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How to use the Cultural Reference Sheet - Culture Matters

I have recently added a resource page to Culture Matters (click here to get it), which is the so called Cultural Reference Sheet.

This Cultural Reference Sheet gives an overview of countries and their respective scores on 4 culture dimension, partially inspired by the work of Professor Geert Hofstede.How to use the Cultural Reference Sheet


One thing that is very important to remember and realize every time you refer to any of the scores in this Cultural Reference Sheet is the following: One can Only speak meaningfully about Cultural Differences by the Grace of Comparison!

What this means is that making a single (or absolute) statement about one country (e.g. “The USA is the most individualistic country in the World“) is an invalid statement (or in other words, total nonsense!).

A valid statment (one that makes sense) is the following: “The USA is more individualistic than India“. This is true and valid.

So again, any statement about one single country/culture on any (or combination) of these four dimensions does not make sense. It’s an error that is commonly made, mostly by in-experienced people.

Using the Cultural Reference Sheet

As stated before, in order to say something sensible about any culture and use this Cultural Reference Sheet, you should compare two countries.

I use 5 distinctions in the list: H+; H; M; L; L+

  • H+ Is a relatively high score on that dimension
  • H Is a significantly lower score on that dimension then H+
  • M Is a middle score, but significantly lower than H & H+ (but significantly higher than L & L+)
  • L Is a relatively lower score than M (but significantly higher than L+)
  • L+ Is a relatively low score

When comparing any one country on any or more dimensions, you look for a significant difference (e.g. L+ and M; or H+ and L). When scores are equal on any one dimension between countries there is no significant difference between those countries (although they might differ on other dimensions!).

Significant Difference

I have used the term Significant Difference a couple of times. What is meant by this is that a Significant Difference, a difference is that one will “Experience” and be able to observe. In a way a gut feeling (although our gut feeling is not always correct). The thing is, culture is first felt in our gut and our emotions first (“Hey, people in these and these countries do things such and such way”), and later on rationalized by our brains. So Emotions first, Ration second. Not the other way around!


What did I miss? Comments? Leave them at the end of this post

Please do not leave your comments on any LinkedIn group. Since this article is published in more groups, the discussion “lives” longer like this. Thanks!
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Chris Smit

I'm passionate about Cultural Difference. I have been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 19 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made me understand my own culture much better, and appreciate the differences around the world.
I have a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology and have lived in the USA, the Netherlands and, currently, in Belgium.
Thank you!

Chris Smit
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