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Hofstede’s five dimensions are a useful tool to give someone an insight of different cultures. These elements give a country’s behaviour tendencies rather than an exact prescription. There are weaknesses to Hofstede’s Five Dimension theory as it may too easily encourage stereotyping. Even in countries as small as the UK, not all citizens are alike – e.g. it is argued that the culture in the North of England is quite different to the South. Hofstede has also been criticized for being too simplistic; however Hofstede’s theory does give us a general base to work from.
74 countries are listed on Hofstede’s website from which information can be drawn to make comparisons not only between countries but against the world average to give a broader picture. The following graph gives a comparison between Germany and China. It also allows for assessment against the Asian average and World average and our own British culture as benchmarks.
Hofstede Comparison: UK, Germany, China
Asian Average and World Average
Comparison of Germany and China
Power Distance Index Germany 35 LOW China 80 HIGH
Individualism Germany 67 HIGH China 66 LOW
Masculinity Germany 66 HIGH China 66 HIGH
Uncertainty Avoidance Germany 65 HIGH China 30 LOW
Long Term Orientation Germany 31LOW China 118 HIGH
Power Distance Index – PDI
Power Distance measures equality of power in society and how much people are willing to allow or give in to superiority.
Countries with high scores tend to operate with power being given to the top few, with little room for lower rank intervention. Low scoring countries either spread power through delegation or encourage input from more levels of society.
Germany 35 China 80 World Average 55
LOW POWER DISTANCE CULTURES
HIGH POWER DISTANCE CULTURES
Management and subordinates treat one another as equals. Mutual respect is given. Managers expect subordinates to obey them. Subordinates automatic respect with expecting it to be earned. Power is de-centralised
Power is centralised
Subordinates expect to offer their ideas and take initiative Managers take the initiative and subordinates obey given instructions. Subordinates expect to be consulted
Subordinates expect to be told what to do.
Status is disapproved
Status and privileges for managers is expected and respected Social interactions are informal
Social interactions are formal
Narrow range of salaries
Wider range of salaries
Despite a large difference in PDI scores, Germany and China share some similarities with how workers accept authority and power. The above table shows typical examples of low power distance cultures however, Germany does not necessarily follow these traits despite having a low PDI score. Germans like order and regulations and in a both business and society people tend to know what is allowed and what is forbidden. Power Distance is a low 35 in Germany. It is the same as in the UK yet significantly below the World average of 55. This score suggests German society, work and families treat people with equality, encouraging collaboration and a fair cultural environment. German managers and employees are often close, (reflected in the medium to low power distance (PD) in German culture) because they believe that they are working together to create a good product. Germany has a democratic political system and is de-centralised.
Business organisations tend to have flat structures with relatively small numbers of supervisors, however it also is known to be departmentalised and centralised (Dereksy, 2011). In business, Germans are known to be assertive, though not aggressive. Decisions are centralised although on occasion consensus is sometimes sought if the situation warrants it. Employees do not question the authority of their managers and are very loyal to their companies. Before most business deals are done, there has been considerable detailed analysis before commitment. Once a project or deal is committed to, staff have high trust in the order and China has a high ranking of 80 than both Germany and the World Average which means that the power distance remains high in business and in society in general. This means that people are less willing to challenge authority which is likely due to old communism beliefs which still have a strong influence on people’s behaviour. China continues to receive criticism for not taking human rights seriously. When doing business in China one must be aware of this large hierarchy gap. It is often hard to move up on their corporate ladder compared to other cultures. PDI Suggestions for manager coming from Germany to China
In China, greetings are always done in age order, so ensure the eldest in the room is greeted first. Status is very important in China so do not call someone by their Christian name until they invite you to do so. Instead, always address them by using their full title, eg Dr or Professor. Ensure your business cards have your full qualifications on. If any large announcements to general staff are needed, request a senior member of management do it. Do not expect senior management to accept your ideas. Whilst they most likely will have no intention of accepting any ideas you may offer, they may politely say they will consider them to save “face”. “Let us think about it” is the Chinese way of saying “no” Use power to exercise authority
Tell subordinates what to do – do not expect them to work it out themselves.
Individualism refers to how independent people are. Countries with high
scores indicate people are self- motivated, more self-reliant and self-concerned whereas countries with lower scores suggest citizens conform to society’s norms and consider group needs as more important than their own. Germany 67China 20World Average 43
Germany scored 67 points on individualism, the tendency of people to look after themselves and their immediate family only. That score is 56% higher than the world average score for individualism. Therefore, Germany has a highly individualistic society. In such cultures individuality, independence, and self-determination are valued. Trompenaar agrees that Germans place high priority on looking after themselves and their immediate family. At work, however, Germans jointly assume responsibilities and achieve goals in groups. Negotiating decisions is often referred to committees. Hofstede found that wealthier countries tended to have higher scores in Individualism (Hodgetts et al, 2006) however, given that China is now the second largest economy in the World and their IND score is only 20 Hofstede’s theory can be disputed. The Chinese rank lower than any other Asian country in the Individualism (IDV) ranking, at 20 compared to an average of 25. This may be attributed, in part, to the high level of emphasis on a Collectivist society by the Communist rule, as compared to one of Individualism.
Confucianism also plays a large part as Chinese place value on long term satisfaction than short-term greed. Harmony is achieved by giving “face” to others and avoiding losing your own “face.” In collectivist cultures such as China, people work together in groups and often put the needs of that group ahead of their own personal wants. They embrace shared responsibility. Chinese business habits tend to stay with the same partners or suppliers to keep loyalty and not deteriorate relationships. So when doing business with others it is a good idea to select a good strong partnership that has potential to last a long time. It is looked down upon if you frequently change business partners.
IDV Suggestions for manager coming from Germany to China
Focus on how change is good for the group (appeal to the common interest). Allow the group to formulate and ask questions.
Allow the group to consult with each other and spend time working out their responses, questions, and concerns Aim to build lasting relationships
Try working through an individual or an organization who introduces you formally–Chinese like to work with people they know Avoid asking pointed questions
Do not expect decisions made at meetings as meetings are merely forums for exchange of information Allow time in meetings for team members to consent and consult Standing out from the crowd can be viewed as very negative and result in personal difficulties, therefore try to blend in with the group and put their needs first.
Masculinity looks at how people react to one another. Countries with high masculine scores tend to have a society which respects stereotypical male behaviour: hedonistic, materialistic, dominant, aggressive and competitive, viewing feminine behaviour as weak. Countries with low masculinity scores tend to have strong welfare support and more equality between the sexes.
Germany 66 China 66 World Average 50
Germany scored 66 points on masculinity, a cultural characteristic in which success, money and material possessions form the dominant values in society. That score is 32% higher than the world average score for masculinity yet equal to that of the UK and China. According to Hofstede’s model, Germans place greater importance on earnings, recognition, advancement and challenge. Germany is a male-dominated society; few married women work outside the home However, this is slowly changing in the younger generations of Germany. Women are becoming more accepted in higher positions. Officially, women in China have the same rights as men in the workplace and the party has promoted this sense of equality over the past thirty years or so. However, traditional Confucian thinking does not sit easily with this notion of gender equality and it is somewhat ironic that the liberalisation policies of the last decade might have reversed many of the advances made by women in Chinese society under the previous hard-line regimes.
In China, the strong preference of boys is due to the traditional values. Men hold most of the responsibility and power positions although there is a high level of consensus between genders in China. However, the responsibility for finding childcare still tends to fall with women which may be a contributor to the low numbers of women in senior management positions. The value placed on work is similar in Germany and China, according to Hofstede, yet both countries have few women in senior management. MAS Suggestions for manager coming from Germany to China
Foreign businesswomen will be treated with great respect and courtesy. They may find that, within a delegation, the Chinese defer to male colleagues regardless of the actual seniority of the western party – the Chinese assumption being that the male will naturally be the decision-maker. Therefore a German woman manager must anticipate this and not be offended by this reaction so she “saves face” Gradually over time, this apparent sexism will fade if she takes the time and gentle grace to build relationships slowly.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index
Uncertainty avoidance, as the name suggests, focuses on how and by whom risk is managed. Countries with low levels of uncertainty indicate strong governmental control to maintain as much stability and order as possible for risk elimination. Countries with lower scores tend to allow individuals to manage their own risks, which provide environments with more innovation.
Germany 65 China 30 World average 64
Germany scored 65 points on Hofstede’s uncertainty avoidance index. That score is only 1% above the world average score for uncertainty avoidance. Thanks to their need for security, Germans insist on written rules and detailed codes of conduct. Germans are not keen on uncertainty, by planning everything carefully they try to avoid the uncertainty. In Germany there is a society that relies on rules, laws and regulations. Germany wants to reduce its risks to the minimum and proceed with changes step by step. China presents a high degree of acceptance of uncertainty, which is a characteristic of a society that does not try to take control of the future, and that is not afraid of unforeseen situations. Contrary to Germany, Chinese society does not feel such an urge to establish strict rules to overcome uncertainty or ambiguity. It is also characteristic of a society that is more tolerant towards opinions, behaviours that are different from its own, and changes. And it is a more meditative society which does not feel the need of controlling its environment.
UAI Suggestions for manager coming from Germany to China
Present a bottom line and an objective, then build your case around questions Expect frequent rescheduling of meetings. It is a good idea to set up appointments a few weeks in advance and reconfirm 1-2 days before the scheduled meeting
Long-term Orientation concerns how cultures view time and perseverance, whether business and relationships are nurtured over a period of time or if more emphasis is placed on short-term reward. Long-Term Orientation is the fifth dimension of Hofstede which was added after the original four to try to distinguish the difference in thinking between the East and West. From the original IBM studies, this difference was something that could not be deduced. Therefore, Hofstede created a Chinese value survey which was distributed across 23 countries
Germany 31 China 118 World Average 45
Immediate gratification required
Traditions are sacred and upheld
Traditions adapt to change
Consumption values are taught
Frugality and perseverance is taught
Save or invest
Building a lasting business income
Germany is typical of Westernised cultures with regards to having short-term orientation. Germany is renowned for its appreciation of efficiency. People from cultures where managers are expected to develop a closer, more intimate ambience can see the German manager-subordinate relationship as distant and cold. Germans put truth and directness before diplomacy, believing that the fact is the important issue and that personal emotions should not deflect the truth from being spoken. This directness can be interpreted by certain cultures such as China, as rude. China slow and steady wins the race for business deals. Building strong, reliable, lasting relationships is key for the Chinese. A certain amount of trust must be gained before any decision is met. It may take three to four times the length of time to finish the business deal compared to your cultural standards. So if you do not come to a fast agreement, don’t be discouraged, make the client feel comfortable and show your patience.
The Chinese never like to rush into things. Geert Hofstede analysis for China has Long-term Orientation (LTO) the highest-ranking factor of all countries. China has such a high LTO score, it is even 30% higher than the Asian average score which is already nearly twice the World average. This shows how much emphasis China places on this dimension, indicating a society’s time perspective and an attitude of persevering; that is, overcoming obstacles with time, if not with will and strength. This means that perseverance and economy are the basic values in China, these values being taught by Confucianism, which is widely established in China. Also, Chinese culture is neutral, contrary to the French culture which is affective. Which means that in China feelings are not readily expressed and physical contact avoided, while in France like in all other Mediterranean cultures the behaviour is expressive and gestured, and people like to express their feelings and physical contact. Chinese culture is marked by respect and loyalty, which makes them reliable partners. They favour the interest of the group and in particular are extremely perseverant and formidable business people.
LTO Suggestions for manager coming from Germany to China
This is arguably the area requiring the most attention from a German manager.
Meetings are about building relationships and exchanging information – it is rare for a decision to be made within the meeting. Therefore a German manager must not show impatience. Use less direct language
Hold back on the truth, to help others save “face”
Build relationships slowly.
Try “gift giving”, as a thank you is often not considered enough, and at worst rude. Allow the group to consult with each other and spend time working out their responses, questions, and concerns
Bing., J.,W., 2011. Hofstede’s consequences: The impact of his work on consulting and business practices, An Executive Summary. ITAP International Inc . Available from:
http://www.itapintl.com/facultyandresources/articlelibrarymain/hofstedes-consequences-the-impact-of-his-work-on-consulting-and-business-practices.html [Accessed 17 March 2011].
Burke, R., J., Cultural Values and Women’s Work and Career Experiences. Deresky, H., 2011. International Management Managing Across Borders and Cultures. 7th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Hodgetts, R., M., and Luthans, F., and Doh, J. P., 2006. International Management. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill WorldBusinessCulture.com, 2011. For both China and Germanyhttp://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Women-in-Business-in-China.html
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