Have you heard of the 6 Dimension Model, developed by Geert Hofstede?
In short, it divides cultural characteristics into six different dimensions, making it quite simple to distinguish one culture of a country from another. I have been introduced to his work during my studies and found it a very useful tool to get a basic overview over one country’s (business) culture and compare it to another.
Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist who worked for IBM in over 50 nations and became an expert in intercultural relations.
The “6 Dimension Model” convers following aspects:
1. Power Distance (Level of hierarchical order within a society)
2. Individualism vs. Collectivism (A society’s position on this dimension is reflected in whether people’s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “we)
3. Uncertainty avoidance (The degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity)
4. Masculinity vs. Femininity (Masculinity represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success. Femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life)
5. Long- term vs. Short- term orientation (Short term cultures tend to have stronger links with its own past while long-term oriented countries deal with the challenges of the present and the future)
6. Indulgence vs. Restraint (Degree to which a society allows relatively free gratification of natural human drives such as to enjoying life and having fun)
Let’s jump into an example. And of course, I choose Japan.
Japan scores on an intermediate level of 54 which is a borderline hierarchical society. In comparison to western nations Japanese are conscious of their hierarchical position and for foreigner it can be hard to adapt. Nevertheless, it is not as hierarchical as most of the other Asian cultures.
Japanese tend to be group orientated, loyal to their employer, avoid causing disharmony and are afraid losing their face. Yet, a score of 46 is much lower compared to other Asian nations such as China or Korea. Japanese society does not have extended family system, meaning that people are not loyal to their inner group by birth and their local community.
Japan scores 95 in Masculinity, making Japan is one of the most masculine countries in the world. Interesting is the combination with the Individualism score, meaning that there is less competitive individual behavior but a high competition between groups.
The high level of uncertainty avoidance can be traced back that Japan is constantly living in fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. Under these circumstances Japanese learned to prepare themselves for any uncertain situation.
Japan is one of the most long- term orientated societies in the world. Japanese show a strong propensity to save and invest and think about future situations. Relationships are very important, and they take time and effort for their prosperity.
I will go into more detail with some of the dimension and show you where they can be found in other culture aspects. For now, I think the matrix provides a good overview and a basic understanding of Japanese fundamentals.
Furthermore, I am curious about your opinion. If you have any experience living or working in Japan, do you agree?