Disneyland Paris is a US based company which first established its business in France in 1987. Originally known as Euro Disneyland, the company started as a film company in the USA with the invention of Mickey who started filming internationally since 1955. The company has reached several countries since then including Tokyo, California, Florida and France. The entry of Disneyland into France began in 1987 when a contract was signed by the French government and Disney to build a Disney park theme park at Marne-la-vallee (Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak, 2005). This location was chosen because it is close to one of the world’s largest capitals. The land allocated to the company was the largest ever to be allocated to a foreign investment in France. The contract brought hope to many business persons in France who believed that the Mickey Mouse money making filming would benefit them without having to leave France. It was believed that the investment would bring in $600 Million in foreign investment into the country annually. It was also expected to generate nearly 28,000 jobs
French communists and intellectuals who protested against the building of the company claimed that the move would cause cultural imperialism. Farmers in Marne-la-Vallee also argued that the project would make the government to expropriate their land as provided under the contractual agreement signed by the government and Disneyland (Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak, 2005). The communist-dominated labor union CGT also downplayed the possibility of its members benefiting from the project despite the projection that the company will generate employment to the local citizens (Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak, 2005). Disneyland used a community relations program in 1987 to convince the French citizens that the company would benefit them. Disneyland Paris opened officially in 1992 and there were high expectations that the company would actually contribute greatly to the country’s economy.
However, things did not go well immediately as expected by the French government and its citizens, at least in terms pf performance in cross-cultural management of Disneyland. The company’s actions were greatly affected by the cross cultural differences between America and France. This cultural influence affected the operations of the company so much that the company started making losses one year after its opening. Under the theory of cross-cultural management, there are many aspects that the company should have considered in managing these cross-cultural differences, especially because the company is participating in international business (Held, 2004).
According to Trompenaars’ seven cultural dimensions, a cross-cultural management exercise should constitute the appreciation and application of the following cross cultural aspects: relationship with nature, relationship with people, universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism, affectivity, diffuse versus specific and achievement versus ascription (Browaeys & Price, 2008). This case study paper will address the differences between American and French culture concurrently with the operations of Disneyland. It will use Trompenaars’ seven cultural dimensions to find out the differences between US culture and French culture and how these differences have affected Disneyland’s operations and performance.
From the onset, Disneyland seemed to ignore the cross-cultural differences between the USA and France. During its opening ceremony, the attendance of the occasion did not hit the projected half a million and 90,000 cars entering into the park (Phatak, Bhagat & Kashlak, 2005). In fact, the attendance did not reach have the capacity of the park. This was occasioned by the fact that the US Company did not treat the visitors as expected culturally of a French person. In the pre-opening party, the visitors were not provided with enough food as was the case in previous such parties as the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. This indicates that the US culture does not consider feasting as one of the necessities of parties like in the French culture. The company therefore failed to consider this cultural difference in their management, hence losing the first pool of customers which would have otherwise formed part of the company’s customers in the long run (Holden 2002). This is against the principle of relationship with people in Trompenaars’ seven cultural dimensions which requires that management should consider relationship with people in adaptation to their cultures so as to establish a good people-relationship.
Disney also displayed individualism in its culture. This is in accordance with US individualistic culture as opposed to French collectivism (Connelly & Seden, 2003). This is illustrated by the French communists and intellectuals who argued that the company was exhibiting individualism. This is against what Trompenaars considered as collectivism versus individualism dimension of culture. It indicates that cross-cultural management should learn to adapt other cultural collectivism or individualism in order to be able to meet the needs of those cultures.
Instead of the company addressing issues in terms of individualism just in pursuit of profits, it should have first looked at the French culture and addressed issues collectively with other French citizens and listened to the needs of those people as well as involving them in decision making. The goal of international business should be collective responsibility to meet the needs of every member of the society and not just pursuing one’s own goals (Bhattacharyya, 2010). Disneyland downplayed this requirement in its cross-cultural management.
The communists and intellectuals of French nationality also claimed that the US company transformed children into consumers. This illustrates that the company did not follow Trompenaars’ affectivity dimension of culture (Gannon & Newman, 2001). The French culture does not allow the influence of business on children claiming that businesses should only affect adults and not little children. On the other hand, US culture allows the inclusion of children in certain businesses such as film acting. This makes the company to lose support of French customers who don’t agree with the practice.
The layout of Disneyland Paris also displays a sharp difference between American culture and French culture. The layout is entirely designed in American theme. The plan displayed a typical American Main street and is highly disapproved by some Frenchmen who claim that the design should have been in French styles. Furthermore, there was a ban on alcohol which was decreed by Disneyland. However, the French culture considers wine being taken with a meal as being God-given. These sharp differences on nature and beliefs has been explained by Trompenaars’ seven cultural dimensions which claim that culture has some relationship with nature (Browaeys & Price, 2008). In this case, the American culture does not seem to agree with the French culture that it is a natural phenomenon to take wine. The company should have learnt to appreciate French’s relationship with nature and took up its culture on wine by not banning the intake of alcohol within its premises.
Most of the foods served in Disneyland were in the European tastes since the company is dealing mostly with European customers. Many Europeans don’t care much about spicy foods as is the case in America. Therefore, a special coffee recipe was used to create a universal appeal. However, Disneyland included the American hot dog carts recipes which reflected the US regionalism. This is illustrated by Trompenaars’ seven cultural dimensions whereby culture is considered to be exhibited with diffuse versus specific cultures (Holden, 2002). In America, the culture of regionalism is diffuse while that of French is specific since the French use specific menus which reflect a universal appeal.
Disney also presented some rules on its appearance code which sharply differed with French beliefs and culture. According to Disneyland, the appearance code has a great significance in product identification. These appearance code rules were viewed by French labour unions to be attacking individual’s liberty. Instead of listening to the cultural pleas of the host country, Disneyland brushed them off and stuck to its appearance code in terms of hairstyles, clothing and jewelry. This is also explained by Trompenaars’ seven cultural -dimensions. The theory indicates that cross-cultural management should consider universalism verses particularism (Connelly & Seden, 2003). The company seems to adopt appearance codes that are universal without considering French culture which takes into account particulars and individual freedom in appearance code.
Disneyland has therefore undertaken several activities which are not in line with the requirements of appropriate cross-cultural management. Since the company is an international company, it should be able to consider such cultural issues as collectivism vs. individualism and relationship with people among other considerations so as to manage its operations in foreign countries appropriately.
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