Models used to Explain Cultural Differences

The most popular frameworks used in cultural analysis include Kluckhohn’s Value Orientations, Hofstede’s VSM, Trompenaars’ 7 Cultures, Lee’s Self-Reference Criterion, ethnocentrism and Fan’s Model of Cross-Cultural Management (Usunier & Lee, 2013).

According to Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck (1961), there are five types of value orientations; relationship to nature orientation, time orientation, basic human nature orientation, activity orientation and human relationship orientation. These value orientations can generally be used to describe the dominant value system of a society and draw distinctions between societies.

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions entail five distinct value dimensions namely power distance (PDI), which relates to the acceptance of unequal power distribution; individualism versus collectivenism (IDV), which elaborates the concern for self versus others; masculinity versus femininity (MAS), which explores the concept of materialism versus concern for others; uncertainty avoidance (UAI), which explains people’s attitude towards uncertainty and ambiguity; and long-term versus short-term (LTO), which compares people’s perceptions about the future versus the past or present. Trompenaars’ model of national culture differences is on the other hand based on seven dimensions including universalism versus particularism, individualism versus collectivism, neutral versus emotional, specific versus diffuse, achievement versus ascription, sequential versus synchronic, and internal versus external control. The two models generally suggest that different countries are characterised by different levels of the above value dimensions. For instance, most Asian countries have a higher power distance compared to their Western counterparts, which suggests that the Asian society believes that inequalities amongst people are acceptable.

Fan’s Model of Cross-Cultural Management suggests that human beings, regardless of race, religion and culture, all share some basic needs and it is reasonable to expect that certain cultural traits transcend national boundaries, so called “cultural universals”. For example, people in all cultures admire the beauty, but the ideal beauty varies greatly from one country to another, which implies that the definition of a beauty is culturally conditioned.

Finally, Lees Self-Reliance criterion is based on the assumption that individuals unconsciously refer to their own cultural values, experiences and knowledge as a basis for decisions. Such individuals perceive that their own cultural practices are the most appropriate even in a world with diverse cultures. This is perhaps the main reason why multinationals tend to apply marketing strategies that have proven to be successful in their domestic markets to foreign markets. Ethnocentrism, which is a belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group or the dominance of the home country culture in decision making, can also be used to arrive at the same conclusion. People who are ethnocentric apply their own values in judging the behaviour and beliefs of other people raised in other cultures. To conclude, the aforementioned cultural models play a critical role in global marketing because they enable companies to predict the tastes and preferences of consumers in overseas markets.


Kluckhohn, F.R. and Strodtbeck, F.L. Variations in Value Orientations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1961.

Usunier, J.-C. & Lee, J. A., 2013. Marketing across cultures. 6 ed. Harlow : Pearson Education ltd.

Cultural Differences

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