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The Substance of Culture: Dimensions of Cultural Variation


Lead-in Reflection

Take a couple of minutes to answer the questions.

What is more important to you:

  • to be successful in your career or to find a job which will bring you a sense of personal fulfilment?
  • to take up a leading position in your company or to work with like-minded people?
  • to invent a new device or to improve the devices you are already using?
  • to be able to develop your potential or to work and live close to your family and friends?

Do you think the way you answered the questions is typical of you only or other people from your culture tend to hold similar views?


There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Their aim is to get you thinking about your culture in terms of some of the dimensions of cultural variations which are going to be discussed in this topic.




Let’s get back to the two quotations from Hofstede’s works:

This Dutch social psychologist and anthropologist proposed, tested empirically and subsequently explained one of the most popular, although not the only model of describing cultural variations in today’s world. Let’s take a closer look at it. This model consists of six dimensions.

The sixth dimension points to a society’s attitude to satisfying the immediate needs and personal desires of its members. Cultures which value indulgence allow more or less free gratification of basic and natural human needs. Those which value self-restraint follow strict social rules and norms and satisfaction of such drives is regulated and discouraged. Out of the EU countries, Austria is an example of a culture which values indulgence while Bulgaria and Estonia – restraint.


You may now wish to visit the Country comparison tool to explore the cultures you are interested in.


The Culture Map provides us with another way to look at cultural variations. Developed by Erin Meyer, this model is built on eight areas of cultural variations. The “map” is designed to help you understand where your own and other cultures are placed on these eight scales. The scales reflect some of the ideas discussed in the previous two topics as well as the 6 dimensions of cultural variations above.


You may now wish to check where certain cultures on the Culture map or to do Erin Meyer’s self-assessment questionnaire and also see how your personality measures against your culture.

Hand-on task and reflection

1 Think about you r experience in working on international teams. Choose an example of an unsuccessful task completion. Identify what cultures the other participants in the event come from and check on the two approaches to cultural variation discussed in this topic where these cultures stand.

Can you now come up with an explanation to the failure in question?

Would your explanation differ if you belonged to one of the other cultures presented in the event?




2 Imagine you have to give negative feedback to a colleague from another culture. Map out how you can do it.