The article investigates the interrelation between organizational context and human agency in intercultural interactions. Arguing against the dominant approach in cross-cultural research that relies heavily on 'objective' dimension scores and therewith dissociates culture from actual intercultural encounters in specific contexts, it proposes that, under certain social-political conditions, organizational members may perceive or present particular cultural characteristics as especially significant. The article employs data from ethnographic materials gathered in the European head office of a Japanese multinational in the Netherlands. The implications of the findings are discussed with specific focus on the impact of the distribution of power and resources in an organizational setting on the salience of cultural differences in transnational cooperation. © 2005 Taylor & Francis.