The manner in which a social system or an individual fits into the social and cultural environment is known as cultural adaptation. The social system may be a small group (e.g. the family) or even the total society. Adaptation really means adjusting so that there is no discomfort between the individual group and their cultural environment. In a new cultural and social environment, changes have to be made in good habits, clothing’s, etc.
Cultural adaptation is essential for survival and success of both and individual well as an organization. For example, a girl has to fit into the culture of her husband’s family after marriage. An Indian, who settles in a foreign country has to adjust to the social and cultural environment of that country. A worker who shifts from a family business house to a multinational corporation has to adapt to the new environment. A Hindu who gets converted into a Christian has to adapt himself to the beliefs and values of his new religion.
Similarly, a business firm must adapt its business practices to the local culture. Knowledge and understanding of the cultural environment is helpful in the formulation of successful business strategies. For example, while formulating product mix, price structure and promotional strategies, managers, should consider the cultural background of target customer groups. A difference in cultural environment means difference in people’s habits and ways of living. An individual/organization can maintain a dynamic equilibrium with the environment through the process of continuous adaptation.
A sudden change in the cultural environment may cause a cultural a shock which means a feeling of confusion, insecurity and anxiety due to a strange culture. For example, a person who migrates from India to USA may experience a cultural shock so long as he does not adapt to the alien culture. Similarly, a multinational corporation from the USA may experience a cultural shock when it starts business operations in India. Adequate efforts to understand the culture and adapt to it are required to avoid the cultural shock.