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Cultural differences between South Africa and the Netherlands
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Cultural differences between South Africa and the Netherlands

As with any large international move, cultural differences always play a huge part when integrating into the new environment. Fixx iT has many South African whom over the years have experienced differences and sometimes difficulties in the new host environment of the Netherlands. Understanding these cultural differences can sometimes be difficult. Luckily a framework exists to help us better understand the differences between nations.

Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind

Geert Hofstede is a Dutch social psychologist whom from the 1960s to 1980s conducted a large scale international study at IBM. Geert initially discovery four dimensions of culture. Two additional dimensions were later added with the help of Geert Jan Hofstede and Michael Minkov. Culture, as defined by Geert is “the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from others”.

The content of this article was collected from Geert book, Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. The Hofstede Insights country comparison page has a lot of information regarding the topic and an interactive tool where you can learn more about your own country. We welcome you to compare your own country with that of the Netherlands, as an example. This tool can be very useful, especially when interacting with a new culture for the first time. Next time you prepare for an interview with a potential employer, make sure to consult these references and tools to get a better understanding of what would be considered good behavior and what might be considered strange or different.

Power Distance in organizations

“The extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”

The Netherlands scores very low on this dimension, with a score of 38. Here are some of the characteristics of power distance:

Small Power Distance

Large Power Distance

General Norm and Family*

Inequalities among people should be minimized.

Inequalities among people are expected and desired.

Less powerful people and more powerful people should be interdependent.

Less powerful people should be dependent.

Parents treat children as equals.

Parents teach children obedience.

Children treat parents and older relatives as equals.

Respect for parents and older relatives is a basic and lifelong virtue.

Children play no role in old-age security of parents.

Children are a source of old-age security to parents.

School and Health Care*

Students treat teachers as equals.

Students give teachers respect, even outside the class.

Teachers expect initiatives from students in class.

Teachers are gurus who transfer personal wisdom.

Quality of learning depends on two-way communication and excellence of students.

Quality of learning depends on excellence of the teacher.

Education policy focuses on secondary schools.

Education policy focuses on universities.

Patients threat doctors as equals and actively supply information.

Patients threat doctors as superiors; consultations are shorter and controller by the doctor.

The Workplace**

Hierarchy in organizations means an inequality of roles, established for convenience.

Hierarchy in organizations reflects existential inequality between higher and lower levels.

Decentralization is popular.

Centralization is popular.

There are fewer supervisory personnel.

There are more supervisory personnel.

There is a narrow salary range between the top and the bottom of the organization.

There is a wide salary range between the top and the bottom of the organization.

Managers rely on their own experience and on subordinates.

Managers rely on superiors and on formal rules.

Subordinates expect to be consulted.

Subordinates expect to be told what to do.

Privileges and status symbols are frowned upon.

Privileges and status symbols are normal and popular.

Manual work has the same status as office work.

White-collar jobs are valued more than blue-collar jobs.

* Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 72

** Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 76.

Individualism vs. Collectivism (both in the Netherlands as South Africa)

“Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him- or herself and his or her immediate family.”

“Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.”

The Netherlands scores very high on this dimension, with a score of 80. Here are some of the characteristics of IDV:

Collectivist

Individualist

General Norm and Family*

People are born into extended families or other in-groups that continue protecting them in exchange for loyalty.

Everybody grows up to look after him- or herself and his or her immediate family only.

Children learn to think in terms of “we”.

Children learn to think in terms of “I”.

Harmony should always be maintained and direct confrontations avoided.

Speaking one’s mind is a characteristic of an honest person.

Resources should be shared with relatives

Individual ownership of resources, even for children.

Adult children live with parents.

Adult children leave the parental home.

High-context communication prevails.

Low-context communication prevails.

Frequent socialization in the public.

My home is my castle.

Trespasses lead to shame and loss of face for self and group.

Trespasses lead to guilt and loss of self-respect.

School**

Students speak up in class only when sanctioned by the group.

Students are expected to individually speak up in class.

The purpose of education is learning how to do.

The purpose of education is learning how to learn.

Diplomas provide entry to higher-status groups.

Diplomas increase economic worth and/or self-respect.

Collectivist

Individualist

High-context communication prevails.

Low-context communication prevails.

Frequent socialization in the public.

My home is my castle.

Trespasses lead to shame and loss of face for self and group.

Trespasses lead to guilt and loss of self-respect.

Work and ICT**

The employer-employee relationship is basically moral, like a family link.

The employer-employee relationship is a contract between parties in a labor market.

Management is management of groups.

Management is management of individuals.

Direct appraisal of subordinates spoils harmony.

Management training teaches the honest sharing of feelings.

Relationship prevails over task.

Task prevails over relationship.

The internet and e-mail are less attractive and less frequently used.

The internet and e-mail hold strong appeal and are frequently used to link individuals.

*  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 113.

**  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 124.

Masculinity and Femininity (MAS)

“A society is called masculine when emotional gender roles are clearly distinct: men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success, whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with quality of life. The predominant pattern is for men to be more assertive and for women to be more nurturing.”

“A society is called feminine when emotional gender roles overlap: both men and women are supposed to be modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.”

The Netherlands scores very low on this dimension with a score of 14, which means the Netherlands is a Feminine country. Here are some of the characteristics of MAS:

Feminine

Masculine

General Norm and Family*

Relationships and quality of life are important.

Challenge, earnings, recognition, and advancement and important.

Both men and woman should be modest.

Men should be assertive, ambitious, and tough.

Both men and woman can be tender and focus on relationships.

Woman are supposed to be tender and take care of relationships.

In the family, both fathers and mothers deal with facts and feelings.

In the family, fathers deal with facts, and mothers deal with feelings.

Parents share earnings and caring roles.

Father earns and the mother cares.

Both boys and girls are allowed to cry, but neither should fight.

Girls cry, but boys don’t; boys should fight back, and girls shouldn’t fight at all.

The Workplace**

Management: intuition and consensus.

Management: decisive and aggressive.

Resolution of conflicts by compromise and negotiation.

Resolution of conflicts by letting the strongest win.

Rewards are based on equality.

Rewards are based on equity.

More leisure time is preferred over money.

Money is preferred over more leisure time.

Careers are optional for both genders.

Careers are compulsory for men, optional for woman.

*  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 155.

**  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 170.

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

“The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations”

The Netherlands scores average on this dimension with a score of 53. That does still indicate that the Netherlands has a slight preference towards uncertainty avoidance. Here are some of the characteristics of UAI:

Weak Uncertainty Avoidance

Strong Uncertainty Avoidance

General Norm and Family*

Uncertainty is a normal feature of life, and each day is accepted as it comes.

The uncertainty in life is a continuous threat that must be fought.

Low stress and low anxiety.

High stress and high anxiety.

Aggression and emotions should not be shown.

Aggression and emotions may at proper times and places be vented.

What is different is curious.

What is different is dangerous.

Family life is relaxed.

Family life is stressful.

Work, Organization and Motivation**

Weak Uncertainty Avoidance

Strong Uncertainty Avoidance

More changes of employer, shorter service.

Fewer changes in employer, longer service, more difficult work-life balance.

There should be no more rules than strictly necessary.

There is an emotional need for rules, even if they will not work.

Work only when needed.

There is an emotional need to be busy and an inner urge to work hard.

Top managers are concerned with strategy.

Top managers are concerned with daily operations.

Precision and punctuality do not come naturally

Precision and punctuality are the norm.

 

*  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 203.

**  Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189 - Page 217.

References

Hofstede, Geert H. (1997). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd edition) : intercultural cooperation and its importance for survival / by Geert Hofstede, Gert Jan Hofstede, and Michael Minkov. ISBN: 9780071664189.

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