The Grey Chronicles


Learning from Hofstede: ASEAN5

The Geert Hofstede™ Cultural Dimensions web site offer visitors a chance to compare their home culture with the host culture. In the above mentioned web page, Geert Hofstede remarks: “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.

Having been intrigued with the effect of culture (see previous post: Geocentric Mindset, among others) in this era of globalization, this particular post will delve into the perceived congruence of Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] member-countries. The original signatories of the ASEAN are: Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Hofstede’s Five Dimensions: ASEAN5


[PDI] Power Distance Index. Most culture of ASEAN5 countries see power is distributed unequally, accepted from below, not imposed from above. Malaysia and the Philippines scored higher than the three others probably because of the strong political figures, Mahatir Mohammad and Ferdinand Marcos, in its respective recent histories. Thailand, being the “Land of the Free” sees their culture in which power is distributed almost equally.

[IDV] Individualism. The culture of ASEAN5 countries are prone to cater to collectivism or “societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families which continue protecting them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.” (Hofstede, 1993). The Philippines scores the highest among the ASEAN5, meaning that there is a slight tendency for individualism in Philippine culture much more than the four ASEAN5 countries.

[MAS] Masculinity. Masculine values are assertiveness, performance, success and competition, which in nearly all societies are associated with the role of men. Quality of life, maintaining warm personal relationships, service, care for the weak, and solidarity, which in nearly all societies are more associated with feminine roles (Hofstede, 1993). Of the ASEAN5, the Philippines [64] put premium on masculine values traceable to American influence, while Thailand [34] is one of the moderately low in this dimension like France [43] or Spain [42]. The Philippines and Thailand are at the opposing ends of the spectrum for MAS and UAI.

[UAI] Uncertainty Avoidance Index. A society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. Uncertainty-accepting cultures are more tolerant of different opinions, reflective and phlegmatic (Hofstede, 1993). Thailand is more uncertainty accepting, while the Philippines prefer a structured society but not to the extent like Singapore, probably the effect of the strong man rule of its prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew.

[LTO] Long-Term Orientation. Long-term oriented cultures value thrift and perseverance; short-term oriented cultures value tradition, the fulfilment of social obligations and protecting one’s ‘face’ or honor. Only three countries—Singapore, Thailand [Buddhism, 96%] and the Philippines had definitive scores for this dimension. Yet, among these three, the Philippine score is below the other two, meaning Filipinos value tradition, social obligations and saving ‘face’ more than thriftiness and perseverance. An LTO dimension for ASEAN5 is difficult to infer because of lack of scores for Malaysia and Indonesia, but considering that Malaysia has a sizable Chinese community, about a third of its population, thus it could be assumed that a Confucian heritage is also present. Indonesia is predominantly an Islamic country [80% Islam, 10% Christian] thus its LTO score might more or less than the Philippines [about 4% Islam, 89% Christian] but not exceeding that of Singapore and Thailand (population statistics from Crofton, 1990).


Hofstede’s Five Dimensions: VietnamOf the five Hofstede dimensions, only two of these, namely Power Distance Index [PDI] and Individualism [IDV] are commonly shared by the five ASEAN original signatories. These two dimensions might explain the ASEAN adoption of the ‘ASEAN Way’, which prioritizes agreement by consensus and the adoption of the lowest common denominator? Probably, ASEAN5 could build on this commonality to bring forth the realization of provisions of the ASEAN Charter.

Adding Vietnam’s Hofstede estimated scores to the mix, it is rather not surprising that Vietnam fit right into the scores of ASEAN5. Unfortunately, other later additions to ASEAN, such as Brunei, Burma, and Cambodia were not included in the Hofstede study.

In Diversity, is there Unity?


Crofton, Ian [ed.] (1990). The Guinness Encyclopedia. Middlesex, U.K.: Guinness Publishing, 1990. p. 691, 702, 713, 719, 725. back to text.

Hofstede, G. (1993). Cultural constraints in management theories. Academy of Management Executive, 1993. 7:1. pp. 81—94. back to text: 1 | 2 | 3.

Hofstede, Geert (2001). Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviours, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. 2nd ed. Place: Sage Publications, Inc;, April 2001. 616pp. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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