National Cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede and their meaning in Japanese and German Corporate Management

Term Paper, 2009

19 Pages, Grade: 1,7


1. Introduction

1.1. Problem

Cultural differences concerning religion, sex, generation, class, history and values lead to different ways of thinking, feeling and acting. These aspects have not only to be considered when trying to define countries and categorise people, but also when trying to understand organisations. The leadership of each corporation is based on these factors. E.g. when you are trying to define the meaning of success. Japanese companies like Toyota characterise success as quality of their products, satisfaction of their employees and customers. German corporations define profit as success. Organisational structures, corporate goals, personnel policy, suspension of staff, job description, employee suggestion system and salary history differs. Due to globalisation, expansion of the market, mergers and takeovers, companies have to deal with the various numerous of cultures in order to survive in long-term and to remain competitive.

1.2. Objective

The objective of this paper is to explain the selected cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede and to demonstrate which influences they are having in leadership behaviour exemplified on Japanese and German corporate management.

1.3. Structure

Subsequent to this introduction the term culture and the selected dimensions of national cultures according to Geert Hofstede - especially the cultural dimensions masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance and power distance in refer to corporate management, will be defined and criticised in chapter two. Chapter three will give a short introduction of the Japanese and German culture and extrapolate the cultural dimension theory of Geert Hofstede to German and Japanese organisations. A critical remark will be given to the practical part. The conclusion in the fourth chapter builds the end of this paper.

2. Dimensions of National Cultures according to Geert Hofstede

Before explaining the selected dimensions of national cultures according to Geert Hofstede in chapter 2.2. the term culture has to be defined firstly.

2.1. Definition of Culture according to Geert Hofstede

Culture can be defined in many several ways. Geert Hofstede defines culture by dividing culture into culture I and culture II. Culture I in closer sense refers to education, art and literature and culture II in broader sense is named as the software of the mind or the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the members of one human group or organisation from another[1]. This is the most important definition to which he refers and which will be explained in this paper in detail.

Culture as the software of the mind includes patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Culture, which will not be inhered, but learnt and derived from the social environment, not from the genes must be differenced on the one hand from the universal human nature, which is inherited and on the other hand from the individual personality, which is inherited as well as learnt[2]. Culture, human nature and personality build the three levels of the uniqueness in the mental programming of a human. The ability to feel threat, anger, love, happiness, the need for community, game and movement, the ability to observe the environment and to discuss with another human about it belongs to the universal human nature. These feelings will be determinated by the culture. The individual personality is combined by the personal experiences, which a person is making and by the impact of the culture. The patterns of feeling, acting and thinking vary in respect of different cultural levels. Geert Hofstede distinguishes between national, regional, religious, gender, social class and organisational levels. This paper will refer to the national level. Cultural differences can be recognised by symbols, heroes, rituals and values[3]. The attached shown chart, which is created in form of an union is showing the ranking of those manifestations. Their ranking shows their visibility. Symbols are words e.g. the language, gestures, pictures or objects e.g. flags. As symbols are visible and are often imitated by another cultures it has been set as the first shell. Although they are visible their meaning can only be recognised by the members of a culture[4]. The second shell are the heroes which serve as ideals of a culture an which whose they can identify[5]. Heroes can be alive, death, historic or virtual people. The third shell are the rituals. Rituals are collective behavioural patterns. They are needless, but due to social reasons necessary for a culture e.g. the way of greeting, social and religious ceremonies.

The core builds the values. Values are feelings with the tendency to prefer something in counterpart to something else e.g. good or bad, dirty or clean and nice or messy. As they cannot be recognised and identified directly they are located in the middle of the union. Values build the fundamental cultural differences as they will already be learned in infancy. Whereas symbols, heroes and rituals -named practices- are visible for the environment, but their meaning not[6].

Figure 1: Manifestations of a culture

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Lokales Denken, globales Handeln, Hofstede, G. (2001), page 8

2.2. Selected Dimensions of National Cultures according to Geert Hofstede

There are various studies, models and researches for the explanation and classification of these worldwide cultural differences. Geert Hofstede made investigations to this topic in a multinational corporation named IBM[7]. He made a quantitative based survey with approximately 116,000 employees in 72 countries i.e. IBM´s subsidiaries and in 20 different languages to their work related moral concept[8]. The survey results to 5 cultural dimensions, which can be used to define and compare the different nations and cultures. Furthermore they give insights into other cultures so that the interacting with people in other countries can be more effective. The 5 cultural dimensions are masculinity versus femininity, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism versus collectivism and long-term orientation versus short-term orientation, which has been introduced as last dimension at a later stage[9]. In order to not exceed the frame of this paper only the first three of the above mentioned cultural dimensions will be introduced and explained clearly in concern to corporate management. Geert Hofstede created for each dimension and for each country a table while using index numbers in order to show the degree of each dimension in each country[10]. A high index number means that the captioned dimension is predominantly presented in this respective country whereas a low index number represents that this dimension is not predominantly presented in this related country.

2.2.1. Masculinity versus Femininity

Geert Hofstede distinguishes two oppositional, i.e. sex-related societies, i.e. arts of leadership. It refers to the distribution of roles between the genders. In a masculine oriented corporate management the gender roles are strictly separated. Male have a leading and dominate role. A masculine leadership is characterised by assertiveness, ambition, decisiveness or strength, performance, success, competition, fairness and material values. Disputes will be settled by fighting. The motto is to live for work[11]. Typical masculine cultures are countries like Japan, USA, Germany and Italy.

Whereas in a feminine oriented management the gender roles are not strictly separated and do overlap[12]. A feminine oriented management is characterised by modesty or sensitivity. Supervisors seek for achieving consensus. Disputes will be settled by negotiating and trying to find compromises. Equality, solidarity and quality of working life come to the fore. The motto is to work in order to be able to live[13]. Typical feminine cultures are countries like the Netherlands and Scandinavia.


[1] cp. Hofstede, G. (2004), p. 3

[2] cp. Leifeld U. (2002), p. 117

[3] cp. Miebach B. (2006), p. 341

[4] cp. Miebach B., Schmidt D. (2006), p. 52

[5] cp. Jong d. A., Visser M., (2002), p. 26

[6] cp. Reimann M., (2005), p. 37

[7] cp. Haas H-D., Neumair S-M., (2005), p. 362

[8] cp. Hansen K., (2005), p. 63

[9] cp. Franken S., (2004), p. 220

[10] cp. Schieck A., (2008), p. 157

[11] cp. Wikel-Kirsch S., Janusch M. and Knorr E., (2008), p. 218

[12] cp. Müller St., Wünschmann St., Wittig K., Hoffmann St., (2007), p. 42

[13] cp. Mayer C-H., Bonesse C.M., (2004), p. 96

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National Cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede and their meaning in Japanese and German Corporate Management
University of applied sciences, Duisburg
Interkulturelle Kompetenzen
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ISBN (Book)
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Culture, Japan, Corporate Management
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Bachelor of Arts Irini Varvouzou (Author)Magdalena Zasepa (Author), 2009, National Cultural dimensions according to Geert Hofstede and their meaning in Japanese and German Corporate Management, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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