\”The Components of my Thoughts and Experiences in my Life\”

Cultural Dimensions of the World

Posted by danzinde on April 9, 2008

Lately, I came across an interesting perspective of looking at cultural dimensions of the world according to Dutch Prof. Geert Hofstede; an Emeritus Professor at Maastricht University.

He classifies mainly five views or dimensions in which he views a society or a nation (see reference)

Power Distance Index (PDI) that is 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 (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society’s level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders. Power and inequality, of course, 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’.

Individualism (IDV) on the one side versus its opposite, collectivism, that is the degree to which individuals are inte-grated 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. The word ‘collectivism’ in this sense has no political meaning: it refers to the group, not to the state. Again, the issue addressed by this dimension is an extremely fundamental one, regarding all societies in the world.

Masculinity (MAS) versus its opposite, femininity, refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found. The IBM 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.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; 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, unknown, surprising, different from usual. 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; ‘there can only be one Truth and we have it’. 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 more phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions.

Long-Term Orientation (LTO) versus 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, the most influential Chinese philosopher who lived around 500 B.C.; however, the dimension also applies to countries without a Confucian heritage.

some interesting country specific graph according to Hofstede, relevant to me are:




Notice the MAS (Masculinity) differences in these 3 countries: Holland has less Masculinity, I am not sure if this immediately implies high Feminity, but for sure it means a large space for womenhood, family values, her rights and respect, which we definetely need to make the world more beautiful 🙂 and dont forget Netherlands is a country of flowers 😉 , the best way to express our emotions to our dear women 🙂

In my own view, it is interesting to classify a nation on an average tendency of people but my experience of living abroad (Germany and Holland) as well as traveling makes me know a person more at individual level or based on personal characteristics, for i believe in one of the anonymous sayings:”every person is a window to a world in itself“. For example a stereotyped German image could be different than a person of Germany might reflect in his/her personal characteristics, at the same time personal characteristics are different contrasting the image of Nation as a whole, for example if we see the world with the eyes of Geert Wilders, the Dutch would sound way too different and intolerant contrasting the dutch society as a whole; the Netherlands is fairly an open country as known world wide, people are multilingual in general, and so far even i feel according to my personal experience, that i agree to the world view of this country. Furthermore working in an international settings, I feel an ambassador of my own cultural background (India), the difference leads to people’s curiosity in me and i am quite often a person of reference when we stumble upon a discussion on cultural differences and contrasting Indian perspective on western values in Ape Cage. The people’s diversity in culture is one of the most interesting aspect of humanity. Positive traits would mean to respect, value and love others at the same time keeping your own personal identity (i meant here personal characteristics not a cultural or nationalistic stereotypes).

I am reading a bookcalled “A whole new mind” by Daniel Pink, where he contrasts metaphorically the people who are left-brainers (hemisphere) and who are right-brainers (hemisphere). Briefly:

The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, are giving way to a new world in which “right brain” qualities -inventiveness, empathy, meaning-predominate. That’s the argument at the center of this provocative and original book, which uses the two sides of our brains as a metaphor for understanding the contours of our times.

A trigger for the time being, but my views on it would be my another post 😉


3 Responses to “Cultural Dimensions of the World”

  1. Maria said

    A little more up to date is GLOBE Study of 62 societies. They define 9 cultural dimensions,
    additionally comparisons to Hofstede’s dimensions are given.

  2. mercerd said

    interesting material, where such topics do you find? I will often go

  3. I enjoyed this very much! Just gratifying! Your composing manner is charming and the way you addressed the subject with grace is notable. I am intrigued, I make bold you are an master on this issue. I am signing up for your upcoming updates from now on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: