Underneath the Behavior & Institutions layer are the third layer of culture – Cultural Values. Values are deeply held ideals, principles and feelings.

People have personal values, but we are looking for the shared values of a group. For example, it is fair to say that Americans value individual identity and direct communication while another culture might value group identity and indirect communication.

Values drive how decisions are made and how people interact. They shape Behavior & Institutions and give meaning to the Signs & Symbols of a culture.

Cultural Values are below the surface-largely invisible. Understanding them accurately requires observation as well as participation and interaction.

Questions for understanding Cultural Values:

  • Do people like to work independently, or together?
  • What makes a hero? Who are considered heroes?
  • Are status and honor achieved or ascribed?
  • What are the major areas of societal pain and suffering?
  • Who are recognized as leaders in the community? Why are they seen as leaders?
  • What traits do people value in others?
  • What are the popular proverbs?
  • Describe the people’s attitude concerning money and property. Does property have a symbolic or utilitarian value? Is it freely shared or not?
Common Cultural Values
Identity as an INDIVIDUAL Identity as member of a GROUP
‘me’ culture in which individual self-expression is the ultimate goal.

‘we’ culture in which group harmony and consensus are ultimate goals.

  • People are defined by what they do.  
  • Move straight to business; relating personally comes later.
  • People are defined based on who they are. 
  • It is important to get to know someone before doing business with them.
DIRECT Communication INDIRECT Communication
  • Openly confront issues and difficulties.
  • When communicating important information, talk directly to the person who needs to hear it.‘Yes’ means ‘yes’ and ‘no’ means ‘no’.
  • Difficult and contentious issues are discreetly avoided, as is conflict, if possible.
  • Use a messenger to communicate important information.‘Yes’ and ‘no’ may be said to be polite.
  • Value equality and minimize hierarchical differences.
  • Expect power and authority to be distributed evenly.
  • Willing to question authority and expect decisions to be justified on merit.
  • Strong emphasis on hierarchy and centralized authority.
  • Accept the unequal distributions of power and authority.
  • Respect and obey authority figures without much questioning.
TIME Oriented EVENT Oriented
  • Plan activities.
  • Schedules and routines should not be interrupted.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Resist a scheduled life.
  • Geert Hofstede. visit geerthofstede.com
  • Sarah Lanier “Foreign to Familiar: A Guide to Understanding Hot – and Cold – Climate Cultures”