In last week’s blogpost, Review – Intercultural Sensitivity, Gender, And Nationality Of Third Culture Kids Attending An International High School, we dissected a research paper that used Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory to illustrate how the passport culture of an individual can have an effect on the person’s capability to modify their behaviour when coming into contact with other cultures.
This week, we thought we would take it one step further by offering you a few more examples (if your country is not on the list please feel free to contact us to offer your thoughts) and by applying Hofstede’s theory to the Third Culture Kid experience. But before we begin, here is a review of the six aspects that the theory concentrates on.
Power Distance (PDI) relates to how much an individual accepts the unequal distribution of power. In a country with a high PDI there is an unquestioned hierarchy, whereas in a country with a low PDI people will be more likely to question authority and disrupt the power dynamic that is in place.
Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS) is related to the values inherent in the society. A masculine society is defined by “a preference for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Whereas feminine society consists of “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.”
Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV) related to the degree of individualism present within the society. In an individualistic society people are hardwired to think about what is best for themselves rather than the greater good, whereas in a collectivist society it is the other way around.
Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) relates to the degree of tolerance within the society for uncertain outcomes.
Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation (LTO) relates to the society’s view on development. A country that is short term oriented will be more likely to honour traditions and be less likely to instigate any radical change on their own, whilst countries that are long term oriented will be more pragmatic, look at the big picture and adapt to their circumstances.
Indulgence vs. Restraint (IND) measures a society’s capability to feel happiness. A country that is indulgent, is less constrained by taboos, and people are free to enjoy life and explore their desires. A country that is restrained on the other hand, controls the gratification process through strict social norms.
Below is a list illustrating how some countries relate to each category. This information has been taken from various sources on the internet and is easily accessible through a simple google search so if you do not find your country on the list, please look it up. It goes without saying, but the higher a country rates a category the more strongly they feel about it. For some countries it was hard to find data for the last two categories. This may be because these categories have been added to later editions of Hofstede’s work and were therefore not present in the original.
So, how can this apply to Third Culture Kids. First of all, you can test it on yourself. Take the data from your passport culture and from your host culture and see how they compare. If both the countries rate each category similarly it would mean that it would not be so hard to transition between them. If the ratings differ between the categories wildly, we know that the cultures clash and that our adjustment period will take longer.
Below is a table of the countries that I grew up in. (If you are interested in reading about TCK Story please see my early blogpost, TCK Stories – Philip Andersson). I thought it would be fun to line them up and see how they compare.
As you can see, Hong Kong and Sweden rate exactly the same in Uncertainty Avoidance suggesting that my fifthteen years in Hong Kong as a child may not have impacted me as much in that aspect. Before moving back to Sweden, I lived in Japan for six years. Based on the data in the table above, Japan is a far more masculine society that Sweden. They prefer assertiveness, heroism and material reward for good work, whereas Sweden on the other hand, focuses on cooperation and well-being. This is exemplified in their differing work environments. Japanese companies often have long working hours, with many employees working six days a week. The companies are also very hierarchical, whereas Swedish companies are quite flat in their structure and have generous views on work-life balance. This aspect can prove quite challenging when someone is transitioning between the two. All three Asian countries score significantly higher on PDI, making a transition between these three not so hard as one from an Asian country to a European country.
I hope you found this information useful. If you wish to send us an email with your reflections or suggestions, please do not hesitate to do so.
Hofstede, Geert. “Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context”. ScholarWorks@GVSU. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Retrieved 6 September 2015.