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Dimensions of national culture

Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory is a framework for cross-


cultural communication, developed by Geert Hofstede. It describes the effects of a society's culture on
the values of its members, and how these values relate to behavior, using a structure derived from
factor analysis.

Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are
influenced by culture. He analysed a large database of employee value scores collected within IBM
between 1967 and 1973. The data covered more than 70 countries, from which Hofstede first used the
40 countries with the largest groups of respondents and afterwards extended the analysis to 50
countries and 3 regions. Subsequent studies validating the earlier results include such respondent
groups as commercial airline pilots and students in 23 countries, civil service managers in 14 counties,
'up-market' consumers in 15 countries and 'elites' in 19 countries.
In the 2010 edition of the book Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, scores on the
dimensions are listed for 76 countries, partly based on replications and extensions of the IBM study on
different international populations and by different scholars.

Check out the tool for comparing country scores. https://geert-hofstede.com/countries.html

Definitions of 6 Cultural Dimensions

(sample dimension score)


The model of national culture consists of six dimensions. The cultural dimensions represent independent
preferences for one state of affairs over another that distinguish countries (rather than individuals) from
each other. The country scores on the dimensions are relative, as we are all human and simultaneously
we are all unique. In other words, culture can be only used meaningfully by comparison. The model
consists of the following dimensions (click on the name of the dimension to read more):

Power Distance Index (PDI)

This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect
that power is distributed unequally. The fundamental issue here is how a society handles inequalities
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among people. People in societies exhibiting a large degree of Power Distance accept a hierarchical
order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. In societies with low
Power Distance, people strive to equalise the distribution of power and demand justification for
inequalities of power.

Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)

The high side of this dimension, called individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit
social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate
families. Its opposite, collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in
which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in
exchange for unquestioning loyalty. A society's position on this dimension is reflected in whether
people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we.”

Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)

The Masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism,
assertiveness and material rewards for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite,
femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.
Society at large is more consensus-oriented. In the business context Masculinity versus Femininity is
sometimes also related to as "tough versus tender" cultures.

Unvertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)

The Uncertainty Avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel
uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with
the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen?
Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of
unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice
counts more than principles.

Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO)

Every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present
and the future. Societies prioritize these two existential goals differently.
Societies who score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and
norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other
hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way
to prepare for the future.
In the business context this dimension is related to as "(short term) normative versus (long term)
pragmatic" (PRA). In the academic environment the terminology Monumentalism versus Flexhumility is
sometimes also used.

Indulgence versus Restraint (IND)


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Indulgence stands for a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives
related to enjoying life and having fun. Restraint stands for a society that suppresses gratification of
needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.

China in comparison with US

What about China?

If we explore the Chinese culture through the lens of the 6-D Model©, we can get a good overview of the
deep drivers of Chinese culture relative to other world cultures.

Power Distance
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the
attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power Distance is defined as the extent to
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which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept
that power is distributed unequally.
At 80 China sits in the higher rankings of PDI – i.e. a society that believes that inequalities amongst people
are acceptable. The subordinate-superior relationship tends to be polarized and there is no defense
against power abuse by superiors. Individuals are influenced by formal authority and sanctions and are in
general optimistic about people’s capacity for leadership and initiative. People should not have aspirations
beyond their rank.

Individualism
The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains
among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In
Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In
Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
At a score of 20 China is a highly collectivist culture where people act in the interests of the group and not
necessarily of themselves. In-group considerations affect hiring and promotions with closer in-groups
(such as family) are getting preferential treatment. Employee commitment to the organization (but not
necessarily to the people in the organization) is low. Whereas relationships with colleagues are
cooperative for in-groups they are cold or even hostile to out-groups. Personal relationships prevail over
task and company.

Masculinity
A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition,
achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that
starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.
A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others
and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out
from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be
the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
At 66 China is a Masculine society –success oriented and driven. The need to ensure success can be
exemplified by the fact that many Chinese will sacrifice family and leisure priorities to work. Service people
(such as hairdressers) will provide services until very late at night. Leisure time is not so important. The
migrated farmer workers will leave their families behind in faraway places in order to obtain better work
and pay in the cities. Another example is that Chinese students care very much about their exam scores
and ranking as this is the main criteria to achieve success or not.

Uncertainty Avoidance
The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the
future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity
brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The
extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and
have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty
Avoidance.
At 30 China has a low score on Uncertainty Avoidance. Truth may be relative though in the immediate
social circles there is concern for Truth with a capital T and rules (but not necessarily laws) abound. None
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the less, adherence to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and pragmatism is a fact
of life. The Chinese are comfortable with ambiguity; the Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings
that can be difficult for Western people to follow. Chinese are adaptable and entrepreneurial. At the time
of writing the majority (70% -80%) of Chinese businesses tend to be small to medium sized and family
owned.

Long Term Orientation


This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing
with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals
differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-
honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which
scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in
modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
China scores 87 in this dimension, which means that it is a very pragmatic culture. In societies with a
pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They
show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest,
thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.

Indulgence
One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are
socialized. Without socialization we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to
which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. Relatively
weak control is called “Indulgence” and relatively strong control is called “Restraint”. Cultures can,
therefore, be described as Indulgent or Restrained.
China is a Restrained society as can be seen in its low score of 24 in this dimension. Societies with a low
score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to Indulgent
societies, Restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of
their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are Restrained by social
norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.