Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (2024)

What is it that makes cultures distinct from one another?

Sometimes when traveling abroad, the biggest, most obvious differences between peoples and places can fade into the backdrop of the experience. Nature, geography, architecture, cuisine, language, dress, appearance — while these differences are some of the most immediately recognizable, they can’t seem to account for “foreignness” in and of themselves.

The most exciting realizations abroad are often those that open our eyes to our own seldom-questioned assumptions about how the world is. Culture is filled with unwritten rules that govern how we interact with others, what we value, what we celebrate, what we revile, what we will and will not tolerate. These cultural forces are so striking precisely because everyone, save for outsiders, seems to be in on them without necessarily having to discuss them openly.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (1)

Measuring difference

Identifying, quantifying, and understanding these invisible cultural forces constitutes the lifework of Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede. Fascinated by the consequences of cultural differences for international communication and management, Hofstede developed a six-dimensional framework for discerning the phenomenon of cultural difference.


While employed at IBM during the 60s and 70s, Hofstede poured over the results of a company survey interviewing employees all over the world about their values. Out of these initial surveys, Hofstede identified four spectrums along which the differing values seemed to fall:

  • power distance
  • individualism vs. collectivism
  • masculinity vs. femininity
  • uncertainty avoidance

Through independent research over the coming decades, Hofstede revised his theories to include two additional dimensions of cultural values:

  • long-term vs. short-term orientation
  • indulgence vs. restraint

Today, Hofstede’s methodology and the six dimensions of cultural values that he identified continue to be a hallmark for research in academic disciplines ranging from communication to anthropology. His framework finds numerous practical applications in fields like international business negotiations, global marketing, software companies, and non-profit management.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (2)

The 6 Dimensions of a Nation and its People

Given the endless diversity of world cultures, scientifically quantifying cultural difference may seem like a moot cause muddled by far too many uncontrolled variables. Hofstede, however, identified six issues where distinct preferences for one state of affairs over another were traceable along national lines.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (3)

Hofstede is quick to point out that the six dimensions of culture he identifies are generalizations. As theoretical constructions, they are meant to be used simply as guidelines for understanding and winning insights into national cultures. They are in no way meant to be taken as hard-and-fast rules that can deterministically explain individual personalities, organizational cultures, or diverse communities within a single nation.

1. Power Distance Index (PDI)

Power distance describes the degree to which members of society expect and accept an uneven distribution of authority, resources, and privileges. The threads of this dimension of culture run through social insitutions and organizations such as schools, political bodies, the family, and the workplace.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (4)

Countries with high PDI scores are generally those with stark hierarchies, where the less powerful are taught to “know their place” and respect authority. High PDI scores correlate with deferential relationships between students and teachers, children and parents, wives and husbands, employees and employers, subjects and rulers.

Low PDI scores, on the other hand, do not mean that social and financial capital is completely and evenly distributed. They instead correlate with a lack of observance of differences in rank and status. People from countries with low PDI scores are less likely to drastically change their manner of speaking depending on the status of the person they are addressing.

Countries with the highest PDI scores*

Countries with the lowest PDI scores

(*Rankings are based only on countries with complete data sets for all six dimensions)

2. Individualism (IDV) vs. Collectivism

Hofstede’s second cultural dimension, individualism, describes the degree to which members of a society feel beholden either to the interests of the community at large or to their own personal interests.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (5)

In countries with high IDV scores, people generally show a preference for smaller, more loosely-knit social frameworks and are reluctant to extend their conception of their own personal responsibility beyond the bounds of immediate family. In highly individualistic societies, people act primarily in service of their own interests, opinions, and well-being. They may glean very little satisfaction from the accomplishments of others as opposed to their own individual accomplishments.

Countries with low IDV scores can be described as collectivistic. Members of these societies are more likely to feel loyalty to and personal responsibility for the well-being of their community at large. In highly collectivistic societies, people act primarily in service of a wider group dynamic and are willing to suppress their own opinions or interests in order to preserve harmony. They feel a sense of pride in the accomplishments of others from within their community, and see their own accomplishments as reflecting back on their community.

Countries with the highest IDV scores

  • United States (91)
  • Australia (90)
  • Great Britain (89)
  • Netherlands (80)
  • Canada (80)

Countries with the lowest IDV scores

  • Serbia (25)
  • Hong Kong (25)
  • Malaysia (26)
  • Slovenia (27)
  • Portugal (27)

3. Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS)

The third dimension of Hofstede’s model describes the extent to which societies prize traditionally masculine traits such as toughness and assertiveness in public life.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (6)

Countries with high MAS scores are those in which the domineering, the high-achieving, and the heroic are rewarded with material riches and public recognition. Regardless of their gender, people in these countries are taught from a young age that life consists of a never-ending series of competitions and that the journey to the top is cut-throat.

Countries with low MAS scores can be described as valuing traditionally feminine traits, such as modesty, empathy, and agreeableness, over more masculine ones. Within these societies, public discourse is defined by collaboration, consensus, and a concern for improving the quality of life for all. The idea of caring for the weak is more likely to resonate with and motivate members of feminine societies than would the idea of defeating opponents.

Countries with the highest MAS scores

  • Slovak Republic (110)
  • Japan (95)
  • Hungary (88)
  • Austria (79)
  • Venezuela (73)

Countries with the lowest MAS scores

  • Sweden (5)
  • Norway (8)
  • Latvia (9)
  • Netherlands (14)
  • Denmark (16)

4. Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

The fourth element of national culture identified by Hofstede is uncertainty avoidance. UAI describes the extent to which members of a society see issues in rigid, black-and-white terms and thus the degree to which they are disturbed by change and uncertainty.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (7)

In countries with high uncertainty avoidance scores, people generally place a great deal of importance on long-held social conventions. They see adherence to these conventions as an indicator of overall safety and prosperity. When challenges to these structures arise, members of high UAI countries may be inclined to respond with either aggressive controls or despair. Within these countries, unorthodoxy is generally regarded as a slippery slope and ambiguity is to be avoided at all costs.

In countries with low UAI scores, people are inclined to take a relaxed, more nuanced view of ambiguity and change. They see transformation and uncertainty as unavoidable parts of life, and have respect for those who can adapt and innovate as the moment demands. Members of societies with low UAI scores have flexible morals and are quick to toss conventions or principles overboard if they feel they have progressed beyond them.

Countries with the highest UAI scores

  • Greece (112)
  • Portugal (104)
  • Uruguay (100)
  • Malta (96)
  • Russia (95)

Countries with the lowest UAI scores

  • Singapore (8)
  • Denmark (23)
  • Sweden (29)
  • Hong Kong (29)
  • Vietnam (30)
  • China (30)

5. Long-Term Orientation (LTO) vs. Short-Term Orientation

Hofstede’s fifth cultural index, long-term orientation, describes the extent to which members of a society perceive a consistent, interconnected thread running through the past, present, and future.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (8)

In countries with high LTO scores, people are inclined to act pragmatically in the present in order to prepare for the future. They are acutely aware of how events in the past, even those that predate their own birth, contributed to current circ*mstances and are therefore likely to display humbleness and frugality in times of plenty, and flexibility and resourcefulness in hard times. Long-term oriented cultures prize education, thrift, and good planning and are willing to delay gratification in the name of a more secure tomorrow.

In more short-term oriented countries, people generally view the horizon of impactful events in a limited way. They do not necessarily perceive a connection between events of the past and the circ*mstances of the present, and may be especially reluctant to see events that predated their birth as having any influence on their lives. People from countries with low LTO scores may be inclined to lavishness in times of plenty, and may cite “acts of God” when faced with crises. Short-term oriented cultures prize instant results and immediate gratification and are averse to making sacrifices in the here-and-now for the promise of a future payoff.

Countries with the highest LTO scores

  • South Korea (100)
  • Taiwan (93)
  • Japan (88)
  • China (87)
  • Germany (83)

Countries with the lowest LTO scores

  • Colombia (13)
  • Trinidad & Tobago (13)
  • Morocco (14)
  • Iran (14)
  • Venezuela (16)

6. Indulgence (IVR) vs. Self Restraint

The final index in Hofstede’s six-dimensional model of national culture describes a society’s relationship to pleasure and self-discipline and the abandon with which members of a society express themselves.

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (9)

Countries with high indulgence scores are those in which social structures are built to acknowledge human desires and encourage people to pursue their fulfillment. People from indulgent countries are likely to place value on freedom of speech, to emote freely, and to actively solicit feedback from those around them. Within high IVR countries, people may be inclined to see leisure as a virtue and pleasure as theirs for the taking. They may tend to think less of those they perceive to be humorless, unhappy, or generally dissatisfied with the state of their lives.

In countries with low IVR scores, social structures are generally built in a way that suppresses emotion and desires and equates duty with destiny. Restrained cultures are those that regulate behavior via strict social norms and prioritize the fulfillment of one’s obligations as the fulfillment of one’s life purpose. People from countries with low IVR scores may be reluctant to offer their opinion and may feel guilt or shame for engaging in frivolous activities. They may regard those who emote freely or openly indulge in such pleasures as foolish, wanton, or unprofessional.

Countries with the highest IVR scores

  • Venezuela (100)
  • Mexico (100)
  • El Salvador (89)
  • Colombia (89)
  • Trinidad & Tobago (80)

Countries with the lowest IVR scores

  • Pakistan (0)
  • Latvia (13)
  • Estonia (16)
  • Lithuania (16)
  • Bulgaria (16)
  • Hong Kong (17)

Infographic: A World of Difference

Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (10)

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Hofstede: The Six Dimensions of Cultural Difference [Overview + Graphic] (2024)


What are the 6 dimensions of Hofstede's cultural dimensions? ›

This article describes briefly the Hofstede model of six dimensions of national cultures: Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism/Collectivism, Masculinity/Femininity, Long/Short Term Orientation, and Indulgence/Restraint.

What is Hofstede cultural dimensions summary? ›

Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory is a framework for cross-cultural communication, developed by Geert Hofstede. It shows the effects of a society's culture on the values of its members, and how these values relate to behaviour, using a structure derived from factor analysis.

What are Hofstede's dimensions of cultural differences? ›

Geert Hofstede, in his pioneer study looking at differences in culture across modern nations, identified four dimensions of cultural values: individualism-collectivism, power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity-femininity.

What is Hofstede's six dimensions of culture used for? ›

Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory, developed by Geert Hofstede, is a framework used to understand the differences in culture across countries and to discern the ways that business is done across different cultures.

What are the dimensions of cultural differences explain in detail? ›

These studies identified nine dimensions that describe differences in national cultures. These dimensions are power distance, uncertainty avoidance, performance orientation, assertiveness, future orientation, humane orientation, institutional collectivism, in-group collectivism, and gender egalitarianism.

What are the 6 most important characteristics of culture? ›

All cultures share these basic features.
  • Culture is learned. It is not biological; we do not inherit it. ...
  • Culture is shared. ...
  • Culture is based on symbols. ...
  • Culture is integrated. ...
  • Culture is dynamic.

What is the conclusion of Hofstede cultural dimensions? ›

To conclude, Hofstede's system for culture evaluation considers the culture in general, omitting culture minorities and extremes of individual perceptions. His research was based on the particular focus group rather than provided a complete investigation of the communities in their diversity.

What are Hofstede's dimensions examples? ›

Examples of Cultural Dimensions
  • Individualism-Collectivism. ...
  • Power Distance. ...
  • Masculinity-Femininity. ...
  • Uncertaintity Avoidance. ...
  • Long- and Short-Term Orientation. ...
  • Indulgence Versus Restraint. ...
  • Reference.

What is Hofstede's model? ›

The Hofstede model of national culture consists of six dimensions. The cultural dimensions represent independent preferences for one state of affairs over another that distinguish countries (rather than individuals) from each other.

What are Hofstede's five dimensions of cultural differences that affect work attitudes? ›

Hofstede's Five Dimensions of Culture
  • Power distance.
  • Uncertainty avoidance.
  • Individualism-collectivism.
  • Masculinity-femininity.
  • Time orientation.

What is Hofstede Cultural Dimensions quizlet? ›

Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions. assesses cultural differences across social contexts. individualism-collectivism. addresses how ppl define themselves and their relations with others.

Why is Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions Theory important to the business world today? ›

1. Why is Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory relevant to the business market today? Because it helps the market rid itself of cultural prejudices. Because working effectively with others is not possible without cultural norms.

What are the 6 aspects of culture? ›

Culture has several aspects to it. There are several characteristics of culture. Culture is learned, shared, symbolic, integrated, adaptive, and dynamic.

What are the 6 types of culture? ›

  • National / Societal Culture.
  • Organizational Culture.
  • Social Identity Group Culture.
  • Functional Culture.
  • Team Culture.
  • Individual Culture.

What are the 6 determinants of culture? ›

1) the determinants of a culture are as follows: a) social structure b) political philosophy c) language d) religious and ethical systems e) education and f) economic philosophy.

What are the important characteristics of culture explain them briefly? ›

There are five key cultural characteristics that are shared by human societies. These are that culture is learned, shared, symbolic, integrated, and dynamic. Culture is not thought to be innate or inherited. Rather, people learn culture as it is shared by others around them.

What are the types of culture and its importance? ›

The two basic types of culture are material culture, physical things produced by a society, and nonmaterial culture, intangible things produced by a society. Cars would be an example of American material culture, while our devotion to equality is part of our nonmaterial culture.

How can cultural diversity affect the people in an area? ›

It helps dispel negative stereotypes and personal biases about different groups. In addition, cultural diversity helps us recognize and respect “ways of being” that are not necessarily our own. So that as we interact with others we can build bridges to trust, respect, and understanding across cultures.

What is the problem with Hofstede? ›

Research work of Hofstede was based on the data from one company. The criticism is that findings didn't provide valid information regarding culture of entire country (Graves, 1986; Olie, 1995). The finding of one company can't be implemented on overall culture to determine cultural dimensions.

Can Hofstede's cultural dimensions lead to effective organizational management? ›

Being based on Hofstede cultural dimensions it helps determine the ways to achieve effectiveness within an organization. 123 responses were received and evaluated. Significant results have been determined and concluded that culture has a significant impact on organizational effectiveness.

What does Hofstede's model help identify in organizational culture? ›

Hofstede Model of Organisational Culture

Hofstede, also known as Geert Hofstede, proposed that national and regional factors contribute to the culture of the organisation and eventually influence the behaviour of employees in the organisation.

What is the importance of cultural dimensions? ›

Cultural dimensions have widely accepted as an important explanation source of the differences in organisational structure and management practice in different countries. Organisations in high power distance cultures, for example, are often more centralised than those in low power distance ones.

What are the benefits of Hofstede model? ›

Some of the pros are that Hofstede provided a definition of culture and how culture can be measured. His research showed that cultural differences matter. Also, Hofstede's model provides managers of cross-cultural relations a tool to help them understand differences in value sets and behavior.

Why is it important for us to understand the differences in Hofstede's cultural dimensions? ›

Hofstede developed this cultural model primarily on the basis of differences in values and beliefs regarding work goals. Hofstede's framework is especially useful because it provides important information about differences between countries and how to manage such differences.

What are the five cultural dimensions in Hofstede's model briefly describe? ›

According to Hofstede, the five main dimensions are identity, power, gender, uncertainty, and time. You can think about cultural value dimensions on a scale or a continuum, where one aspect of the value lies on one side of the scale and the other extreme lies at the other end of the scale.

Which of Hofstede's cultural dimensions is concerned with how much people prefer to focus on themselves or how much they look after one another? ›


The high side of this dimension, called Individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of only themselves and their immediate families.

How are Hofstede's cultural dimensions measured? ›

To measure cultural values as conceived in Cultural Dimensions Theory, Hofstede developed a survey instrument, known as the Values Survey Module (VSM). Its first version, the VSM 80, consisted of items used in Hofstede's original 1980 study (Hofstede, 1980).

How do you reference Hofstede cultural dimensions? ›

  1. Hofstede, G., Hofstede G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind. Revised and Expanded 3rd Edition. ...
  2. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

What is a weakness of the Hofstede model? ›

One major weakness which is associated with the Hofstede model is that it is based on inconclusive research. The model is based on answers from one company which makes the sample size small and biased. This makes the overall research have low validity and accuracy levels [4] .

What are the 6 cultural systems? ›

There are six cultural systems that are most relevant for those who wish to lead with cultural intelligence: economic, marriage and family, educational, legal and political, religious, and artistic.

What are the 6 factors of cultural change? ›

Discussions of each of these factors in greater details are provided below.
  • Leadership Change. ...
  • Technological Developments. ...
  • Mergers and Acquisitions. ...
  • Changes in External Environment. ...
  • References.

What are the six steps to culture change? ›

Six Steps to Change a Culture
  1. Step 1: Clarify Mission, Values, and Vision. ...
  2. Step 2: Endorse Respectful Difference of Opinion. ...
  3. Step 3: Embrace Shared Accountability. ...
  4. Step 4: Practice New Behaviors Collaboratively. ...
  5. Step 5: Celebrate Evidence of Change. ...
  6. Step 6: Adapt for Continuous Improvement.
Jun 6, 2017

What are the six 6 cultural phenomena that should be taken into account when conducting a nursing assessment? ›

Theoretical Framework

This model includes six cultural phenomena of communication, space, time, biological variations, social organization, and environmental control. These phenomena vary among cultural groups and influence health status and views.

What are the aspects of culture explain briefly? ›

Culture can be defined as all the ways of life including arts, beliefs and institutions of a population that are passed down from generation to generation. Culture has been called "the way of life for an entire society." As such, it includes codes of manners, dress, language, religion, rituals, art.

What are the aspects of culture and explain each? ›

The elements of culture definition are based on five main elements: values and beliefs, norms, symbols, language, and rituals. Aspects of culture surrounding language include body language, spoken word, and symbols, which are components of culture that are non-material.

Who developed the 6 layers of culture? ›

The 6-D model of national culture

Geert Hofstede, assisted by others, came up with six basic issues that society needs to come to term with in order to organize itself. These are called dimensions of culture.

Why are cultural dimensions important? ›

Cultural dimensions have widely accepted as an important explanation source of the differences in organisational structure and management practice in different countries. Organisations in high power distance cultures, for example, are often more centralised than those in low power distance ones.

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