Posts tagged Cultural Dimensions


When I first arrived in Japan 11 years ago, my cultural compass knew only stereotypes and carried a basic one size fits all model for the Japanese. Young, naive and like the Fool card of the Tarot deck, I was an individual on a journey with a whimsical and entertained state of mind. Monsters stomping on monster sized cityscapes, decadent shopping malls, Sega and Sonic, Nintendo game consoles, indoor ski fields, pristine natural scenes, monkeys in hot springs, VHS recorders, Zen kōan, therapeutic synth music, the mind of Minolta, violent anime scenes, jazzy Hip-Hop, samurai books, samurai films and samurai swords. The whirlwind of images in my head before I left was everything and nothing much really. For as much as all of that imagery raged and swirled so seductively in my mind, I really knew nothing about Japan. But a probing nose hair down the rabbit hole; dancing with the aesthetics of nation and not much else. Obtaining a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and perhaps more surprisingly and importantly, my own, all but awaited me. Because, at that time, I definitely had a lot of good learning to do. So what did I learn? Does this entry even relate to the heading of this entry? Just what in tarnation is cultural intelligence?  Just what are the real deeper differences between the two countries I'm split between? Join me in finding out more in the coming series of blog entries, interviews, and media dedicated to cross-cultural intelligence and awareness.

What is Cultural Intelligence or CQ?

This is actually quite easy to answer. Cultural Intelligence or CQ as it is now being branded as, simply put, really comes down to how much you understand about your own culture and how well you know about others. While learning the terminology and knowing how well you can describe other cultures is important, the true test is in the actions you take to mediate between cultures and how well you can succeed in cross-cultural relations. It applies equally well to you whether you are involved in business such as dealing with communication between international clientele and co-workers or in social situations such as partners of mixed marriages and the relatives and friends involved and tied to those marriages.  

While being high in other intelligence markers such as having a high IQ or good EQ (emotional intelligence) is extremely important, having a good grasp of how to understand different cultures in a world that is coming together faster than particles in a hadron collider might very well be a thing to know and of use. Fortunately, to make things easier famous linguists and cross-cultural theory experts like Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars and Edward T. Hall have amassed quite a bit of solid research and findings. Much like the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the The Big Five - five factor model (FFM personality tests and scales, Hofsted and Trompenaars have their own scales and indexes to judge and nation and its cultural personality. Here are just a few of their indexes: 

Trompenaars has seven cultural dimensions:

  • Universalism versus Particularism

  • Individualism versus Communitarianism

  • Neutral versus Emotional

  • Specific versus Diffuse

  • Achievement versus Ascription

  • Sequential versus Synchronous time

  • Internal direction versus External direction

Hofstede characterises a nation and its culture by six dimensions:

  • Individualism

  • Power Distance

  • Masculinity

  • Uncertainty Avoidance

  • Long-term Orientation

  • Indulgence

All of these dimensions help to narrow down some of the key traits which nations and different cultures possess. Importantly, the traits which make each nation unique, similar to and different from one another. You can learn more about each of these dimensions by visiting both Hofstede's and Tropenaars's websites. Hofstede's website includes a lot of interesting information and also opportunities to compare different nations. 

Check out and compare more by going to the site: