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Understanding Global Cultures

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

Sixth Edition

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

Teaching support is not sufficient!

Dr Frank Tsai
Hospitality, Event Management and Tourism, Slippery Rock University
August 25, 2021

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
May 20, 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

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