Notes on Intercultural Communication

Hofstede`s Cultural Onion

with 2 comments

Gerard (Geert) Hendrik Hofstede (born 3 October 1928) created the model of the „Cultural Onion“

Hofstede`s Onion Model of Culture


Unfortunately, the nice intercultural website where I got the pic from was closed down: http://homepages.rtlnet.de/krkarwoth/priorities.html (retrieved 28.08.2009, disappearance noticed 22.11.2012). Sorry for this.

It is made of 3 layers around a core. The core stands for the values of a certain culture, which is not moving a lot. It mostly remains the same. Even if something seems to be outdated, it still can subconsciously play a role in the present. That includes individuals as well as groups.

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The first layer around the core is described as rituals. A ritual can be the way of personal hygiene (most Asians shower in the evening, Europeans in the morning). German people like to shake hands often, Malay tenderly touch the fingertips and then point it to the heart. Those rituals are changing slowly.

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The second layer around the core are the „heroes“. A hero can be a fictive person, but has influence on the culture. A nice example is Dracula (written by Bram Stoker, published 1897). Since this book was published, many people in Western world developed a fear about Vampires, even if it never existed in their culture before. It also can be national heroes, photo-models or scientists – all people, who play a role-model in that society.

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The third layer is about the symbols. Nowadays most symbols appear as brands like BMW, Apple or Louis Vuitton. Those symbols usually move according to the momentary fashion.

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All three layers can be trained and learned through practices except for the core: the inner cultural values (Good vs. Bad, dirty vs. clean, ugly vs. beautiful, unnatural vs. natural, abnormal vs. normal, paradoxical vs. logical, irrational vs. rational).

For further information about the core, please refer to The Core of Hofstede’s Onion Model.

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Hofstede also developed the Model of the 5 Cultural Dimensions http://laofutze.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/hofstedes-cultural-dimensions-2/

Download an introduction to Hofstede`s theories as pdf here or see further info about Hofstede at http://laofutze.wordpress.com/category/hofstede/

Practical approaches of Hofstede’s theories see at http://laofutze.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/applications-of-hofstedes-theories/

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reviewed 13.09.2013

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2 Responses

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  1. Can any one provide me a practical application for the hofstde onion, for branding of a product.

    Niraj

    03/08/2010 at 10:17

    • In our McCann offices, the Hofstede Onion has always been used for consumer profiling, segment characterization or creating a ‘conceptual target’. As such, the center of the onion represents (one of) the broadest platform that a brand could cater to. There are, of course, a thousand other derivatives / angles that could be taken for the brand.

      Adnan R. Amin

      03/05/2013 at 17:03


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