Main Differentiation Criteria


Many authors have looked at the representation of different cultural profiles around the world. Among those who are considered as references in western countries in this area, we can mention Geert HOFSTEDE and his multicriteria factorial analysis which will serve as an important basis for this article, Fons TROMPENAARS, Charles HAMPDEN TURNER, Philippe d'IRIBANE for Ethnology and Edward THOMAS and Mildred Reed HALL for Anthropology. Findings of these authors are surprisingly convergent and complementary, which makes it possible to release a quite accessible and easy to apprehend model of representations.


The table below groups the main criteria for analyzing a culture emerging from the work of reference authors mentioned above. As you will see, these criteria are oriented towards the analysis of a work culture. It is necessary to use broader criteria for a comprehensive analysis of a country's culture.

CriteriaPolesReference Authors
1. Hierarchical relationship- Hierarchical distance (authority, unequal relations, acceptance of decision without consensus, strong external marks of status)
- Partnership (acceptance of the reconsideration of decisions taken, weak external marks of status)
2. Relationship within a company- Individualism (individual initiative, privacy / professional life separation)
- Community sense (solidarity, collective interest first)
3. Relationship in Teams- Competition / Assertiveness (Masculinity: value success and assertiveness)
- Consensus / Harmony research (Femininity: avoid conflict, search for pleasant working conditions)
4. Time Management- Programming (Monochronism: rigorous planning and organization, high punctuality, protected workspace)
- Reactivity (Polychronism or Synchronism: seize the opportunity, frequent change from one area to another, acceptance of program changes)
Hall et Hall
5. Information Management- Explicit (accurate information, distributed to everyone, preferably in writing)
- Implicit (informal communication, spontaneity, oral, unofficial)
Hall et Hall
6. Management of Socio-professionnal Status- Merit (based on actions and performances)
- Status (valuation of a category on a discriminating criterion)
7. Control of Uncertainty- Security (fear of changes and difference, anxiety regarding future, preference for stability and rigidity, precise procedures to avoid hazards)
- Open for risk (frequent changes)


Geert HOFTEDE is probably the author who best synthesized the criteria of differentiation through his work. His comparison model is today a widely used reference especially when it comes to addressing the topic in the professional field, as part of setting up subsidiaries abroad, jobs relocation, etc… Unlike the 7 criteria presented above, HOFSTEDE bases its analysis on 6 universal "dimensions" that are broad enough to encompass different cultural aspects outside the professional field.

Let's review these 6 criteria:

- Power Distance: this is the degree of tolerance with respect to a weak distribution of power. Some companies tolerate the image of an omnipotent leader relatively well, while others, such as the Scandinavian countries in particular, encourage a distribution of decision-making power.

- Individualism: this dimension is explicit. Family structures greatly influence individuals' propensity for individualism and collectivism. In countries where complex families (several generations under the same roof) are the most common, collectivism prevails. In the Anglo-Saxon countries where the nuclear family (fast departure of children) is dominant, individualism is the norm.

- Masculinity: The use of the terms "Masculinity" and "Femininity" can be debated here and will probably evolve over time. It is necessary to relate here the "Masculinity" not to gender but to the spirit of competition and "Femininity" with the attraction towards the help and the search for quality of life.

- Uncertainty Avoidance: this dimension is essential in understanding dominant countries’ ideologies. It is about the degree of comfort with which the country, and its individuals, approach the vagaries of life, and consequently the propensity to control our environment.

- Long-Term Vision: In some countries, individuals seem more likely to live on a daily basis, while in others the desire to plan for the long term is the norm.

- Indulgence: this last criterion mainly concerns education and can be linked to the way of apprehending life. The higher the score of "Indulgence", the more the individual tends to control his or her impulses and desires.