Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature and definitions of culture and its relationship to language and cultural sensitivity in hospitality management services.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper takes the form of a critical literature review followed by a phenomenological exploratory pilot study, using template analysis.
Findings – Previous studies indicate that the more individuals understand and embrace notions of intercultural sensitivity, then the better they become at being able to recognise and discriminate between cultural differences. Furthermore, as a by-product, there is an increased appetite and tendency towards adopting cultural perspectives other than ones’ own. However, the operationalisation of this process encourages benchmarking along linear scales, which is problematic and over-simplifies the dynamic and fluid nature of effective cultural transmission. The paper’s findings suggest that rather than there being singular cultural and language constructs, there are cultures, which in places overlap, but elsewhere do not and therefore cannot be placed on universal scales; second, the critical success factor is less about linguistic literacy linked to vocabulary and explicit rational comprehension, and more about a pre-emptive cultural interpretive intelligence which identifies emotion and sentiment.
Research limitations/implications – This is largely a conceptual paper, which, it is suggested, needs further empirical investigation – both longitudinally and on a larger scale.
Originality/value – This perspective moves management, marketing and service delivery away from zero-sum games and transactional exchanges, whether financial, social or linguistic, towards collective wealth creation and empowerment – manifest in social cultural capital and the generation of tacit knowledge. The challenge that remains is how this process can be formalised and the tacit and implicit knowledge gained and created can be preserved.