Seminar Paper, 2010
17 Pages, Grade: 2,0
II. Table of figures
2. Geert Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture
2.1. Definition of “culture”
2.2. Power Distance
2.3. Individualism vs. Collectivism
2.4. Critical remark
3. Application by reference to China
3.1. High Power Distance
3.1.1. Confucianism as a Chinese code of practice
3.1.2. The top-down-system in management
3.2.1. “Guanxi” as a Chinese principle of behavior
3.2.2. Communication in business relation
List of literature
Figure 1: The Iceberg Model of Culture
Figure 2: Three Levels of Uniqueness in Mental Programming
Figure 3: “Wulun” - Five basic human relationships
Figure 4: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
Globalization is an ongoing process by which regional economies have become integrated through a global network of communication and trade1, which simultaneously induces “globalization of culture”.
In an attempt to explain culture more clearly, the “Iceberg Model of Culture” can be used2 since culture is often compared to an iceberg which has both visible (on the surface) and invisible (below the surface) parts.
Visible elements of culture - the “percepta”3 - can be seen, such as food, clothing or laws.
Those elements which are not as obvious - the “concepta”4 - such as norms, values or beliefs are represented by the much larger portion of the iceberg underwater5.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Cp. Rocher, G. (1969), p. 12
Figure 1: The Iceberg Model of Culture
In a course of increasing cross-cultural business encounters, the question arouses whether it is necessary to be acquainted with both the visible and the greater invisible part of the culture concerned - i.e. to possess intercultural competence - in order to gain international business success.
With reference to Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture, this seminar paper has the intention to verify the close correlation between intercultural competence and international business success.
In this context, it makes an attempt to visualize the “invisible” part of culture by the example of China, which gains a steadily increasing importance for the world economic growth shown by its gross domestic product real growth rate of 8.7 % est. in 20096, thus attracting more and more companies from all over the world to establish business in China.
Initially the general definition of culture as “mental programming” according to Hofstede will be given.
Afterwards, two chosen Dimensions of National Culture of five in total - “Power Distance” and “Individualism vs. Collectivism”- will be explained in further detail. Besides, a critical remark of Hofstede’s theory will be offered.
Subsequently, the selected dimensions will be applied on the Chinese culture by
illustrating the characteristics of “High Power Distance” as well as “Collectivism” as which China can be classified.
As evidence for this classification, “High-Power Distance” will be described by a specific element of Confucianism comprising its influence on management executed by means of the top-down-system.
“Collectivism” will be expressed by “Guanxi” as a Chinese principle of behavior in- cluding its affects on communication, especially when establishing business relation- ships.
Hofstede defines culture as “the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of one human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values.”7
Thus Hofstede defines culture as a collective phenomenon, since it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment.
Thereby it is stressed that every person carries with him patterns of thinking, feeling and potential acting that were learned throughout his lifetime - in the family, neighborhood, at school, in youth groups, at the workplace and in the living community8.
However, much of it has been acquired in early childhood as at that time a person is said to be most susceptible to learning and assimilating9.
In order to be able to learn something different, the person has to unlearn these patterns, which is more difficult than learning for the first time10.
Those patterns are compared with mental programs or “software of the mind”11, not meaning to compare people with computers, but to indicate that a person’s behavior is merely partially predetermined by this mental programs.
The person has a basic ability to deviate from them, acting in a new, creative way.
In addition, Hofstede considers culture as to be learned12, not innate, hereby negating culture coming from one’s genes.
1 Cp. Niehoff, G., Reitz, G. (2001), p. 7.
2 Cp. Rocher, G. (1969), p. 12.
3 Bolten, J. (2007), p. 95. Bolten, J. (2007), p. 95.
5 Cp. Kutschker, M. (2004), p. 667.
6 www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html, 11.07.2010.
7 Hofstede, G. (2001a), p. 9.
8 Cp. Hofstede, G. (2005), p. 2.
9 Cp. Hofstede, G. (2005), p. 2.
10 Ebd. p. 3.
11 Ebd. p. 3.
12 Ebd. p. 4.
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