Cultural dimensions are useful in understanding the values rooted in people from different cultural backgrounds. These cultural values will impact on how people behave and interact in different social settings.
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The five cultural dimensions developed by Hofstede are useful in understanding cultural variation in one country relative to other countries in the world. For instance, looking at Japan from the Hofstede five dimensional models will give the most significant drivers in the culture of the country in comparison to other countries across the world (Herkenhoff 33).
Five Cultural Dimensions
This dimensional model relates to the concept that people are not equal in every society and, therefore, demonstrates the attitudes in relation to inequalities. It is how those in the lower hierarchy perceive and accept the uneven power distribution in a social setting. Japan is averagely hierarchical society where members in a social setting are conscious of the different positions in the hierarchy (De Mooij and Hofstede 87).
In comparison to other cultures of Asia, they are not highly hierarchical. Business decisions are ordinarily slow because of many hierarchical levels involved in the process. In Japanese culture, there is no single person at the top with the monopoly of decision making, unlike other highly hierarchical societies. On the other hand, the Japanese culture values meritocracy and anybody could easily get a head in any field (Herkenhoff 38).
Individualism vs. Collectivism
This dimension addresses the nature of interdependence among the members of the society, with individualistic societies expecting the members to take care of themselves and their immediate family members. This is not the case with collective societies where the group plays a critical role of taking care of the members and the group receive loyalty in return.
Japan is a collective society but not as much as their neighboring countries because they do not have the extended family system. Japanese have a high sense of loyalty to organizations they are employed, which is a personal decision rather than a collective. In comparison to other western countries Japan is a collective society, but when compared to the Asian neighbors it is more individualistic (Herkenhoff 44).
Masculinity vs. Femininity
Japan is highly masculine society in the world, but because of their mild collectivistic culture the assertiveness and competitive behaviors are not visible as other masculine societies (Herkenhoff 42). However, there are severe competitions among groups and children learn to compete from an early age in sports, and other activities.
In the business world, employees find motivation in competing to win for their teams. There is also a sense of masculinity in the way Japanese work when they strive for excellence and perfection, which is often observed in restaurants and hotels (Jones 4).
Uncertainty and Avoidance
This dimension reflects on the way societies deal with the unknown and uncertainty of the future. People have beliefs on how to deal with ambiguities, which differ extensively among different cultures. Japan is one of the most uncertain and avoiding countries in the world. This phenomenon can be attributed to the frequent natural calamities experienced in Japan. (Jones 4).
The Japanese have learned to prepare for uncertainty not only for disasters, but in virtually all aspects of their lives. What people ought to wear in different places are prescribed in details and almost everything is prescribed in a predictable manner (De Mooij and Hofstede 89).
Japanese are reluctant to do anything without clear precedence. In the business world, the Japanese spend most of their time on feasibility studies in assessing all risks before any decision is made. Managers would require detailed information and figures before implementing any project. This dimensional of uncertainty and avoidance makes the country difficult to accept change (Herkenhoff 40).
Long Term Orientation
Japan is among the long term oriented societies, and they perceive life as a short term part of a long process of human life and, therefore, individuals are expected to do their best in their lives in all whatever they do. The concept of one God does not exist among the Japanese, and individuals are guided by a set of virtues. In the business world, long term orientation is emphasized, where companies are seen in their long term nature that will server to benefit all generations in the future. They do not focus on immediate profits. (Herkenhoff 39).
How it Translates to Fashion
The concept of power distance translates into fashion in the sense that fashionable items are always associated with social status. Since Japan is a mildly hierarchical, those who occupy the highest level would acquire fashionable and luxury items to earn respect from those in the lower strata. Those at the highest level have power and resources, and can afford to consume more in comparison to those who do not have (Herkenhoff 38).
Individualism dimension has a direct relation to fashion or trends in society, as well. In collective societies, members are influenced by the group and act to safe face on critical issues, whereas, in an individualistic society, members make their own decisions (Herkenhoff 44).
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Since Japan lies in the mid between the individualistic and collectivistic culture, this implies that when there is fashion trend there will be influenced from both the group and the individual level. That is why Japan in the past has experienced fashions, movies and music in its own culture originating from the United States (Jones 4).
Masculinity refers to assertiveness and aggressiveness, which can be adopted by both sexes in society (Jones 4). Japan is highly masculine implying that they can easily adapt to new fashions because of their outgoing nature. It has been found that popular US culture could reach Japan quicker than it reaches other parts of the US. Also attributed to masculinity is competition for success this means that they are likely to adopt a new trend or fashion particularly if it is associated with success (Herkenhoff 42).
Uncertainty and avoidance dimension Japan ranks highly meaning that they need predictability because they are reluctant to take anything without precedence (Jones 4). It has been found that it is exceedingly difficult to sell foreign consumer goods in Japan, and it is the most difficult market to penetrate. The products that have been established in the market are also difficult to dislodge. This means that the Japanese cannot easily change their consumption behavior (Herkenhoff 40).
Long term orientation is another dimension which the Japanese ranks highly, meaning that their outlook in life is always long term. This is seen in the expenditure pattern, in Japanese companies on Research and development. They do not look at the short term losses in one quarter, but see the company that has to be there for many generations.
Expenditures are high even at the time of slow economic performance. Japanese also save a bigger proportion of their incomes compared to other developed countries, that is washy Japanese banks are able to land money at a lower rate (Herkenhoff 39).
Hofstede developed five cultural dimensions that can be used to understand different cultures of different societies. These cultural dimensions vary from power distance to long-term orientation. Japanese cultures exhibited in their way of life are crucial because they are the drivers in the culture of the country especially when they are compared with different countries in the world (Herkenhoff 33).
De Mooij, Marieke and Geert Hofstede. “The Hofstede Model Applications to Global Branding and Advertising Strategy and Research”. International Journal of Advertising, 29(1), pp. 85–110. 2010. Web.
Herkenhoff, Linda M. National Remuneration (Pay) Preferences: Cultural Analysis Within the Hofstede Model Using Cultural Values to Untangle the Web of Global Pay. New York, NY: Universal publishers, 2002. Print.
Jones, Michael L. “Hofstede – Culturally Questionable?”. Research Online University of Wollongong. Jun 2007. Web.