Cultural Dimensions

Cara Summerfield
Denver, CO


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Questions & Answers

Cultural Intelligence Diagnosis

Cultural Dimensions


What Have You Learned?

Self Study

Assessment 2

Cultural Identity Game

Reference Materials



World Globe



Sources used in the preparation
of this list are:

1. Hofstede, G. (n.d.). Summary of my ideas about national culture differences. Retrieved October 27, 2009, from

2. Weech, W. A. (2001). Training across cultures: What to expect. Training Development, 2001 (Jan), 62-64


Descriptions of Each Dimension

Power Distance

Power and inequality, of course, are extremely fundamental facts of any society. Values are based on the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family). Expectation that power is distributed unequally is accepted. This represents inequality (more versus less), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society's level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders.


This type of culture minimizes inequalities. Participants in training events tend to expect to learn from each other and they expect dialogue. They typically see their instructors as peers and coaches, and they feel free to speak up in class. They're generally comfortable with self-directed activities.


Values include senior-level people domination. In training sessions, participants expect to learn from the expert. They expect more of an instructor-centered design; a clear structure and they're unlikely to speak up unless called on. Trainees tend to see the instructor as an authority figure who should be respected.


In this type of culture, ties between individuals are loose. Everyone is expected to look after him/herself and his/her immediate family. They value autonomy and seek self-actualization. When attending training or classes, they do it for self-development. They expect to learn the latest ideas concerning the subject matter. Intellectual debate is stimulating. They expect to speak up freely in class. Individualists are comfortable working alone. In-class groups are expected to be random in relation to hierarchy of classes.


Residents in this culture expect people from birth onwards to be integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families (with uncles, aunts and grandparents) which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. People value belonging and seek group harmony. When groups are formed, they expect that the groupings will be based on existing associations such as ethnicity, religion, or social class. When attending training or classes, they expect to learn time-tested ways of doing things so that they can earn certification. They find speaking in front of the class embarassing, and they're extremely uncomfortable with the open expression of disagreement.


Assertiveness, toughness and winning are the values held in this type of culture. Learners tend to compete for recognition and expect rewards for performance. They base success on achievement. They go to training hoping to further their careers. If they fail to pass the program, they find it disturbing to the point of stressful. Women in masculine countries tend to be more assertive and competitive. Trainees are more likely to pay attention to their most successful classmates.


Compassion and tenderness are values in this culture. Learners are likely to avoid competition and expect rewards for being cooperative. They base their success on relationships. People tend to go to training because they find the subject matter interesting. If trainees fail to pass the program, it's disappointing but rarely causes great stress and others in the group will be sympathetic to the failure. There's less gender-role differentiation in these cultures. Best learners should not be singled out for praise. This could produce uncomfortable feelings for the other participants. Learners are concerned that noone gets left behind. Men in this culture tend to be more caring.

Uncertainty avoidance and acceptance is based upon the tolerance level for uncertainty and ambiguity. It ultimately refers to man's search for Truth. The members of the society feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations which are unknown, surprising, or different from usual.

Uncertainty Avoidance

(Tight Structure)

Residents in this type of culture try to minimize the possibility of such situations by creating strict laws and rules, safety and security measures, and on the philosophical and religious level by a belief in absolute Truth; 'there can only be one Truth and we have it'. People in uncertainty avoiding countries are also more emotional, and motivated by inner nervous energy. Trainees expect to learn the single best way to solve a problem, and they value accurate answers. They prefer precise learning objectives and a clear program structure. Any intellectual disagreement implies that someone must be wrong, so trainees work hard to achieve consensus. Instructors are expected to be experts who freely use the jargon of their field, even if the participants don't fully understand it.

Uncertainty Acceptance

(Loose Structure)

There is a tolerance for opinions different from what they are used to; they try to have as few rules as possible, and on the philosophical and religious level they are relativist and allow many currents to flow side by side. People within these cultures are more phlegmatic and contemplative, and not expected by their environment to express emotions. There are many ways to solve the problems and trainees value innovative answers. Participants tend to be comfortable with broad learning goals and flexible training programs. Intellectual disagreement can be interesting, but it should never be personalized. The instructor should be down-to-earth and approachable.

This last dimension was discovered by Geert Hofstede when researching groups in China. The values are present in the teachings of Confucious. Both orientations operate under virtue regardless of truth.


The values are saving and persevering. Status is a major issue in relationships and relationships and market position is important. Personal adaptability is important. Leisure time is not important. Good and evil depends on circumstances.


There is respect for tradition, fulfilling social obligations, and protecting one's 'face'. Leisure time is important as well as "the bottom line. There is an emphasis on quick results and spending is high. Beliefs in good and evil are absolute.

To What Have You Learned?