Throughout history, the term culture has been very difficult to define.
Even nowadays, many anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers argue about the right definition of culture. There are many different definitions of culture given by various scientists. Even though the scientists do not share the same opinion about it, many of them agree that culture represents patterns of behavior, beliefs and values shared by a group of people who live in the same society. These shared patterns provide the identity for a particular nation and at the same time distinguish it from another.
Hofstede defines culture as a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned. It is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another. According to this definition, culture does not represent highly civilized attitudes and behavior, but the pattern of thinking, feeling and acting developed during the childhood. Hofstede identified and developed five dimensions of culture in order to explain the differences between cultures.
His five dimensions of culture are the following power distance, collectivism vs. individualism, femininity vs. masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long vs. short term orientation.
Power distance (PD), the first Hofstedes dimension, refers to the extent to which less powerful members expect and accept unequal power distribution within a culture. In other words, power distance is based on the fact that people who live in the same society are not equal and expresses the attitudes of the culture members toward these inequalities.Having PDI of 35 the United Kingdom belongs to the group of countries with low power distance ratings. In other words, it represents the society with minimal inequality among its members.
The consequence of low power distance index is visible in the fact that, in The UK, the difference between employers and employees is not so prominent. Employees are not afraid of their bosses, and do not consider them fearful authority. There is flatter hierarchy and less difference in status. This can be visible in their business meeting etiquette.
During the business meetings, there is generally a free flow of ideas and opinions. The relationship between students and teachers is more flexible than in the countries that have high PDI. Students are treated as adults, and every person is expected to actively contribute to the educational process. The teachers see education as an information exchange, rather than a one-way monologue.
According my friend who lives the UK, the relationship between parents and they children is more flexible than in Serbia.He told me that he had always felt that he can talk about everything with his parents, even about things (such as sex, drugs, etc. ) that are considered a taboo in our country. In addition, he told me that his parents would always listen to what he had to say and that they always respected his opinion.
It can be said that the feeling of equality and the sense of fair play dominates the British society. On the other hand, Serbia has a high score on this dimension (86PDI) and is classified among the countries with high PDI. The differences in status between the members of Serbian society are more prominent.This is visible in the fact that, because of the process of transition, middle class is slightly disappearing and that the difference between extremely poor and very rich people is getting bigger and bigger.
Considering the fact that the most of the companies in Serbia nowadays are no longer state-owned, the boss represents the authority whose orders have to be respected and obeyed without any justification. For example, during business meetings in Serbia, the boss (or the person with the highest status) is the one who talks while the employees listen. The student-teacher relationship is more traditional.The teacher is the authority in the classroom and students do as they are told so that they can learn what the teacher knows.
For example, during my elementary and high school education, all that my teachers required from their students was to sit still, listen very carefully, and take notes so that we could be able to learn everything the teacher said. The students werent allowed to express their opinion, thoughts and ideas. When it comes to family relations, parents are given complete authority over their children, and children are obliged to obey to everything their parents say.For instance, I was raised in a traditional family in which it was forbidden to talk about things such as sex, homosexuality, etc.
In addition I had to do everything my parents asked me to without complaining and asking for an explanation. It can be said that, from the early childhood, Serbian people are trained to be obedient, to listen to their parents, teachers and employers they are trained to be obedient toward the authorities. The next cultural dimension is collectivism versus individualism. This dimension refers to the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members.
It has to do with whether peoples self-image is defined in terms of I or We. Having a score of 89 the UK is among the highest of the individualistic countries, which means that the members of British society tend to look for themselves and their immediate family but no one else. According to the report from The Childrens Society, children in the UK are, from the earliest childhood, taught to take care of themselves, to depend on themselves only and to figure out the best way to contribute to their society as strong, independent people.In addition, they are encouraged to constantly challenge themselves and be competitive.
This report also claims that the extreme individualism and the aggressive pursuit of personal success by adults is now the greatest threat to the nations children. The individualistic nature of the British is also visible in the fact that majority of elderly people live in the retirement and nursing homes, far away from their relatives and family to look after them. Additionally, British individualism can be also seen in the fact that English language lacks in terminology related to kinship.For example the term uncle may refer to both the mothers and the fathers brother, while the term cousin may refer to many family members.
This may prove that the British do not care much for their family, apart from their immediate family members. Serbia, on the other hand, with a score of 25 , belongs to collectivistic countries. Serbian people tend to depend on Serbian society in a great deal. Everything that is done is done for the benefit of the society, not for the benefit of an individual.
The children are taught to be very loyal to the society, to take care not only for themselves but for their family members also as well as their friend, coworkers, etc. The best example for this is the fact that many Serbian people after they get their diplomas, return to their hometowns and decide to live with their parents, so that they could take care of them. The richness in terminology related to kinship (terms such as svastika, zaova dever) is one of the most important characteristic of Serbian culture and represents yet another proof that the Serbs are a highly family-oriented and collectivistic nation.The third dimension is masculinity versus femininity.
This dimension focuses on the extent to which a society stresses achievement or nurture. Masculinity is seen to be the trait which emphasizes ambition, acquisition of wealth, and differentiated gender roles. Femininity is seen to be the trait which stresses caring and nurturing behaviors, sexuality equality, environmental awareness, and more fluid gender roles. Even though the index of 66 proves the different, it is my opinion that the UK does not represent completely masculine society.
.When it comes to prospering in business, they represent masculine, very ambitious nation, constantly pursuing an opportunity for advancement. Furthermore, they prefer having challenging jobs in order to develop the sense of accomplishment. Perhaps it can be said that they live to work and to prosper.
Six months ago I had an opportunity to meet two boys from Manchester. Both of them are 21, and they already work as pilots in the Royal Air Force. They explained me that, when they finished high school they were literary asked to choose between family life and money.They decided to become pilots, so that they could earn a lot of money.
However, they admitted that, even though managed to earn enough, they do not have time to spend it. They work overtime, they can not spend holidays with their family and friends, and they spend approximately nine months a year in foreign countries. However, in reference to the gender roles, the United Kingdom is more feminine country than masculine. The role of women and men are almost equal which is visible in the fact that, today 22 of MPs in the House of Commons and 20 of members of the House of Lords are women .
In addition, more and more men in the United Kingdom work as hospital nurses. Serbia scores 43 on this dimension and is considered a relatively feminine society. The attitude of Serbian people toward success in life is quite different than the attitude of people who live in the UK. They value equality more than competitiveness when it comes to professional advancement.
They work in order to provide enough financial sources for themselves and their family members, and not to achieve the sense of success and accomplishment. They seek the employment security, good relations between coworkers and decent working conditions.For example, people in Serbia do not like to work overtime. They prefer leaving their work unfinished at the end of their shift and go home to spend the time with their family and children, rather then spending two or three extra hours (on) finishing the job.
In addition, Serbian people love taking long holidays in order to spend time with their children or go to some family trip. However, in reference to gender roles, Serbia is more masculine country than the UK. Serbian culture is traditionally male-dominated. Men are considered the head of the household.
Most women take positions in cultural and social welfare, public service and administration, and trade and catering. Almost all of the nations elementary school teachers are women. However, even when women work outside the home, they are still expected to cook, clean, and take care of other domestic tasks. The fourth dimension deals with the way people react to new, unfamiliar matters.
Uncertainty avoidance deals with the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these.At 35 the UK has a low score on uncertainty avoidance which means that as a nation they are more open towards unfamiliar matter they do not tend to be afraid for their future and are prone to improvise when they find themselves in ambiguous situations. They behave well, without expressing emotions and aggressions in unfamiliar situations, which is why they are considered reserved and cold nation. For example, it is not unusual to see homosexual couples walking down the street, or even kissing on the street, while other people do not pay attention to them.
In addition, in The UK, people openly talk about their sexual affiliations, about homosexuality, domestic violence, and prostitution the topics that still represent a taboo in Serbian society. The things that are different or unfamiliar may be viewed as simply curious. For instance, they do not have any difficulty accepting technological innovations, such as new generations of touch screen mobile phones, that many people I know, in Serbia, still refuse to use. Serbia scores 92 on this dimension and has a very high preference for avoiding uncertainty.
That means that Serbian people do not cope well with new, unfamiliar things. They tend to deal with unfamiliar matter with aggression and violence. For example, a few days ago there was an incident in my hometown, when a young man was severely beaten by a group of skinheads while walking his boyfriend home, just because he is a homosexual. This is a perfect example how Serbian people react when they come across the things they are not familiar with.
Generally, Serbian people like to be told what to do they crave for security and require rules that would help them to make events and situations predictable.In other words the Serbs love to create taboos, avoid talking about things that intimidate them, and tend to avoid uncertainties. You will never hear elderly people in Serbia talk about sex, drugs, prostitution they simply refuse to discuss such things and prefer ignoring them or pretending that they do not exist. The fifth dimension is closely related to the teachings of Confucius and can be interpreted as dealing with societys search for virtue, the extent to which a society shows a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historical short-term point of view.
In other words, it explains to what extent the group invests for the future, is preserving and is patient in waiting for results. With the score of 25 , United Kingdom represents short term oriented country, which means that British people pay a great deal of respect toward their history and tradition. They are proud of their glorious history, especially proud of the fact that for almost two hundred years the British Empire was known as the empire upon which the sun never sets. At the same time, they focus on quick results and rapid development in the future.
They respect their past but at the same time, they are more dedicated to the future. When it comes to business the British take nothing for granted and attempt to use everything they are given in order to fulfill their goals as soon as possible. Even thought there is no score available for Serbia on this dimension, it is my opinion that Serbia belongs to short-term oriented countries. Serbian society shares the same characteristics with the rest of the countries that belong to the short term orientation.
For example, Serbian people are very proud of their glorious history.Even nowadays, we can hear Serbian people talking about their great accomplishments during the First and the Second World Wars. It is not unlikely to hear Serbian people singing songs in which Serbian heroism and courage is celebrated. In addition, Serbian people tend to take much pride in their tradition and mannerisms.
It is not unlikely to hear Serbian people say while the other nations were eating with their hands, sitting on the ground, Serbian royalty was using silver cutlery. When it comes to investing in the future, the Serbs do not like to risk as much as the British, but, they are not immune to the fast profit, as well.Because of the difficult economic situation Serbia has been into, Serbian people also tend to focus on quick results. For example, more and more Serbian people are taking the bank credits in order to open night clubs or cafes in attempt to earn more money.
In addition many of the Serbs like betting on sport, and invest a lot of money on gambling hoping to win a jack pot. By defining Hofstedes cultural dimensions and applying them on different countries, we can easily perceive the differences as well as various similarities between cultures that are analyzed.In this particular case we can conclude that Serbian and British cultures are very different, with little similarities. However, that does not mean that one culture is better or worse than another.
It simply means that the have different features and characteristics. This comparison represents the perfect example that there are no cultures that are completely identical. People have to understand that cultures can be similar but never identical. We dont have to accept other cultures, we dont even have to agree with other peoples principles and beliefs, but we have to learn to respect the differences between us.