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Hofstede's Intercultural Dimensions

Power Distance

This dimension relates to the degree of equality/inequality between people in a particular


society.

Power Distance Index

In short this cultural dimension looks at how much a culture does or does not value
hierarchical relationships and respect for authority.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

In a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

• Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.


• Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
• Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
• The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
• Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
• Class divisions within society are accepted.

A country with a high Power Distance score both accepts and perpetuates inequalities
between people. An example of such a society would be one that follows a caste system
and in which upward mobility is very limited.

Examples of cultures with high PDI scores include Arabic speaking countries, Russia,
India and China.

In a low power distance culture:

• Superiors treat subordinates with respect and do not pull rank.


• Subordinates are entrusted with important assignments.
• Blame is either shared or very often accepted by the superior due to it being their
responsibility to manage.
• Managers may often socialise with subordinates.
• Liberal democracies are the norm.
• Societies lean more towards egalitarianism.

A low Power Distance indicates that a society does not emphasize differences in people’s
status, power or wealth. Equality is seen as the collective aim of society and upward
mobility is common.

Those with low scores include Japan, Australia and Canada.


Individualism

This dimension focuses on the degree to which a society reinforces individual or


collective achievement and interpersonal relationships. In short this cultural dimension
looks at how much a culture emphasizes the rights of the individual versus those of the
group (whether it be family, tribe, company, etc).

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

In a country that scores highly on the individualism scale the following traits are
common:

• A person’s identity revolves around the "I"


• Personal goals and achievement are strived for
• It is acceptable to pursue individual goals at the expense of others
• ‘Individualism’ is encouraged whether it be personality, clothes or music tastes
• The right of the individual reigns supreme; thus laws to protect choices and freedom of
speech

If a country has a high Individualism score, this indicates that individuality and individual
rights are dominant. Individuals in these societies tend to form relationships with larger
numbers of people, but with the relationships being weak.

Individualist cultures include the United States and much of Western Europe, where
personal achievements are emphasized.

In a country that scores low on the individualism scale the following traits are
common:

• “We" is more important that “I”


• Conformity is expected and perceived positively.
• Individual’s desires and aspirations should be curbed if necessary for the good of the
group.
• The rights of the family (or for the common good) are more important.
• Rules provide stability, order, obedience.

A low Individualism score points to a society that is more collectivist in nature. In such
countries the ties between individuals are very strong and the family is given much more
weight. In such societies members lean towards collective responsibility.

Collectivist cultures, such as China, Korea, and Japan, emphasize the group such as the
family and at work this manifests in a strong work group mentality.
Uncertainty Avoidance

This dimension concerns the level of acceptance for uncertainty and ambiguity within a
society. In essence this cultural dimension measures a country or culture's preference for
strict laws and regulations over ambiguity and risk.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score highly on the
uncertainty avoidance scale:

• Usually countries/cultures with a long history.


• The population is not multicultural, i.e. homogenous.
• Risks, even calculated, are avoided in business.
• New ideas and concepts are more difficult to introduce.

A country with a high Uncertainty Avoidance score will have a low tolerance towards
uncertainty and ambiguity. As a result it is usually a very rule-orientated society and
follows well defined and established laws, regulations and controls.

According the Hofstede's findings Greece is the most risk-averse country. Catholic,
Buddhist and Arabic speaking countries tend to score high in uncertainty avoidance.

Some of the common traits found in countries that score low on the uncertainty
avoidance scale include:

• Usually a country with a young history, i.e. USA.


• The population is much more diverse due to waves of immigration.
• Risk is embraced as part of business.
• Innovation and pushing boundaries is encouraged.

A low Uncertainty Avoidance score points to a society that is less concerned about
ambiguity and uncertainty and has more tolerance towards variety and experimentation.
Such a society is less rule-orientated, readily accepts change and is willing to take risks.

According to Hofstede’s findings, Singapore is the least risk-averse country. Generally


speaking Protestant countries and those with Chinese influences score low.

Masculinity

This dimension pertains to the degree societies reinforce, or do not reinforce, the
traditional masculine work role model of male achievement, control, and power.
Masculinity is one of the least understood as many people tend to associate it with
masculinity literally. In essence it looks at the degree to which ‘masculine’ values like
competitiveness and the acquisition of wealth are valued over ‘feminine’ values like
relationship building and quality of life.

Hofstede never meant to describe how gender empowerment differs in a culture but rather
uses the term ‘masculinity’ to capture certain propensities. If one looks at the cultures
with a low masculinity rating they will notice that many also have low gender equality,
i.e. Middle East. The terms relate to nurturing (feminine) versus assertive (masculine)
behaviours and ideals.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score low on the
masculinity scale:

• In life the main priorities are the family, relationships and quality of life
• Conflicts should ideally be solved through negotiation
• Men and women should share equal positions in society
• Professionals "work to live”, meaning longer vacations and flexible working hours

A low Masculinity score means a society has a lower level of differentiation and inequity
between genders. In these cultures, females are treated equally to males in all aspects of
the society.

Sweden was the most feminine with a rating of 5. "Feminine" cultures include Spain,
Thailand, Korea, Portugal and the Middle East.

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score high on the
masculinity scale:

• Life’s priorities are achievement, wealth and expansion


• It is acceptable to settle conflicts through aggressive means
• Women and men have different roles in society
• Professionals often "live to work", meaning longer work hours and short vacations

A high Masculinity score indicates that a country experiences a higher degree of gender
differentiation. In such cultures, males tend to dominate a significant portion of the
society and power structure.

From Hofstede’s research Japan was found to be the world's most masculine society, with
a rating of 95. Other examples of "masculine" cultures include the USA, the Germany,
Ireland and Italy.
Intercultural Scores for Select Countries of the Western Hemisphere

Power Individualism Avoidance Masculinity


Canada 39 80 48 52
United States 40 91 46 62
Mexico 81 30 82 69
Guatemala 95 6 101 37
El Salvador 66 19 94 40
Costa Rica 35 15 86 21
Colombia 67 13 80 64
Venezuela 81 12 76 73
Brazil 69 38 76 49
Uruguay 61 36 100 38
Argentina 49 46 86 56
Chile 63 23 86 28
Peru 64 16 87 42
Ecuador 78 8 67 63
Jamaica 45 39 13 68
Trinidad & Tobago 47 16 55 58
(Scores in bold are the highest for a category. Scores in bold italics are the lowest for a category.)

Power

100
90
80
Power Distance Index

70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Country
Individualism

100
90
Individualism Index

80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Country

Uncertainity Avoidance

120

100

80
UA Index

60

40

20

0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Country
Masculinity

80
70
Masculinty Scale

60
50
40
30
20
10
0
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Country