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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds The cultural dimensions concept was first introduced by Professor Gurt Hofstede in the late 1970’s. The work stemmed from a longitudinal study of IBM offices across the globe and investigated employee values. The study collected data from over one hundred thousand employees across forty of the world’s largest countries. From this study Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory was developed. The cultural dimension theory can be seen as one of the first attempts to explain the observable differences between cultures. The cultural dimensions theory consists of six cultural dimensions. Differences in these dimensions can be used to explain why national cultures differ. The six cultural dimensions are power distance, individualism verses collectivism, masculinity verses femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long term verses short term orientation and indulgence verses restraint.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds For each dimension a score is allocated based upon the extent to which a country/individual demonstrates that characteristic. Power distance refers to the extent to which individuals in society are viewed as equal. For example, the UK has a power distance score of 35. This suggests that British people believe that inequalities within society should be minimised. Individualism verses collectivism refers to the extent to which a country views itself as one group working for a common cause or an individualistic society where everybody looks after themselves. The UK is a highly individualistic country that scores 89 on this metric suggesting that British people are encouraged to think for themselves and are private people.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds This can be seen as a driver for rampant consumerism and a me culture. Masculinity verses femininity refers to the extent to which society is driven by competition, achievement and success, whereas a feminine society is driven by quality of life and caring for others. The UK scores 66 on this dimension suggesting that the UK is success orientated and driven. Uncertainty avoidance refers to a nations attitude towards the future and ambiguity. This is manifested as to whether the future should be controlled or allowed to happen. The UK has a score of 35. This demonstrates that the UK is quite flexible towards the future and are happy to react rather than plan.

Skip to 2 minutes and 30 seconds Long term orientation refers to the extent to which a country holds onto traditions compared to countries who ignore their heritage and adapt pragmatically. The UK scores 51 for this dimension suggesting the UK is both traditional and pragmatic at the same time. Indulgence refers to the extent to which individuals control their desires or impulses. A high score indicates indulgence and the need for instant gratification whereas a low score indicates a degree of discipline and suppression of reward. The UK scores 69 on this metric suggesting a preference for instant gratification. Although the work of Hofstede is valuable it is important to remember that this is an aggregated measure of culture.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 seconds For example, some cultures exist in society that may not reflect these measures. This is important for marketers as products may be targeted at a particular segment rather than the mass market.

National culture

In this video, we introduce you to Hofstede’s cultural dimension theory. Developed by Geert Hofstede in 1984, this is widely recognised as one of the best-known and earliest studies on highlighting the observable cultural differences between countries.

Hofstede based his research on a large multinational company (IBM), where 116,000 questionnaires were completed across 66 national subsidiaries.

His research initially proposed four aspects of national culture to contextualise our thinking about organisations (power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism vs collectivism, and masculinity vs femininity).

This was extended to a fifth dimension in 2001 (long-term vs short-term orientation), with a sixth included in 2010 (indulgence vs restraint) as a way of examining differences between national and organisational cultural values.

All six dimensions are explained in the video, using the UK as an example.

Cross-cultural differences are, therefore, a key consideration when thinking about working abroad. You’ll need to factor in the cultural differences at both an organisational and societal level.

The topic of national culture is covered in more detail in the Business Management: National and Organisational Culture short course, part of the program in Cross-Cultural Management through the online BA in International Business (Top Up) degree.

Your task

Have you experienced any cross-cultural differences from your academic studies and/or work experience? What could be some of the cross-cultural differences of working abroad?

Share your responses in the comments area.

Further reading

Ghemawat, P., & Reiche, S. (2011). National cultural differences and multinational business. https://www.ghemawat.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/NationalCulturalDifferences.pdf


Hofstede, G. (1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work-related values (vol. 5). Sage.

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Sage.

Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind: Intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival (3rd ed.). McGraw-Hill.

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International Career Development: Pursuing A Career Abroad

Coventry University