What is cultural dimension

Cultural dimensions

One of the main research areas of intercultural research is the search for cultural dimensions through systematic exploration and abstraction of cultural differences. These cultural dimensions simplify the classification of cultures according to the given dimensions, and thus facilitate the analysis of cultural differences and their effects. They thus form an established and extensively researched compendium of various methods for the systematic analysis of various intercultural situations, as well as an abstract and theoretical basis for further research.

The foundations of the cultural dimensions have been created by various authors. One of the best known, and also the most widely used, are the dimensions of Hofstede (1991) and Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997). Its dimensions have been independently validated and supplemented by Schwartz, the Chinese Culture Connection, Fiske and others, among others.

This is not to say that the last word on cultural dimensions has already been spoken. There is still a debate about the cultural home of research, and the associated possible cultural blindness to dimensions that do not come from the home of cultural dimensional research. For example, Hofstede added a new dimension (LTO = long-term orientation) to its four existing dimensions in 1991.

Hofstede's dimensions
- Individualism / Collectivism
- Masculinity / Femininity
- Uncertainty Avoidance
- Power Distance Index
- Long Term Orientation

Probably the most undisputed and most cited dimension is that of individualism / collectivism (individualism / collectivism) of cultures - or the dimension that deals with groups or groups. Individual orientation of a culture busy. This dimension is described in more detail in the following section. This dimension also largely coincides with the individuality / kummunitarianism dimension of Trompenaars and Hamden-Turner.

Another dimension of Hofstede that is becoming increasingly important is the dimension of masculinity / femininity of cultures. This dimension is also described in detail in the following section.

Likewise, the willingness to take risks / degree of uncertainty avoidance and social distance (power distance index) are often used cultural dimensions. Compared to the previous two, these dimensions are relatively simple to use and interpret.

Another dimension is the long-term orientation introduced in 1991, or long-term orientation. This dimension is based on the principles of Confucianism, and comes from the research of the Chinese Culture Connection around Michael Bond.

- Individualism / Communitarism
- Universalism / Particularism
- Diffuse / Specific
- Achievement / Ascription
- Neutral / emotional

Trompenaars and Hamden-Turner have also identified five cultural dimensions in their works. These are, at least in some areas, different from those of Hofstede. Unfortunately, however, they are less independently validated and are therefore used more by practitioners than by scientists.

The dimension of individualism / communitarianism is almost identical to the individualism / collectivism dimension of Hofstede.

What is new, however, is the dimension of universalism / particularism. This dimension is also described in detail in the following section.

Another dimension is the neutral / emotional dimension - which deals with the open showing of emotions. This dimension does not directly coincide with one of Hofstede's dimensions - however, it is questionable whether this dimension interprets not only the outer edge of the cultural model.

E.T. Although not directly concerned with cultural value research, Hall identified two additional dimensions. One of them deals with monochronism, for example. Polychronicity of the sense of time, and is described in a separate section. The other deals with the context in the language.

Countries like Germany and the USA have relatively little context in their language, that is, they speak "directly". China, as well as a number of Asian countries are on the opposite side: They speak largely indirectly, i.e. e.g. that it rarely or not happens that you say "No" to your counterpart.




Translated from English, partly shortened. Original version:
Dahl, Stephan (2000) "Introduction to Intercultural Communication", in Dahl, Stephan "Intercultural Skills for Business", ECE, London.
With the kind permission of the author.