Globalization, Culture and the Hofstede dimensions

by | Mar 31, 2023 | 0 comments

Culture, globalization and the dimensions of Geert Hofstede

                                                                                                               Huib Wursten


Culture: The four dimensions of Hofstede

 There are quite a few influential, interesting  thinkers and researchers on the influence of culture on human behavior and the effect on politics, institutions and decision making.  Somehow most of this work about the influence of culture is to a great extent influenced or based on the research and findings of Geert Hofstede  starting with the IBM database between 1967 and 1973. Using questionnaires on national values in 20 different languages in 72 countries.

Based on factor analysis he initially concluded/discovered main clusters of values being the most influential in understanding and explaining the differences in answers to single questions. He called these clusters ‘Dimensions’. With these dimensions insights can be gained about how what values of people in different countries are and how they affect almost every aspect of society: form daily (family) life to the organization of institutions and politics.

Having collected the data Hofstede was able to rank the preferences of the majority in any one culture.  The ranking is done on a continuum from low (0) to high (100).  It is important to understand that we are talking here about the majority preferences of the group and not about individuals. Individuals from a certain culture can clearly have other preferences than the majority of the culture they come from.  However, the majority culture decides about the criteria for proper behavior in that culture and defines what is and what is not acceptable.

We choose for the definition and classification as Geert Hofstede has developed because this approach is very well founded in empirical research and has proven its effectiveness in multinational cross-cultural business and communication.

“Culture is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which was learned. Culture consists of the unwritten rules of social game. It is the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others”.

The four confirmed dimensions of national culture identified by Hofstede are:

  • Power Distance (PDI),
  • Individualism/Collectivism (IDV),
  • Masculinity/Femininity (MAS),
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI),

A brief description of the meaning of these dimensions is given below.

 Power distance is the extent to which less powerful members of a society accept that power is distributed unequally. In large power-distance cultures everybody has his/her rightful place in society, there is respect for old age, and status is important to show power. In small power-distance cultures people try to look younger and powerful people try to look less powerful.. People in countries like the US, Canada and the UK score low on the power-distance index and are more likely to accept ideas like empowerment, matrix management and flat organizations.  Business schools around the world tend to base their teachings on low power-distance values.  Yet, most countries in the world have a high power-distance score.

In individualistic cultures people look after themselves and their immediate family only; in collectivist cultures people belong to in-groups who look after them in exchange for loyalty. In individualist cultures, values are in the person, in collectivist cultures, identity is based on the social network to which one belongs. In individualist cultures there is more explicit, verbal communication; in collectivist cultures communication is more implicit.

In masculine cultures the dominant values are achievement and success. The dominant values in feminine cultures are caring for others and quality of life. In masculine cultures performance and achievement are important. Status is important to show success. Feminine cultures have a people orientation, small is beautiful and status is not so important.

Uncertainty avoidance is the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity and try to avoid these situations. In cultures of strong uncertainty avoidance, there is a need for rules and formality to structure life. Competence is a strong value resulting in belief in experts, as opposed to weak uncertainty-avoidance cultures with belief in practitioners. In weak uncertainty-avoidance cultures people tend to be more innovative and entrepreneurial.

Culture change?

Some people predicted in the past that globalization would mean that cultural differences would disappear because of faster communication and more people traveling nowadays.

Hofstede showed by his continuing research spanning 50 years that this expectation is naïve.  He showed that fundamental value differences do not diminish as a result of them being confronted with each other.  One can even go as far as to say that confrontation is strengthening these differences as people become more conscious of their own background.  The research of Hofstede has been replicated about 60 times. Requently by people who tried falify the findings to prove him to be wrong.  A meta-analysis by Soendergaard in 1994 already showed that his findings remained valid.  Recent research by Beugelsdijk et al (*2) showed that the Hofstede findings are still valid in spite of many global changes.  However, this does not mean that “culture” is static.  The world is changing rapidly. But the way nation-states are adapting to these changes is being “driven” by the same values that existed when Hofstede first started measuring them some 50 years ago.  This means that it is true to say that culture is not static, but rather it is consistent over time.

Two more dimensions were added later in time. The original dimensions survived attempts to falsification by the repeats. The two “new” dimensions need further research and are not included in the analysis.
How to read scores?
The scores represent the central tendency of a bell curve. These national scores are ranked (from 1 for the lowest to 100 for the highest), Hofstede’s dimensions model allows international comparison between cultures.
The scores are available by clicking:


  • Hofstede Geert: Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. 475 pages. Beverly Hills CA: Sage Publications, 1980, hardcover, ISBN 0-8039-1444-X. Abridged paperback edition: Sage Publications, 1984, 325 pages
  • Søndergaard, M. (1994) Hofstede’s consequences: a study of reviews, citations and replications. Organization studies, 15, 447-456
  • Beugelsdijk, S., Maseland, R. and van Hoorn, A. (2015), Are Scores on Hofstede’s Dimensions of National Culture Stable over Time? A Cohort Analysis. Global Strategy Journal, 5: 223–240. doi: 10.1002/gsj.1098


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