Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
Culture can be defined in many different ways. On their official website, Hofstede and Hofstede (2013) define culture as “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another”. In order to explore cultures better, they have come up with six “dimensions” of culture (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013; Hofstede, Hofstede & Minkov, 2010) which are explained below.
1) Power distance index (PDI) – modern cultures appear unequal in terms of power since there are those members who have more and those who have less power. The PDI is based on how less powerful members of a culture accept or are expected to accept inequalities of power in organizations functioning in these cultures. For example, the PDI seems highest in such cultures as Malaysian, Slovak, Guatemalan, and Panamanian; it is lowest in such cultures as Austrian, Israeli, and Danish (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013)*.
2) Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) – cultures that score high on the UAI tend to avoid ambiguous or uncertain situations by adopting various laws and rules regulating different aspects of life in these societies and they tend to believe that there is only one truth; such cultures are likely to be emotional. In contrast, cultures that score low on the UAI prefer to have as few rules as possible and tend to be relativist and impassive by nature. For example, the UAI is highest in such cultures as Greek, Portuguese, and Guatemalan; it is lowest in such cultures as Singaporean, Jamaican, and Danish (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013).
3) Individualism vs collectivism (IDV) – measures how individual members of a culture are included into in-groups. In those cultures, which rank high on the IDV, the people are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families. In those cultures, which rank low on the IDV, on the contrary, from their birth, people are members of groups and immediate families often consist not only of parents and children, but also of aunts, uncles, and grandparents. For example, the IDV is highest in such cultures as American, Australian, and English; it is lowest in such cultures as Guatemalan, Ecuadorian, and Panamanian (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013).
4) Masculinity vs femininity (MAS) – in some cultures, the material well-being (which results in competitiveness) seems to be essential in defining successful people while in other cultures, modesty and caring seem to be dominant. The former tendency is termed as “masculinity” and the latter as “femininity”. For example, the MAS is highest in such cultures as Slovak, Japanese, and Hungarian; it is lowest in such cultures as Swedish, Norwegian, and Latvian (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013).
5) Long-term orientation vs short-term orientation (LTO) – long-term orientation tends to prioritize such values as persistence, the ability to accommodate to changing situations, and savings. Short-term orientation tends to emphasize such values as social duties, respect for tradition, and “face” preservation. For example, the LTO is highest in such cultures as South Korean, Taiwanese, and Japanese; it is lowest in such cultures as Ghanaian, Egyptian, Colombian, Dominican, Nigerian, and Trinidadian and Tobagonian (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013).
6) Indulgence vs restraint (IVR) – “indulgence” means to the cultural values which allow satisfying basic needs such as hunger as well as entertainment with only few restrictions. “Restraint” means the cultural values which regulate satisfaction of basic needs with different social norms. For example, the IVR is highest in such cultures as Venezuelan, Mexican, and Puerto Rican; it is lowest in such cultures as Pakistani, Egyptian, and Latvian (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2013).
What are the advantages of these six cultural “dimensions”? First of all, they allow researchers, organization administrations, and tourists to learn some of the basic values shared by certain cultures and to be more successful in their research, management, travels, and communication. Second, these “dimensions” open perspectives for further research and exploration into the culture-, organization-, and society-related questions. One such perspective for research would be to expand the list of these six “dimensions” by adding another parameter in order to depict the overall picture better. Another possibility for further research is to add more cultures to the existing list or to reassess the validity of the obtained data (the existing classification) relying on more recent data.
Are there any disadvantages concerning six cultural “dimensions”? If so, what are they? If not, why? In my opinion there are three major concerns with these “dimensions”. First, the results may non-transferable to individual representatives of the cultures under analysis. In other words, these are only generalizations and if one decides to apply them to concrete individuals, it is possible to encounter a situation in which these “dimensions” may provide inaccurate information. Second, the data collected by the researchers is limited to only a tiny number of people in each culture who usually practise identical professions (e.g. students, computer company employees, or instructors); this means the “dimensions” may be more accurate when they are applied to culture members practising the same profession as those who participated in the research and less accurate when they are applied to the members of the same culture who practise a different professions. Third, the mobility of modern people and the rapid development of modern media contribute to higher rates of intercultural exchange which, in turn, contributes to quick changes that may occur in a culture; therefore, any research results obtained using the cultural dimension methodology may become obsolete relatively fast.
To recapitulate, the six cultural “dimensions” developed by Hofstede and Hofstede (2013) and Hofstede, Hofstede, and Minkov (2010) can be a useful tool for comparing cultures based on a number of the predefined parameters. At the same time, the actual cultural situation may be beyond a strict classification. Therefore, these cultural “dimensions” are may be a hint to a particular culture rather than a strict definition of a culture and should be taken with a grain of salt to stimulate productive research, tourist, and other forms of communication.
Hofstede, G., & Hofstede, G.J. (2013). Geert and Gert Jan Hofstede site. Retrieved October 17, 2013 from http://www.geerthofstede.com/vsm2013.
Hofstede, G. J., Hofstede, G., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations : Software of the mind: Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
*The complete list of cultures can be accessed and downloaded from the website by Hofstede and Hofstede the link to which can be found in the reference section of this post.
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