Natalie Züfle ICC
Task: Please write a short essay up to 1000 words and answer the following questions: What do you think of the scores of your own country? Do you think that Hofstede’s study is representative for your own country (or other countries you know)? For this essay take a look at the category „Hofstede scores countries” on Hofstede’s homepage: http://www.geerthofstede.nl and http://www.geerthofstede.om/hofstede_dimensions.php
Between 1967 and 1973 the Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede carried out a study based on a questionnaire with the aim of showing how culture influences values in the workplace, and how to differentiate cultures in general. Therefore, he defined 5 dimensions of major importance (Hofstede 2003)1. Subsequently, I will outline my opinion with regard to the scores of my native country Germany. I will relate these results alternately to the scores of two other countries/regions I know, namely Colombia and Lebanon (i.e. the Arab World). I am going to illustrate some examples; however, the listing won’t be final.
Hofstede (2003), online available at http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php?culture1=34&culture2=19#compare and http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php?culture1=34&culture2=4#compare, last accessed 3 December 2008
Germany ranks in the lower third, implying a relatively small power distance and thus a low degree of inequality. With this study being carried out during the period of the “1968” revolution, a lot of parents began e.g. to treat their children as equals (or more equal) and vice versa. With regard to this example, the given value could still be considered quite up to date. Another contemporary feature is decentralization plus flat hierarchies in business life. The German middle class is comparatively large (even though becoming smaller recently). Nevertheless, salary gaps between bottom and (the very) tops are wide – just as they are between men and women, even though on the paper women and men are equal in their rights. And our tax system does not necessarily reduce these differences. So, the PDI could be considered realistic in 2008.
As for the Arab world – in this case Lebanon – the PDI value reaches 80%, which is very high. The same applies to Colombia at 60%. In both countries e.g. children treat their parents with lots of respect (in many Colombian families children use among others the polite form “usted” to address their parents), and they usually obey and follow their rules. Especially in Lebanon, inequalities seem to be expected and desired, as the strong emphasis on military and police ranks shows2. Status symbols and privileges are quite popular, like big and luxurious offices for the high ranking persons. Moreover, even though Lebanon is officially considered a democracy, it just exists on paper. Power is based on family and friends3, and rules seem only to apply to those who don’t have enough power behind them. Also, the middle class is small in both countries, and the majority belongs to the lower level. So, this value seems to be likewise up to date.
I would confirm that Germany has quite an individualistic society today (maybe the actual value is even a bit higher). Most people tend to look after themselves, or not more than after their own core family – “I” comes before “we”. Also, Germany is a country of low-context communication where people usually say what they think, i.e. in an open and direct way. On the other hand, this strong individualism does neither appeal to Colombia, nor to Lebanon. Both are high-context cultures, in which people use a lot of circumscribing and flowery language in order to express something. Besides, people openly show emotions – especially in Colombia. Last but not least, family and social networks to which one belongs play an important role, which from my point of view currently seems to be even more important in the Arab world (catchwords like “loss of honour” etc.). All in all, I would consider the actual values similar, however with the Colombian one a little bit higher than 13%.
At first glance it maybe looks quite astonishing that Germany shows a higher value than both Colombia and the Arab world (“machismo”). But looking closer at this dimension it must be constituted that Germany is a nation of achievers, where material values and success (competition begins in school at the latest) are highly appreciated. Boys in general are taught not to cry in public, to be tough etc., while women have to behave nicely (no cursing) and to take care about relationships. Besides, there are still only very few women elected into important political positions (i.e. Chancellor Merkel). For Colombia I would put the actual value lower, because relationship plays a more important role than in Germany. First, as compared to Germany there have been more women at an earlier date been elected into important “male” positions (e.g. minister of defence and foreign affairs). Moreover, Colombian men are “allowed” to be tender and caring. Warm relationships are important.
In Germany, precision and punctuality are very important features. Especially Germany is known for its many laws and precise rules. For many there seems to be a high emotional need to be busy with an inner urge to work hard and diligently. Usually, familiar risks are accepted, but ambiguous, i.e. new situations are often feared, especially by the elderly, where one can often find a resistance to innovation (new things cause discomfort). Particularly nowadays, people are often anxious and strained, as no one knows if and for how long one will keep a job (financial crisis). Therefore, in times of insecurity nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise. Hence, I would currently consider this value even a little bit higher.
1 1. Power Distance (PDI), measuring inequality between subordinate and higher ranking persons and to which extent this is accepted
2. Individualism (IDV), measuring the degree to which individuals are integrated into groups
3. Masculinity (MAS), regarding the distribution of roles between the genders
4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI), referring to a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity
5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO): values, which are particularly high in Asian cultures
2 this is why our national staff has to be “upgraded” a little bit in order to become adequate and equal partners for work purposes
3 Domestic political conflicts frequently lead to violence, e.g. if you want to hang a poster of your political party you may be just shot by the competing party’s members who don’t want this.