Explaining The Cultural Differences In Turkey And Greece Through Hofstede's Model

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Culture can be defined as the collective programming of the mind or software which differentiates the members of a social entity from another. Therefore, it is collective phenomenon however each collective has variety of individuals. The term can be used to define nations, ethnic groups, tribes as well as organizations. Nonetheless, culture is a complex phenomenon to wholly understand since it is related to social reality which does not have laws as well as a proper empirical ground in order to test pre-assumptions, a fact which separates social sciences from natural sciences. Given the fact that there emerged cultures within cultures over time and interconnection among different cultures increased especially with the advent of globalization, it becomes more complex to analyze cultural differences among nations or other groups. In this regard, iceberg model of culture indicates that there are both visible and invisible parts of culture as in the case of iceberg, which means that one can only see visible parts such as architecture,cooking,music and language that are expressions of invisible part consisting of history, norms, values, basic assumptions about space, time, nature etc. According to this model, the lower part of the iceberg is the powerful foundation and it is difficult to fully grasp this foundation. However, it is important to note that any culture exists or owes its existence to cultural differences therefore to ‘’other’’ cultures. Because, what makes us aware of culture are apparent differences in terms of thinking, feeling and acting.

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Despite the fact that cultural differences are difficult to be observed due to above-mentioned reasons, many scholars such as Geert Hofstede, Richard Lewis, Edward T. And Mildred Reed Hall developed some dimensions or categories in order to assess cultural differences among different countries. Since Hofstede’s model of cultural differences is based on one of the largest studies conducted until now and it provides a solid ground for comparing two different cultures, I will try to explain my work experiences in Turkey and Greece through his model. After the explanation of cultural differences and similarities in terms of Turkey and Greece, I will focus on ‘’culture shock’’ phenomenon in order to elaborate my experience more in Greece as a foreigner.

Hofstede’s Model of Cultural Differences

As I said above, Geert Hofstede’s model of cultural differences is based on one of the largest studies conducted in this realm. He was asked by IBM to conduct a research in order to reveal why there were still vast differences in different branches of the company although IBM had already set common standards and procedures in all countries and educational background of the employees was the same across different branches. As a result, Hofstede concluded that vast differences across various IBM branhces derived from culture of the host country. After his comprehensive research, the differences in culture were reduced to four basic dimensions ( power distance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity and uncertainty avoidance ). Later, he also added two more dimensions, which are time orientation and indulgence/restraint.

Power Distance

Power distance implies how inequalities and hierarchy are perceived by the less powerful members of a culture. In this respect, they may accept and expect inequalities or they may strictly refuse them. Most importantly, power distance also implies that a society’s level of inequality can be advocated by the less powerful members as much as the leaders. In the context of business culture, power distance is about the role of executives in a company and how employees interpret this role. High score on power distance implies that power inequalities are not questioned rather must be sustained in order to provide well-functioning of a country or a company. However, low score in terms of power distance indicates that inequalities are not accepted and expected in a culture.

Individualism/Collectivism

This dimension refers to to what extent members of a culture are integrated in groups. In individualism side, people are expected to pursue their own personal interests thereby having an ‘’I’’ feeling rather than ‘’We’’ feeling. In terms of collectivism, people are tightly connected in groups having ‘’We’’ feeling. Hofstede’s research revealed that each country had varying scores in terms of individualism/collectivism. While individualism is dominant in Western countries, collectivism can be observed more in less developed and Eastern countries.

Masculinity/Femininity

Hofstede elaborates masculine values as competition, achievement and success while he refers to consensus, sympathy and taking care of others in order to define feminine values. Therefore, this dimension determines to what extent these different sets of values prevail across various cultures. A high score on masculinity means that desire for competition and success overwhelms in a society while a low score indicates the opposite.

Uncertainty Avoidance

For Hofstede, uncertainty avoidance is not risk avoidance and it deals with whether members of a culture feel anxious or uncomfortable when uncertainty occurs. Uncertainty avoiding cultures aim to prevent unusual situations through codes of behavior, laws and rules, ignorance of dissident opininons as well as strong belief try in absolute truth. Study has revealed that uncertainty avoiding cultures are more emotional and less tolerant to different opinions while the opposite are less emotional and more tolerant.

Time Orientation

Time orientation dimension is related to how a specific culture maintains some links with the past when challenges of present and future occur. Normative societies, with low score on this dimension, emphasize the importance traditions and norms viewing change with doubt whereas societies with high score on this dimension view changes crucial for the well-functioning of their societal system.

Indulgence/Restraint

The last dimension in this model deals with to what extent pursuit of happiness and fun is restricted in a society. Therefore, indulgence represent a society in which pursuit of desires related to enjoying life and having fun are permitted whike restraint refers to a society in which there is a limited room for pursuit of human desires.

In terms of power distance, both in Turkish and Greek companies, power inequalities were not questioned by the employees and it was usual almost for everyone to comply with rules and procedures decided by executives without taking into consideration negative influences which they may have on the company and the employees. It was also not possible to give feedbacks on supervisors or top-executives in both companies while we could give feedback on other employees in Greek company. Actually, ideal boss in both companies was perceived like a father whose role is to decide everything related to family. When it comes to individualism/collectivism dimension, in both companies collectivism prevailed among employees. In this regard, employees were organizing events inviting everyone and when an employee experienced a problem, others were always there in order to help him or her due to ‘’we’’ consciousness on the part of employees, a fact which is in line with the scores of Turkey and Greece on this dimension. When we look at the scores on masculinity dimension, it shows that Greek culture is more masculine than Turkish culture. However, according to my experience, there were both male and female executives in both companies thereby there was a balance in terms of masculine and feminine values. This means that competition and success were important nonetheless feminine values such as sympathy and taking care of others were also visible in both companies. Apart from my work experience, I also observed the importance of feminine values in Greek culture since I interconnected with them for a long time. In terms of fourth dimension ( uncertainty avoidance ), graphs reveal that both Turkey and Greece have uncertainty avoiding cultures. From my perpestive, these scores reflect the reality in terms of daily culture since both cultures’ members are anxious about unstructured situations and they usually try to avoid them through codes of behavior, rules and laws. Especially in Turkey, people often refer to religious references when an unusual situation occurs since they believe in one absolute truth ( Allah). Nevertheless, level of uncertainty avoidance was lower in the companies which I worked in Turkey and Greece since they were quite institutionalized with the aim of tackling uncertainy with reasoning rather than some traditional norms or values. In this regard, they were open to change when an unstructured situation happened. Above-mentioned observations are also valid for time orientation dimension, which means that Greek and Turkish cultures differed from the business cultures in both companies. Therefore, both companies focused on change rather than past traditions and norms since they aimed to deal with problems in an efficient way. Finally, despite the fact that Greece has almost same score on indulgence/restraint dimension, my experience proves that Greek people really know how to enjoy and make fun even in conditions of economic crisis and most importantly, there is almost no restriction in order to prevent them from pursuing happiness. In Greek company, management also organized special night events for the employees many times and they were not so strict about having fun within the company. Therefore, we were able to play table football or PC games during the breaks in the company.

Culture Shock

Michael Winkelman defines culture ( cultural) shock as a ‘’multifacted experience resulting from numerous stressors occuring in contact with a different culture.’’ The circumstances which may cause culture shock derive from several factors: past experiences with other cultures, level of difference between one’s culture and host country culture, the degree of preparation, social support networks and individual psychological conditions. In this regards, it is important to note that I had been an Erasmus student in Slovenia before coming to Greece therefore I had a previous experience with a culture which is different from Turkish culture. In addition, as scores on 6 dimensions reveal, Greek and Turkish cultures have similar characteristics since they are both Mediterranean countries and two communities used to live together during the Ottoman Empire era. They interacted with each other for hundreds of years and adapted and adjusted themselves to differences. My observations in Greece clarify that Greek cuisine is similar to Turkish cuisine, the way Greek people act and behave is almost same with Turkish people and they are also friendly and hospitable like Turkish people. Thus, I did not interpret Greek culture as different from Turkey when I was working there and most importantly, I felt at home. Beside that, there were also many Turkish employees in the company, which provided a social support network when I needed help. Overall, above-mentioned reasons gave rise to conditions which prevented me from having culture shock in Greece and I was able to live and work there without experiencing a problem which is related to culture shock.

Conclusion

In this paper, I elaborated Hofstede’s model of cultural differences which focuses on 6 dimensions in order to assess various countries and their respective cultures. Then, I explained my work experiences in Turkey and Greece referring to this model and analysis of 6 dimensions revealed that although Greek and Turkish cultures are mostly in line with the scores on these dimensions, business cultures in two companies differed on uncertainty avoidance and time orientation. Given the fact that Greek culture was similar to Turkish culture, it was second experience in a foreign country and there were social support networks in Athens, I did not experience an incident of cultural shock there.

References

  • Geert Hofstede, ‘’Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context’’, Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2011, 2 (1).
  • Hofstede-Insights, https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country/greece/
  • Hofstede-Insights, https://www.hofstede-insights.com/country/turkey/
  • Michael Winkelman, ‘’Cultural Shock and Adaptation’’, Journal of Counselling&Development, Vol. 73, 1994.
  • Silvio Martinelli et al. , Intercultural Learning T-kit, Council of Europe , 2003.
  • The Lewis Model Dimensions of Behaviour, accessed 5 January, 2019, https://www.crossculture.com/the-lewis-model-dimensions-of-behaviour/      
07 July 2022

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