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Some national cultures are very distinct from each other while others are very similar. A national culture is defined by the special distinctive features that define its people’s way of doing things. The differences and similarities between national cultures manifest in the kind of values, signs and symbols, and general modes of operation. This paper seeks to illustrate to what extent some national cultures are similar.
Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions
After many years of research, Hofstede identified a number of dimensions that inform interaction within different cultures. The dimensions he identified include power distance, individualism, Masculinity/Feminism, uncertainty avoidance, and long/temporal orientation. Through identifying five countries that have similar orientations on each of the dimensions, this paper will show in what way different national cultures are similar.
Looking at the Hofstede indices, it is clear that quite a number for countries share in given orientations or are similar on one or more dimensions. Considering power distance, China (80), India (77), Guatemala (95), Panama (95) and Malaysia (104) exhibit high power distances. The power distance dimension, identified by Hofstede, refers to how people in a given nation relate to power inequality. Power inequality is a reality all around the world. However, in some cultures power inequality is accepted and tolerated more than in others. In some cultures, people view the leader as a mere team member who can be corrected. In some other cultures, a leader is supreme, infallible, and unquestionable. Nobody can even contemplate or even just imagine questioning. The extent to which people unquestioningly accept a power divide informs the power distant dimension measure. Those high on the indices are national cultures in which power inequality is high and generally endorsed or accepted by both the powerless and the powerful. The high power distance exhibited in China, India, Guatemala, Panama and Malaysia could be associated to the religious or philosophical belief systems generally accepted in the five countries. The dominant religions in the countries advocate for authoritative kind of leadership to which the powerless have to submit with humility; unquestioningly. In Guatemala and Panama, even Malaysia, Roman Catholicism reigns supreme. In India, Hinduism that calls for submission under caste system carries the day. China largely practices Confucianism in which loyalty and obedience are key values to be observed. These belief systems encourage totalitarian leadership because leaders are perceived to have been chosen and instituted by God.
The individualism dimension measures to what extent people relate to a group as unit of operation. Those who engage group or hold group over individual are termed as collectivist cultures. Those that give precedence to the individual’s over group based effort in survival are individualistic cultures. In individualistic cultures, every man or woman is for self; each person has to fight for self. Values like independence and personal achievement are placed above group survival. In collectivist cultures, loyalty and obedience are great values. Such cultures are characterized by many cohesive in-groups and an individual cannot succeed unless he or she identifies with the given in-groups. The five countries ranking high on individualism are Australia (90), USA (91), Netherlands (80), United Kingdom (89), and New Zealand (79). These countries can be associated with prevalence of self reliant individuals. In the history of the mentioned countries, there was a time of expedience that rooted the value of freedom and independence. The countries share in a rich heritage or roots that augmented values such as liberty and respect of human rights. They are also largely Christian and Christianity strongly advocates for individual freedoms. Christian teaching requires self respect as a positive condition for respect of the others as a unique and loved child of God. Actually, apart from self love, individuals are asked to practice the golden rule as a way of salvation. Strong belief in liberty and respect for human rights allows for individual expression or self perpetuation.
The masculinity/femininity dimension looks into the influence of gender on operations in given cultures. Gender prescriptions often inform the kind of values people will operate by. In some cultures men and women are aggressive and assertive while in others people are more caring and submissive. Many societies are paternalistic in nature. There are different shades of paternalism. On the one hand are men who believe the measure of masculinity is egotism. In other nationalistic cultures, there is a movement towards egalitarian approach to gender. Masculine national cultures are characterized by people who are generally assertive and very competitive. Feminine national cultures are those characterized by people who are more caring than competitive or assertive. The nations with a high masculinity/feminist index are those that exhibit a huge gap between conception of man and women; there is more gender differentiation or inequality. From the indices, the countries with a high gender differentiation are Venezuela (73), Switzerland (70), Austria (79), Hungary (88), Italy (70) and Japan (95) (ITIM International, 2009). These countries are characterized by intrinsically tight societies that are informed by Catholicism, Islam or some forms absolutist philosophy. For example, although Japan does not have an official religion, Shinto, which is not very flexible, is widely practiced while Italy is tightly held under Catholicism.
Uncertainty Avoidance index
The countries that score highest on the Uncertainty Avoidance index are Guatemala (101), El Salvador (94), Portugal (104), Uruguay (100), Greece (112), Turkey (94) and Japan (92). The Uncertainty Avoidance Index indicates to what extent uncertainty is acknowledged and tolerated. This is captured in the extent people tolerated ambiguity or their commitment to truth. In high uncertainty avoidance cultures adherence to measures, regulations and rules is critical towards avoiding any form of uncertainty in case of a scenario or happening. The five countries mentioned as having high uncertainty avoidance characteristics are known to have either strong religious or philosophical awakening. The philosophers from Greece are well known for teachings that extolled virtue, truth as absolute, one, objective and universal. Japan is a tight society while Portugal and Uruguay could be said to borrow a lot from a long practice of Roman Catholicism. In these countries, majority of citizens subscribe to given absolutist philosophies and religions that advocate for strict rules and ways of doing.
Long Term/ Short Term Orientation
The long term/ short term orientation dimension measures the extent to which people would sacrifice in the now for the sake of future. The long term orientated are more stoic to present circumstance thus more persevering than the short term oriented. The short term oriented individuals are more present day detail averse. The cultures that are short term orientated insist and train their people to focus on what can bring gratification in the now. In such cultures, expediency is encouraged as opposed to persevering. The five countries identified with high long term orientations are China (118), Hong Kong (96), Taiwan (87), Japan (80), and South Korea (75). All these countries are Asian and their culture generally encourages focus on the future and long term relationships. Building a legacy is more critical to Asians than immediate gains. People believe in saving face and one would easily commit suicide than enjoy at present at the expense of long term honor. These countries are also largely collectivist rather than individualistic. Being collectivist means that there is emphasis on compromising personal interests for the sake of community or group interest. This often demands that one looses out or perseveres in the short term so as to guarantee the future.
This assignment was important in raising my awareness of culture and appreciation of how culture influences life or daily operations in different countries. Through reading John Bing’s writings and evaluating Hofstede’s ideas, I am more informed as to what extent the world is culturally diversified. Somehow, it is easy to assume that all nations are the same thus seek to impose given ways of relating or operating whenever, wherever I may be. From reading and doing this assignment, it is clear that success is highly dependent on understanding and integrating cultural dimensions.
It was interesting as well to note that cultures around the world are similar in a number of distinct ways. For example, it is interesting to note that China and Italy share in their femininity/masculinity orientation. Appreciating that cultures are diverse but also similar is critical especially in the design of business for multinationals. After doing the assignment, I also noted that although the bases for behaving may be different, the end orientation is often the same. This means that people say of different religions could interact perfectly because the teaching of their religion or dominant philosophy that informs behavior is similar. Muslims and Roman Catholics are of two distinct religions. However, in the analysis, countries that profess the two religions seem to have same kind of characteristics.
This assignment has thus awakened me to the challenges individuals working in another country is likely to face. Unless one is made aware as to face other nationalities more consciously, he or she is likely to commit a number of mistakes that would cost his or her organization business. It is imperative for business and even political leaders to appreciate cultural diversity as well as similarity. Once the two are identified, proper international interactions become highly possible.
Lessons from Assignment
However, I strongly concur with Bing that the different country dimensions given by Hofstede should not be taken as a sacrosanct definition into which all people of given countries fit; it is only but prudent to be conscious of cultural differences and similarities. Tolerance and sensitive approach to a people of another culture is more crucial than understanding deeply the findings of the Hofstede’s research or generalizations. This insight is informed by the idea that culture is dynamic. Reductionism of any form does not do justice to individuals because although one may belong to a given group, it does not follow that they share in the general characteristics that make the group distinct. Reductionism would only result in stereotypical thinking that does not do justice to individuals.
Hofstede, J. G. (2009). Cultural dimensions. Web.
Cybolink. (2009). Geert Hofstede Analysis. Web.
Cybolink. (2009). Geert Hofstede Analysis China. Web.
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ITIM International. (2009). Geert Hofstede, Cultural dimensions. Web.