There are many cultural differences between the United States and France. Some of these are simply social and others are cultural. Hofstede’s Value Dimensions can be used to highlight the differences between the cultures. Individualism vs collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity/femininity, power distance, and long-term vs short-term orientation are all characteristics that differ between France and the United States.
In Communications Between Cultures individualism and collectivism are described by researchers as “self-orientation versus collective orientation as one of the basic pattern variables that determine human action. ” These differences can be found in family life, school, and workplace interactions. Both France and the United States believe in individualism.
Some components of individualism are the individual is the single most important unit in any social setting, independence rather than dependence is stressed, individual achievement is rewarded, and the uniqueness of each individual is of paramount value. Both countries also stress individual initiative and achievement, and they value individual decision making. The United States ranks number 1 and France is ranked 10/11 according to Hofstede’s findings. Uncertainty avoidance looks at the level of tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity within a culture.
France has a high uncertainty-avoidance tendency while the United States has a low one. Some common traits found in country’s with high uncertainty avoidance, including France, are countries/cultures with a long history, the population is not multicultural, risks, even calculated, are avoided in business, and new ideas and concepts are more difficult to introduce. Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance try to minimize uncertainty through strict laws and rules as well as safety and security measures.
People in these societies tend to be more emotional, and are motivated by inner nervous energy. In general, societies with lower uncertainty avoidance, including the United States, are more tolerant of new and different opinions. The cultures prefer as few rules as possible. Typically, people in these cultures don’t easily express their emotions. Hofstede uses the words masculinity and femininity to refer to the degree to which masculine or feminine traits are valued or revealed.
The United States rates as a moderately masculine. Countries that favor masculinity stress equity, competition, and performance. They also strive for material success and expected to respect whatever is big, strong, and fast. France values femininity and stress equality, solidarity, and quality of work life. A feminine worldview maintains that men can assume nurturing roles while promoting sexual equality. One major difference in masculine/feminine cultures is the role of the woman in the workplace and at home.
Feminine societies expect women to work and often provide the necessary social support systems. Although the United States is more masculine than France both countries treat females as equals. Power distance describes the distance between power and the members of a particular culture. France has a higher power distance than the United States. Gudykunst describes countries with a high power distance as, “Individuals who accept power as part of society. As such superiors consider their subordinates to be different from themselves and vice versa. French people believe that power and authority are facts of life. This is very different from the United States low power distance. Americans believe that they are close to power and should have ready access to that power. Subordinates consider superiors to be the same kind of people as they are, and superiors view subordinates the same way. The long-versus short-term orientation dimension appears to be based on items reminiscent of the teachings of Confucius, on both poles.
It opposes long-term to short-term aspects of Confucian thinking: persistence and thrift to personal stability and respect for traditions. Countries like France value long-term orientation. These countries value persistence, and order relationships by status and observing order, thrift, and have a sense of shame. The United States values short-term orientation. These countries value personal steadiness and stability, protecting one’s own ‘face’, respect and tradition, and eciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts. France and the United States are similar in some aspects and very different in others. Both France and the United States believe in individualism but have very different beliefs in other areas. France has a high uncertainty avoidance, favors femininity, has a high power distance, and value long-term orientation. The United States has a low uncertainty avoidance, favors masculinity, has a low power distance, and values short-term orientation.