Students and practitioners of Global Marketing often refer to the cultural dimensions theory of Gert Hofstede. Here is a comparison of key cultural dimensions between Greece and Germany:
Individualism: With a score of 35, Greece is considered a collectivist culture, committed to protecting its members in exchange for loyalty. Germany on the other hand is highly individualist, similar to the United States. Gert Hosftede: “Communication is among the most direct in the world following the ideal to be “honest, even if it hurts” – and by this giving the counterpart a fair chance to learn from mistakes.”
Masculinity: Germany’s higher score indicates a society driven by competition, achievement, and success. People identify with their achievements, and managers are expected to be decisive and assertive. Greek culture, while also considered a medium ranking Masculine and Collectivist society, attaches more value to family.
Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI): This is the most striking difference between German and Greek cultures. Interestingly, both countries UAI are considered high (compare to the United States UAI of 46). But Greece has the highest UAI, which means that Greeks resist change. Bureaucracy, laws and rules are very important and difficult to change – which explains the opposition to changes needed to make Greece’s economy more competitive.
Long Term Orientation (LTI): The second key area to explain the culture clash. Germany’s high score indicates propensity to save and invest. A favorite German song goes: “Schaffe, Spare, Häusle baue” – Work, Save, Build a House. German taxpayers loath the idea of supporting Greek citizens whose lower score indicates a preference towards “living for today”.
Indulgence-Restraint: A newer and less widely known Hostede score indicates the extent to which people control their desires and impulses. Germany’s low score is restrained in nature with a tendency to control gratification. Restrained societies like Germany have a penchant for cynicism and pessimism. It does not help that the Greek government has given German taxpayers plenty of reasons to be cynical.
Colliding Cultures in an Economic Union
The European Monetary Unions united countries of very different cultures (mostly Southern vs. Northern Europe) into a currency block whose success depends on a consensus about fiscal principles, budgets, and monetary policies. It requires restraint and forces limitations on national sovereignty that may not be acceptable to all countries. Pessimists – especially in Northern Europe – deemed the Euro an effort doomed to fail.
Regardless of the outcome of the current crisis, deep-seated cultural differences will remain. Debtor countries will resist austerity and structural change. Creditor countries (and their taxpayers) will be increasingly fed up having to support countries with different cultural dimensions, perceived as “lazy”. The long-term success of the EU depends on compromise: debtors accepting change and austerity, and creditors accepting bailouts for the common good of the economic union.
Cultural Dimensions in Global Business
Cultural dimensions play an equally important role in organizations, employee management, marketing, and sales. It pays to understand Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, the meaning of high-context and low-context cultures, and time orientation for
- Marketing programs - Product, Price, Promotion, and Channel of Distribution
- Employee Management - selection and management of local employees and ex-pats
- Sales - proposals, presentations, and contract negotiations.
Too many companies stumble into international expansions without a cohesive strategy. Your global marketing plan must reflect differences in culture, legal and regulatory environments, and geography.