Intercultural Conflict Case Study

A Thai company wants to expand by putting a material sourcing office in Italy.

The Thai CEO, Chow, sets up such an office,

with three Thai nationals and one Italian assistant.

The sourcing office allows the Thai company to be

close to high quality raw materials and design aesthetic,

critical to the manufacture of the high end ceramic wear market.

The Thai company wants to enter in the United States.

The Italian assistant is in her 20s and female.

The Thai team consists of a manager, male 38 years old, procurement staff,

female 28 years old, and design staff, male 50 years old.

The manager asks the assistant to arrange a one hour open house,

to invite key partners in Italy to come to and socialize.

The manager calls together the whole team and gives a directive to the team,

to put together invitation materials that were brought from Thailand,

that have specific Thai imagery and design.

The assistant interrupts him politely, and says that the idea is not a good one.

And also, it does not appeal to the local pride in the art and craft of the country.

If you answered any one of the answers, you're right.

However, you could have done a little better.

Actually all four of the answers are correct in totality.

The first answer being, gender and role hierarchy played a role in the conflict.

The choice of materials played a role in the conflict.

The age gap played a role in the conflict.

And finally the high and low context cultures played a role.

So once again, all four were correct.

Now, let's go to a little more descriptive.

There is conflict at all levels in this example.

Number one, we have a cultural conflict,

in the form of the choice of materials.

The Thai leader of the office wanted to use materials from his own country,

In Thai culture, it is more than likely that a male leader

would want more deference than the Italian assistant, who from a European

culture will be very comfortable sharing her opinion very openly.

There would be conflict between the Thai leader's perception of what

that aggressive communication would mean.

The Italian assistant would perceive that she'd normally interact

with her colleagues.

The Thai leader has the possibility of perceiving that that was insolence.

So we have a possible gender conflict, in how the communication occurred.

In this case a Thai leader, who's older,

may expect some respect and someone to follow along a little more gracefully.

And therefore in this case did not get that particular deference and

would be upset.

And so in that conflict, that possible conflict the Italian

assistant would do well to understand that possibility when communicating.

Finally option four, there are questions of high and low context cultures.

In the Asian culture it tends to be a high context culture,

therefore you wouldn't address things so directly in words.

You would more so make indirect illusions to your opinion,

and hope that the person listening, the listener would have

the responsibility to pick up that nuance and react to it.

In a European culture there is more tendency to be direct.

There is also a question of physical location,

which is outside of the responses.

But if we consider a physical location, if we're a Thai company,

having an Italian office, it would be up to the Thai leader to really

understand that there are Italian tradespeople, and the Thai leader would

want them to focus on delivering a product to the United States.

So, the Thai leader would want every opportunity for the Italian tradespeople

to really focus on United States, and not be distracted by the Thai culture,

either through communication or the materials that were delivered to them,

in this case the invitations, to bring them to the office.

So if we now change our perspective in reviewing this situation,

we would see from the Thai leaders perspective, he could have taken more time

to understand the culture within which he was operating.

Would have understood gender and role in that culture.

And in having the meeting would have expected when everyone was in the room,

and he was creating a conversation around how we would approach this invitation.

He would already have understood the possibility of the communication style he

would have received, from a gender, context and age perspective.

From the Italian assistant's perspective, in choosing to work at a company that

had Thai nationals working at it, she could have chosen to also understand

those same concepts prior to entering into a business conversation.

Ultimately, in this case, there is only one particular business issue.

The business issue that arose was the question using Thai or

more local materials to create the invitation.

The rest of the conflict that could have been created, was literally cultural.

And in this case, you got a chance to really fully immerse yourself in various

levels of cultural conflict,

based on the expectations everyone had entering the situation.

Hope you had fun reviewing this situation, and we'll go on to the next now.


Cultural differences and conflicts in tourism: a case study of Dubai

Culture determines human behaviour and shows differences on how people do things and receive world. People are not consciously aware of their culture before they come across foreign culture. Foreign culture set situations where people feel uncomfortable which helps them to understand cultural differences. Elements generating cultural differences are such as language, religion and economics (Reisinger & Turner, 2003).
Two societies and their cultures are brought together by tourism which is called guest-host relationship. Three types of encounters are identified between host and guest: tourist purchasing goods or services from host, being side by side for example on the beach and being face-to-face in order to change information or ideas.

The greater the differences between economic, cultural and social factors are between tourists and local people, the more likely the relationship will be more unequal and less balanced. Difficulty in relationship between host and guest is usually arisen from the lack of knowledge, understanding or sensitivity from tourists' side to local culture and customs (Sharpley, 1999).
Conflicts between cultures happen at the interpersonal and structural level even when tourists are hedonistic sun seeker in their environmental bubble. Conflicts are created from cultural differences that lead to differences in interactional behaviours and misunderstandings in interpretation (Reisinger & Turner, 2003).

Tourists bring their own customs and habits to the destination and rarely are aware of the cultural shock they cause for the locals. Especially in poorer countries the image of Western tourists can be based on unreal tv-shows which cause expectations to be too high and result to bitterness (Dluzewska, 2008)

As there are different cultures the expectations and meanings of rules also differ across cultures. Rules that are accepted in one culture may not be in another culture. This can cause to misunderstandings and misinterpreting of the rules in other culture. This often leads to difficulties in interaction with hosts, create confusion, generate tension and conflicts. Breaking the rules in the destination is common amongst tourists either because they ignore them or they are unaware of them (Reisinger & Turner, 2003: 139).

Case study of Dubai

Cultural conflicts are likely to happen in Country like United Arab Emirates because of the Western tourists and Muslim hosts have such noticeable cultural differences. Many Muslim countries feel that Westernised tourists are behaving unacceptably and incompatible with Islamic religion and way of life.
Legislation in the destination can differ enormously from tourists' own country and this cause conflicts because of tourists' unawareness or ignorance.

Dubai is Muslim country and it follows Islamic laws. As Islam is the official religion it is forbidden to criticise or distribute any material against the religion. It is forbidden to practise any form of other religion besides Islam in public areas. During the holy month of Ramadan it is forbidden to eat public from sunrise to sunset, so dining must be done in hotel. Also criticising any of the seven emirates' ruling families is prohibited.

In Dubai you can get sentence of imprisonment from homosexuality, affairs outside marriage, intoxication and kissing in public places. Also public dancing is forbidden and there are strict regulations about dressing in different places. Abusive language and indecent dressing can lead into troubles with the authorities. Alcohol can be used only in definite areas so except these areas it is forbidden to be intoxicated. Also travellers who make stopover are expected to obey these laws. Serious misconduct can lead to be convicted to death penalty.

Dluzewska's research shows that there are differences on the level of knowledge that travellers have about the cultural norms in Dubai. The highest level of knowledge was amongst USA and the biggest travelling countries from Europe such as United Kingdom, Germany and France. Some interviewees in this study did not believe some mentioned rules and were under the impression that if they would do something inappropriate then people would point out their mistake before getting into trouble. The knowledge is not only based on nationality but for example the type of holiday seemed to have big influence. Mass tourists usually were poorly educated and were not aware of the social norms due to this they also caused more dysfunctions, whereas backpackers and exclusive tourists had higher level of knowledge and caused less dysfunction (Dluzewska, 2008).

Shopping malls have posters to advice to the appropriate behaviour. In Abu Dhabi police has started to give local decency guidelines to tourists. These kinds of actions could decrease tourists' lack of knowledge.


DLUZEWSKA (2008), The influence of Religion on Global and Local Conflict in Tourism: Case Studies in Muslim Countries.In: BURNS, P. M. & NOVELLI, M., Tourism Development: Growth, Myths and Inequalities, Wallingford: CAB International, pp 52-67

SHARPLEY, R. (1999), Tourism, Tourists and Society, 2nd ed. Northants: ELM Publications

REISINGER, Y. & TURNER, L. W. (2003), Cross-Cultural Behaviour in Tourism, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann

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