Hofede in China

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Harold J. Ogden, Sobey School of Business, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada Shen Cheng, Business School, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan, China


Questionnaires were completed by 554 respondents in cities in east-central China and in eastern Canada to compare the levels of Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions in the two countries and to examine the effects of gender and age on these levels. Country differences were found with four of the five dimensions. Differences in the levels of power-distance, masculinity, and individualism were observed across classes of gender and age.


Hofstede’s (1980) dimensions of culture have become the most widely used model for explaining various effects across cultures (Yoo and Donthu, 1998). Stedham and Yamamura (2004) describe culture as stable and enduring but also somewhat changeable due to external forces.

Hofstede’s five dimensions include the following.
a. Power Distance. The power distance dimension has to do with inequality in a society. In a high power distance environment there would be greater tolerance for, and expectation of, inequality in prestige, wealth and power.

b. Uncertainty Avoidance. Hofstede focuses on uncertainty at the organizational level looking at the use of rules and strategies to reduce exposure to an unsure future.

c. Individualism and Collectivism. This dimension has to do with the relationship the individual has with the group and more generally with society. Hofstede points out that the nature of this relationship determines not only how people think about themselves and their immediate group but the “structure and functioning of many institutions aside from the family” (p210)

d. Masculinity and Femininity. There seem to be two elements to this dimension. One deals with the values held and the other with role expectations. Hofstede (1980) notes that in a work setting, males value “advancement, earnings, training, up-to-dateness” while females value “friendly atmosphere, position security, physical conditions and manager cooperation” (p281). The second aspect of this dimension has to do with what people in a culture expect of sex roles. In a very masculine culture, sex roles would be differentiated while in a feminine culture sex roles would be more similar.

e. Long Term Orientation (LTO). This is a recent addition to the Hofstede model, added as a new dimension to the model in the second edition (2001). It is based on the philosophy of Confucius and has to do with “persistence, thrift, personal stability and respect for tradition” (p351). It describes a longer term, higher level view of life.

China was not included in the Hofstede’s original study (1980) as the sample for that study was from the offices of IBM and, in the 1970’s, there was none in mainland China. Its scores were not reported in the second edition Hofstede (2001) either. There have, however, been some efforts to study the Chinese using Hofstede’s dimensions. Pheng and Yuquan (2002) studied the Chinese in the Wuhan area of China, comparing construction employees there to those in Singapore. Taking a workplace focus similar to that of Hofstede, they found that, compared to Singaporeans, Chinese had lower levels of power distance and individualism, and higher levels of uncertainty avoidance and masculinity, but their scores are different from those of Hofstede and therefore are of limited use in predicting how the Chinese scores will compare to those of other countries.

Culture has been observed to vary within Chinese areas. Huo and Randall (1991), for example, used the framework to examine the differences among Chinese in Taiwan, Beijing, Hong Kong and Wuhan and found sub cultural differences.

Just as there are differences seen in the dimensions between countries, it could be expected that there would be differences...
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