How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Crash Course on Hofstede's Theory on Cultural Dimensions

I have a love/hate relationship with technology
I brought my HP laptop to school instead of the small Acer notebook I bought . I don't understand why I can't log on to the internet from my full sized HP laptop. I can log on fine with the Acer notebook.  I have tried everything I can think to do, and I am now hallas (finished) and refuse to worry myself with it anymore today

 The 5k
I fast walked a 5k with Suzanne and Ciara yesterday (I only run if big, mean dudes with weapons are chasing me). The event, for breast cancer awareness, was held at the Rugby Club not far from my apartment. There were a lot of people in attendance, mostly Arabic. It was so very surreal watching teen girls dressed in the long black abayas, sheylahs, and cute little flat shoes trying to walk the 5k course.  They vacillated between sprinting, then strolling.  When sprinting, they would kick off their cute shoes and hold them while they ran barefoot.  As the course continued, their sprinting stopped altogether and the girls just strolled. Not many of the girls ever get any type of exercise. They are no organized sporting events in the schools for girls (or many for the boys, for that matter), and the girls are not going to even attempt a personal exercise program since the concept of exercise hasn't quite caught on with the culture. So predictably, lack of exercise in conjunction with poor diets of fast food and sweets, the UAE is starting to experience a surge in diabetes and heart disease among the population. Combine a sedentary lifestyle with a poor diet, and you have a recipe for obesity and heart disease. The irony of  a country "having-too-much-for-their-own-damn-good", much like the health fall-outs that America is still attempting to combat. 

And the most important tidbit: I am now the proud owner of a t-shirt from the event which I will wear proudly for years to come.

Now onto the boring stuff:
 I was reading excerpts from the book Outliers last week, Fascinating material, especially the chapter on the Korean Airline crashes that were rampant back in the 1990s. The author attributed these crashes, in large part, to multiple system failures, but they were also coupled with cultural mores regarding pilot/co-pilot emergency procedures, reactions, language, and cultural tone inflections. All of this was based on research compiled by a Dutch psychologist named Geert Hofstede. I have included the info from the website (, so I am giving credit where credit is due. The referenced material explains each of  Hofstede's dimensions and breaks the dimensions down country by country. I, in no way, know how valid this study is, or even if I fully agree with it or not. I merely offer the following as food for thought within the framework of a culture that continues to perplex me.

Below are brief explanations of Hofstede's dimensions, and also a comparison/contrast between the UAE and the USA on where the two countries fall within each spectrum.  Again, all the information was taken from Hofstede's site.

Power Distance- ".. all individuals within societies are not equal, attitude of culture towards these inequalities amongst us."
"The UAE scores high on this dimension (90) which means that people accept a hierarchal order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy is an organization is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralization is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do, and t he ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat."

"The USA scores low (40). This is evidenced by the focus on equal rights in all aspects of American society and government. Within American organizations, hierarchy is established for convenience, superiors are always accessible, and managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise. Both manager sand employees expect to be consulted and information is shared frequently. At the same time, communication is informal, direct, and participative."

Individualism- ".. the degree of interdependence a society maintains amongst its members. People's self image defined in terms of "I" or "We."
     -Individualistic- society's people belong in "groups" that take care of themselves and their direct family only.
     -Collectivist- society's people belong in "groups" that take care f them in exchange for loyalty."

 "The UAE has a score of 25 and is considered a collectivist society. This is manifest in a close collectivist long-term commitment to the member "group", be that family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides  most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of the group. In collectivist societies offense leads to shame and loss of face, employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms and promotion decisions take account of the employee's in-group, management is the management of group."

"The USA has a score of 91 in this dimension which makes it a very individualistic society. This translates into a lose-knit society in which the expectation is that people look after themselves and their immediate families. There is also a high degree of mobility in the U.S and most Americans are accustomed to doing business with strangers. Americans are not shy about approaching their prospective counterparts in order to obtain or seek information.  In the business world, employees are expected to self-reliant and display initiative. Also, within the exchange base world of work, hiring and promotion decisions are based on merit or evidence of what one has done or can do."

Masculinity/Feminity- "..a high masculine score indicates that society will be driven by competition, achievement, and success, with success being defined by the winner/best in field. A value system that starts in school and continues throughout organizational behavior.
     -A low score (feminine) means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A feminine society is one where quality of life is a sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable.  The issue is what motivates people: wanting to be the best (masculine) or liking what you do (feminine)."

"The UAE has a score of 50 and the USA has a score of 62 in this dimension. Both are considered to be "masculine" societies."

Uncertainty Avoidance- "..has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known; should we try and control the future  or just let it happen?  This ambiguity brings with it anxiety in different ways. The extent to which members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous and unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these."

"The UAE has a score of 80 and thus has a high preference for avoiding uncertainty. Countries exhibiting high uncertainty avoidance maintain rigid codes of beliefs and ideas. In these cultures there is an emotional need for rules (even if the rules don't seem to work); time is money, and people have an inner urge to be busy and work hard. Precision and punctuality yare the norm, innovation may be resisted, and security is an important element in individual motivation".

"The USA scores a 40 s American society is what one would describe as "uncertainty accepting". Consequently, there is a large degree of acceptance for new ideas, innovative products, and a willingness to try something new or different, whether it pertains to technology, business practices, or foodstuffs. Americans tend to be more tolerant of ideas or opinions form anyone and they allow freedom of expression. At the same time. Americans do not require a lot of rules and are less emotionally expressive than their higher scoring counterparts."

Long Term Orientation- "...closely related to the teachings of Confucius and can be interpreted as dealing with societies search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows pragmatic future oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view."

There is "no score available" on the UAE in this dimension.

"The USA score has a score of 29 and thus the culture is short-term oriented. As a result it is culture focused on traditions and fulfilling obligations. Given this perspective, American businesses measure their performance on a short-term basis, with profit and loss statements being issued on a quarterly basis. This also drives individuals to strive for quick results within the workplace. There is also a need to have the "absolute truth" in all matters".

So, there you have it. Examine it, think about it. If Hofstede's dimension theory holds any validity, is it any wonder that the Westernized New Education Reform that ADEC is trying to implement in the UAE is turning into such an uphill battle? The cultural norms that attend the education reform are purely Western concepts, and as such, completely foreign concepts to the Emiratis and other Arabic educational staff. Either they will have to change their entire perspective on several of the dimensions, or the Western consultants//administrators/teachers will have to admit defeat and pack up and leave. Will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

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