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Cross-Cultural Issues at Disney: French and Hong Kong Cultures


To understand why Disney has faced cross-cultural issues, a basic understanding of the French and Hong Kong cultures is required through applying theoretical frameworks. According to Ogbuigwe (2013, p.41) the Iceberg model of culture highlights that culture comprises of visible elements that are conscious, learned and easily changed, and invisible elements that are unconscious, implicit and difficult to change. Although the model oversimplifies any given culture (Thomas, 2008, p.68), Hall (1976) emphasises that to appreciate a culture’s visible aspects, one must understand the invisible aspects by experiencing or researching them.

Distance; ‘the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally’ (Hofstede, n.d)

France scores high on Power Distance. Children are raised to be emotionally dependent. A fair degree of inequality is accepted and power is not only centralised in companies and government, but also geographically.

Scoring 40 on Power Distance and 91 on Individualism, reflects an emphasis on equal rights in all aspects of society and a sense of hierarchy. Both managers and employees expect to be consulted and information is sharedfrequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct and participative. People look after themselves and their immediate families only and do not rely (too much)on authorities for support. Furthermore, Americans are accustomed to doing

Hong Kong is a collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not themselves. Ingroup considerations affect hiring and  Which they belong. Thus, one is only supposed to take care of oneself and one’s family. The French are selfmotivated to be the best in their trade and expect respect for what they do.

France has a somewhat Feminine culture. At face value this may be indicated by its famous welfare system (securité sociale), the 35-hour working week, five weeks of holidays per year and its focus on the quality of life. French culture in terms of the model has however, another unique characteristic; the upper class is Feminine whilst the working class is Masculine.

Hong Kong has a low score on Uncertainty Avoidance. Thus,adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit a situation. People are comfortable with ambiguity; the Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings that can be difficult for Western people to follow. They areadaptable and entrepreneurial.

Americans have a fair degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices or food.

Disney misunderstood how food and wine is almost ‘a way of life’ in France. As the French are accustomed to eating sit-down meals at set times, French visitors were unimpressed with Disney’s fast food/snack services and no alcohol policy. Disney had to adapt to provide additional restaurants with more seats, waiters and a wider food choice, and allow wine to be served with meals. This adaptation not only aimed to make the park more European, but also aimed to increase attendance (Yue, 2009, p.88).

Although food is not considered ‘a way of life’ in Hong Kong as it is in France, Disney seemingly recognised prior to opening Hong Kong Disneyland that its visitors would include a mix of eastern and western cultures. It therefore ensures that throughout the park an array of Disney themed, Chinese and western dishes are available. For example, dim sum, a traditional Chinese dish, is sold in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head (Fung and Lee, 2009, p.201).

In France, it is common culture for owners to take their pet dogs out with them. Whilst Disney did not allow pets toenter the parks, it built an ‘Animal CareCentre’ within close proximity so that guests can bring and leave their household pets in good care during their stay at Disneyland Paris (Disneyland Paris, 2017).

In an attempt to increase attendance after opening, Disney introduced more elements of the local culture into thepark by dressing characters such asMickey Mouse in traditional Chinese long robes, and greeting visitors to the park with a character representing the Chinese God of Wealth (Fung and Lee, 2009, p.201).

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