Theory Cultural dimensions theory, developed by Geert Hofstede’s, describes how a society’s culture affects the values of its members, and how these values relate to their behaviour. The theory proposed six dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity-femininity, long-term and short-term orientation, and the latest dimension, indulgence and self-restraint which was added in 2010 edition of Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind.
Yet in this essay, only the first four dimensions will be discussed since the first four dimensions shows the distinct difference between Hong Kong and Japanese culture. First of all, power distance dimension. This dimension can be defined as the degree to which the acceptance of the less powerful cultural members towards the decisions and actions made by its power holders. This dimension is also used to explain a culture’s attitude towards the unequal distribution of power.
Hong Kong scores 68 on the power distance index(PDI), which is regarded as high. That means the Hong Kong society believes that it is acceptable for inequalities to exist among people, and this is more likely to polarise the subordinate-superior relationship. We always regard Japan as a highly hierarchical society because of its social setting and actions. For example, they have to use honorifics when they are talking to superiors. On the contrary, Japan scores 54 on PDI which is regarded as a mildly hierarchical society.
One of the reasons maybe the historical background. Having a big influence under the Chinese and colonial culture background, the Hong Kong society established an attitude, that is to obey the superior. Take the teacher-student relationship as an example. Even nowadays the relationship of teachers and students seems becoming less subordinate-superior, students are rarely challenge and question the teachers. Teachers are the power holders and students are usually following the rules given by the teachers and do what they say.
Yet for Japan, under the strong influence of western culture during Meiji Restoration, the society hierarchy is minimised when the Shogunate came to an end. Japan had become a meritocratic society. The concept of everybody is born equally is also implanted in the Japanese education system. For the second dimension, uncertainty avoidance, which can be defined as the degree to which the comfort of cultural members when they are facing uncertainty and ambiguity. This dimension can also show whether a society will control or accept the unstructured situations in the future. Hong Kong and Japan make an extreme in this dimension.
Hong Kong scores 29 on the uncertainty avoidance index(UAI) , which is regarded as low. Among 111 researched countries, Hong Kong is located on the top four, which is one of the most uncertainty accepting locations. Having a score 92 on UAI, Japan is one of the most uncertainty avoiding countries among the researched countries. Hong Kong people are known as having high adaptive faculty. And they are comfortable with ambiguity as they are flexible to suit the different situation. Hong Kong is a diversified society that having many different people from different countries.
For example, lots of restaurants with different cuisines from different cultures can be found in Hong Kong. The people of Hong Kong are also generally not afraid to communication with foreign people even they do not know how to speak foreign languages. Yet for Japanese society, it usually not willing to talk with some people not speaking Japanese. Japanese people are also prefer to interact among their ethnic or social in-groups. For example, they prefer to get married with Japanese people rather than people from another countries, setting a big different of attitude comparing to Hong Kong.
One of the reason may be contributed to the geographical location of Japan. Since there are always natural disasters, such as earthquakes, occurs there, Japanese society tends to predict and is prepared to face these uncertainties with certain plans and measures. Gradually, the society becomes more uncertainties avoiding. The third dimension will be discussed is the individualism verse collectivism. It is the degree to which the attitude of cultural members towards the self and groups, with the higher index, the more individualistic.
Hong Kong scores 25 in this dimension, which is a collectivist society. That means Hong Kong people will usually act in the interests of groups but not necessarily of themselves. Then for Japan, she scores 46, which can be regarded as mildly individualistic. Take this as an example. The phenomenon of promotions and hiring due to in-group suggestions is commonly seen in Hong Kong. Just like it may be easier for somebody to enter certain company if he is recommended by his friend or family member, who is working in that company.
People who have their siblings studying in certain schools will also increase their chance to give into that school. Japanese society has many characteristics showing it is collectivistic. For example, Japanese people usually stick to a certain company and work there for a life. Switching jobs or companies is regarded as unfaithful among Japanese. Even so, compare to the Hong Kong society, the Japanese society does not extended the family system to the society. Comparing to Hong Kong Japanese people has a higher degree to prefer taking care of themselves and their direct family only.
This maybe because Japanese teenagers usually will move out from their parents after, say high school or even before high school, for study or work in another prefectures. The bond between family members is not as strong as the one among Hong Kong people. Last but not least, the masculinity verse femininity. Lustig and Koester (2012) defined it as ‘the degree to which a culture values ‘masculine’ behaviours, such as assertiveness and the acquisition of wealth, or ‘feminine’ behaviours, such as caring for others and the quality of life. (p. 118) Hong Kong scores 57, which is a bit masculine – an achievement-oriented society. Yet Japan scores 95, which is one of the most masculine societies among the researched countries. The most obvious between these two societies is the women status. In Japan, the top positions in a company is usually filled by male. Yet in Hong Kong, the percentage for women to work as the top management is much higher. Japanese society prefer women to be a housewife after marriage. Wives should serve their husbands and take care of their children.
Being a good housewife is also generally regarded as the greatest achievement of Japanese women. Yet for Hong Kong nowadays, women can compete with male, and fight for their careers even after marriage. Of course this theory cannot be applied to any individual. But it does give a general idea about a culture. Culture exists everywhere, drama, TV programmes, music, language, etc. Just like the above, u can have a general review on the Japanese culture through their language. So next time when you look into a culture, try the above means. You may have an unexpected discovery.