Cultural differences between Germany and the United States in terms of Work-Life Balance

Term Paper, 2019

21 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

II List of Figures

1 Introduction

2 Culture
2.1 Cultural Dimensions of Hofstede
2.2 Comparison betweem Germany and the United States
2.2.1 Power Distance
2.2.2 Masculinity versus Femininity
2.2.3 Long-term versus Short-term Orientation
2.2.4 Indulgence versus Restraint
2.3 Culture Dimensions of Trompenaars
2.3.1 Specific versus Diffuse

3 Work-Life Balance
3.1 Definition
3.2 Work-Life Balance in Germany
3.3 Work-Life Balance in the US

4 Conclusion

5 References

II List of Figures

Figure 1: Germany and the US described by the six dimensions 6

Figure 2: The Peach and the Coconut by Trompenaars 10

1 Introduction

Traditional role models suggest that the focus of man is primarily on professional life, the focus of woman is primarily on the family. In modern days, the roles of men and women are largely interwoven. Changes in gender roles, demographic changes, a variety of employment patterns as well as new technologies are creating new socio-political challenges.

An other important factor is the increasind globalisation of companyies which requires that people from different cultures work together. In order to achieve a smooth workflow, it is necessary to maintain cultural competences. For employees, this represents a further demand in their professional life.

All these changes can lead to an increase of pressure on employees. The challenge for companies is to minimize possible stress factors. The more companies invest in their employees, the more these measures have a long-term impact on success which is particularly evident with regard to health issues. Stress at work can be the cause of a number of different illnesses, the most common consequence of work-related stress is burnout. But that is not the only reason why it makes sense to create healthier working conditions.

The changing mindset between the generations also plays a decisive role. A balance between work and leisure time is becoming increasingly important. The intention is to ensure that employees do not overwork themselves which, consequently, leaves enough time for their private lives. Accordingly, in this thesis cultural differences in the work-life balance between Germany and the United States will be analysed and presented. It also discusses which measures the respective countries take to promote work-life balance.

This paper is divided into three chapters. The first chapter aims to give an overview of cultures, based on the cultural differences developed by the scientists Hofstede and Trompenaars. In the following, the differences between Germany and the United States are revealed based on Hofstedes insights. The second chapter deals with the concept of "work-life balance" and goes into more detail on its concrete implementation in the two countries.

2 Culture

Continents and countries show differences in their respective cultures. According to Schwartz and Davis, culture is a pattern of beliefs and expectations shared by the members of the organization. This results in norms that are particularly powerful in shaping the behavior of the group in the organization (Schwartz & Davis, 1981). Individuals gain from the domains which include knowledge, faith, art, morality, laws, customs, their cultural abilities and habits (Tylor, 1871). In order to uncover cultural differences and make them comparable, they are described by using cultural dimensions. This chapter deals with the model of Geert Hofstede and Fons Trompenaars. These two researchers are decisively responsible for the development and unification. At the beginning, the respective dimensions of Hofstede are described in more detail and applied to Germany and the United States. The models will be used to illustrate similarities and differences between national cultures. Afterwards, one dimension of Trompenaars will be examined defuse and specific communication.

2.1 Cultural Dimensions of Hofstede

Hofstede describes culture as "the collective programming of the mind" (Hofstede, 2001, p. 9). He is the developer of one of the most influential cultural models. His theory aims to explain cultural differences through certain dimensions. The model distinguishes six dimensions, which are: power distance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term versus short-term orientation, and indulgence (Hofstede, 2001). His ambition was to find a language in which culture could be worked on scientifically without misunderstandings. The scientist argues, that the own culture has to be completely forgotten before a new culture can be learned (Hofstede, 2001).

2.2 Comparison betweem Germany and the United States

Professor Geert Hofstede carried out one of the most extensive studies. The data collection covers more than 70 countries. Accordingly, countries can be compared to each other. This chapter examines in more detail the individual dimensions that Hofstede collected. The focus is on those that differ most. The level of masculinity and long-term orientation are also described, although there are no significant differences here, but they are essentially relevant to the topic. Figure 1 shows cultural differences between Germany and America. It should be noted that as little as ten points already have a noticeable effect.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Germany and the US described by the six dimensions. Hofstede (n.d.)

2.2.1 Power Distance

The first dimension describes decision-making processes and communication structures. In cultures with high power distances, these structures run from top to bottom. Hierarchies arise, in which the power gap is accepted by those in lower positions. Everyone has a place in society which does not have to be justified. Thus, in cultures with low power distances, the structures are participative. This means that people are direcly involved in processes (Kumbruck & Derboven, 2016). People aspire to balance power and demand justification of power equality. It is expressed how members are accepted in a society. But essentially it is about how to deal with an imbalance between people (Hofstede, n.d.). The figure shows that the two countries are very close. American culture, with a value of 40 points, is slightly ahead of the Germans. Their score differs by only 5 points. Due to its highly decentralized structures, Germany is a country with a low power distance. There are many rights of co-determination which must be taken into account by the decision-makers. Every induvidual in societies is not equal, which express the attitude of the culture (Hofstede, 2016).

2.2.2 Masculinity versus Femininity

In this dimension Hofstede describes the difference between masculinity and femininity. The author explains societies that are male-oriented as performance-oriented, heroic, assertive, and giving material rewards for success. In contrast, societies with a female orientation are more likely to have preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. The values are strongly oriented towards the common good and the care for all members. Especially in masculine cultures, these values are closely related to gender roles (Kumbruck & Derboven, 2016).

It can be seen that masculinity in the two countries does not differ very much. Germany is a male society with 66 points. Therefore, performance is highly regarded and it is also demanded at an early stage. The school system divides children into different school types at an early age. Germans draw a lot of self-esteem from their tasks, because they live to work. A high degree of assertiveness and determination is expected from managers. In addition, status symbols are shown openly, which especially applies to cars, watches and technical equipment. The value in America is also high with 62 points and results from a drive that is of a masculine nature. The American "Can-do" mentality creates a lot of dynamism in society. This is already evident in school, work and play where common values are that people should strive for something better and the winner takes it all. Moreover, a high degree of conflict should bring out the best in people because of the beliefe that you should to be the best in anything. This spirit leads to an increasing gap in society. One consequence of this is a higher power distance on the one hand and a decrease in individualism on the other (Hofstede, n.d.).

2.2.3 Long-term versus Short-term Orientation

The dimension long-term versus short-term orientation defines the fixed point of time planning. A long orientation refers to sparingness and perseverance, a short orientation to flexibility and egoism (Towers & Peppler, 2017). Cultures that are long-term oriented are not looking for short-term success. They strive for long-lasting solutions which are founded on good relationships (Kumbruck & Derboven, 2016).

This category shows the biggest difference between Germany and the United States. The score in America is 26 points, while in Germany it is almost three times as high. A high value stands for a pragmatic country. In societies that are oriented towards it, people believe that the truth depends on different parameters such as situation, context and time. In addition, they have skills such as adapting traditions to conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest and perseverance in achieving results. In contrast, American culture is not pragmatic but rather practical. Therefore, for example, new information is analyzed and checked for its truthfulness. This also reflects the previously mentioned mentality. Another contradiction is that American companies measure performance in short-term, which leads individuals to strive for rapid positive results in the workplace (Hofstede, n.d.).

2.2.4 Indulgence versus Restraint

The final dimension of indulgence and restraint deals with the question of whether individuals should pursue their own desires and impulses, which implies a high value, or rather rule by control, in which case the value is low (Towers & Peppler, 2017). In a society that strives for indulgence, the basic and natural needs become most important. They are associated with the joy of life and fun. In contrast to this, restraint stands for a society that suppresses the satisfaction of needs and only does so by means of regularization through social norms (Tuleja, 2017).

With a difference of 28 points this dimension also stands out. The comparatively low score of 40 in Germany indicates that these culture is rather reserved. Leisure time does not play a major role in restrained societies. They control the process of how they satisfy their needs. Furthermore, they believe that social norms will limit their actions. In their opinion, it is wrong to do something good for them. The United States scores in this category with 68 points. It is a prudish society, which is reflected in contradictory behaviours and attitudes (Hofstede, n.d.).

2.3 Culture Dimensions of Trompenaars

Alfons Trompenaars is a scientist working in the field of intercultural communication. In his early days, he was a student of Hofstede. Therefore he was able to build on the insights of his mentor, which were already described more closely in the previous chapter. The scientist defines culture as the way in which human societies find solutions to their problems. According to the author, culture can be compared to an onion. In order to really understand a foreign culture, layers have to be removed from the surface. So it becomes more accurate after peeling the union. In the core there are basic assumptions followed by norms and values, the last layer being artifacts and products (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner, 1997). Trompenaars work comprises seven value dimensions, which are universalism versus particularism, individualism versus communitarianism, neutral versus emotional, specific versus diffuse, performance versus writing, attitudes towards time, and the environment. In the following chapter, only the dimension specific versus diffuse is described because of the relevance to the topic. For a better illustration of the dimension of communication, a comparison is made between peach and coconut.


Excerpt out of 21 pages


Cultural differences between Germany and the United States in terms of Work-Life Balance
Fresenius University of Applied Sciences Hamburg
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Intercultural Competence, Work-Life-Balance, USA, Germany
Quote paper
Annika Link (Author), 2019, Cultural differences between Germany and the United States in terms of Work-Life Balance, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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