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Cultural patterns

I. Edward T. Hall 4 distinguishing features (dimensions):

1. Time
Monochronous cultures
Polychronous cultures
- people do one thing after the other
- time is very important
making plans
keeping to plans
- job/work is very important
- more short-term relationships
- people do things simultaneously
- time schedules are not so important
people are notoriously unpunctual
- people are very important
more time spent on maintaining
or building up relations with
family/friends/business partners
- more life-long relationships
- Work time is clearly separable
from personal time
- Work time is not clearly separable
from personal time
plans are flexible
2. Context
low context high context
people care for good relationships
characterizes the way in which information is transmitted
the majority of the information
is explicitly communicated
in the verbal message
- a lot of information is embedded in the context
feelings, thoughts and information are
not explicitly expressed, but also through a variety
of contexts, such as voice tone, body language,
facial expressions, eye contact, speech patterns,
use of silence, past interactions, status, common
friends, etc. The message is more implicit.
e.g. an apology must be clearly
the same message can be communicated
through a variety of nonverbal gestures such as
a smile, a sigh, a shrug, or a frown.
- high context communication assumes a prior
relationship, i.e. we are members of a
common culture, company, family, or other group
conflicts must be resolved before work can progress
business relationships depend on trust and build slowly
- few rules are given and information is accessed
through informal networks
3. Space
refers to the distance people need for the protection of their privacy
Cultures that need more (private) space Cultures that need less (private) space
e.g. Germany (big 'bubble' needed)
e.g. Mediterranean countries (small 'bubble')
If people come too close, they can offend other people's privacy
closed doors
private offices and partitions
minimal interruptions and disruption
permission needed to enter
private space
large rooms, few if any partitions
managers mix with employees
no touching without agreement
people have distinctive places
which they call "mine" and
don't want them to be "disturbed"
open doors
no problems with interruptions and disruption
private and "public" space not so
clearly distinct
touching is more common,
e.g. greeting rituals
4. Information
Cultures with slow flow of information
Cultures with fast flow of information
Information is planed carefully and
therefore flows slowly
monochronous, low context cultures
polychronous, high context cultures
II. Geert Hofstede 5 distinguishing features (dimensions):
1. Power Distance Index (PDI)
extent to which inequalities of power and wealth are commonly accepted
Cultures with low PDI
Cultures with high PDI
- employees expect to take part
in decision-making or to be asked
for their opinions
- tendency to delegate tasks
and responsibility
- ideal boss: good democrat
- co-determination
- big difference in incomes are accepted
- employees expect directives and rules
- tendency to centralize decision-making
and responsibility
- ideal boss: kind/benevolent autocrat
- autocracy
- less difference in incomes
tax laws support equitable
distribution of income
high dependence of employees
on their superiors/ senior staff
- strict hierarchies are accepted
and expected
- hierarchies are less strict
- superiors are expected to socialise
with staff
- superiors don't mix/socialise
with staff
2. Individuality Index (individuality versus collectivism - IDV)
- ties between individuals are loose
- everyone is expected
to look after themselves
and their immediate family
people from birth onwards are integrated
into strong, cohesive in-groups, which
throughout peoples lifetime continue to protect
them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty
Cultures with high IDV Cultures with low IDV
- emphasis on individual goals,
which are more important than
the group ("Selbstverwirklichung")
- "I" distinctive from other people
- people emphasize
their success/achievements in job
or private wealth and aim to reach
more and/or a better job position
- great emphasis on groups,
people think more in terms of "we"
- harmony and loyalty within a company/group
is very important and should always be
maintained, confrontation should be avoided
China: - never disagree with
someone's opinion in public
discussion in private atmosphere
to avoid "loss of face"
- saying "no" would also mean
to destroy the harmony in the group
other expressions must be used
The well-being of the company/groups/society
is more important than individual freedom.
- personal freedom is more important
than equality
extent to which individual interests prevail over the interests of a group
3. Masculinity Index (masculinity versus femininity - MAS)
Cultures with high MAS Cultures with low MAS
dominant values:
performance and success
dominant values:
quality of life and care for others
willingness to adapt
career/ambition quality of life
performance sensitivity/empathy
work is very important in life work is necessary to make a living
competition and
competitive conflict behaviour
strive for consensus
analytical approach to
intuitive approach to
big and fast are beautiful Small and slow are beautiful
4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
extent to which people feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations
Cultures with high UAI
(cultures which avoid uncertainty)
Cultures with low UAI
(cultures which accept uncertainty)
- desire for detailed rules and their control
- resistance against change/innovation
- open for new things and change
- aversion to rules
- people tend to worry about the future

- little worries about the future
- higher demand for details in contracts
- expert and specialist knowledge are
- acceptance of generalist knowledge
and common sense
- avoidance of too many rules and formalities
- flexible organisation and work environment - formalization and standardization
5. Long-Term Orientation versus Short-Term Orientation (LTO)
Cultures with high LTO Cultures with low LTO
- fostering of virtues oriented
toward sustainable future rewards:
change is welcome and
may happen rapidly
- fostering of virtues related to the
past and present:
efforts should produce quick results
respect for traditions
social and status obligations
are important
preservation of "face"
strong work ethic
development is sometimes slow
willingness to subordinate oneself
for a purpose
What are cultural standards (patterns) and what is their purpose?
- with variations they are valid for a majority of the members of a culture
- they describe and explain how a cultural group perceives and evaluates things,
how they think and why they act in specific ways
- they regulate behaviour (how to act in certain situations and with other people)
- variations (individual and group specific) are tolerated within certain boundaries
- behaviours outside these boundaries are socially rejected and sanctioned
- peoples own cultural standards are not perceived consciously any more after
their successful socialisation
makes understanding between cultures more difficult
- own cultural standards become conscious if they are compared with other cultures