Measuring National Culture Automatically

Measuring National Culture Automatically

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others” (Geert Hofstede)

Professor Geert Hofstede conducted one of the most comprehensive studies of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. He analyzed a large data base of employee values scores collected by IBM between 1967 and 1973 covering more than 70 countries, from which he first used the 40 largest only and afterwards extended the analysis to 50 countries and 3 regions. Subsequent studies validating the earlier results have included commercial airline pilots and students in 23 countries, civil service managers in 14 counties, ‘up-market’ consumers in 15 countries and ‘elites’ in 19 countries.

Dimensions of National Culture

The values that distinguished countries from each other could be grouped statistically into four clusters. These four groups became the Hofstede dimensions of national culture:

  • Power Distance (PDI)
  • Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV)
  • Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

fifth Dimension was added in 1991 based on research by Michael Bond who conducted an additional international study among students with a survey instrument that was developed together with Chinese employees and managers.
That Dimension, based on Confucian dynamism, is Long-Term Orientation (LTO) and was applied to 23 countries.

In 2010, research by Michael Minkov allowed to extend the number of country scores for this dimension to 93, using recent World Values Survey data from representative samples of national populations.

In the 2010 edition of Cultures and organizations, a sixth dimension has been added, based on Michael Minkov’s analysis of the World Values Survey data for 93 countries. This new dimension is called Indulgence versus Restraint.

Culture only exists by comparison

The country scores on the dimensions are relative – societies are compared to other societies. Without make a comparison a country score is meaningless. 

These relative scores have been proven to be quite stable over decades. The forces that cause cultures to shift tend to be global or continent-wide. This means that they affect many countries at the same time, so that if their cultures shift, they shift together, and their relative positions remain the same.

The country scores on The Hofstede Dimensions can also be found to correlate with other data about the countries in question. Some examples: Power distance is correlated with income inequality in a country. Individualism is correlated with national wealth. Masculinity is correlated negatively with the percent of women in democratically elected governments. Uncertainty avoidance is associated with the legal obligation in developed countries for citizens to carry identity cards. Long-term orientation is correlated with school results in international comparisons

What about Indonesia?

Power distance
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.
Power distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

Indonesia scores high on this dimension (score of 78) which means that the following characterises the Indonesian style: Being dependent on hierarchy, unequal rights between power holders and non power holders, superiors in-accessible, leaders are directive, management controls and delegates. Power is centralized and managers count on the obedience of their team members.  Employees expect to be told what to do and when. Control is expected and managers are respected for their position. Communication is indirect and negative feedback hidden. High Power Distance also means that Indonesian co-workers would expect to be clearly directed by the boss or manager – it is the classic Guru-Student kind of dynamic that applies to Indonesia. Westerners may be considerably surprised with the visible, socially acceptable, wide and unequal disparity between the rich and poor .

The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”.
In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

Indonesia, with a low score of (14) is a Collectivist society. This means there is a high preference for a strongly defined social framework in which individuals are expected to conform to the ideals of the society and the in-groups to which they belong.   One place this is visible clearly is in the aspect of the Family in the role of relationships.   For example, In Indonesia, if one wishes to marry, it is important to meet a woman’s family because the family is so important to her. If a man wants to be taken seriously by a woman, he has to visit the latter’s family and introduce himself formally to the parents of the girl. It is inappropriate to court a woman and formalize the relationship without informing the parents of the girl first.  Another example of collectivist culture of Indonesia is in the equation between child and parent

Indonesian children are committed to their parents, as are the parents committed to them all their growing lives. Their desire is to make their parents’ life easier.  There is a desire to take care of parents and give them support in their old age. There is an Asian saying that is accepted in Indonesia, “You can get another wife or husband but not another mother or father”. This family loyalty is also apparent in the fact that Indonesian families keep elders (such as grandparents) at home instead of sending them to any institution. In individualistic societies the focus is on the nuclear family only.

Masculinity / Femininity
A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the 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 organisational behaviour.
A low score (feminine) on the dimension 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 the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (masculine) or liking what you do (feminine).

Indonesia scores (46) on this dimension and is thus considered low Masculine. While not entirely like most North European countries who are very low in Masculinity and thus considered Feminine, Indonesia is less Masculine than some other Asian countries like Japan, China and India. In Indonesia status and visible symbols of success are important but it is not always material gain that brings motivation.  Often it is the position that a person holds which is more important to them because of an Indonesian concept called “gengsi” – loosely translated to be, “outward appearances”. It is important that the “gengsi” be strongly maintained thereby projecting a different outward appearance aimed at impressing and creating the aura of status.

In feminine countries the focus is on “working in order to live”, managers strive for consensus, people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. Incentives such as free time and flexibility are favored. Focus is on well-being, status is not shown. An effective manager is a supportive one, and decision making is achieved through involvement.  In contrast, Masculine countries and to an extent lower Masculine countries that do not score too low on the scale to be called Feminine countries, display the traits of the Masculine societies but in a lesser degree.

Uncertainty avoidance    
The dimension 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 to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways.  The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the UAI score.

Indonesia scores (48) on this dimension and thus has a medium low preference for avoiding uncertainty. This means that there is a strong preference in Indonesia toward the Javanese culture of separation of internal self from external self.  When a person is upset, it is habitual for the Indonesian not to show negative emotion or anger externally. They will keep smiling and be polite, no matter how angry they are inside. This also means that maintaining work place and relationship harmony is very important in Indonesia, and no one wishes to be the transmitter of bad or negative news or feedback.    Another aspect of this dimension can be seen in Conflict resolution. Direct Communication as a method of conflict resolution is often seen to be a threatening situation and one that the Indonesian is uncomfortable in.  A tried and tested, successful method of conflict diffusion or resolution is to take the more familiar route of using a third party intermediary, which has many benefits.  It permits the exchange of views without loss of face as well as since one of the main manifestations of Indonesia’s uncertainty avoidance is to maintain the appearance of harmony in the workplace; an intermediary removes the uncertainty associated with a confrontation.

Perhaps one very key phrase in Indonesia that describes how this works is “Asal Bapak Senang”  (Keep the Boss Happy). The reason is multifold; but if you extrapolate to UAI dimension you can see that keeping the boss happy means you will be rewarded and if you are rewarded you have no economic or status uncertainty as you will keep being a valuable member of the company.

When related  to Marketing application , the article written by Marieke de Mooij and Geert Hofstede can be accessed here:


Another useful article   can be  accessed here:

Dimension of culture in international marketing studies

Categories: Human Resources Management, Strategi | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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