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Six Cultural Dimensions Of Spain

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Hofstede’s narrative on Spain describes a country with a diverse culture, visible in its individuals, its landscape, and its story (Hofstede’s, 2016). Spain is full of lush grassland, surrounded by turquoise waters and highlighted by looming mountaintops. The cuisine is equally diverse with paella, fresh vegetables from the market and always bottles of aged red wine. A typical dinner with family is usually communal and followed by a walk through the town talking with neighbours on the street. While in high school I lived in Spain with a family for a summer and studying in Spain which taught me about the diversity of cultures the country offers. I fell in love with the openness of the people, the importance of family, the diverse and tasty cuisine and the relaxed vibe of the country.

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The family I lived with prioritized family over business. Work was just a means to an end and their priorities did not seem to include “keeping up with the Joneses”. Hofstede’s model lists six cultural dimensions for Spain which show how the country contrasts from other nations around the globe (Hofstede’s, 2016). The first dimension of his model discusses power distance. Power distance in Spain has a high at 57. He describes a country where it’s members are not equal, and that inequality is never discussed nor given a second thought. Everyone has their place in this tiered society I believe inequality though is an issue with its people and is the elephant in the room. I saw this reflected in the family I stayed in that they were one of four divorced families in a town of 25,000 people. Divorce was rare and looked down upon. There was judgement by some people in the town towards my host family.

Typically, married couples stayed married, but the husband could have another woman on the side. This inequality was not justified but just seen as the way things were. Hofstede’s second dimension describes a Collectivist society (Hofstede’s, 2016). People take care of their families first. It’s a place where you can still ask your neighbours for help and they will provide it. The small city I spent three months is was called Calatayud. A small town where people help each other with no thought of ego. However, there is also Individualism where the citizens are open to accept and have an open inquisitiveness towards other cultures. I saw this in the way they treated outsiders like me as royalty. I had many locals wanting to hear stories about the United States, to teach them English and expressed their desire to one day live in the United States. Working together in corporate environments is the norm with no consideration for their own need of moving up the ladder. My host mother went to work each day and never spoke about her job. Work was just a part of her life but not the most important priority as it seems to be for the citizens of the United States. The third dimension in Hofstede’s report is masculinity where Spain scored low at 41 (Hofstede’s, 2016). This indicates that the society is more on the female side, People favour a full life with family and experiences most important. Accomplishments are not seen as important like in the United States. Sticking out and bringing attention to yourself is frowned upon. Taking care of your family is of the utmost importance. Harmony among citizens is the ultimate goal. When someone has needs the people come together to help. In business employees can have opinions and their superiors take those into consideration.

People are expected to consider all the people of the country and not one opinion controls everything. I remember wanting to close my door to read and get privacy sometimes and my host family would always open the door and ask if I was ok. I agree with Hofstede in that everyone takes care of each other and there is a strong need for harmony. I saw this demonstrated by my host family when I would need individual time. My independence was taken as me not wanting to be a part of the family or that I was upset. I also ran early every morning around the town and my family felt that was a little strange and wanted to make sure I was safe when I was out on the streets. Uncertainty Avoidance is Hofstede’s fourth dimension which describes Spain as a culture that doesn’t need to know what the future holds to be happy (Hofstede’s, 2016).

Citizens are ok with uncertainty and like to live in the moment. In the same frame people follow the directives of their ruling law and they want their lives to stay status quo, When I spoke with locals about their jobs, family or houses it seemed that most stayed in the same jobs, lived with the same family and were in the same house for decades. I love stability and this dimension of Spanish culture really made me feel safe and to know what to expect. The fifth dimension Hofstede describes is how Spain is a Normative culture with a score of 48 (Hofstede’s, 2016). The Spanish culture is full of rituals and long kept beliefs. The people like to live in the present and don’t worry about what is down the road. They always have time to live it up with friends and family. This demonstrates a culture where h people adhere to the rules of society but are open and have a relaxed attitude towards their long-term existence. I loved this relaxed and live in the moment aspect of Spanish life. Daily there would be long lunches with wine and food savoured. In Calatayud we would frequently walk with the family through the city, go dancing until the morning at the dance clubs or head out to the countryside to eat dinner in a beautiful monastery.

Indulgence is Hofstede’s final dimension is Indulgence. Spain scores low and is demonstrated by its people following how they were brought up being restrained with their wants and compulsions (Hofstede’s, 2016). Societies with a low score in this dimension tend to harbour cynicism and pessimism. I think in certain ways Spain is not indulgent in the manner that “things” are not of importance like they are in the United States. From my time in Spain I believe there is indulgence in this society. This is demonstrated in simple life pleasures of a long lunch breaks, wine with every meal, fresh food from the market each day a morning cappuccino and pastry. Small indulgences compared to the Western world however the people of Spain do know how to indulge in every moment they are given. This also includes being able to work less when you have a child under six and a paid summer holiday where companies shut down each year.

In reflecting on the Hofstede’s six dimensions of Spanish culture I can see the pros and cons when thinking out the differences in the workplace (Hofstede’s, 2016). In the power distance dimension in Spain work is rather hierarchal and questioning your manager is not appreciated. If you were a manager from the U. S. , you would not have much pushback from employees as they are not prone to question authority and just need direction and expectations. However, it might be difficult to expect employees to thing outside the box and be motivated to work until the job is done. Regarding Individualism and how Spain’s culture reflects this to a large degree then having your employees prioritize work above family would not happen. However, teamwork is valued and would always be beneficial to manage employees that demonstrate that. Uncertainty Avoidance would help with managing employees as the culture tend to like rules, expectations, stability and being happy with their life staying the same. This would help with retention and overall company stability. The long-term orientation dimension is helpful in that employees being managed live in the moment. They tend to be more open and happier where they enjoy each moment of every day. Hofstede’s last dimension is indulgence and shows Spain as being low on the scale. Managing workers who don’t have high expectations for large salaries and expensive technology and are happy with the status quo would help with employee attitudes and the company budget (Hofstede’s, 2016).

To be a successful manager in Spain you would need to be open to the cultural norms, speak Spanish, have clear and concise expectations and be willing to go a bit slower when making changes that employees will be affected by. Succeeding in Spain as a great manager includes being able to manage employees with different cultural norms, traditions, philosophies and priorities (Steers, 2016). Giving up our traditional values of competitiveness, motivation for advancement and individual thinking. You must be open to shorter work days, no urgency towards company deadlines and being rigid in expressing clear company expectations to your employees. A manager must have the skills to deal with a traditional hierarchical business that is changing with a growing number of younger employees that are slowly changing this landscape. The company strategy is usually developed by the company executives however businesses are slowly changing this dynamic. Your employees are not prone to being on time for meetings and appointments which can be frustrating for a manager. Managers must be open and warm towards their employees who may greet them with kisses and hugs. Exemplifying a professional attire is important in this business culture so being conscious of looking sharp will hold you of higher respect to your Spanish colleagues. Get ready also come August 1st for the company to shut down and all employees enjoying a month or longer paid holiday with their families. Most employees also take at least 10 paid national holidays as well and they very rarely let their paid time off rollover to the following year.

According to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey 2017 Spain ranks 17th as the best destination for expats (HSBC, 2017). I believe Spain is a near perfect place for expatriates with the low cost of living and the emphasis on enjoying life and not living to work. Nobody is in a rush whether at a restaurant or in the workplace. As an expatriate living in Spain you will learn a new culture, strengthen your Spanish language and gain valuable abilities to go with the flow. If you can look past the slow-moving culture and Bureaucracy you can live a very good life. A life full of spur of the moment experiences and surrounded by the warm people of Spain. Overall, I think that a manager from the U. S. working in Spain would have a relatively easy time managing employees versus other countries around the world.

29 April 2020

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