Understanding Cultural Dimensions in International Business

Ch. 2 Dimensions of Culture

Universalism vs. Particularism (Rules vs. Relationships)

• Universalism vs. Particularism (rules vs. relationships)

• Individualism vs. Communitarianism (the individual vs. the group)

• Neutral vs. Affective Cultures (the degree to which feelings are expressed)

• Specific vs. Diffuse Cultures (the degree of involvement)

• Achievement vs. Ascription Cultures (how status is accorded)

Universalism vs. Particularism

  • Universalist, or rule-based, behavior tends to be abstract. Rule-based conduct has a tendency to resist exceptions that might weaken that rule.
  • Particularist judgments focus on the exceptional nature of present circumstances.
  • Countries with strongly universalist cultures try to use the courts to mediate conflicts.

Individualism vs. Communitarianism

  • The Group and the Individual
  • Individualism has been described as “a prime orientation to the self” and communitarianism as “a prime orientation to common goals and objectives”.

Individualist View:

It is obvious that if individuals have as much freedom as possible and the maximum opportunity to develop themselves, the quality of their life will improve as a result.

Communitarian View:

If individuals are continuously taking care of their fellow human beings, the quality of life will improve for everyone, even if it obstructs individual freedom and individual development.

Trompenaars’ Seven Dimensions: Time

Sequential vs. Synchronic Time

  • Whether time is sequential (a series of linear passing events) or synchronic (in which we can work on tasks in parallel)
  • The magnitude of time horizon (the duration of thinking time). Is a business plan for the next three months, three years, or three decades?
  • Clock or event time? E.G. do we get the job done in the scheduled time or deliver a better job a little later?

Inner vs. Outer Directed (Internal or External Control to the Environment)

  • Internal control: one’s personal conviction is the starting point for every action, and this may result in conflict with others and resistance to nature.
  • External control: sensitive to the environment and seeks harmony. Often flexible attitude, willing to compromise.

The Effects of Cultural Values on Management

  • Time focus (time used in a linear way or multi-tasks?)
  • Time orientation (past, present, or future-oriented?)
  • Power (hierarchy or equality?)
  • Competition (competitive or co-operative?)

High Context vs. Low Context Communication

  • High Context: Face-to-face, video conference, etc. more formal.
  • Low Context: Email, text, Twitter, etc.

Uncertainty Avoidance (High/Low)

The degree of tolerance for uncertainty or instability. For example:

  • Low uncertainty avoidance: Uncertainty is normal, take the risk.
  • High uncertainty avoidance: Uncertainty is threatening.
  • Low uncertainty avoidance: Toleration of innovation.
  • High uncertainty avoidance: Resistance to change.
  • Low uncertainty avoidance: Hard work as such is not a virtue.
  • High uncertainty avoidance: There is an inner urge to work hard.

Individualism vs. Collectivism Orientation

Independence and interdependence, the loyalty towards oneself and towards a group. For example:

  • We and I.
  • What’s best for the group vs. what’s best for the individual.
  • Relationships over task or task over relationships.

Masculine vs. Feminine Orientation

Importance of work goals (earnings, advancement) compared with personal goals (co-operation, relationships). For example:

  • Highly masculine cultures see work as a challenge, offering the possibility of high rewards and recognition. The stress is on performance, on competing with others to achieve goals.
  • Highly feminine cultures give more attention to the broader picture, particularly to relationships with others in the workplace. Quality of life is a primary concern, not only how work is performed but also what the work achieves.
  • Live to work vs. work to live.
  • Sympathy for the successful achiever vs. sympathy for the unfortunate.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Orientation

  • Short-term oriented cultures: Focus on the past and present and are more static.
  • Long-term oriented cultures: Focus on the future and are more dynamic.
  • Short-term: Loyalty towards others can vary according to the needs of the business.
  • Long-term: Develop and maintain lifelong personal networks.
  • Short-term: People rewarded for their abilities.
  • Long-term: Large social/economic differences should not be tolerated.

Ch. 6: Culture and Styles of Management

Time Orientation and Management Skills

  • Time focus: Monochronic vs. Polychronic


One thing at a time.


Multiple things at the same time.

  • Space: Public vs. Private
  • Structure: Individualism vs. Collectivism
  • Action: Doing vs. Being
  • Time orientation: Past, present, future
  • Power: Hierarchy vs. equality
  • Communication: High context vs. low context
  • Competition: Competitive vs. co-operative

Ch. 8: Leadership

Transformational Leader:

Choosing to influence, to encourage, motivate, and set an example for employees. Followers into leaders.

Transactional Leader:

Values order and structure, sales-motivated people.


  • Motivation dilemma