Intercultural Differences between Denmark and Japan with a main Focus on Work-Life Balance

Term Paper, 2020

20 Pages, Grade: 1.3


Table of Content

1. Introduction

2. Understanding the intercultural differences between Denmark and Japan through Hofstede
2.1 The Six Dimensions of Hofstede
2.1.1 Power Distance
2.1.2 Individualism
2.1.3 Masculinity
2.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance
2.1.5 Long Term Orientation
2.1.6 Indulgence
2.2 Hofstede's Intercultural Model applied to Denmark and Japan
2.2.1 Power Distance: Denmark versus Japan
2.2.2 Individualism: Denmark versus Japan
2.2.3 Masculinity: Denmark versus Japan
2.2.4 Uncertainty Avoidance: Denmark versus Japan
2.3 Definition of Work-Life Balance

3. Trends and Developments in Work-Life Balance in Denmark and Japan
3.1 Work-Life Balance in Denmark
3.2 Work-Life Balance in Japan

4. Conclusion

I. References

II. List of Figures

1. Introduction

Hygge versus Karoshi

Two idioms, from two different languages, with very different cultures and yet they are both very representative of the work-life-balance within their respective countries. Hygge originates from the Norse and in the Middle Danish it meant encourage (Thomsen Brits, 2016). “Hygge has been a practice and an icon of the Danish nation for many years“ (Thomsen Brits, 2016, p.14). This is a concept that refers to appreciating the little things in life, being grateful, social and creating a comfortable, cosy and equal atmosphere and home for everyone (Chetan, 2017). Hygge is the special way of the Danes to a happy and fulfilled life, and the concept is going viral around the world.

On the contrary, the term Karoshi evolved in the 1970s in Japan and means death by overwork (Weller, 2018). Either it describes death from heart failure due to lack of sleep but also employees who commit suicide. Recently, the case of a young Japanese journalist, who worked for the news company NHK, was particularly explosive. Within a month she accumulated over 159 hours of overtime, only to die of overexertion in her apartment later. A clear case of Karoshi, who drew international attention to the imbalance of work and life in Japan (Weller, 2018).

In this paper I will examine the intercultural differences between Denmark and Japan according to the 6-D Model by Hofstede's with a main focus on their Work-Life balance. After a theoretical introduction to Hofstede's intercultural dimensions, I will apply some of them specifically to the two countries and highlight the differences and similarities. Followed by a brief explanation of the often used term Work-Life balance. The second part, I will elaborate further on the topic of Work-Life balance in relation to culture and, additionally, take up trends and developments to be expected in the near future. I will end this paper with a summary of the general results and findings.

2. Understanding the intercultural differences between Denmark and Japan through Hofstede

Geert Hofstede developed the first version of his Intercultural Model, with initially four dimensions, at the of the 1960s. Over the years, extensions based on further studies followed. In the following chapter, I will now describe the model of Hofstede with its currently six dimensions in detail. Afterwards, I will analyse the two countries with regard to three selected dimensions (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.).

2.1 The Six Dimensions of Hofstede

2.1.1 Power Distance

This first dimensions deals with the extent of power-distance within a society through hierarchical relationships (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.). In order to determine this, relationships such as parent-child, employer-employee or general organisational structures are analysed (Kulturdimensionen, n.d.). Cultures with a high power-distance have strengthened hierarchical structures not only in companies but also in society and managers, for example, are overly valued and highly respected (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020). On the contrary, “low power-distance societies tend to value notions of empowerment for employees and consensual decision-making” (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020, p.29).

2.1.2 Individualism

Individualism measures the degree whether members of a society define themselves as individuals or part of a collective (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.). Questions to be asked would be whether individuals' interests are above those of the group or subordinate to the needs of the collective? In individualistic cultures, people are focused on pursuing their own goals and self-fulfillment, while in collectivist societies the group cohesion, which can can be on the level of family, work or even more general, is more important (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020).

2.1.3 Masculinity

Hofstede's third dimension is of sociocultural nature and deals with the role allocation and thus answers the question of who is responsible for certain duties (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.)? Feminine societies, thus a low degree of masculinity, foster a very equal understanding of role allocation and your gender has no influence on the field of your responsibilities. Such societies are strongly oriented towards cooperation, relationships and caring. By contrast, highly masculine cultures pursue a clear distinction of roles and they are mainly focused on performance, material profit and assertiveness (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020).

2.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance

Following Hofstede's model, uncertainty avoidance deals with the handling of unknown situations. Countries with a relatively high degree are increasingly concerned about money or health, and try to predict the unknown by means of analysis (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.). Resulting, societies are threatened by these uncertain situations and try to reduce these feelings by adhering strictly to rules and standards and minimising sources of mistakes (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020).

2.1.5 Long Term Orientation

Long Term Orientation is the dimensions that responds to the question, whether a society tends towards short-term or long-term success (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.). In cultures with a long-term orientation, the development of relationships and networks, as well as the maintenance of traditions are of great interest (Intercultural Training Exercise Pack, 2020).

2.1.6 Indulgence

The final and newest dimension in Hofstede's model describes the degree to which a society lives in a pleasure-oriented way and how members spend their leisure time (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.). Relevant questions asked regarding Indulgence would be to what extent each individual enjoys life and his or her needs, how openly society deals with subjects, like sexuality, and whether the overall view of the future is optimistic or pessimistic (Kulturdimensionen - Geert Hofstede, n.d.)?

2.2 Hofstede's Intercultural Model applied to Denmark and Japan

In the following section I will compare Denmark and Japan regarding intercultural differences using Hofstede's dimensions. Since the overall objective of this term paper is to learn more about the Work-Life balance of these two countries, I will examine the dimensions Power Distance, Individuality, Masculinity and Uncertainty Avoidance in more detail. To illustrate the differences in these dimensions I have attached a chart.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: Country Comparison of Denmark and Japan using the Hofstede Dimensions (adapted from Hofstede, n.d.).

2.2.1 Power Distance: Denmark versus Japan

Although, it is often assumed that Japan is based on strict hierarchies in the office, according to Hofstede, the country is right in the middle of the scale with a total of 54 points (Hofstede, n.d.). Nevertheless, employees are aware of their place within the power hierarchy but decisions still need to pass through all levels with an organisation, which means that decision-making is not concentrated in one person alone. Most other Asian countries have a significantly much higher level of power distance. Moreover, Japan can be classified a s meritocratic society, which means that within the culture it is assumed that humans are born equal and everyone can achieve any goal - he just needs to work hard enough (Hofstede, n.d.).


Excerpt out of 20 pages


Intercultural Differences between Denmark and Japan with a main Focus on Work-Life Balance
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Work-Life Balance Denmark Japan Intercultural Hofstede
Quote paper
Franzi Stegemann (Author), 2020, Intercultural Differences between Denmark and Japan with a main Focus on Work-Life Balance, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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