Six Dimensions of National Culture

Culture, like Air, is omnipresent and all-encompassing. It is so pervasive that we fail to consciously acknowledge its presence and potent. Yet, it does exist, and influences and determines what we think and do as individuals, groups and societies. There is a difference between culture and national culture though. A culture predominantly shared and expressed by a large part of a nation gets classified as its national culture. So despite the fact that there may exist several cultures or sub cultures in India, there also exist certain shared phenomena, which are a result of what Professor Hofstede terms ‘collective programming of the mind’.

Like all of us, I do love my country. But I am motivated to pose a N-FAQ (Not so Frequently Asked Question): Why are we in such a mess if our past, ancient, golden culture was so rich and glorious? Why has our ‘culture’ not insulated us from the problems of today? Why are we not able to get solutions to what ails us, from the depths / heights of our past culture? I did like the contrarian view put forth in Swadesh, wherein it is said that whenever we are under attack, we hide behind our culture. For instance, if one were to praise the glories of life in a foreign land, like aapna America, at least one party spoiler would retort – “but they don’t have a social life like us’ or ‘we cannot adopt to their culture’. I do not want to look beyond my country and see whether other cultures have been able to rescue their societies from the pitfalls of 21st century.  I am a firm believer that not just charity, everything begins at home, especially change.

So, what is the national culture of India? Why do i pose this question? Because I am worried about the kind of country we are gonna leave into the hands of our children. Forget the superstar problems like corruption, violence, maladministration, etc. Look at day to day instances which reflect what we are headed towards. We are not willing to be considerate towards others. I think this might be the simplest yet the most influential determinant of the qualitative existence and growth of the society. We are being increasingly self-centrist in our pursuits. Nothing wrong in thinking about one’s own skin. But not at the cost of others. Can I really feel proud that my nation is growing, when people don’t even think of their duty towards the ‘above-self’ elements of the environment?

Professor Hofstede has laid down a model to assess the national culture on 6 dimensions:

Power Distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance, Long term orientation, Indulgence.

A brief description of the dimensions follows thus:

Power Distance Index (PDI): Do you feel that one small individual can’t change anything out here? Those on the top can’t be dislodged as they are too too powerful, and we can only survive by avoiding conflict? That’s PDI for you! A society high on PDI establishes hierarchy across all systems, and one is not supposed to question or challenge the order.

Individualism: Are we an individualistic society – one which doesn’t mind of you take care only of your near and dear ones? Or are we collectivists? Expected to take care of each other? It’s the ‘I’ against the ‘we’.

Masculinity v/s Femininity: The former worships achievement, ambition, the chase, the competition. Material rewards aren’t devil incarnate, they are but the joys of success. Femininity is reflected by modesty (never praise yourself, no! no!), caring for the weak, ‘money is not everything’ and in fact, ‘money is the root of all evil’. Masculinity favors individualism, femininity seeks cooperation.

Uncertainty Avoidance: How about resigning from your job? Selling all your assets? And going on a three month vacation around the world? So what if we return penniless? Challenges our roti – kapda- makaan trio of motives? We all would love going the Zindagi na milegi dobara way, and in the same voice, also lament that such a life is not meant for us. As a society, are we willing to avoid uncertainty? What would happen to astrology then? Dis-equilibrium is not something we are very comfortable at. Do rupaih kam kama lenge par…

Long term versus short term orientation: A short term orientation is indicated by the inability to think long into the future and instead base the decisions on norms (normative), traditions and cultural anchors. Look at our focus on education. In fact, look at the tuition / coaching culture….marks right now….character building and personality? – puri zindagi padi hai na

Indulgence / Restraint: A restraining society considers as unacceptable, an individual’s desire for self gratification, and controls it via social norms. The former allows and promotes attainment of human drives and maximizing ‘living’ life and having fun.

Theories do not judge. These six dimensions aren’t a ready reckoner for deciding which national culture is good or bad. I am sure, while digesting each dimension, you would have pondered and analyzed where our national culture stands.

So why not take a small poll to submit your own views?

 

I duly acknowledge the path breaking work done by Geert Hofstede and his team since the past few decades, in establishing a structure to identify the culture of nations. His works are cited here:

  1. Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, Michael Minkov, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Revised and Expanded 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill USA, 2010
  2. Geert Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations. Second Edition, Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications, 2001

I am Ravi Vaidya, a management educator by profession. This is where I intend to be myself, where I can ‘I’deate.

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12 comments
  1. On the basis of the article and the case i could relate that the dimensions that are being mention by Professor Hofstede are being associated to the difficulties by the owner of Java lounge. It also shows how they have clearly define the culture of the saudis and do there business there. The importance of culture to understand in any country for business is clearly define here

  2. The 6 Dimension Describe by Professor Hofstede very well describe various kinds of Cultures prevailing in the World in general. Talking about our nation we have very strong PDI in our culture where the strong always dominates the weak. The level of resistance to any change is also very strong inside our culture following old traditions blindly and not even questioning them even the educated people in our culture show this strong resistance. Our culture is having an attitude of always avoiding uncertainties and never try no take any risk or try something new the mental attitude of people is long term oriented always keeping in mind about the future before taking any action. The dimensions mentioned can be related to our nations culture also and can be used to study it more effectively and efficiently.

  3. Culture is like God. It’s present everywhere one could feel it but cannot see it. When talking about culture India as a whole we need understand where it starts from and the answer is sub culture. It can be said as a result of collection of all the different types of culture in the country. The reaction of people from various situations becomes their culture in long run when done repeatedly and to change the culture of the country in a positive manner we as a citizen need to change ourselves then only we can develop as a nation.

  4. The 6 dimensions are expalined in a way which are easy to relate with out culture. The PDI of our culture is very strong as you can see the dominance. We do have preference of masculinity over femininity. Our society is more of restraint. Our culture hase more of avoiding the uncertainty. These dimensions help us to understand our culture in a better way for our well being.

  5. Religion and culture are very different but a very strong aspect to understand as a marketer when we need to know how consumer behaves in a certain situation due to their religion/culture. Islamic culture have certain aspects which may not be at all important to other cultures. View towards six dimensions also changes with respect to cultures.

  6. If we relate these six dimensions to Java lounge case then it can be seen that the country in which Java lounge operates is high on Power Distance Index because of the existence of formal system, strict rules pertaining to behavior and other regulations. And country is also high at masculinity parameter because there is a prominant difference between genders and women’s roles are restricted upto certain fields of work only. As the country is less tolerant to change and implements rigid rules and regulations, it is high on uncertainity avoidance. It can be known from the situation when Pokemon game selling company, Starbucks franchisees, etc. had to change their trade practices so as to countinue their operations in the country. It is a restraining society because it has strict social rules and norms such as satellite dishes are forbidden, during evening time,in the restaurants both floors are reserved for families only and not for bachelors. Even Java lounge have to remain carefully attuned to variety of social and cultural norms prevailing in the country. This country has short term oriented culture because it values traditional culture for eg. traditional way of punishing the criminals and restricting the means of entertainment. And the country is high on collectivism because it takes into account the well being of its people and frames rules accordingly.

  7. Culture is prevelant, it cannot be controlled by any one force it’s like a flowing water or air. It surrounds you, you can feel it and you are a part of it. It is the way how we think and behave. Our culture reflects who we are and why we are like that.
    The one positive point that can be added to any culture is flexibility in going with the trends and adapting to modernization in all walks of life.

  8. Culture is prevelant, it cannot be controlled by any one force it’s like a flowing water or air. It surrouds you,you can feel it and you are a part of it. It is the way how you think and behave. Our culture reflects who we are and why we are like that.
    The one positive point that can be added to any culture is flexibility in going with the trends and adapting to modernization in all walks of life.

  9. Professor Hofstede has explained the six point very well and in very easy way. If we talk about long term orientation then very large population of the country is not able to think or plan things in well advance. In our culture, people generally tend to give more importance to things which is not carry that much amount of importance. So they generally focus on short term orientation. We as a individual think or plan keeping in mind short term duration and it may be prooved beneficial in short term but it may not be fruitful in long future.

  10. Professor Hofstede has explained the six point very well and in very easy way. If we talk about long term orientation then very large population of the country is not able to think or plan things in well advance. In our culture, people generally tend to give more importance to things which is not carry that much amount of importance. So they generally focus on short term orientation. We as a individual think or plan keeping in mind short term duration and it may be prooved beneficial in short term but it may not be fruitful in long future.
    Patel Mayank M. recently posted…IMC – Colgate Sensitive Pro-ReliefMy Profile

  11. According to me culture vis an important part for any market to enter and to adjust accordingly to new culture and new working system.

  12. While relating this article to Java lounge case I can conclude that Jeddah is strict in religious connections and these connections makes this country a more inclined towards masculinity this can be predicted because there arises a problem of women discrimination in that country as the women doesn’t have rights to choose it’s career and even other important decisions, it has high power distance because the country follows it’s strict rules and a formal structure which each and every individual or company has to follow, individualism is low as there is very high intensity of culture and traditions, uncertainty avoidance is high as it has rigid rules which cannot be modified, the country has short term orientation as the people living in there value tradition, the current social hierarchy and social orientations, the country can be considered as restraint as they suppress gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.

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