What are Hofstedes five CulturalDimensions?Why is culture so important? Every visitor from wherever in the world, has her or his uniquepersonality, history, and interest. Yet all people share a common human nature. Our sharedhuman nature is intensely social: we are group animals. We use language and empathy, andpractice collaboration and intergroup competition. But the unwritten rules of how we do thesethings differ from one human group to another. "Culture" is how we call these unwritten rulesabout how to be a good member of the group. Culture provides moral standards about how to bean upstanding group member; it defines the group as a “moral circle". It inspires symbols, heroes,rituals, laws, religions, taboos, and all kinds of practices - but its core is hidden in unconsciousvalues. We tend to classify groups other than our own as inferior or (rarely) superior. This appliesto groups based on national, religious, or ethnic boundaries, but also on occupation or academicdiscipline, on club membership, adored idol, or dress style. In our globalized world most of us canbelong to many groups at the same time. But to get things done, we still need to cooperate withmembers of other groups carrying other cultures. Skills in cooperation across cultures are vital forour common survival. The authors of this page are committed to the development of suchintercultural cooperation skills.CultureWhat is culture?The word "culture" stems from a Latin root that means the tilling of the soil, like inagriculture. In many modern languages the word is used in a figurative sense, with twomeanings: 1. The first, most common, meaning is "civilization", including education, manners, arts and crafts and their products. It is the domain of a "ministry of culture". 2. The second meaning derives from social anthropology, but in the past decades it has entered common parlance. It refers to the way people think, feel, and act. Geert has defined it as "the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another". The "category" can refer to nations, regions within or across nations, ethnicities, religions, occupations, organizations, or the genders. A simpler definition is the unwritten rules of the social game.The two meanings should not be confused. Our work refers to culture in the second sense.How did we acquire our collective programming?Human culture is the result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. During most ofthis time, competition between bands of gatherer-hunters was a powerful evolutionarypressure. As a result our social and intellectual skills have become ever bigger. But we didnot lose the elements of our behaviour that identify us as social mammals. Fights for
dominance, competition for partners, a wish to belong and to know who does not belong -all of these basic drives are alive in us. No wonder that culture revolves around basic issuesthat have to do with group membership, authority, gender roles, morality, anxiety, emotionsand drives. Culture affects our love lives, our professional lives, our wars and our dreams.An individual human being acquires most of her or his programming during childhood,before puberty. In this phase of our lives we have an incredible capacity for absorbinginformation and following examples from our social environment: our parents and otherelders, our siblings and playmates. But all of this is constrained by our physicalenvironment: its wealth or poverty, its threats or safety, its level of technology. All humangroups, from the nuclear family to society, develop cultures as they go. Culture is whatenables a group to function smoothly. Here are some prominent levels:National levelTodays world population is divided into some 200 nations. Comparing nations has becomepart of most social sciences. Some nations are more culturally homogeneous than others;especially large nations like Brazil, China, India and Indonesia comprise culturally differentregions. Other culturally similar areas belong politically to different nations: this is inparticular the case in Africa. With these limitations, comparing national cultures is still ameaningful and revealing venture. Research by Geert and others has shown that nationalcultures differ in particular at the level of, usually unconscious, values held by a majority ofthe population. Values, in this case, are "broad preferences for one state of affairs overothers". This differs from the often used meaning "cherished moral convictions", as in"company values". The Hofstede dimensions of national cultures are rooted in ourunconscious values. Because values are acquired in childhood, national cultures areremarkably stable over time; national values change is a matter of generations. What we seechanging around us, in response to changing circumstances are practices: symbols, heroesand rituals, leaving the underlying values untouched. This is why differences betweencountries often have such a remarkable historical continuity.Organizational levelMany of us spend a large part of their time in organizations. Organizational cultures, theway Geert uses the term, distinguish different organizations within the same country orcountries. Geerts research has shown that organizational cultures differ mainly at the levelof practices (symbols, heroes and rituals); these are more superficial and more easilylearned and unlearned than the values that form the core of national cultures. As aconsequence, the Hofstede dimensions of national cultures are not relevant for comparingorganizations within the same country. National cultures belong to anthropology;organizational cultures to sociology. Because organizational cultures are rooted inpractices, they are to some extent manageable; national cultures, rooted in values, are givenfacts for organization management.Occupational levelEntering an occupational field like nursing or ICT implies acquiring a degree of mental
programming. Occupational cultures have symbols, heroes and rituals in common withorganizational cultures, but they also often imply holding certain values and convictions.Occupational cultures in this respect take a position in between national and organizationalcultures. The culture of management as an occupation contains both national andorganizational elements.Gender levelGender differences are not usually described in terms of cultures. It can be revealing to doso. If we recognize that within each society there may be a mens culture that differs from awomens culture, this helps to explain why it is so difficult to change traditional genderroles. Women and men are often technically able to perform the same jobs, but they do notrespond to the symbols, do not look like the heroes, do not share the rituals. Even if somedo, the other sex may not accept them in their deviant gender role. Feelings and fears aboutbehaviours by the opposite sex can be of the same order of intensity as reactions of peopleexposed to foreign cultures. The degree of gender differentiation in a country is highlydependent on its national culture.Dimensions of national CulturesGeert has operated in an international environment since 1965, and his curiosity as a socialpsychologist led him to the comparison of nations, first as a travelling international staffmember of a multinational (IBM) and later as a visiting professor at an internationalbusiness school in Switzerland. His 1980 book Cultures Consequences combined hispersonal experiences with the statistical analysis of two unique data bases. The first andlargest comprised answers of matched employee samples from 40 different countries to thesame attitude survey questions. The second consisted of answers to some of these samequestions by his executive students who came from 15 countries and from a variety ofcompanies and industries. Systematic differences between nations in these two databases occurred in particular for questions dealing with values. Values, in this case, are"broad preferences for one state of affairs over others", and they are mostly unconscious.
* Description for listed belowPower Distance Index (PDI) that is the extent to which the less powerful members oforganizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributedunequally. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not fromabove. It suggests that a societys level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as muchas by the leaders. Power and inequality, of course, are extremely fundamental facts of anysociety and anybody with some international experience will be aware that all societies areunequal, but some are more unequal than others.Individualism (IDV) on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree towhich individuals are inte-grated into groups. On the individualist side we find societies inwhich the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him/herselfand his/her immediate family. On the collectivist side, we find societies in which peoplefrom birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families(with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange forunquestioning loyalty. The word collectivism in this sense has no political meaning: itrefers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is anextremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world.Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of rolesbetween the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range ofsolutions are found. The IBM studies revealed that (a) womens values differ less amongsocieties than mens values; (b) mens values from one country to another contain adimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from womensvalues on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to womens values on the other.
The assertive pole has been called masculine and the modest, caring pole feminine. Thewomen in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in themasculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as themen, so that these countries show a gap between mens values and womens values.Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a societys tolerance for uncertainty andambiguity; it ultimately refers to mans search for Truth. It indicates to what extent a cultureprograms its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructuredsituations. Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising, different from usual.Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strictlaws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious levelby a belief in absolute Truth; there can only be one Truth and we have it. People inuncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervousenergy. The opposite type, uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinionsdifferent from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on thephilosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side byside. People within these cultures are more phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expectedby their environment to express emotions.Long-Term Orientation (LTO) versus short-term orientation: this fifth dimension wasfound in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnairedesigned by Chinese scholars It can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth. Valuesassociated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated withShort Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protectingones face. Both the positively and the negatively rated values of this dimension are foundin the teachings of Confucius, the most influential Chinese philosopher who lived around500 B.C.; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage.