A comparison of Costa Rican and German culture according to Hofstede's Dimensions

Term Paper, 2020

28 Pages, Grade: 1,5





Patterns, Mental Programs, Culture
Developing Identities
Culture and National Boarders
Understand and Distinguish Cultures

Hofstede's Dimensions of National Culture
Power Distance
Uncertainty Avoidance
Long Term Orientation and Indulgence

Country Specifications - Costa Rica and Germany
Costa Rica

Costa Rican and German Culture
Power Distance in CR and GER
Individualism versus Collectivism in CR and GER
Masculinity versus Femininity in CR and GER
Uncertainty Avoidance in CR and GER





This paper identifies and analyses some observations of the Costa Rican and German culture and relates these to Hofstede's Dimensions of National Culture. This enables the reader to get to know and objectively compare these societies.

First, the concept culture is defined. It is shown what culture means, what it contains and how it is limited. Then Hofstede's six Dimensions of National Culture are presented and explained. This is followed by a brief overview of facts about Costa Rica and Germany. At the end, the reader can look forward to array of observations on the behaviour and values of the Costa Rican and German society.

Keywords: Culture, Hofstede, Dimensions of National Culture, Costa Rica, Germany


Our societies have a remarkable capacity for conserving their identity through generations of successive members and despite varied and numerous forces of change. While change sweeps the surface, the deeper layers remain stable. But what do these deeper layers consists of? There are no genes to carry culture. Culture is the unwritten book with rules of the social game. (Hofstede G. , 2005, p. 36)

In order to play the social game, it is advisable to take a closer look at the unwritten book and thus be able to understand the rules. Developing strong skills in communication and conflict resolution is increasing in value and importance due to an internationally linked world. For this reason, the topic of culture is addressed with a special focus on two contrasting societies. The aim is to show the reader some specific peculiarities of the Costa Rican and German culture.

First, the concept of culture is discussed. It will be explained what culture is and how it is created. Furthermore, it will be described how culture influences individuals and which role countries play in it. In the next step, the reader is introduced to Hofstede's six Dimensions of National Culture. These serve as a tool for classifying and analysing cultures and their values. It will be explained how Hofstede's dimensions were developed, what they mean and what values they represent. After the dimensions have been presented, Costa Rica's and Germany's achieved scores are mentioned. Typical Costa Rican and German behavioural patterns, values and characteristics are then assigned to all dimensions. Then, an attempt to explain the achieved results is made on this basis. At the same time, it is intended to draw attention to the values lying behind the behaviours.

Through this term paper, the reader is given an understanding of the Costa Rican and German culture and an instrument to play the Costa Rican and German social game.


Before possible dimensions and tools for the analysis of German and Costa Rican culture can be presented, the concept of culture should be defined. What culture means, how culture is created and what culture contains will be considered in this chapter.

Patterns, Mental Programs, Culture

Every person has patterns of thinking and feeling on which decisions and actions are based. Such patterns begin to form with the first experiences of early childhood until throughout lifetime. Hofstede call those patterns of thinking, feeling and acting “mental programs” and adds other characteristics, for example, the way of greeting, eating, showing or not showing emotions (2005, p.3). As people live together in social communities and societies, their patterns influence and adapt to each other. Thus, not only single individuals but whole social environments can show the same patterns and pass them on from generation to generation, which is why he describes them as a learned, not innated “collective phenomenon” (Hofstede, 2005, p.4). Furthermore, Hofstede refers culture as the “collative programming of mind that distinguishes members of one group or category of people from others” (2005, p.4). Culture has developed over several generations in social communities that have been influenced by climate, environment, history and language. Due to the different impacts, social environments have developed different cultural patterns (Lewis, 2007, p. 4). Hofstede visualises these patterns by using the example of an onion, because culture like onions consists of different layers (see Figure 1) (2005, p. 7). The outermost layer, i.e. the most superficial and easiest to perceive layer, represents symbols. These can be pictures, food, words or objects. The next layer represents heroes, who can be alive or deceased personalities of the real public life or fictitious figures, whose actions serve as role models. The third coat, which is the closest to the core, symbolizes rituals. These are recurring collectively performed actions, such as social and religious ceremonies, which are considered important by the society, either consciously or unconsciously (Anonymous, Hofstede Insights, 2019). The core of culture consists of values. They are “assumptions about how things ought to be” (Mead, 1998, p. 8) and deal with notions like good versus evil, safe versus dangerous and permitted versus forbidden.

Developing Identities

As previously described, people act according to cultural behavioural characteristics and patterns. Furthermore, in the opinion of Hofstede, human actions are also based on three levels. These are distinguished into individual personality, culture and human nature (see Figure 2). Human nature determinates humans physical and basic psychological functioning. It is the inherited “ability to feel fear, anger, love, joy, sadness, shame [and] the need to associate with others” (Hofstede, 2005, p. 5). Personality is described as an unique personal set of mental programs, which is based on the individual assembling of inherited genes and all of the lessons learned from previous experiences (Hofstede G. , 2005) (Lewis, 2007, p.10). Out of the combination of these three levels and its distinct character the human being develops and defines its own identity (Hogg & Abrams, 1988, p. 2).

Culture and National Boarders

As has just been defined, social environments share a culture. Why, however, are some cultural characteristics and behaviours declared to be for example typically German or typically American? Such a concept puts national borders above social environments.

The current system, under which states are divided by national borders, was not introduced worldwide until the mid-twentieth century. These borders separated, for example, colonial territories and power, “rather than cultural dividing lines of the local population” (Hofstede, 2005, p.18). For this reason, nations aren’t really a proper reference point for distinguishing societies and their cultures. However, over time, citizens have developed common mental programming, kind of national identities through national languages, national education systems, national political systems and the national history (Hofstede, 2001, p. 501) (Lewis, 2007, p. 4). For this reason, and due to the complexity of the subject, this study does not consider social minorities within states.

Understand and Distinguish Cultures

In order to understand cultures, their values and beliefs, they must first be identified. In the following chapters some methods of differentiation of cultures are presented. Thereby, it is important to maintain a neutral vantage point during analyses and studies of different cultures. Lévi-Strauss calls this neutrality “cultural relativism” and affirms that culture has no absolute criteria for judging another culture (1982, p. 229).

Hofstede's Dimensions of National Culture

The Dutch anthropologist Geert Hofstede (*1928, f2020) became known through his extensive IBM research and the establishment of the six Dimensions of National Culture (Hofstede G. J.). His research involved 116,000 employees from 74 countries of the IBM group and compares their values across different cultures. The Dimensions of National Culture are Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Log Term Orientation and Indulgence (Anonymous, Hofstede Insight).

Power Distance

Power Distance defines “the extent to which the less powerful members of [societies] within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally” (Hofstede G. , 2005, p. 46). By power inequality it is meant, for example, political, economic and social disparities. By answering questions regarding the anxiety of employees toward their superiors, as well as the perception and desire regarding the decision-making style of their managers, a Power Distance Index (PDI) was created. Due to this index the Power Distance in countries could be classified as low (0) or large (100). Countries which have a low PDI consider independence as a value, encouraging a consultative decision-making style between employees and supervisors. Authorities in small-power-distance societies act based on practical considerations and are not influenced by religion or tradition. Unequal distribution of power is perceived as undesirable. This is practised, for example, through equal opportunity and legal equality (Ingelhart, 1997, pp. 83).

In countries with an large PDI, subordinates preferably work according to the direct instructions of their superiors, whereby dependency can be determined. Superiors consider themselves as benevolent decision-makers with an autocratic or paternalistic management style (Hofstede G. , 2005, pp. 45). In societies with large Power Distance, authorities tend to be traditional, conservative and influenced by religion. In these societies powerful ones are privileged and incline to be unimpeachable and not questioned (Hofstede G. , 2005, pp. 58).


This dimension deals with “the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members” (Anonymous, Hofstede Insight, 2019). It is about the awareness of how people perceive themselves and whether they define it with such concepts as I or We. One part of Hofstede's research was a survey about work goals. Patterns could be identified based on indications of relevance of various work goals, which were rated on a scale of one (very important) to five (not important). On the basis of these patterns Hofstede developed the dimensions Individualism versus Collectivism and Masculinity versus Femininity.

Employees who consider personal time, freedom and personal challenge to be particularly important, demonstrate a desire for (more) independence towards their employer and match the pattern for Individualism. It “pertains to societies [were] everyone is expected to look after himself or herself’, the interest of individuals prevail the interest of group and people think themselves as “I” (Hofstede G. , 2005, p. 74). Other employees perceive training (to improve skills), physical conditions (working conditions) and use of skill on the job to be essential, these choices relate to aspects that the employer does for all of its employees. These participants tend to have a tendency to develop a dependence on their employer. These patterns belong to Collectivism. This dimension relates to “societies in ,which people from birth onward are integrated into strong cohesive groups which throughout people's lifetimes continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty” (Hofstede G. , 2005, p. 74). For this reason, people in such societies see themselves as "we".


This aspect addresses the fundamental issue of what motivates people desiring to be successful (Masculinity, low score) or liking to do what they do, by choosing quality of life and caring for others (Femininity, high score). As in the previous dimension, this one is based on the analysis of the results of the survey about how some factors are perceived as important at the job. Professional career goals, such as earnings and promotion opportunities have been prioritized as part of the assertive and competitive social male role. If career goals have been chosen in the context of relationships with colleagues or subordinates, it is attributed to the caring, social-environment-oriented female social role. Hofstede calls societies masculine “when emotional gender roles are clearly distinct” and defines feminine societies “when emotional gender roles overlaps” (Hofstede G. , 2005, p. 120).

The masculinity-femininity-dimension and its related values have an influence on national governments at fundamental decisions-making processes on issues, such as solidarity with the weak versus reward for the strong, aid programmes versus weapons investment, environmental protection versus economic growth.

Uncertainty Avoidance

According to the data from the mentioned survey, this dimension relates to the frequency of experienced nervousness and tension at work, rejection of violations of rules and the attitude towards venturing into the unknown. The extent to which the members of a society feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and how they deal with them is reflected in the valuation of Uncertainty Avoidance (Anonymous, 2019).


Excerpt out of 28 pages


A comparison of Costa Rican and German culture according to Hofstede's Dimensions
Fresenius University of Applied Sciences Hamburg  (Wirtschaft)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Hofstede, German, Germany, Costa Rica, costarican, culture, Dimension, Hofstede´s Dimensions, Power Distance, Individualism, Collectivism, Masculinity, Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term Orientation, Indulgence
Quote paper
Nicole Christen (Author), 2020, A comparison of Costa Rican and German culture according to Hofstede's Dimensions, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/933870


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