Hoftede s Cultural Dimensions

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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

               feminine cultures.

       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

(Mindtools, 2009).

       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).

Theory Measurement/Instrumentation

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
                                                                 practical knowledge.

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.

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