He came up with the idea to describe typical characteristics of cultures by only a few "cultural dimensions".
The Hofstede's cultural dimensions are described here, I will just quote very short descriptions of the dimensions (quotes from Hofstede's website).
1. Power distance index (PDI):
- This dimension expresses the degree to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
- The high side of this dimension, called Individualism, can be defined as a preference for a loosely-knit social framework in which individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their immediate families only. Its opposite, Collectivism, represents a preference for a tightly-knit framework in society in which individuals can expect their relatives or members of a particular in-group to look after them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
- The masculinity side of this dimension represents a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material reward for success. Society at large is more competitive. Its opposite, femininity, stands for a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life. Society at large is more consensus-oriented.
- The uncertainty avoidance dimension expresses the degree to which the members of a society feel uncomfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity. The fundamental issue here is how a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? Countries exhibiting strong UAI maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. Weak UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles.
- The long-term orientation dimension can be interpreted as dealing with society’s search for virtue. Societies with a short-term orientation generally have a strong concern with establishing the absolute Truth. They are normative in their thinking.
- Indulgence stands for a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human drives related to enjoying life and having fun. Restraint stands for a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms.
Fortunately, Hofstede provided values for the first 4 dimensions of 98 countries (in some cases he provided 5 dimensions) on his website.
Similar to genetic distance calculations based on genetic components, I calculated the distance of different societies based on the first 4 dimensions. You can download it here. The spreadsheet can be found here.
Update of this post can be found here.