By Karma Karira, University of Michigan
Growing up with a deep interest in traveling and exploring different countries and traditions, I have often been aware of the importance of culture and the significance of open-mindedness in my adventures and growth. Especially with my identities as the daughter of immigrants and as an Indian American woman, I have come to understand the different perspectives I have because of these identities and my culture. This understanding coupled with the captivating description of this international course drew me to BA 310 and I feel grateful to have been part of the Business and Culture program over my Winter 2021 semester. This course has exposed me to real-life cross-cultural discussions as well as introduced me to inspiring speakers who have helped me deeply understand happenings in the MENA region with the context of cross-cultural business in our connected sessions between the University of Michigan, American University of Beirut, American University in Cairo, and BYTE. This experience has been one of the most valuable and unique opportunities I have had over my past two years at the University of Michigan and within the Ross School of Business.
Though I came into this course believing I had a great understanding of culture and culture’s implications, I soon found out that I did not understand the scope of culture’s influence and that I did not have a global sense of business practices and general happenings. Through my work with my Internationalisation Consulting Project Group, I immediately made three new friends with students from Libya, Lebanon, and Egypt and grew to recognize our differences in work, skills, and perspectives as well as learn about different upbringings, preferences, and norms. From my first meeting with my Internationalisation Project Consulting Group, I learned about my international peers’ favorite foods, holidays, and traditions from their countries and cultures. I more deeply understood the differences in family and friend cultures and expectations that we all experienced. Additionally, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, we discussed how our countries and communities responded differently to the pandemic and I learned about their current experiences with vaccine rollouts and public opinion on COVID-19 prevention measures.
My main takeaways from this class include that culture still matters, culture explains human behavior and consumption in terms of Affects, Behaviors, Cognitions, and Demographics (ABCD), and globalization can create and spread ethnocentrism but also has the potential to promote cultural relativism and spread information. Prior to this course, I believed that the worth of culture and distinctions between people were diminishing due to globalization, but this course and Professor John Branch’s teaching and examples taught me that “despite globalization, perhaps even because of globalization, culture still matters” and that managers and business leaders currently underestimate the impact of culture in business in strategy, marketing, negotiating, and consumption. Thus, through this course, I learned about the importance and priority of cultural competency and tried to improve my own cultural competency and BCIQ (Business Cultural Intelligence Quotient) performance by boosting my CQ (Cultural Quotient) Drive, CQ Knowledge, CQ Strategy, and CQ Action.
I hope to continue my journey in cross-cultural business by working towards diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and continuously maintaining an open mind and challenging my own biased perceptions during my time at the University of Michigan and beyond!