Trompenaars' Model of National Culture Differences

Trompenaars' Model of National Culture Differences

Star with seven dimensions of culture.

7 Dimensions of Culture

Trompenaars' Model of National Culture Differences is a framework for cross-cultural communication Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner created to apply to general business and management. They conducted a large-scale survey of 8,841 managers and organization employees from 43 countries.

This model of national culture differences has seven dimensions: five orientations refer to the way we deal with each other, one refers to time, and one addresses the environment.

  • Universalism vs. Particularism

Universalism is the belief that we can apply ideas and practices everywhere without modification. Particularism is the belief that circumstances dictate how we should apply ideas and practices. It asks, "What is more important, rules or relationships?" Cultures with high universalism see one reality and focus on formal rules. Business meetings are characterized by rational, professional arguments with a "get down to business" attitude.

Trompenaars research found high universalism in the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, Germany, and Sweden. Cultures with high particularism view reality more subjectively and place a greater emphasis on relationships. It is important to get to know the people you are doing business with during meetings in a particularist environment. Someone from a universalist culture is wise not to dismiss personal meanderings as irrelevant or mere small talk during business meetings. Countries that have high particularism include Venezuela, Indonesia, China, South Korea, and Russia.

  • Individualism vs. Communitarianism

Individualism refers to people regarding themselves as individuals, while communitarianism refers to people regarding themselves as part of a group. Trompenaar's research suggested cultures may change more quickly that we realize. Trompenaars research showed Mexico and the former communist countries of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union have high levels of individualism. Mexico's involvement in NAFTA the global economy could explain the shift from a communitarian culture. This contrasts with Hofstede's earlier research, which found these countries to be collectivist, and shows the dynamic and complex nature of culture. Countries with high communitarianism include Germany, China, France, Japan, and Singapore.

  • Neutral vs. Emotional

People from a neutral culture hold their emotions in check, while those in an emotional culture express their feelings openly. The Japanese and British cultures are neutral cultures. Examples of high emotional cultures include the Netherlands, Mexico, Italy, Israel and Spain. In emotional cultures, people often smile, talk loudly, and greet each other with enthusiasm. When people from a neutral culture do business in an emotional culture they should be ready for an animated and boisterous meeting and try to respond warmly. Those from an emotional culture doing business in a neutral culture, should not be put off by a lack of emotion.

  • Specific vs. Diffuse

This category examines how individuals separate their personal and public lives. In a "specific" culture, individuals readily share their large public space with others. They guard a small private space closely, which they only share with close friends and associates. In a "diffuse" culture, public and private space are similar in size. Individuals guard their public space carefully, because those who enter their public space can easily enter their private space. Fred Luthans and Jonathan Doh give the following example:

American students address their university professor as “Doctor Smith” in a university setting, but others often call the professor by their first name when shopping at a store and other public settings. His status changes because, according to American cultural values, people have large public spaces and often conduct themselves differently depending on their public role. Bob has private space that is off-limits to students who must call him “Doctor Smith” in class.

In highly-diffuse cultures, people have a similar public and private life. In Germany, people will address a university professor formally, as Herr Professor Doktor Schmidt, at the university, local market, and bowling alley. People maintain a great deal of formality.

  • Achievement vs. Ascription

In an achievement culture, people are accorded status based on how well they perform. In an ascription culture, status is based on who or what a person is. Great attention is paid to one's title and societal status. Do you have to prove yourself to obtain status or does a person receive it? Achievement cultures include the United States, Austria, Israel, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Some ascription cultures are Venezuela, Indonesia, and China.

When people from an achievement culture do business in an ascription culture it is important to have older, senior members with formal titles and respect should be shown to their counterparts. However, for an ascription culture doing business in an achievement culture, it is important to bring knowledgeable members who can prove to be proficient to other group, and respect should be shown for the knowledge and information of their counterparts.

  • Sequential vs. Synchronic

Do we do things one at a time or several things at once?

  • Internal vs. External control

Do we control our environment or are we controlled by it?

Last modified: Monday, October 14, 2019, 12:27 PM