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Last updated: 16/04/2011
I first became aware of the work of Geert Hofstede about five years ago. His book, Cultures and Organizations (now in its second edition) goes a long way towards explaining why people from particular countries tend to get on better with some nationalities than others. One example he quotes, which I particularly like, came from the Russian poet Vladimir Korotich who had just finished a two-month lecture tour of the USA.
"attempts to please an American audience are doomed in advance, because out of twenty listeners, five may hold one point of view, seven another, and eight may have none at all."
As Geert wrote: What strikes the Western reader in this comment is not the described attitudes of American students but the fact that Korotich expected otherwise. He was obviously accustomed to audiences that held a common view, a characteristic of a collectivist society.
With Geert's permission, I have transferred his data about the attitudes of 74 countries and regions of the world in five dimensions into a spreadsheet that displays summaries of the characteristics of each country and comparisons between them. See below.
The example shows marked similarities between the British and German-speaking Swiss, for example, as well as with the Irish. Comparing the British with the nordic peoples (Swedes, Norwegians, Danes), the profiles are again very similar, in fact in four of the five dimensions we appear to be as close to each other as to the German-speaking Swiss. There is however one striking difference. We are as assertive as the Swiss, yet poles apart from the more modest Swedes and Norwegians.