The model of cultural dimensions in brief
There are many definitions and models for the term “culture” in research. The Dutchman Gerard Hendrik Hofstede defines culture in a simplified version as “the software of the mind”.
The model of cultural dimensions goes back to Hofstede. He showed that people have regional and national characteristics that remain stable over time and influence their behavior. He called these cultural patterns cultural dimensions. Different cultures can be described and distinguished using six different dimensions.
His model is based on a study lasting several years. With 60,000 employees of the technology company IBM from 40 countries, Hofstede developed dimensions that can be used to break down cultures and thus make better comparisons.
Originally the model only included four dimensions: “power distance”, “individualism vs. Collectivism,” “Masculinity VS. Femininity” and “uncertainty avoidance”. Two further dimensions were later added: “long-term orientation” and “enjoyment”.
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The cultural dimensions in detail
Here we explain the six dimensions that make up a culture. Each of these individual cultural dimensions can be assessed individually. In this way, cultural differences and similarities become clear.
This dimension describes the acceptance of the distribution of power within a culture. Cultures with high power distance accept strong hierarchies - within organizations, managers make decisions. These decisions will not be contradicted. Cultures with a low power distance are characterized by flat hierarchies; People are more likely to meet each other “at eye level”.
This dimension describes the strength of relationships between people in a culture. In individualistic cultures the bond is comparatively loose - the focus here is on the individual. In collectivist cultures, however, the focus is on the collective. Loyalty, caring and harmony are important characteristics.
The extent to which a culture accepts the division of classic gender roles is discussed in this dimension. It's not necessarily about gender roles. In masculine cultures the roles are clearly assigned, but in feminine cultures the roles can easily be swapped. In addition, masculine cultures are characterized by status, power and prestige, feminine cultures by care and empathy.
This examines the extent to which a society is willing to take risks and engage in renewal and innovation. Cultures with a high level of uncertainty avoidance prefer to rely on tried and tested patterns. They try to reduce uncertainty to a minimum through rules and guidelines.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes whether a culture tends to plan and think in the long term or whether it is characterized by spontaneity and short-term thinking and actions.
The last dimension says how much a culture accepts the self-realization of every person. In a culture with high values, marginalized groups or People who are not “average” are accepted - freedom is considered an important value. This is not the case in cultures with low levels of expression; strict regulations apply.
What insights can be gained from this?In Central and South American countries and Asian countries, a high imbalance in the distribution of power is accepted. In Northern and Central European countries as well as English-speaking countries, power distance is low.
Individualistic societies tend to be the exception. Cultures with a high degree of individualism are primarily found in the USA, Western Europe and Australia. Collectivism is more likely to be found in countries with a large power distance such as Japan, large parts of Asia as well as South America, Africa and large parts of the Arab world. Democracy and free market economies are often based on individualistic approaches and ideologies, while communist or socialist systems are more likely to have a political impact of collectivism are.
In Europe, Germany and Great Britain are considered masculine, whereas Sweden, Denmark and Russia, for example, are viewed as more feminine.
Members of societies with high uncertainty avoidance (e.g. b. Germany, Russia, Mexico) try to make the unknown or uncertain predictable and controllable with the help of analyzes and plans.
A long-term oriented culture is, for example, China. The focus there is on building personal relationships. Relationship networks that are long-term.
Both the approach of the study and the results of the cultural dimensions have been controversially discussed in recent decades. The universalistic approach and the results of individual countries reduced to points seem to be Representatives of humanities and cultural studies and intercultural trainers confusing.
However, the model of cultural dimensions offers basic material, many different indicators and various ones Evaluation options for the training area or for intercultural interaction situations in private and professional life contexts. The international GLOBE study (Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness) also confirms central parts and results of the study. She deals with the influence of culture on leadership and management of organizations.
Like every model, the cultural dimensions are intended to serve as a guide to better understanding and classifying different cultures. However, as always, there are exceptions and not all dimensions can be applied universally.