Discussing Hofstede within the international context

International Management

Term Paper, 2009

23 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Name: Oliver Gätgens

Cross-cultural Management (JOHT3002)

University of Vaasa, Department of Management fall 2009

Home Exam.

Deadline: 30.01.2010

Course book: Hofstede,G. 1991 (or with Hofstede. J., 2005), ‘Cultures and organizations

- software of the mind’.

Please, answer all following questions on the basis of course book and lecture materials. In addition, you may use any other sources of information, including personal experiences if and when you see it relevant.


1. Describe and give practical examples for different mechanisms for the influence of culture (lectures).

Social cognition as the first process that influences culture scopes the whole cognitive process of perceiving, understanding, learning, saving and using cultural relevant information. Cultural profiles act both as processors of information and as basis of influence on preferences and forces on behaviour. That means that our characteristics determine our values, attitudes and norms and hence determines our behaviour. (Thomas et al. 2003). Result of the social cognition is what one perceives to be true. While cultural different individuals learn other distinct sets of values, perceptions are also different. Those results are transformed into behaviour where the learnt attitudes become visible for externals. If many people share the same values, attitudes, beliefs and behavioural meanings, one can characterize them by a social group. Hofstede did that as well as Trompenaars (1998). (Kluckhohn, 1951: 86).

Cultural norms are behaviour patterns that are typical for social groups. Parents, teachers, peers and many other people influence young children with values, attitudes beliefs and behaviours. Conflicts or uncertainty over which cultural norms should be accepted lead to the insight that every social group found its own solution.

The behaviour hereby bases on a tacit system, the “cultural scripts”. Cultural scripts are characterized as the ways of speaking of a given speech-community. Wierzbicka (1994) defines them further as a highly constrained “natural semantic metalanguage” basing on a small set of lexical universals and universal syntactic patterns (p.3). Hereupon Goddard (1996) categorized three categories of cultural scripts.

1. Scripts about speaking

One cultural script lies in a culture‘s key words. For the first example key words in Japanese culture regulate human interaction. Key words are amae, enryo, wa, or on. The translation can be “want”, “know” or “think”. For instance, the key concept of enryo results in the following cultural script:

(A) I can ’ t say what I think because someone could feel bad because of this.

This bad feeling should be avoided. For example, if a person is injured by an accident, Japanese feel responsible to visit this person even if the accident was not their fault. (Wierzbicka 1994).

2. Scripts about expressing feelings

Expressing feelings can happen to others via verbal and non-verbal communication. The “meaningful looks” for example, show others how Malay people feel. This is a part of nonverbal communication and can be seen as unlike to Anglo-American culture of self expression.

3. Scripts about expressing what one wants

Direct cultures easily say what they want, so no one has to think about the real intention. Possible situations are that X wants Z to do something. But Y doesn’t want Z to do so and replied negatively.

Due to the fact that individuals avoid being overwhelmed with information, they construct simplified mental structures of the reality. Such structures have been called schemas, cognitive maps, belief structures or scripts. The process is called selective perception. (Fiske, Taylor, 1984). The theory of cognitive dissonance by Festinger (1957) predicts that people favour information that is consistent with their pre-existing attitudes and behaviours. People pay more attention when the new information reinforces their beliefs. (Selmer 2007) For example in Asian cultures it is important to keep the rules of politeness. For that reason, they perceive a direct eye contact immediately negative and judge the opposite as impolite. People also tend to the clear wish to belong to a social group, so called “In-Group”. That can be the social group of a whole nation like “US- Citizens”. The in-group of the US-Citizens see their own culture as more heterogenic and other cultures as homogeny. This impression gets stronger, the more they have to do with various aspects of their own culture. (Lee & Ottati 1993). Correlating to this point, Ice- hockey is a popular game in many countries. People perceive to be cultural closer to someone who follows the same club as he/she does. Sometimes a sports club is called “their religion” which shows the emotional empathy.

A Cliché or Stereotype - that is selective perception in relation to culture. Having explicit expectations about another culture - by just having heard about it. A stereotype is an overgeneralization applied to an entire group of people. Due to selective perception these overgeneralizations are resistant to disproof. The portrayal of stereotypes can be seen in our culture’s humour, literature, and other forms of media; Examples include: the Asian math genius, the Mexican “Bandido”, the “Drunk Irishman”, the “obsessive Brit”, and the “Arab terrorist”. Those pictures rarely base on own experiences. Most likely those Stereotype or clichés are formed over years ago in a culture’s humour, literature, Television or Yellow Press.

For example, when it comes to ethnic groups, people make quick judgments. On an individual level, one’s personal experiences with a member of a particular ethnic group (such as an African-American woman being violently attacked by a Caucasian male) may reinforce or diverge from the cultural socialization. Ethnic minorities for examples are more likely represented in the German crime statistics (Lorenz & Brings 2008) that reinforces the thought about them to be criminal.

The point of differential attributions correlates tightly with the stereotypes. But it uses a higher approach. Meeting another person results in two cognitive approaches, determined by existing information. If we met that person already before and gathered enough information on our own, we don’t need other information sources. If on the other hand there is a lack of information, we need external information sources. There is a possibility stereotypes fill in our lack of information. The information that closes the gap is then weighted. The higher the status and the closer the source of information is the more we do trust it. That implicate if we could rely on that source in the past and if the reputation is damaged by negative statements of others. For instance, we would trust a statement of a family member more because we could trust him/her in the past and see it as a stable in- group information source. The rate of success would probably be higher. We would behave different when this information comes through a not trusted source, for example from a spam E-Mail.

2. Hofstede’s dimensions are not exclusive. This means, that you can find examples of the opposite ends of each dimension in any particular culture. For each Hofstede’s dimension, describe and give practical examples of characteristics that represent the opposite ends in your own national culture.

2.1. Power Distance

Power Distance Index (PDI) reflects the extent, to which a culture believes that institutional and organizational power should be distributed equally. Related to Germany the PDI score is low and so it reached place 63-65/74.

Confirmation for the low PDI is found within small- and medium-sized German enterprises (SME). As most of them are family-owned, there is much more focus on the technical part than in other countries. Those employees (most likely experts) need power to act individually according to the customer wishes. Hence, decentralization level is high. The high rate of experts in the working core led to another support for low PDI that is that subordinates are expected to be consulted. Mainly technical expertise grants for status in a company and not formal power. Related to politics, everybody has the same formal rights. (German constitution).

On the opposite side children are told to have respect for the elderly. Paying the pension for the elderly is as normal as talk to the professor in a formal way and with respect showed through title use. Another fact that approves inequality appears in the workplace. The boss in a family company is perceived as the “good father” that is different to Hofstede’s findings. Hofstede argued further, that status plays not a big role. This has to be rejected. A car usually indicates the stat]us in German culture. The boss is driving the biggest one whereas the trainee drives a used car. Also low PDI cultures tend to have no corruption which has to be rejected to the fact of Siemens bribing-affairs in 2008 and forbidden price-agreements in the coffee sector and trading industry. (Zinnbaurer et. Al 2009; Reuters 2010)

2.2.Collectivism vs. Individualism

Hofstede wrote (2005: 78) that Germany belongs to the individualistic countries scoring 65 for Individualism and reaching place 18/74. Individualistic means that everybody cares about him/herself and his/her immediate family. Collectivism expects that individuals care about each other.

Firstly, Germany is known as a low context and though direct culture (Hampden-Turner, and Trompenaars 1998). That leads to the fact that one speaks honestly to another person. (Hofstede, 2005: 92). Secondly, with growing property Germans increased individual consumption habits that mirrors mainly in the heavy variety of consumer goods. Consumption is used for self-expression and to differentiate to another. Also >20% of Germany’s GDI is spent to health care. (Bundesfinanzministerium 2010). Thirdly, disabled persons participate as well as non-disabled persons do. German law predict rigorous equality. For instance, a separate entry without steps; reserved parking lots in front of every German store.

Arguing for the collectivistic side important functions like the health insurance are predicted by the state. The second fact, the breeding of children in the kindergarten, is focused on the group. As an initial ritual every child gets into an animal named group and receives a sticker. That creates an in-group and rejects Hofstede’s point that deals with the heavy use of “I” in individual cultures. For the third point, the extensive use of incorporated societies indicates collectivism. Germans tend to be member of those clubs that are founded to spend recreational activities together on a repeating base. They vary from sports for the son to the cooking club for the mother. Fifthly, most of the companies are middle-sized companies that provide 70.6% of all German jobs (BWT 2010) while to the extent of 94.80% they are family owned (BWT 2010) and though not shareholder orientated.

2.3.Femininity vs. Masculinity

The level of Masculinity indicates the degree to which a country sets its preferred values according to sexual habits. High Masculinity is defined as more performance oriented with interests in competition, whereas low Masculinity values believe less in external achievements and concern more about other participants in the culture. Germany scored 66 and reached place 11-13.

Examples for a high Masculine-culture (MAS) are firstly, within childhood. Boys are doing sports and try to compete in order to win. Girls play with a toy kitchen and dolls. Secondly, students are praised for their excellence. That starts in the kindergarten where games are played. The winner gets a gift. Following this trained behaviour of classical conditioning, people learn early that winning is something good. (Pavlov 1927). For this reasons failing at school is something bad.

The other side of the coin is developed through woman’s liberation, and leads to equality. Firstly, children can grew up in Waldorf -schools that provide the concept of no grades and a more creative orientated learning style. Aggression as a way for children to express themselves as stated by Hofstede for masculine countries (2005: 142) can thus not be provided. Secondly, several programs support woman toward equality. For example “Ada-Lovelace-Mentoring e.V.”, helps young woman studying technical programs. An equal opportunity commissioner takes care of fair chances for both genders. For that reason men have the opportunity to stay at home and take care of their children. Thirdly, most obviously gender-equality is visible to the fact of our female chancellor Angela Merkel, who was re-elected in 2009. Fourthly, poor countries like Haiti will be aided. Recently the government increased financial help to 10 Million EURO (BmwZE, 2010).

2.4.Uncertainty Avoidance

Hofstede found (2005: 169) that Germany scored medium-high for Uncertainty Avoidance. Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) deals with a culture’s feelings if confronted with ambiguous, uncertain situations.


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Discussing Hofstede within the international context
International Management
University of Vaasa  (BWL)
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ISBN (eBook)
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English take home exam answering 5 questions about Hofstede and the importance of culture.
hofstede, international management, cross culture
Quote paper
Oliver Gätgens (Author), 2009, Discussing Hofstede within the international context, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/174924


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