Holfstede’s Cultural Dimensions
Geert Holfstede is a prominent Dutch cultural anthropologist who argues against the existence of a universal management method or management (Changing Minds 2011). Management is not separable from processes already interacting within a society. It assimilates with developments and occurrences in the family, school, politics and government. It necessarily interacts also with religion and science. Hofstede formulated five dimensions of differences or value perspectives between national cultures. These dimensions are power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, long-term vs. short-term orientation, and uncertainty avoidance. He uses and commends these dimensions to managers in order to know, understand and empathize with people of other countries. These help the manager become aware of how people of other cultures think, feel and act differently from him. This application is especially helpful to those who work internationally (Changing Minds).
Power distance refers to the degree of inequality, which people of a given country consider normal (Changing Minds 2011). Individualism vs. collectivism is the extent to which people are supposed to take care of themselves or by others, their families or groups to which they belong. Masculinity vs. femininity refers to dominance, aggressiveness and acquisition of things as against one, which relates more with people, feelings and the quality of life. Uncertainty avoidance is the degree in which people in a particular society prefer structured to un-structured situations. And long-term vs. short-term orientation presents a contrast between future-oriented values and current or past-oriented values. Holfstede studied 58 countries, using these dimensions and rated them from 1 to100. Top-scoring countries in the power distance category are Malaysia, Panama and Guatemala. The U.S.A. ranked only 38th but topped the individualism vs. collectivism category. Australia and Great Britain ranked next. Japan, Austria and Venezuela topped the gender category. Greece topped the predictability/uncertainty category. China ranked highest in the long vs. short-term orientation, followed by Hong Kong and Taiwan (Changing Minds).
Turkey and Istanbul
Turkey is located in Asia Minor and a small part of Europe (Agnarella 2011). It was founded in 1923 from the race that evolved from multi-ethnic and multi-lingual Ottoman Empire tribes of the 14th-20th centuries. The Turk annual population increase went down to 1.6% in 1998 after rising to more than 2.5%. About 65% of its total population lives in 35,000 urban villages. Their language is Altaic although other languages are spoken by at least 35 non-Turkish ethnic groups. Its government established and supports historical and linguistic societies, which research on and record its glorious past. Its central government is located in Istanbul, the capital (Agnarella).
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey with 10 million people, as of 2004 estimates
(Kjeilen 2011). Its old name was Constantinople. It is the chief seaport and commercial and financial center at the same time. About 35% of its manufacturing plants are strewn around the city. Its economy is backed by large-scale industries, prominently automobile and truck assembly, shipbuilding and repairing, cement production, cigarette, food products, fruits, olive oil, silk and many others. It also has a flourishing center for banking and insurance and tourism. In earlier centuries, Constantinople was among the most important cities in the world. As the leading city after the fall of Rome, it was the center for the fusion of cultures, customs, arts and literature (Kjeilen).
Reduced Gender Inequality
Turkish law recognizes and guarantees equal pay for equal work between men and women (Agnarella 2011). It allows women access to practically all educational programs and occupations. In general, though, men dominate high business ranks, the military, government, the professions and educational institutions. Traditionally, women were confined to domestic responsibilities and away from public work and unrelated men. But women have since begun to work in public. Women in the lower social classes worked as maid, house cleaners, dressmakers, seamstresses, child care givers, agricultural laborers and nurses. But since the early 90s, women comprised about 20% of factory and store positions. Gradually, middle-class women became employed as teachers and bank tellers. Upper-class women became doctors, lawyers, engineers and university instructors. Only a few women became politicians. Stereotypes can still be seen with men avoiding traditional non-agricultural occupations assigned to lower-class women. In urban areas, lower-class men work in crafts, manufacturing and low-paid service. Middle-class men work as teachers, accountants, businessmen, and middle managers (Agnarella).
Most adult Turks marry and have children, as society expects them (Agnarella 2011). They usually marry within their own ethnic group and religious sect. Kin groups handle the selection of spouses and the marriage ceremony. The future man and wife played minor roles during the premarital process. The Turks believe that pertinent rituals, especially the imam marriage ceremony, are important in molding a morally and socially acceptable marriage. In 1936, the Turkish government abolished the traditional Islamic family law and replaced it with a modified family law according the Swiss civil code. It recognizes civil marriage and the consent of the parties, although families still play a role in the selection. There have been infrequent divorces. The new code forbids and has eliminated the husband’s privilege to divorcing his wife. The law now recognizes only 6 grounds for divorce. These are adultery, plot against one’s life, grave assaults, insults, crime or a dishonorable life, desertion, mental weakness and incompatibility. The requirements are, however, difficult to comply with. A couple cannot agree to divorce (Agnarella).
Strict and formal etiquette characterizes Turkish culture (Agnarella 2011). They govern intergenerational and heterosexual interactions. They address non-relatives formally. They do not show affection in public. Men do not shake women’s hands.
But unlike in Western countries, Turkish teenagers are not allowed to hop from partner to search for their future mates (eHow 2011). Turks hold on to their Islamic tradition of prohibiting premarital dating. They look for their children’s spouses from among their families and friends. Men are usually expected to marry after they serve in the military and usually at age 22. Women usually marry at 20. Go-betweens assist in looking for a bride for a son, especially in the rural areas. Women go to the prospective girl’s house and examine her. When the prospective groom’s family approves the girl, the would-be bride’s family is informed about the groom before agreeing to give her in marriage. When there is approval between the families, the man and the woman express their choice independently. The engagement is established when the bride’s family returns an embroidered kerchief with a ring attached to it to the groom’s family. It is an occasion for rejoicing when a woman gives birth to a son and her status increases before her husband, in-laws and the community. A mother spoils a son, who remains with her up to age 10 or 11. After this age, the son is turned over to other male members or figures. Daughters remain close to their mothers (Agranella).
This is a difficult combination and understanding of the local language, culture, religion and traditions (Agnarella 2011, eHow 2011). Tardiness is criticized as consideration for others in the meeting is considered important. Those in the meeting are not expected to drink, smoke or eat anything without first making an offer to those around. Human relations in Istanbul are very important where family times and personal relationships play an important role. (Dincmen 2000). It is, hence, difficult to keep secrets in business. Deals are more commonly verbal. It is hard to obtain or make written commitments. Even with a combination of both, the verbal part still dominates the written part. Handshakes are also a very important part of business. The Turks are smart, intelligent, diligent and reliable. They also observe high morality and enthusiasm and keep their word. Doing business with multinational partners infuses value on procedures and systems. But Turks are quite flexile and can adapt. They look for other ways of conducting work. This is why they can decide fast and start business quite aggressively. Those who intend to do business in Istanbul should create a friendly and business atmosphere. They can do this by giving more time to the human side of business or transaction. They should be ready for lots of compromises and agreements that will accrue to mutual profitability (Dincmen, Agnarella, eHow).
An analysis and evaluation of Istanbul as the European Capital of Culture 2010 revealed certain issues (Isayev 2011, Beyazit et al. 2011). For its reception of dynamic global culture, Istanbul becomes an accumulator rather than the developer. As such, it does not necessarily become efficient. Istanbul only retains from what the West infuses. It only attaches and develops projects and programs. Istanbul does not produce what it introduces to the world. Its cultural goods and services are not necessarily distributed worldwide. It is not certain if these have or can be determinants of global culture (Isayev, Beyazit et al.).
Do deep differences really exist between Eastern and Western thinking (McPherson 2007)? How much does a culture change by internal or external influences and over time? Holfstede rated Turkey 66 in power distance while the U.S. scored 40. The Turks still distrust although they know well how to hide it. Turkey scored 45 in femininity vs. masculinity. Holfstede used feminine values of modesty and caring and masculine values of assertiveness and competitiveness to arrive at this score. Masculinity differs from the macho image. When the difference is not recognized, Turkey rated lower than if it was recognized. Compare with Japan, which got the highest score at 98% and Sweden at only 5% (McPherson).
In conducting research on national cultures, one must keep in mind that averages do not relate to individuals in a country or destination under study. Even if Holfstede’s model has proved accurate quite often in general population studies, a researcher must be careful not to assume that all the individuals or even regions with subcultures, necessarily fit. Research can only serve as guide to understanding differences between countries. It does not set a solid law. There will always be exceptions to the rule and the findings of research (McPherson). #
Agnarella, Paul J.M. Turkey. Countries and Their Cultures: Advameg, Inc., 2011.
Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.everyculture.com/To-Z/Turkey.html
Beyazit, Eda et al. Evaluating Istanbul in the Process of European Capital of Culture
2010. 42nd ISoCaRP Congress. International Society of City and Regional Planning,
2011. Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.isocarp.net/Data/case_studies/762.pdf
Changing Minds. Hofstede’s Cultural Factors. Changing Minds, 2011. Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.changingminds.org/explanations/culture/hofstede_culture.htm
Dincmen, Nihat. Istanbul Business Culture and Business Environment Istanbul Life:
Istanbul Life.org, 2000. Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.istanbullife.org/istanbul_business_culture.htm
Ehow. Turkish Dating Culture. eHow.com: Demand Media, Inc. Retrieved on http://www.ehow.com/about_6514050_turkish-dating-culture.html
Isayev, Ismayil. Istanbul: a City of Global Cultural Importance? Washington Review:
Review of Turkish and Eurasian Affairs, 2011. Retrieved on December 11, 2011
Kjeilen, Tore. Istanbul. Look Lex Encyclopedia: LexicOrient, 2011. Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.i-cias.com/e-o/istanbul.htm
McPherson, Charlotte. Difference between Eastern and Western Thinking. Today’s
Zaman: Feza Gazetecilik A-S, 2007. Retrieved on December 14, 2011 from http://www.odayszaman.com/columnist-22324-differences-between-eastern-and-western-thinking.html
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