German Symphony
Postwar Evolution  
The Symphony Orchestra  
Diversity of Musical Instruments  
Positional Arrangements of the Musicians  
Conductors and Leaders  
Precision and Synchronicity  
The Unfinished Symphony  
Chapter 11. Irish Conversations
Early History  
English Oppression  
Identifying Links  
Intersection of Gaelic and English  
Prayer as Conversation  
A Free-Flowing Conversation: Irish Hospitality  
Places of Conversations: Irish Friends and Families  
Ending a Conversation  
Chapter 12. The Canadian Backpack and Flag
Historical Background  
Egalitarianism and Outlook  
The Canadian Mosaic  
Canadians as Non-U.S. Americans  
Chapter 13. Australian Outdoor Recreational Activities
Capturing the Imagination  
New Realities: Beyond Stereotypes  
Equality Matching Among the Tall Poppies  
Chapter 14. French Wine
The Maturation Process  
The Changing Portrait  
Part V. Market-Pricing Cultures
Chapter 15. American Football
The Tailgate Party  
Pregame and Halftime Entertainment  
Strategy and War  
Selection, the Training Camp, and the Playbook  
Individual Specialized Achievement Within the Team Structure  
Aggression, High Risks, and Unpredictable Outcomes  
The Church of Football and Celebrating Perfection  
Chapter 16. The Traditional British House
The Traditional House  
History, Politics, Economics: Laying the Foundations  
Growing Up British: Building the House  
Being British: Living in the House  
Part VI. Cleft National Cultures
Chapter 17. The Malaysian Balik Kampung
Returning to Nearby Roots  
Authority Ranking  
Reinforcing Common Values  
Chapter 18. The Israeli Kibbutzim and Moshavim
Zionism, Types of Judaism, and the Palestinians  
A New Country  
Continuous War  
Religious Conflict  
Explicit Values  
Size and Behavioral Outcomes  
Traumas, Worldview, and Personality  
Chapter 19. The Italian Opera
North and South  
The Opera Metaphor  
The Overture  
Pageantry and Spectacle  
Chorus and Soloists  
Chapter 20. Belgian Lace
Wallonian Versus Flemish  
History of Lace  
A Land of Contrasts  
Cooperation and Harmony  
Part VII. Torn National Cultures
Chapter 21. The Mexican Fiesta
Historical Background  
The Mexican Fiesta  
Primary Focus on People  
The Emphasis on Religion  
Experiencing the Present  
Freedom Within the Social Order  
Chapter 22. The Turkish Coffeehouse
A Unique History  
Islam and Secularity  
Recreation, Communication, and Community Integration  
A Male Domain  
A Modest Environment  
Life Outside the Coffeehouse  
Looking Ahead  
Part VIII. The Base Culture and Its Diffusion Across Borders (Clusters of Nations): The Example of China
Chapter 23. China’s Great Wall and Cross-Cultural Paradox
The Great Wall: Long, Tortuous, and Complex History  
Confucianism and Taoism  
Sun Tzu, War, and the Marketplace  
Chapter 24. The Chinese Family Altar: The Expatriate Chinese Outside of China
The Importance of Family  
The Expatriate Chinese  
Chapter 25. The Singapore Hawker Centers
Origins of the Hawker Centers  
Singapore’s History  
Ethnic Diversity but Unity  
The Power of Women  
Synthesizing Traditional and New Values  
Part IX. India: Tradition, Modernity, and Diversity
Chapter 26. India: The Dance of Shiva
Shiva’s Dance  
Indian Culture: Early History  
Cyclical Hindu Philosophy  
The Cycle of Life  
The Family Cycle  
The Cycle of Social Interaction  
The Work and Recreation (Rejuvenation) Cycle  
Chapter 27. India: A Kaleidoscope of Diversity
The Kaleidoscope of Religions and Cultural Celebrations  
Images of Festivals and Feasts  
Cell Phones, Call Centers, and Curriculum: Images of Change  
The Changing Image of Cricket  
Part X. An African Perspective
Chapter 28. The Nigerian Marketplace
Social Dynamism  
Balancing Tradition and Change  
Chapter 29. South African Townships
An Insider’s View  
An Outsider’s View  
Chapter 30. The Sub-Saharan African Bush Taxi
Basic Operations  
A Short History of Africa  
African Time Orientation and Fatalism  
Communalism and Community Sharing  
Hierarchy in African Society: Seating Arrangements in the Bush Taxi  
Part XI. The Struggle for Cultural Identity and the Splintering of Nations: The Case of the Russian Empire
Chapter 31. Russian Ballet
An Apt Metaphor  
A Flourishing Art  
Echelons of the Ballet  
Drama and Realism  
The Russian Soul  
Chapter 32. Estonian Singing
Lyrics, or the Painful History of the Proud Nation  
Vocalists, or Simple Pleasures Inspired by Nature  
Performance, or Singing as a Weapon  
Audience, or Estonia on the Global Stage  
Chapter 33. The Polish Village Church
Historical Background  
Central Place of the Catholic Church  
The Partitioning and Polish Identity  
Part XII. Same Metaphor, Different Meanings
Chapter 34. The Spanish Bullfight
The Bullfight Begins  
Sol y Sombra  
The Pompous Entrance Parade  
Audience Involvement  
The Ritual of the Bullfight  
Chapter 35. The Portuguese Bullfight
Pride in Traditions  
Stratification Amid Unity  
Artistry and Human Gore  
Profitless Bravery  
Part XIII. Popular Music as Cultural Metaphors
Chapter 36. The Brazilian Samba
Evolution of the Samba  
Small-Step Circularity  
Physical Touch  
Spontaneous Escape  
Paradox of Dancers  
Chapter 37. The Argentine Tango
The Tango’s Evolution  
Tango Music and Composers  
The Dynamics of the Dance  
Tango Singers and Their Lyrics  
Gender Relations  
Applying What We’ve Learned  
Part XIV. Overlapping Cultural Metaphors for Geographically Related Nations
Chapter 38. Cultural Metaphors for the Caribbean
A Brief History of the Caribbean Region  
Cultural Metaphors for the Caribbean  
Personal Experiences With Caribbean Metaphors  
Developing Complementary Cultural Metaphors  
About the Authors


Instructor Resource Site
Calling all instructors!
It’s easy to log on to SAGE’s password-protected Instructor Teaching Site at for complete and protected access to all text-specific Instructor Resources for Understanding Globaly Cultures. Simply provide your institutional information for verification and within 72 hours you’ll be able to use your login information for any SAGE title!

Instructor Resources include a phrase/term glossary and an instructor's manual comprising the following:

I.        REPRINTING OF MARTIN J. GANNON’S Working Across Cultures: Applications and Exercises. Please note that some of the Learning Modules refer specifically to this book.


1.   Learning Module: The Hawaii Case Study

2.   Learning Module Exercise on Generic Metaphors for Culture and Defining Culture

3.   Learning Module Involving Class Members in the Description of their Root Cultures in the First Class and Later in the Course

4.   Learning Module on the 14 Parts of the Sixth Edition

5.   Learning Module on the Extended Table of Contents and the Systematic Use of Cultural Metaphors through the Major Features of Each Cultural Metaphor

6.   Learning Module focusing on the strengths and limitations of the Dimensional Approach

7.   Learning Module: Debating the Relative Strengths and Limitations of Dimensions and Cultural Metaphors 

8.   Learning Module on chapter 1 Using Slides, Discussion Questions, and Exercises

9.   Learning Module Exercise on Time

10.  Learning Module on Creating Paragraphs and Surveys for Studying Cultural Metaphors

11. Learning Module on Cultural Metaphors and Business: Other Applications

12. Learning Module on Language

13. Learning Module on Types of Communication

14. Learning Module on Cross-Cultural Paradoxes

15.  Business Ethics and Decision Making Learning Module

16.  Cross-cultural Negotiations’ Learning Module

17.   Learning Module on World Religions

18.  Learning Module on Global Leadership and the Manager’s Role in Different Nations

19.  Three-Culture Joint Venture Exercise

20. Learning Module on the Long-Term Effects of Violating Cultural Norms and Values: The Case Study of the Hong Kong Orchestra and the Exercise “The Story of Upoli”

21. Learning Module: The Relative Effectiveness of Single-Culture and Multiple-Cultures Cross-Cultural Groups

22. Learning Module Involving the Individual Interviews

23. Learning Module: The Deaf Culture

24.  Learning Module:  Specific Suggestions for Using the Internet, Films, and Cross-Cultural Training Videos



V.     MULTIPLE CHOICE AND ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR THE NINE CHAPTERS NOT REQUIRED FOR EXAMINATIONS (Note: It is the Instructor’s Choice to Add to Examinations and Course Requirements)



“Each one of these chapters is very detailed and the metaphor is sensible… This is a great introduction to cultural diversity for many different reasons, such as economy (Italy), religion (Malaysia), language (Belgium, plus Canada and Switzerland among many others).  It meets the demand for a business cultural geography companion text.”

Jorge A. Gonzalez
University of Texas - Pan American

“This text more thoroughly increases cultural awareness to broaden students' perspectives of what they may encounter as they travel to different parts of the world. The chapters are well written; my students are challenged by, and maintain an interest in, the level of the book. It is a book that provides a challenge for the level of students in my course.”

Nancy Lyons
South Dakota State University

“This is the only textbook that I have found that actually discusses relevant information about contemporary cultures from all over the world…This is a wonderful text! I actually encourage other instructors to use it for their comparative cultures classes. It is easy to read and understand, discusses relevant information, and helps students become more aware of cultures that they may very well come in contact with. I will be using the next editions of this text, as it is the best I've found.”

Heather M. Smith
Gaston College, Isothermal Community College

“Overall I have enjoyed the text and have found it a useful resource for myself. Students who have used it as recommended reading have also found it helpful in developing a more colorful understanding of issues from the module.  The structure of the book is good, with an appropriate break up of countries as it demonstrates that despite major visible differences the cultures in each category actually have important base characteristics.  I am glad this text is available as it supports the broad themes of my course admirably well.”

Patrick Meehan
Canterbury Christ Church University

“It is one of the most interesting textbooks in the marketplace. The authors KNOW what they are doing. I love this textbook and have been using it for years now. It is one of the only textbooks that many of my students do NOT sell back to the campus bookstore!”

Patrice Hughes
Brevard Community College/Eastern Florida State College

“I enjoy using this book in my classes and students also seem to like it. I get positive comments on the text in student evaluations.”

Alexandre Ardichvili
University of Minnesota

“The book is a very useful resource for any one traveling to a foreign country because it provides unique in-depth insights to cultures. Thus, I encourage students to hang onto the book as a resource in dealing with customers from these countries. What I like about the current format is that the questions and the associated answers are infinite once you dig deeper into the metaphor and then start comparing/contrasting metaphors.”

Brad Koch
Grand Valley State University

“This is a fantastic book and I will continue to use it in whatever format.”

Jennifer Basquiat
College of Southern Nevada

Comprehensive and systematic this complex text formulates a framework to help us develop our understanding. Really valuable for students and practitioners in the sector.

Ms Caroline Brooks
Learning and Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University
June 3, 2016

This is a great book. The byte sized chapters cover a gamut of important areas for the students to look at. The tone makes it useful for those students who are familiar and completely new to the area

Dr Rohit K Dasgupta
Winchester School of Art, Southampton University
April 29, 2016
Key features


  • New chapter on South Africa’s  township system and its historical origin 
  • New chapter on Estonian singing provides a unique glimpse into Estonian culture
  • New chapter on the Caribbean explores the region’s countries and their substantial variation and overlap contrast 
  • Three new parts discuss the African perspective, the struggle for cultural identity and the splintering of nations through the case of the Russian empire, and overlapping metaphors for geographically related nations


  • Highlights religious and ethnic diversity within nations, recognizing that very few nations are predominantly monocultural
  • Each chapter links each nation's cultural metaphor as it relates to its history, religions, geography, demographics, and current events
  • Provides a framework for understanding national cultures by describing the culture-general emphasis of the Hofstede study, the GLOBE study, etc., and integrating them into an in-depth understanding of each national culture
  • The 14 parts of the book are balanced by parts emphasizing geography, such as the African perspective, and parts focusing on key cross-cultural issues such as authority-ranking cultures and torn national cultures. 
  •  A Password-Protected Instructor site includes 100 exercises from the book Working Across Cultures, multiple-choice questions and discussion questions for each chapter, a model examination, a suggested syllabus, PowerPoint slides, and more

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 15

Chapter 23

Preview this book

For instructors

Review and Desk copies for this title are available digitally via VitalSource.

Request e-review copy

If you require a print review copy, please call: (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or email

Select a Purchasing Option

Electronic version
Prices from
*180 day rental