Notes on Intercultural Communication

Hofstede`s Cultural Onion

with 10 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: (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 Even if something seems to be outdated, it still can subconsciously play a role in the present.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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Hofstede also developed the Model of the 5 Cultural Dimensions

Download an introduction to Hofstede`s theories as pdf here or see further info about Hofstede at

Practical approaches of Hofstede’s theories see at


reviewed 13.09.2013

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

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


    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

    • Take the example of an acoustic guitar brand that wants to expand from the US to Germany.
      Their branding has so far worked very well by using the Military and war vets to advertise for it, saying it is a great instrument and that they have been working on it as well.

      Using the cultural onion, one could figure out pretty quickly that the core values of the US include patriotism and at least in a way militarism by looking at heroes (veterans), rituals (certain militaristic holidays, parades and so on), symbols (“support our troops”-bumper stickers…).

      This is completely different in Germany. Its heroes, symbols and rituals don’t include any military references, and the military is seen as a necessary evil, and not as something that should be praised.
      Thus, a marketing campaign and branding with a military background wouldn’t be wise.

      I have written a blog article about this with a bit more details here:

      Paul Wesendonk

      03/08/2014 at 03:26

  2. […] for a global audience. A plethora of cultural models are commonly used in academic research (Hofstede’s onion model, Hall’s iceberg model, Hofstede’s triangle model, Lewis’ triangle model, the list […]

  3. […] The Onion The Iceberg […]

  4. […] Hofstede. (1991). Hofstede. Opgehaald van Hofstede, G. (2015). The hofstede centre . Opgehaald van Kenya: […]

  5. […] his approach to culture, Wing brings together two different models: Hofstede’s Onion and Simon Sinek’s “Why” centred model (which you may be familiar with from this TED […]

  6. […] in us. Now before you think I’m endorsing Philip Larkin’s notion, think of it in this context. Our culture (global) rewards only the highest of achievers. So we strive to be rewarded as such […]

  7. […] are in coherence with the inner core of Geert Hofstede’s famous ‘culture onion’, where the (most often unconscious) fundamental assumptions of a given (most often national) […]

  8. […] Hofstede. (1991). Hofstede. Opgehaald van Hofstede, G. (2015). The hofstede centre . Opgehaald van Kenya: […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: