Hofstede's theory of cultural dimension theory was first developed on the basis of a series of surveys conducted by Geert Hofstede among the 117,000 IBM employees based in various countries during the period 1967-1973, 70 countries.
Since then, research has transcended business boundaries and focused on analyzing the culture of different peoples. It spread to a large number of countries, revealing valuable information about the cultural peculiarities of these peoples (including Greece). Thus the Hofstede theory was formed which helped to better understand cultures and particular characteristics of people. Naturally, the conclusions of these researches were utilized by experts in International Marketing, Management, International Relations, Diplomacy, Intercultural Psychology, etc. in order to adapt their strategies & policies to the data of each country.
It is understood that each country has its own culture, traditions and taboos. Thus, when designing a strategy, executives of companies should be able to understand in depth the culture (Philip Kotler; Principles of Marketing; 4th European Edition, 2005) of the consumer and how it affects his consumer behavior, before proceeding with any design. Understanding these specificities can not only provide the means to implement appropriate practices, but also to maximize the effectiveness of a strategy against competition.
Hofstede's original theory suggested that the analysis of the culture of each people be considered in relation to 4 dimensions, but relatively recently (2010) this model evolved into a 6-dimensional model. The 6 dimensions are:
1. Power Distance Index (PDI)
2. Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV)
3. "Masculinity" vs. "Femininity" (MAS)
4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI)
5. Long-term vs Short term orientation (LTO)
6. Indulgence vs Restraint (IVR)
Detailed for each dimension
1. Power Distance Index (PDI) demonstrates the degree of acceptance of power relations (or not) between members of a society. In countries with a high power index (such as Latin America, etc.), hierarchical relations are considered normal, while in countries with a low power index (such as Sweden, Israel, etc.), this is not easily accepted.
With the scale starting from 1 and ending at 100, Greece collects 60 points, an intermediate score, which, however, shows a slight tendency towards the higher side of the PDI. According to the Hofstede Center analysis, this is a:
- society that believes in hierarchy and considers inequalities between people acceptable.
- The different distribution of power justifies the fact that the holders of power have more benefits than the less powerful members of society.
- In companies there is usually a boss who takes full responsibility.
- The elderly is considered important (children take care of their elderly parents).
2. Individualism versus collectivism (IDV) demonstrates the extent to which a society is organized into groups. It defines in a few words the independence (or dependence) of the individual within the society in which he lives.
An individualistic society places more emphasis on personal achievement and individual rights, as opposed to a collectivist society in which the individual sees himself through the achievements of the group to which he belongs (family, friends, club, etc.) and to which he owes devotion, rarely disputed.
With a score of 35, Greece seems to have a collectivist culture that revolves around the concept of "us". This means that in this country,
- People from birth onwards, are integrated into a strong, cohesive group (family, uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins, political parties etc.), which protects its members, in exchange for their devotion. This is an important aspect that often occurs in the work environment, when for example, an older and stronger family member is expected to "help" a younger nephew, to be hired for a job. In an individualistic culture this could be perceived as nepotism (= negative perception), but in collectivist societies it is a normal behavior.
- At the business level, it is important to build trustworthy and long-lasting relationships. A business meeting in Greece usually starts with a general conversation, in order for one interlocutor to get to know the other better, before reaching an agreement.
3. "Masculinity" versus "femininity" (MAS) defines the degree to which a society prioritizes "quantity of life" (male) over quality of life (female). It is that value system that is implanted by the school and continues throughout the organizational behavior of the individual.
With a score of 57, Greece is in the middle of a male-oriented, success-oriented society.
- Men consider it their honor to take care of their family.
- Success is usually determined by the winner / best in each field,
- Society should is guided by competition and personal gains,
- The success of a family member adds social value to the whole group (family, friends, etc.).
- A foreigner visiting Greece should not be surprised if he meets a Greek, who talks to him about the important people he knows and the power of their influence.
In societies with a low rating (female), its dominant values have to do with interest in others and quality of life. Standing out from the crowd is not admirable, but having a good quality of life is.
4. The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) defines a society's degree of tolerance for "uncertainty and ambiguity." Behind this dimension, one could also discern, the degree of fear of the "new / new" and any possible change it may bring. People with low uncertainty avoidance seem to feel comfortable in a changing environment. They tend to be more realistic and tolerant of change. Such countries are usually distinguished for their innovation (Denmark, Sweden, etc.)
With 100 points, Greece has the highest score in avoiding uncertainty, which means that, Greeks as a nation do not feel at all comfortable with ambiguous situations.
- Change in general creates stress.
- It is difficult to not obey laws and rules, even if they are anachronistic and make no sense.
- The unpredictable always "hides an ambush".
- People are more emotional and in need of structures, even fictitious ones.
- Bureaucracy is very important, because it create an illusion of security (false).
- Greeks need good and relaxing moments in their daily lives, chatting with colleagues, a meal with acquaintances, or dancing with their friends.
- Greeks are very passionate and expressive people. Their emotions are reflected in their body language.
5. Long-term orientation versus short-term (LTO) defines the degree to which a society is oriented towards the future or the present. This dimension describes how a society maintains ties with its past and how it faces the challenges of the future.
Greece has an intermediate score of 45 in this dimension, which indicates a tendency towards the short-term orientation.
- Greeks choose to keep their traditions, while at the same time looking with suspicion at any change in the future.
- Societies with a long-term orientation (such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.) follow a more realistic approach. They attach more importance to education, general planning and preparation for the future.
6. Grace vs. Restraint (IVR) defines the degree to which members of a society try to control their desires and impulses. Whether members of a society are tolerant of basic human weaknesses. Indulgent societies tend to show understanding of the tendency to satisfy the basic and natural desires associated with enjoying life. entertainment, on the other hand, moderate societies (such as Arab countries) tend to believe that such desires should be bent and regulated by strict rules.
Greece with a score of 50, is in the middle of this dimension, therefore, no safe conclusions can be drawn.
Lessons from all this
The usefulness of Hofstede's theory for marketing & sales in Greece is enormous. There are many examples of companies that paid an "expensive price" because they simply ignored the cultural peculiarities of a people.
As mentioned at the start of the blog, the conclusions of these researches are utilized by experts in many fields in order to adapt their strategies & policies to the data of each country.
Thus, when designing a strategy, pay attention and understand in depth the culture of the consumer and how it affects his consumer behavior.
Understanding these specificities can not only provide the means to implement appropriate practices, but also to maximize the effectiveness of a strategy against competition.
Next time you have an international meeting how are you going to prepare?
For comparisons with other countries you can see here:
Avlonitis, G.J., Manolis, C.K. & Boyle, K.A. 1985, Sales Management Practices in the UK Manufacturing Industry, vol.2 Biervert, B. 1975, The International Comparison,in J. V. Koolwijk & M. Wieken-Mayser (eds), Techniques of Empirical Social Research: Vol 2. Forms of research, OldenbourgVerlag, Munich/Vienna Bochner, S. & Hesketh, B. 1994, Power Distance, Individualism/Collectivism, and Job-Related Attitudes in a Culturally Diverse Work Group Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol.25, no. 2, June, pp. 233 Bochner, S. 1994, Cross-Cultural Differences In the Self Concept: A Test of Hofstede’s Individualism/Collectivism Distinction, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, vol. 25