Examination Questions 18.

Taking the research of either Geert Hofstede or Fons Trompenaars, discuss the main dimensions of cultural difference. What are the main shortcomings of this research? Culture is the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought. A good example of cultural difference is in the way different cultures view time. In traditional (i.e. most Eastern and African) cultures, trust and friendship is more important than time. One does not hurry on to business matters – first one chats with those one will be dealing with, even if this delays the start of the meeting. In this way, one builds trust and relationships. In the West (i.e. Western Europe, the U.S., Australia and much of South America) one’s schedule is to be adhered to strictly. Business dealings do not generally involve friendship. By prolonging a meeting’s length, one is likely to upset one’s associates and to give an impression of untrustworthiness because one appears unable to keep faithfully to one’s schedule and appointments. Geert Hofstede’s five mains cultural dimensions:1) Power Distance 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. It suggests that a society's level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. Power and inequality are extremely fundamental facts of any society and anybody with some international experience will be aware that 'all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others'. 2) Individualism – Collectivism The interests of the individual prevail over the interests of the group within a society and the 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 continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.

3) Masculinity – Feminity The distribution of roles between the genders. Studies revealed that (a) women's values differ less among societies than men's values; (b) men's values from one country to another contain a dimension from very assertive and competitive and maximally different from women's values on the one side, to modest and caring and similar to women's values on the other. The assertive pole has been called 'masculine' and the modest, caring pole 'feminine'. The women in feminine countries have the same modest, caring values as the men; in the masculine countries they are somewhat assertive and competitive, but not as much as the men, so that these countries show a gap between men's values and women's values. 4) Uncertainty Avoidance It deals with a society's tolerance of the unpredictable; it ultimately refers to man's search for Truth. It indicates to what extent a culture programs its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations. Unstructured situations are novel. Uncertainty avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy. The opposite type, uncertainty accepting cultures, are more tolerant of opinions different from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side. People within these cultures are able to stay calm and not get emotional or excited about things. They are also able to consider one particular thing for a long time in a serious and quiet way. They are not expected by their environment to express emotions. 5) Long-Term/Short-Term Orientation This fifth dimension was found in a study among students in 23 countries around the world, using a questionnaire designed by Chinese scholars It can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth. Values associated with Long Term Orientation are thrift and perseverance; values associated with Short Term Orientation are respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Both the positively and the negatively rated values of this dimension are found in the teachings of Confucius; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage.

The main shortcomings of this research:1) Use of Questionnaires The scale problem of Geert Hofstede’s research is radically compounded by the narrowness of the population surveyed. Although he speaks of 'national samples', the respondents were exclusively from a single company. Furthermore, although the surveys covered all employees, the data used by Geert Hofstede to construct national cultural comparisons was largely limited to responses from marketing-plus-sales employees.

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