Understanding Culture – Drinking Beer Or Wine

Understanding Culture – Drinking Beer Or Wine | By Hans Bool

People often communicate about culture and problems in the culture of a company as a stand-alone item. Like it would be possible to change the culture leaving everything else untouched. That idea is wrong. Culture is part of what people do and to change a culture the first step would be to understand what it is people do. Than the next step would be to check how they do it. Or, what the culture is and whether it fits with what people do. This relation is often the main problem, rather than something vague in the culture.

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To show this, this article focuses on the cultural differences between drinking beer and wine…

When exploring Style or culture, products like beer and wine can help to describe some differences. Although beer and wine are only two types of a wide array of alcoholic beverages, they represent the main protagonists.

It is also common ground that there are wine-drinkers and beer-drinkers, as well as there are people (amongst these) who drink both. And there is something as “change;” people do not stock to one habit, not during their lifetime, nor otherwise: people’s habits change. A recent study shows that the habit of drinking either (more) wine or (more) beer can change over time — “Sales are flat. Wine is ascendant. How did this happen?” (1).

The differences in style about the two can be simplified by stating a not too daring proposition:

– Wine drinkers (those that really prefer wine above beer in any situation) are more refined, classier, more “exclusive.” This may be attributed to the character of the product wine. Wine is categorized in vintages that have a certain classification: some wines from a special castle of a unique vintage are so exclusive that the limited amount has increased its price.

– Beer drinkers (also … those that really prefer beer above wine in any occasion) are likewise less bothered with class and status…

The above classification is dangerous and many will not agree, because it is a classification of extremes. But it’s just for explaining the point.

The point is to show what culture is and what its role is, whether it is in business or about nations. For this last one, the average consumption of wine can be examined (2).

Culture is not something isolated. Culture – and this becomes practical for companies – is never stand alone. Culture is always part of something bigger. The culture of a company is mainly the result of what the company business is focused on. A different business, will lead to a different culture.

Now, the wine and beer example fits in very easily, to show the relation between the culture (how people do things) and what they do (the business).

Many people will respond that they don’t fit in the wine-camp or beer-camp as described above. The distinction is too extreme. People will say, “it all depends on the situation. There are moments when I prefer to drink wine and when I prefer to drink beer.”

It is all in the situation, as with many things, but in this case it only means: it depends on WHAT I do. When I sit on the beach I prefer a cold beer. After a game of squash I also prefer a cold beer, having an exclusive dinner with friend at a moment when we have all the time in the world I would prefer wine…etc, etc.

So, although that there will always be people who prefer only wine or beer, most people will drink either one depending on what they are doing; depending on the type of the social event.


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And that’s how it is exactly with culture. The most important to understand culture is to understand what people do. The next thing is to check how they could improve things or how to change things. Changing a culture can only be done by changing what you do: companies redefine their focus and stop with activities they do no longer excel in… This is only one example of achieving a change of culture after the business has been changed. And that’s how it is done. Changing the culture of an organization leaving everything else untouched is impossible.
It would be like drinking wine on the beach, it gives you a headache.

(1) – http://www.slate.com/id/2167292/fr/flyout
(2) – http://www.wineinstitute.org/resources/statistics

Hans Bool.
Hans Bool writes articles about management, culture and change. If you are interested to read or experience more about these topics have a look at: Astor White.

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