UK Macmillan publisher is in big trouble. It seems that they  gave bribes in Sudan for a textbook deal. In Sudan, a bribe is not an uncommon business practice, whereas in the UK, it’s illegal.

In some cultures, bribes are a normal part of doing business. In others, bribes are viewed as unethical and illegal. In one study of frequency of bribery in business, Russia, China, Mexico and India ranked highest and Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland ranked lowest.

This presents a problem for companies doing business across cultures for both those who expect and those who eschew bribery.

The sectors with the most bribery of officials include public works contracts and construction; real estate and property development; oil and gas; heavy manufacturing; and mining. The sectors with the least bribery include  information technology, fisheries, and banking and finance.

One notable cultural difference is that countries with the highest incidents of bribery are all Particularist cultures (rules are flexible and depend on the context and relationship of participants), and those with the fewest incidents of bribery are all Universalist cultures (rules are unchanging and apply to everyone).

Brazil, Russia, India and China, often referred to as BRIC, are growing in economic power and geopolitical clout. Since 3 of the BRIC countries rank highest in incidents of bribery,  foreign companies that seek to do business in these countries may find bribery to be a major area for cross cultural conflict.