Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions

Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions is a tool that seeks to identify certain groups and their preferences.

" Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster."
Prof. Geert Hofstede, Emeritus Professor, Maastricht University

His theory has 5 models: Power Distance Index, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty Avoidance Index and Long-Term Orientation.

To explain I'll compare the United Kingdom with Trinidad & Tobago.


According to the table above Trinidad's Power Distance Index is higher than the UK's. Not significantly though; both are hovering around 40. I thought a country with an active monarchy and a rigidly defined social structure would edge us out in the PDI, but apparently I'm wrong.

Before I continue, let's listen to Professor Hofstede as he explains the PDI:

Upon reflection, I remembered Charles Wagley's Plantation America Culture Sphere, Caribbean societies fall in this group. In short these societies are stratified by class and ancestry, home life is matrifocal and customs from: religion; language and music, reflect a fusion of European and African practices.

After consideration I have to agree. There is an acceptance in Trinidad that some jobs are better suited to certain people, and that determination is made primarily on the class and colour attributes of the person rather than their ability. As the population matures that feature becomes less true.

Individualism is high in the United Kingdom. Dramatically so e
ven if it wasn't being compared with a rating of about 15. I do think that Individualism is growing in Trinidad, though it's still not uncommon for families to live together; for adult children to live with their parents. Some people care for their siblings' children especially if the parent has migrated, and for some sectors of the population it would be unheard of to place an elderly family member in a home. In many respects group thinking is the norm: we rather than I, particularly for the female members of the society.

Which brings us to Masculinity. Hofstede found that women's values varied less across cultures so measurement was limited to the degrees to which masculine values mattered. These values include assertiveness and competitiveness, while modesty and caring were labeled feminine. Ironically a high score on the Masculinity index meant women were more assertive.

Caribbean societies are primarily matrifocal, and gender roles are clearly defined. This means that women excel in the private sphere and men in the public. While there is room for women to succeed in the public there remains some restriction on behaviour.

To put it another way in the UK some men (albeit not a huge amount) would consider taking their wives' last name after marriage. That simply won't fly in the West Indies. Not yet anyway, and that guy would probably be an expat.

Not surprisingly the Uncertainty Avoidance Index in Trinidad surpasses that of the United Kingdom. A tendency towards group living requires an predisposition to adhering to structure and norms. The rules of individualism suggest that rules are meant to be broken. Once you increase your interaction with others, you have a commitment to following structure because it will increase your participation in group activity.

It would be interesting to see how these ratings change over the years. Which brings me to an interesting critique of Hofstede's Cultural Dimentions. It has been said that it is based on old data and is static. I think it isn't perfect, but the Dimentions worked for my comparison, whether it would be as accurate for non-Western cultures I'm not sure.


Unknown said...

thanks totally helpful blog for a class that i am currently taking. well written, informative with the video and beautifully laid out blog. Keep up the good work

Soyini said...

Thank you. Sorry I was so late in responding to you. How was your class?

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