Cultural differences and dimensions

Recently, I stumbled across two interesting books that were available online:

Heimgärtner, Rüdiger (2017): Interkulturelles User Interface Design. Von der Idee zum erfolgreichen Produkt. Wiesbaden: Springer Vieweg. 

Baldauf, Nicole/Lang, Rainhart (2016): Interkulturelles Management. Wiesbaden: Gabler Verlag.

I will refer to these books in this and the following blogpost. Even if they are not exactly about different cultural approaches in graphic design, I think they are related to it and there is a lot to learn from them. It is important for me to have an interdisciplinary approach when doing research and keep my mind open.

There are many differences between western and eastern culture. In contrast to Asia, the characteristics of the western culture are individuality, rationality, orientation towards contracts and right as well as lived ethics. Groups and harmony are more important in Asia. Europeans express issues clearly and directly, whereas Asians use indirect ways and symbols. The more important the message, the more careful the design and the content of the statements are.

There are many cultural differences concerning the perception, processing and presentation of information as well as in problem solving strategies, language and behaviour.  

Source: Heimgärtner, Rüdiger (2017): Interkulturelles User Interface Design. Von der Idee zum erfolgreichen Produkt. Wiesbaden: Springer Vieweg. page 18

Despite the many differences, there are factors that seem to be equal in all cultures. For example, the gestalt psychology and its principles as well as worldwide factors concerning the structure of values and social factors. A survey found out that even these generally applicable factors differ. Fanchen and Yao found out that asians concentrate their perception on context instead of the relevant. Chinese people repeat important things very often, especially at the end of the talk.

Hofstede defined cultural dimensions that are indicators for tendencies in the interaction and communication behaviour of people from different cultures. 

  • power distance index: shows how high the expectations of non powerful members of institutions of countries are that power is not equally distributed. This index is in China very high compared to Germany.
  • individualism vs. collectivism: If the individualism index is high, it means that relationships between individuals are loose. If this index is low, there are collective communities. 
  • femininity vs. masculinity: the community defines how strictly divided the roles of gender are. Masculinity stands for power, assertiveness and materialism whereas femininity means a community where the roles of gender overlap. The problem is that the definition of gender differs depending on the culture. Hofstede decided to rename the factors to quantity of life (competitiveness, assertiveness, ambitions, materialism, power) and quality of life (relationships, love, care)
  • avoidance of uncertainty: it shows how much members of a culture feel threatened during an unsure and unknown situation.
  • long-term vs. short-term orientation: long-term oriented cultures stand for lasting power and the support of values in terms of future achievements, especially endurance and economics. Short-term orientated cultures show high personal stability, respect for traditions and support of values concerning the past and the present.
  • indulgence vs. restraint: indulgent cultures are communities that enjoy life and have fun. Restraint cultures are communities that suppress needs and regulates it through strict social norms.