Many, many years ago when I lived in Denmark and studied International Business Communication at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), I learned about Geert Hofstede and his theory on cultural dimensions. Even though I was living in a multi-cultural environment back then (a.k.a. a dorm!) with students from lots of different countries, I never really realized how important culture really is.
Culture is everything.
And as the world keeps getting smaller and smaller, the more we use and embrace technology in our everyday lives, culture becomes even more important. Back then, cultural dimensions were something I read about in books like Global Marketing and Advertising: Understanding Cultural Paradoxes by Marieke de Mooij. It wasn’t something that I ever thought I’d have to understand in order to navigate life in any kind of practical sense. And even though I’ve been trying to do this for the past 13-14 years now, I think I’m just now starting to GET IT.
Culture is everything.
Imagine this particular workplace consisting of employers and employees from:
- Dominican Republic
If this isn’t a possible foundation for a cultural minefield, I don’t know what is.
According to Hofstede’s theory, this is how e.g. Denmark compares to the other countries in the 6 areas of:
- Power Distance – the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
- Individualism – the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members.
- Masculinity – The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
- Uncertainty Avoidance – The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these.
- Long Term Orientation – how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future.
- Indulgence – the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses.
In many ways (perhaps in most ways), we’re different and far apart from each other. Yet, we have to figure out how to exist and work together coherently as one unit…which is safe to say – not always easy.
Of course, I understand that there are many exceptions to the rules and that theories aren’t always 100% accurate. Even reading more about each country, it’s obvious that this is not an absolute truth. However, I do believe that there are several aspects of this theory which can be said to be generally true of the people from any particular country. Reading about Denmark and its cultural dimensions, I recognize myself in a lot of the “facts” and then there are others, which I don’t think are completely accurate.
I just thought of this theory recently (and it pops up in my mind ever so often) as I was thinking about why certain people behave the way they do – in their way of doing things, thinking, speaking and making sense of things.
It’s really fascinating, but at the same time also quite complicated …and often times even frustrating when the “world” (and everyone in it) doesn’t fit your version of reality, the truth or how you think things should be.
Read more about cultural dimensions on www.hofstede-insights.com