Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
National cultures can be described according to the analysis of Geert Hofstede. These ideas were first based on a large research project into national culture differences across subsidiaries of a multinational corporation (IBM) in 64 countries. Subsequent studies by others covered students in 23 countries, elites in 19 countries, commercial airline pilots in 23 countries, up-market consumers in 15 countries, and civil service managers in 14 countries. Together these studies identified and validated four independent dimensions of national culture differences, with a fifth dimension added later. If you follow the links below you will find a map of the world for each cultural dimension, which enables you to quickly see how similar or different countries or regions are. • Power Distance
• Uncertainty Avoidance
• Long-Term Orientation
The drawbacks of applying the Hofstede Model
The Hofstede Model of Cultural Dimensions can be of great use when it comes to analyzing a country’s culture. There are however a few things one has to keep in mind. Firstly, the averages of a country do not relate to individuals of that country. Even though this model has proven to be quite often correct when applied to the general population, one must be aware that not all individuals or even regions with subcultures fit into the mould. It is to be used as a guide to understanding the difference in culture between countries, not as law set in stone. As always, there are exceptions to the rule. Secondly, how accurate is the data? The data has been collected through questionniares, which have their own limitations. Not only that, but in some cultures the context of the question asked is as important as its content. Especially in group-oriented cultures, individuals might tend to answer questions as if they were addressed to the group he/she belongs to. While on the other hand in the United States, which is an individualistic culture, the answers will most likely be answered and perceived through the eyes of that individual. Lastly, is the data up to date? How much does the culture of a country change over time, either by internal or external influences? For more indepth information you can find this model clearly outlined in Geert Hofstede’s book, Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind.
Power Distance Index
Hofstede’s Power distance Index measures the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.
For example, Germany has a 35 on the cultural scale of Hofstede’s analysis. Compared to Arab countries where the power distance is very high (80) and Austria where it very low (11), Germany is somewhat in the middle. Germany does not have a large gap between the wealthy and the poor, but have a strong belief in equality for each citizen. Germans have the opportunity to rise in society.
On the other hand, the power distance in the United States scores a 40 on the cultural scale. The United States exhibits a more unequal distribution of wealth compared to German society. As the years go by it seems that the distance between the ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’ grows larger and larger.
Individualism is the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which...
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