Blog of Sara Jakša

Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions

I am interested in the individual differences between people. A lot of time, the differences can also be on the cultural level, not just on the personal level. And one of the theory dealing with this is Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory.

The theory recognizes 6 different dimensions: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long Term and Indulgence. So for practice, I wanted to see if I recognize these dimensions in the countries that I lived in. For me, these were Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, Austria and Slovak.

In order to help me with this (and in case it helps somebody), I created a interactive graph to help with comparing countries. There does exist the site which already does this, but there one can only compare up to 4 countries: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/. To tell the truth, the point of the blog post is so I have an excuse to show this graph. :)

The first dimension is the power distance. This describes how much people (especially the less powerful) accept unequal distribution of power in institutions and organizations. So the higher the country is on that, the more acceptable to people is that some people are more powerful than the others. Comparing the countries I lived in, the Slovakia is the highest, then Slovenia, followed by Hungary, then Germany and ending up with Austria.

It is interesting, that in Slovenia we talk a lot about inequality, and how it is something we don't want. But nobody does anything to actually move us in this direction. On the other hand, there was no talk like that in Austria, and almost none in Germany.

The second dimension is individualism. This describes in how big is the circle of people, to whom we generally adapt out actions to. Countries with high individualism only look after themselves, while in the countries with low individualism think about themselves as 'we'. The most individualistic is Hungary, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and then Slovenia.

I would say, that Austria and Germany would be above Hungary, but the explanation might me that I was in a small town in Hungary and in the city in Germany and capital in Austria. Slovenian think a lot about what other people will say and we act in accordance to this. But I did not feel that in Germany or Austria. The Hungary was between them, but probably closer to Germany-Austria group.

The third dimension is masculinity. The higher the masculinity, the more is the country competitive. And the lower the masculinity, the more likely the caring is an important value. The most mascular country is Slovakia, then Hungary, followed by Austria and the Germany. The least mascular country is Slovenia.

Not surprised by the position of Slovenia (no matter how much I think we are a bit extreme in caring). But it is interesting when comparing the use of foreign language in a country for foreigners. In Slovenia and Germany people adapt and they talk in English, if any foreign is present. In Austria it depends on the situation, but it still happens. Hungary and Slovakia are a lot less adaptable in this regard. A lot of time, even when seeing that one is a foreign, they will just continue in their language.

The forth dimension is uncertainty avoidance. This one describes how much people try to avoid uncertainty and create processes and institutions for this purpose. The highest in this is Slovenia, then Hungary, Austria, Germany, and the last Slovakia.

I think this is shown quite well in the university system. In Slovenia, just taking the class in another faculty requires a lot of bureaucracy. Everybody should be doing the same study. In Austria, they rules are more flexible, but they still don't want students to go outside of them. Germany, they are becoming more flexible. And in Slovakia, it already depends more on people's good will, then what the rules are saying.

The fifth dimension is long term orientation. The cultures with high values encourage thrift, while the ones with low values encourage going with traditions of the past. The highest is Germany, then Slovakia, then Austria, Hungary and on the end Slovenia.

Well, Slovenia being low on this one is again not that surprising. We spend too much time arguing about the past and no time thinking about the future. We are not even capable of planing the change in laws for a couple of years in advance.

The last one is indulgence. So, whenever the people do what they want to do, or show some restraint. Austria is the highest, the Slovenia, followed by Germany, Hungary and Slovakia.

Well, people are a lot more likely to take a afternoon off and go for a drink in Austria and Slovenia, then any of the outer countries.