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Hofsteede's Cultural Dimensions

Seminararbeit 2002 28 Seiten


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Trompenaars´s seven Dimensions of Culture

3. Hofstede´s five Cultural Dimensions

4. Conclusion


1. Introduction

In the globalising world where multinational organisations work across borders the question of cultural differences and mutual understanding seems to be highly relevant and has been discussed by many researches in the last decades. National culture can be viewed as the norms, values and beliefs shared by individuals from a particular nation that distinguish it from other nations (Nový I., Schroll-Machl S. et al. (2001): Interkulturální komunikace v řízení a podnikání). Our cultural environment is natural for us but people from other cultures may not be comfortable with it or may not understand. The behaviors that are consistent with the norms of one culture may violate the norms of another like for example: the time that the German account executive expects the Mexican manager to arrive at their 12:30 lunch appointment is 12:30. When the Mexican manager agreed on 12:30, he didn't know that she would be annoyed by him not arriving or calling before 1:00 ( ,19. 6. 2002).

Therefore when we talk about differences between cultures, then we are speaking in generalities. Therefore we should be aware of expectations that every idividual will behave in a manner consistent with those generalizations, because even within cultures, people differ from each other. Why do we study national culture anyway? The study of human behavior and the practice of leadership and management continually require the use of generalizations. It is still worth to search for models that predict human behavior, even if those predictions can‘t always be accurate. Some of the most popular models are Hofstede‘s Theory and the model of Trompenaars.

2. Trompenaars

There are some similarities in Hofstede‘s findings and Trompanaars‘s findings but on the other hand Trompenaars identified a different set of cultural dimensions. He identifies seven fundamental dimensions of culture:

- Universalism vs. Particularism,
- Individualism vs. Communitarianism,
- Specific vs. Diffuse Cultures,
- Affective vs. Neutral Cultures,
- Achievement vs. Ascription,
- Sequentional vs. Sychronic,
- Internal vs. External Control.


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Universalistic cultures believe that general rules and values have a priority over particular needs and claims of friends and relations, thus the same rules apply on all members of society and the exceptions are not allowed. Those cultures tend to use contracts, formal systems, and procedures to convey what they expect from others. The US, Australia, Germany and Switzerland are examples of countries high in universalism.

Over against, particularistic cultures see the priority in human friendship, extraordinary achievement and situations and in intimate relationships. The "spirit of the law" is more important than the "letter of the law". The rules are needed, but the exceptions are allowed. People from these cultures will want to develop a relationship with the other party before making a business decissions or contracts. Venezuela, the former Soviet Union countries, Indonesia and China are examples of nations high in particularism.

Czech and Austrian culture

According to Trompenaars (Trompenaars, 1994), Czech and Austrian culture are both rather universalistic (Austrians have 80% and Czechs 82% where 100% stands for extreme universalism in the „car and pedestrians“ example) and Czechs seem to be even more universalistic (Austrians have 69% and Czechs 79% in a „bad restaurant“ example). We suppose the high universalism on Czech culture is caused by the time the Trompenaars study was made – before the revolution.

Schroll-Machl and Nový use the terms Personal vs. Rules Orientated Control, where the personal oriented control approximate to particularism whereas rules oriented control approximate to universalism. Czechs tend to personal oriented control while Austrians use the principles of rules oriented control. Of course, it is impossible to say that Czechs always use control based on personal relations but the best description is: The norms and codes are respected when it is not avoidable and profitable. Austrians are more like Germans but with one exception, they are not so strict with applying rules in control. This result correlates with the conclusion of Trompenaars is case of Austrian culture but is in contrast to the Trompenaars conclusions about Czech culture. Another surprising fact is that Germany is according to Nový even less universal than Austria (63%) in this specific example.

2.2 Individualism vs. Communitarians

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This dimension is similar to Hofstede´s model. Individualistic cultures refers to people regarding themselves as individuals, while collectivistic cultures refers to people regarding themselves as part of a group. Decision making and negotiations in cultures with high individualism typically are made by individuals. In cultures with high collectivism, decisions are achieved in groups with joint assumed responsibility.


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In specific cultures the things are analyzed separately and then put together. Thus the whole is the sum of parts. This means that the life in such cultures is divided to many concequentional parts and only one can be entered at a time. The individuals concentrate on hard facts, standards and contracts. The interaction between people is purposeful and well-defined. Others may easily get to the public sphere of individuals, but it is very difficult to get into the private one, as these are considered as separate ones.

The diffusely oriented cultures see each element in perspective of the total as all elements are related to each other. The relationships are more important than each separate element, the whole is more than the sum of its elements. This means that the various roles in the life are not separated. Style, demeanour, ambience, trust or understanding are important values in the society. The individuals have a large private sphere and a small public one. Newcomers are not easily accepted into either, but once they have been accepted, they are admitted into both spheres.

Czech and Austrian culture

Trompenaars does not publish the overall results of Czechs in this field, still the example of „housing“ shows the attribute of a diffuse culture (24% where 100% is extreme specificity) but according to Schroll-Machl and Nový, the Czech culture has more traits of diffuse cultures. The Czechs mix the private and public sphere, the formal and the informal structure, the individuals and their roles. It is not rare to use the informal contacts as a substitute for formal once. The informal contacts may be used in business and politics to facilitate the negotiations and decisions of the other parties. The corrupcy may be derived from this behaviour.

In comparison to Czech culture the Austrian culture is more specific (according to Trompenaars 79% in the „housing example, 53% overally where 100% stand for extreme specificity), but more diffuse in comparison with Germany and majority of countries examined by Trompenaars (65 overally). Though people do not separate the emotionality and rationality, the facts and feelings or the formal and the informal structure so strictly. They care for informal contacts as much as Czechs with the difference that they serve to intensify the emotional part of the contacts, the relationships themselves.


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In an affective culture emotions are not kept inside but displayed. The less explicit signals of neutral culture may be ignored or be seen as not important. People from highly affective cultures are more likely to smile, talk loudly when excited, and greet each other enthusiastically. Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland and China are examples of highly affective cultures.

In a neutral culture feelings should not be shown openly. People accept and are aware of feelings, but are in control of them. Neutral cultures may think the louder signals of an affective culture are too excited and over emotional. Japan, Britain and Singapore are examples of highly neutral cultures.

Czech and Austrian culture

There were no results published by Trompenaars, but according to the study of Nový and Schroll-Machl, a very typical feature of Czechs is that they prefer social (affective) orientation to factual (neutral) orientation in interaction and communication. This means that for Czech how a person behaves and speaks is more important than the content of his or her speech. The facts orientation in each interaction is in the second place. It is always searched for personal indicators and Czech always try to be nice. Therefore they try to build a comfortable atmosphere in order to feel well. Once one sets up a good relation, he or she should try to keep in touch.

Austrians are not far away from Czechs. For Austrians facts are more important than for Czechs but it is not the only aspect in interaction and communication. They try to deal with grace which leave the feeling of being pleasant, friendly, and are ready to help as well. Socializing and personal aspects are important elements of team work cooperation. This mild factual orientation was confirmed by Trompenaars (69 %, where 100% stands for extreme neutralism in an „upset in work“ example).


Achieved status refers to what an individual does and has accomplished. In achievement-oriented cultures, a person achieves a status by his actions and has to prove it constantly. Australia, the US, Switzerland and Britain are examples of highly achievement-oriented cultures.

Ascribed status refers to what a person is and how others relate to his or her position in society. In an ascriptive culture, a person gain his status according to the age, gender or wealth and once obtained, he or she does not have to achieve to retain his status. Venezuela, Indonesia and China are examples of highly ascription-oriented cultures.



ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
525 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Johannes Kepler Universität Linz – International Management
Hofsteede Cultural Dimensions International Management



Titel: Hofsteede's Cultural Dimensions