Cultural differences you need to be aware of before you emigrate – part two

Columnist: Lucas Migray

If you would like to read the part one of this series, please go ahead and click here.

Today we would like to take another look at the topic of culture, namely we will look again at some cultural differences that play a major role in success in another cultural area, this time, according to studies by the Dutch cultural scientist and social psychologist, Geert Hofstede. Since it is a very long topic, we will only look at two subitems today.

4. Power Distance Index

The Power Distance Index measures attitudes toward inequality and respect for authority. Power distance is thus “the extent to which the less powerful members of a country’s institutions or organizations expect and accept that power is unequally distributed. ((Hofstede (1991), p. 38).

The power distance index values for some countries (after G. Hofstede (2006), p. 56):

Malaysia         104

Serbia             86

China              80

India                77

Croatia             73

Switzerland     70

(French part)

Poland            68

Turkey            66

Greece            60

South Korea   60

Spain              57

Japan              54

Germany         35

UK                   35

Switzerland     26

(German part)

Austria            11

The greater the number, the greater the power distance between a superior and a normal employee. Let us now take a look at the main differences between companies with low (g) and high (G) power distance:

g – Inequality among people should be as small as possible; G – Inequality among people is expected and desired

g – Tendency towards decentralization; G – Tendency towards centralization

g – Employees expect to be involved in decisions; G – Employees expect to receive instructions

g – The ideal superior is the resourceful democrat; G – The ideal superior is the benevolent autocrat or kind father

g – Privileges and status symbols meet with disapproval; G – Privileges and status symbols for managers are expected and popular


Hofstede: Local Action, Global Thinking, 1997, p. 46

5. Individualism Index

Individualism describes societies in which the bonds between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to provide for himself and his immediate family.

Its counterpart, collectivism, describes societies in which the individual is integrated from birth into strong, closed groups of us that protect him throughout his life and demand unconditional loyalty in return. A high IDV stands for a strong individualism. (See Hofstede (2017)).

Individualism index for some countries, according to Hofstede:

USA                91

UK                   89

Italy                 76

France            71

Switzerland     69

(German part)

Germany         67

Poland            60

Austria            55

Spain              51

India               48

Turkey            37

Greece            35

Portugal          27

China              20

South Korea   18

Indonesia        14

Colombia        13

Guatemala      6

These are the main differences between collectivist (K) and individualist (I) societies:

K – People are born into extended families or other we-groups that continue to protect them and in return receive loyalty; I – every person grows up to care exclusively for himself and his direct (core) family

K – Identity is rooted in the social network to which one belongs; I – Identity is founded in the individual

K – Relationship has priority over task; I – Task has priority over relationship

K – Collective interests dominate over individual interests; I – Individual interests dominate over collective interests.

K – Children learn to think in terms of the “we”; I – Children learn to think in terms of the “I”.

It helps one to know whether a society is collectivist or individualistic, and also whether there is a large or small power distance. Above all, it helps you to be able to adjust to it and thus to adapt to the way of thinking of this society and to integrate better and faster.

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