Unraveling the Mysteries of Culture

By Jan Vincent Meertens


Professor Geert Hofstede, one of the Netherlands’ most widely cited and translated scholars, passed away in February 2020, at the age of 91. Hofstede is known for his pioneering research on cross-cultural groups and organizations and has been a great source of inspiration to those who have tried to unravel the mysteries of culture. At the heart of Professor Hofstedeā€™s work is the question: what are the mutual role expectations between the archetypical role pair of teacher and students in different cultures? The way these roles are played is guided by deeply-rooted values which lead to feelings about good and evil, right and wrong, rational and irrational, proper and improper. These feelings burden cross-cultural learning with premature judgments that can come from teachers, students and parents.

Through his research, Geert Hofstede extracted four fundamental social dilemmas: the relationship to power (hierarchical or egalitarian), the relationship to the group (collectivistic or individualistic), the relationship to motivation and, finally, the relationship to uncertainty, culminating in his four cultural dimensions: the Hofstede Model. These dimensions have helped many people better understand the perplexities of cross-cultural education, most of which the author has experienced and witnessed myself as an expat child, expat parent and intercultural trainer.

In this article, Jan Vincent Meertens looks into these dimensions and their influence on educational style in more depth.



Jan Vincent Meertens
2020 Spring

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