Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Geert H. Hofstede, Ph.D.
Geert H. Hofstede, Ph.D.
Geert H. Hofstede was born on October 2, 1928 in Haarlem, the Netherlands as Gerard Hendrik
Hofstede. His early school years were spent at schools in The Hague and Apeldoorn. After
attending Technical College (HTS) and a one year internship which included a voyage to
Indonesia as an Assistant Ship’s Engineer, he received his diploma (M.SC.) in Mechanical
Engineering from Delft Technical University. Between 1953 and 1965, he served as a technical
officer in the Dutch army, worked incognito as a factory hand in Amsterdam and held
professional and managerial jobs in three Dutch industrial companies. Dr. Hofstede received his
Doctor of Social Science (Ph.D.; cum laude) degree from Groningen University with his thesis:
“The Game of Budget Control”. In 1980, he co-founded, and was the first director of, the
Institute for Research on Intercultural Cooperation (IRIC), the Netherlands. He has been married
to Maaike A. van den Hoek since 1955 and has four sons and ten grandchildren (Hofstede,
Description of Theory
Organization cultures should be distinguished from national cultures. National cultures
distinguish similar people, institutions and organization in different countries. Hofstede uses the
term organizational culture to distinguish the different organizations within the same country or
countries. He states that cultures manifest themselves, from superficial to deep, in symbols,
heroes, rituals and values. His research has shown that organizational cultures differ mainly at
the levels of symbols, heroes and rituals, and together are labeled “practices”. National cultures
differ mostly at the deeper level, the level of values (Hofstede, 2009).
The cultural dimensions of Geert Hofstede is a framework that describes five sorts
(dimensions) of differences/value perspectives between national cultures. These dimensions
are Power Distance, Collectivism vs. Individualism, Femininity vs. Masculinity, Uncertainty
Avoidance and Long-term vs. Short-term orientation. This framework is the most widely used
national cultural framework in psychology, sociology, marketing, and information technology
and management studies. Several researchers in education have used Hofstede’s cultural
dimensions as the theoretical framework to identify the relationships among culture, instructional
design, cognitive styles and learning styles (Morris, 2009).
Power distance (PD) refers to the degree of inequality that exists, and is accepted, among
people with and without power. A high PD score indicates that society accepts an unequal
distribution of power and people understand “their place” in the system. Low PD means that
power is shared (Mindtools, 2009).
Predictors of Power Distance: Climate, Population and Distribution of Wealth
Consequences of Power Distance: most evident are family customs, the
relationships between students and teachers, the young and the elderly, language
systems and organizational practices.
Individualism (IDV) refers to the strength of the ties people have to others within the
community. A high IDV score indicates a loose connection with people. In countries with a
high IDV score, there is a lack of interpersonal connection and little sharing of responsibility,
beyond family and perhaps a few close friends. A society with a low IDV score would have
strong group cohesion, and there would be a large amount of loyalty and respect for members of
the group. The group itself is larger and people take more responsibility for each other’s well
being (Mindtools, 2009).
Predictors: Economic Development and Climate
Consequences: Tend to be group-oriented, impose a large psychological distance
between in-group and out-group members and in-group members are expected to
have unquestioning loyalty to their group.
Masculinity (MAS) refers to how much a society sticks with, and values, traditional male
and female roles. High MAS scores are found in countries where men are expected to be tough,
to be the provider, to be assertive and to be strong. If women work outside the home, they have
separate professions from men. Low MAS scores do not reverse the gender roles. In a low MAS
society, the roles are simply blurred. You see women and men working together equally across
many professions. Men are allowed to be sensitive and women can work hard for professional
success (Mindtools, 2009).
Predictors: Masculine cultures tend to live in warmer climate near the equator
and feminine cultures are likely to locate in colder climates away from the
Consequences: Members of high MAS cultures believe that men should be
assertive and women should be nurturant. Sex roles are clearly differentiated, and
sexual inequality is seen as beneficial. The reverse is true for members in the
Uncertainty/Avoidance Index (UAI) relates to the degree of anxiety society members feel
when in uncertain or unknown situations. High UAI scoring nations try to avoid ambiguous
situations whenever possible. They are governed by rules and order and they seek a collective
"truth". Low UAI scores indicate the society enjoys novel events and values differences. There
are very few rules and people are encouraged to discover their own truth (Mindtools, 2009).
Predictors: No clear-cut predictors. But in general, high UAI cultures tend to be
those that are beginning to modernize and are characterized by a high rate of
change. Conversely, low UAI cultures tend to have reached the level of
modernization and have more stable or predictable in their rate of change.
Consequences: High UAI cultures tend to develop many rules to control social
behaviors. Low UAI cultures need few rules to control social behaviors.
Long Term Orientation (LTO) (also known as Confucian Dynamism) refers to how much
society values long-standing, as opposed to short term, traditions and values. This is the fifth
dimension that Hofstede added in the 1990s after finding that Asian countries with a strong link
to Confucian philosophy acted differently from western cultures. In countries with a high LTO
score, delivering on social obligations and avoiding "loss of face" are considered very important
Hofstede extensively researched the outward manifestations of five cultural dimensions
in the context of teaching and learning. Table 1 summarizes Hofstede’s cultural dimensions,
their characteristics related to teaching and learning, and representative countries (Morris, 2009).
During 1978-83, Hofstede conducted detailed interviews with hundreds of IBM employees in 53
countries on indices for each dimension, normalized to values (usually) of 0 to 100. Through
standard statistical analysis of fairly large datasets (sample size 116,000), he was able to
determine patterns of similarities and differences among the replies. It is from this data analysis
that he formulated his theory that world cultures vary along consistent, fundamental dimensions.
Since his subjects were constrained to one company culture, he ascribed their differences to the
effects of their national cultures. (One weakness is that he maintained that each country has just
one dominant culture.) (Docstoc.com, 2009).
Report prepared by: Mary Lou Bledsoe
Docstoc.com (2009). Hofstede’s dimensions of culture. Retrieved October 11, 2009 from
Hofstede, G. (2009). Welcome to Geert Hofstede's homepage. Retrieved October 6, 2009 from
Mindtools.com (2009). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Retrieved October 11, 2009 from
Morris, E. S. (2009). Cultural dimensions and online learning preferences of Asian students at
Oklahoma State University in the United States. Oklahoma State University.
Power Distance Dimension
High Power Distance Low Power Distance
(China, Korea, and Japan) (US)
Instructors are expected to take all initiatives in class. The Learners are expected to be initiators in class. Self-paced
instructor controls learners’ learning path. The role of learning and self-regulated learning are desired. The role of
instructor is a transmitter of knowledge. Students cannot speak instructor is mentor, facilitator and guide. Students are
up in class without instructor’s sanction. supposed to ask questions and challenging instructors in the
spirit of learning.
Collectivism versus Individualism Dimension
Collectivistic culture Individualistic culture
(China, Korea, and Japan) (US, Australia, Great Britain)
Group goal is more important than individual goal. The Self-actualization and self-improvement are expected from
purpose of education is pursuing high social position or status education. Education is the preparation of self-sufficiency and
rather than self-accomplishment or self-actualization. independency. Learning is lifelong. Individual interests are
Learning is more often seen as a one-time process. Opinions important. Everyone is expected to have a private opinion.
are predetermined by group membership. Collectivist interests Privacy is respected.
prevail over individual interest. Private life is invaded by
Masculinity versus Femininity Dimension
Masculine culture Feminine culture
(Japan, Korea) (Sweden, Norway, Netherlands)
Students often compete in academics and pursue high grades, Just passing is acceptable. Students are less aggressive.
and consider failure in schools as a disaster. Academic Failure in school is a relatively minor incident.
excellence and reputation are important at universities,
Uncertainty Avoidance Dimension
Strong uncertainty avoidance Weak uncertainty avoidance
(Korea, Japan) (Denmark, US)
Students prefer structured learning, precise objectives, detailed Students prefer less structured and open-ended learning
assignment, and strict timetables. Students do not express situation. Students like broad objectives and loose timetables.
disagreement with instructors. Intellectual disagreement is a Students are allowed to express academic disagreement.
matter of personal disloyalty. Correct answer is the most Students do not expect that instructor to know all correct
important in class. Instructors are supposed to know all correct answers.
Long term versus Short term Orientation Dimension
Long term orientation culture Short term orientation culture
(China, Korea, Japan) (US)
Students prefer rote memorization, explicit learning objectives, Students like flexible learning objectives and open-ended
and formal problems rather than open problems. questions. Learners are interested in both abstract sciences and
Table 1: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and Differences Related to Teaching and Learning
From: Morris, E. S. (2009). Cultural dimensions and online learning preferences of Asian students at Oklahoma State University in the
United States. Oklahoma State University.