Essay: Professor Geert Hofstede on cultural differences

1.1 Analytical observation by Geert Hofstede

Professor Geert Hofstede did many studies about cultural differences. He describes these differences on the basis of six levels, which he calls the 6D-model: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, pragmatism and indulgence. These terms will be discussed later.

The following figure compares New Zealand and The Netherlands in the six levels that Hofstede uses.

Figure 6.1 – New Zealand in comparison with The Netherlands

1.1.1 Power Distance

Professor Hofstede defines power distance as ‘the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally’.

New Zealand’s score on this one is only 22, which is pretty low. It shows that the hierarchy in organizations is established for convenience. Superiors and managers are always accessible and rely on the expertise of the team members. The communication is informal, direct and participative.

The Netherlands scores pretty low as well, though with a score of 38, it scores slightly higher than New Zealand. Also in The Netherlands the hierarchy in organizations is established for convenience. Managers count on the experience of the employees, who expect to be consulted. There is a coaching leader and the management facilitates and empowers. Communication is informal, direct and participative as well. Team members are expected to be independent.

1.1.2 Individualism

This dimension is defined as ‘the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members’.

New Zealand’s score in this dimension is 79. It means that the culture is individualistic. This translates into a society in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families. In the business world, people are expected to be independent and display initiative.

With a score of 80, the Netherlands is, as New Zealand, a very individualistic culture. As well as in New Zealand, people are expected to look after themselves and their immediate families only. The relationship between the employer and employee is based on mutual advantage. Promotion decisions are supposed to be based on merit.

1.1.3 Masculinity

As Hofstede describes: ‘the fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (masculine) or liking what you do (feminine)’.

New Zealand has a score of 58, which is considered masculine. People’s behaviour is based on trying to be the best and ‘the winner takes it all’. Kiwis are proud of their success and achievements in live. It also offers a basis for hiring and promotion decisions in the workplace.

The Netherlands only scores 14 on this dimension. Therefore it is a feminine society. It is important to keep a balance between life and work. People want their hobbies to be their work. Employees are involved in decisions and an effective manager is supportive to the employees. There should be value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives.

1.1.4 Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the future, with the fact that it can never be known and how the society deals with that. As Hofstede describes: ‘the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these’.

New Zealand has a score of 49 on this dimension. It can be said that the Kiwis do not have a preference for avoiding uncertainty. This is mostly true in private lives. In the business world precision is still the norm and people work hard.

The Netherlands have a slightly higher score: 53. It can be said that the Dutch people have a slight preference for avoiding uncertainty. Precision and punctuality are the norm. People have an inner urge to be work hard.

1.1.5 Pragmatism

Pragmatism describes ‘how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future’.

New Zealand scores low on this dimension: 33. New Zealand seems to have a normative society. People have a strong concern with establishing the absolute truth. Kiwis have a great respect for traditions. The focus on the (achieving thing in the) future is very small.

With a score of 67, it can be said that The Netherlands has a pragmatic nature. People believe that the truth depends on the situation, context and time. Small changes can be made on traditions. People save and invest for the future.

1.1.6 Indulgence

The dimension indulgence is describes as ‘the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses’. It is the degree to which little children are socialized.

With a score of 75, New Zealand’s culture is one of indulgence. People have a positive attitude and are optimistic. A high degree of importance on leisure time is placed as well. Kiwis act as pleased and spend money as wished.

Also The Netherlands is a culture of indulgence, with a score of 68. People generally exhibit a willingness to realise their impulses and desires. As Kiwis, Dutch people have a positive attitude and are optimistic.

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