Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist, born in 1928 in Haarlem, Netherlands. – and is the most cited non-American in the field of management (Powell 2006). Working for IBM Europe Hofstede founded the Personal Research Department – Hofstede conducted over 100,000 surveys of IBM employees in 72 different countries (Hoppe 2004). Hofstede’s observations of how IBMers in different countries thought and felt about similar tasks inspired him to write Culture’s Consequences in 1980. The book led to the creation of Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions.
Culture can be a vague concept, to simplify we use Hofstede’s definition. According to Hofstede, culture in modern language has two meanings: first, and most common, the term is used to define civilization. The term can be used to group ethnicities, religions, genders, and other demographics (Hofstede, 1991). This sociological meaning of culture is the source of Hofstede’s philosophies. Hofstede often refers to the “unwritten rules of the social game” – he is alluding to education, arts, manners, products – all these would fall under the domain of culture. The second meaning of culture pertains to the way people think, feel and act. The definition can be applied to nations, regions, the way certain communities or groups think, feel and act.
Different cultures have different interpretations of events, words, games, ad infinitum. For instance the term “family” in France is not equivalent to the same term in India. Although the word is the same, each culture interprets the name differently. Hofstede’s five dimensions isolate which of these areas are different across all cultures.
Based on statistical analyses of a multi-country sample on work-related values, Hofstede proposed that cultures are comparable on five dimensions, common to all countries under study (Hofstede, 1991 and Hofstede, 2001): individualism–collectivism; uncertainty avoidance; power distance; masculinity–femininity and long-term orientation (Soares et al, 279).
Individualism–collectivism: individualism–collectivism describes the relationships individuals have with one another. In individualistic societies, individuals look after themselves and their immediate family only whereas in collectivistic cultures, individuals belong to groups that look after them in exchange for loyalty (Soares, et al, 2007).
Uncertainty avoidance: this measure deals with a comfort level of predictability. How comfortable individuals of a culture are with uncertainty and ambiguity of certain situations.
Power distance: individuals level of acceptance of the inequality of power. The dimension does not measure “real” power distances, rather the way the power distance is perceived.
Masculinity-femininity: these represent a culture’s values. Masculine cultures favour achievement and success; feminine cultures value quality of life and relationships.
Long-term orientation: Hofstede’s revised dimension describes a culture’s willingness to sacrifice, or “perseverance and thrift”, for future reward.
These five dimensions can serve as a practical way to understand cross-cultural differences—a theoretical framework to compare cultures.
The Perfume Advertisement in Japan
According to the Hostede Scores, the power distance (PDI) and individualism (IDV) of Japan are quite similar to the world average-- around 60 and 50 respectively (see Appendix 1). However, the masculinity index (MAS), uncertainty avoidance (UAI) and long-term orientation (LTO) are much higher than the world average. The MAS approaches 100. Meaning, Japan is as masculine country as there is; where women are assertive, confident and competitive. The UAI nears 100 as well. Japan is an uncertainty avoiding country—the people are more emontional and somewhat motivated by nervous energy. Specifically, this entails an apprehension towards ambiguity. The...