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Hofstede Cultural Dimension in France

Hofstede Cultural Dimension in France


Geert Hofstede’s is a researcher in the area of culture and management. One of his most famous theories is the five cultural dimension that further explained by Browaeys and Price ( 2008, p 33-37) consists of:

  • Power Distance, means the extent to which members of culture expect and accept that power is unequally distributed in the society
  • Individualism/collectivism concerns about any relationship happening in society, to which they are individual or to what they are embedded to a group
  • Masculinity/feminity concerns about an importance of work goals (Earning, advancement, promotion, achievement) compared with personal goals
  • Uncertainty Avoidance this dimension is made to measures on which people in certain cultural environment deal with an uncertainty. To what extent do they feel threatened by ambiguous risky situation or to what extent do they prefer predictability in their lives
  • Short term versus long term orientation, this dimension concerns about fostering virtues related to the past and present or virtues related to the future.

Hofstede Cultural Dimension in France

Power Distance

Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

France is a country with high in aristocracy and enrich in wealth. High power distance indicates that people of France accept an inequality; it means upper class people dominate on lower or middle class people. The power is highly centralized in France. The laws and regulation process is heavily controlled and maintained by the government and the process of any government action is strict and lengthy. In management, the attitude towards managers is more formal, the information flow is hierarchical. The people in the lower stage of the hierarchy accept the fact that they are being ruled by the higher authority. According to the history, France has had this same level of power distance and they still are following this.

Many comparative studies have shown that French companies have normally one or two hierarchical levels more than comparable companies in Germany and the UK. Superiors have privileges and are often inaccessible. CEO’s of big companies are called Mr. PDG, which is a more prestigious abbreviation than CEO, meaning President Director General. These PDGs have frequently attended the most prestigious universities called “grandes écoles”, big schools.


Jobs are better protected in France than they are in the UK, this means that employers cannot easily dismiss their employees so the need to ensure they employ the right person from the beginning is high. French workplaces are much more formal than in the UK. The division between the workers is easily defined. There is a definite hierarchy in place with no blurring of the lines. Even between colleagues of the same level there is minimal familiarity. We can also notice that higher class French people will try to avoid lower class people. They often judge the person on how they dress-up,attitude and body language. If a person is worn a bit poor cloth and ask for a direction you will notice that there is no one coming to help him or her. By this we can get a pretty clear picture about their high power distance in their society. There is also a high level of flirting which some foreign staff can find uncomfortable, but it is an accepted part of workplace culture in France that the French women don’t seem to notice. (“France Business and Work Culture” Expat Focus. 3 Maret 2017

Individual versus Group Orientation

French scored 71 on their individualism score. This score shown that France is  an individualism society. They didn’t get affected by group’s belonging. This means that an individual only take care them self and their family. Meanwhile, the collectivist society will belong ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty. So, in this point, we could conclude that French have “individualism society”.

People in individualistic cultures emphasize their success/achievements in job or private wealth and aiming up to reach more and/or a better job position. Especially in the France the competition  about jobs and trying to climb up in the hierarchy ladder is something very common there. In business they try to improve their connections and to gain more value out of them, not just for establishing a good relationship but to be involved in a calculative way. Employees are expected to defend their interests and to promote themselves when ever possible.

Individualism and individuality – France’s distinguished individuality is an important cultural characteristic that describes the French passion for uniqueness and freedom of opinion, both in society and in business. However, individuality should not be confused with the term individualism, which is equally essential in France, but refers to having a separate but equal sense of place in society. Individualism in the French business environment means that a greater concern is placed on social status and being judged as an individual

As an example we can look an example from France education system that mainly consists of three major important thing to be remember which are:

You are on your own: you cannot expect anyone—especially professors!—to provide detailed instructions on how to deal with the various aspects of academic life. You must gather information yourself inductively, or by asking classmates who somehow know more than you do. There are few incentives for professors to help you out: not only are they not paid to do so, but they often have no office and huge classloads. Moreover, they are not accountable for their students’ success, nor are they evaluated by them.
You must set your own pace of study: professors usually hand out a reading list at the beginning of class, but remain very vague about what you should be doing and when. Unfortunately, American students often interpret this attitude to mean that there is not much to do, and suffer the consequences later in the year, at exam time (it is not unusual that one’s grade for an entire semester should hinge on a single final exam).
You are wholly responsible for your work: In many university courses, you may never have to actually show up for class, if you can somehow get reliable notes and if evaluation consists in a final exam only (or a mid-term—examen partiel—and a final). In any case, you decide on when, how, and how much to work. Before skipping classes, however, remember that you are not a native speaker of French, and that the linguistic benefits of listening to lectures and taking notes are invaluable.  (Spielmann Guy. “France: A Cultural Primer” La Page The Guy. 3 Maret 2017.

Uncertainty Avoidance

This dimension, Uncertainty Avoidance, has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings anxiety with it, and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.

At 86, French culture scores high on Uncertainty Avoidance based on the website of the official Gerth-Hofstede website ( by this number we can assume or see that:

  • The French don’t like surprises or gambling. They need everything to be planned precisely and accurately so everything is on the schedule
  • Before meetings and negotiations they like to receive all necessary information. It means that when we want to start a business with French. They will likely to ask information to make sure their got everything that they want and need.
  • As a consequence, the French are good in developing complex technologies and systems in a stable environment, such as in the case of nuclear power plants, rapid trains and the aviation industry that needs a further detailed information, calculation, and planning.
  • Because the individualism and the power distance also high in France. French always want to make sure their individual position is safe within the organization or in community. By that mean they are often talk active and have a sharp tongue towards others.
  • There is a strong need for laws, rules and regulations to structure life. Because, like we know before that French dislike uncertainty, so they need a rule, regulation and information as a guide for them in order to undergo their daily activities.


The French is likely able to make an innovation and technologies breakthrough using the information that they have to solve the available problem for better future and not living under uncertainty like an example from this article

Not all 3D printing in the medical field means that someone’s managed to 3D print skin, kidneys, or other organs. Oftentimes, 3D printing technology is used in the creation of medical tools and instrumentspatient-specific modelssurgical guides, and stents. Stents are basically small, expandable tubes used to keep passageways, like blood vessels, arteries, or airways open. Last year, Northwestern University used 3D printing to develop patient-specific vascular stents, and a cardiologist at the Heart Institute Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was able to create a custom pediatric stent by using a 3D printed model of the patient’s heart. But now, researchers in France have broken some new ground. The team was built through a collaboration between Toulouse-based startup AnatomikModeling and the Pulmonology department at Toulouse University Hospital. They’ve successfully developed, and implanted, a number of custom stents that have identical anatomies to the trachea and/or bronchi of their patients, and they say it’s the world’s first 3D customized airway stent ever created.

Masculinity vs Feminine Orientation

Masculine cultures will see work more as a challenge for them to get some achievement and rewards. The focus is in performance which is competing with each others to achieve goals. Feminine on the other side are the opposite of the masculine meaning feminine culture give more attention to the broader picture in particular to relationship with others in workplace. France has a somewhat Feminine culture. They value quality of life and life purpose. Both male and female have equal social roles. At face value this may be indicated by its famous welfare system, the 35-hour working week, five weeks of holidays per year and its focus on the quality of life. French culture in terms of the model has, however, French has another unique characteristic that this characteristic has not been found in any other country which is the upper class scores feminine while the working class scores masculine. By that Characteristic we can understand that the working class will have likely more competition in order to achieve one goals, put more sympathy towards achievement and has a mind set of live to work. In contradiction the high class people will tend to have more sympathy over the unfortunate and has a perspective of work to live, simply put that their live is not just for work but also to enjoy and has a better quality towards life. Because by this characteristic the theory of hofstede often crash with the local mainstream culture.


This is the best example of the special characteristic of the feminine and masculine culture that French has.

The twin stereotypes about gender in France are wholly contradictory: on the one hand, they have titanic feminist theorists, from Simone de Beauvoir via Helene Cixious to Virginie Despentes, a tranche of thinkers so heavyweight that the rest of Europe couldn’t match it if we pooled all our feminists. On the other hand, the mainstream culture looks quite sexist. The women seem bedevilled by standards that are either unattainable (to be a perfect size eight) or demeaning in themselves (to be restrained, demure, moderate in all things, poised; a host of qualities that all mean “quiet”). But this dichotomy is impossible. Either the feminist intellectuals had no impact, or the sexism is a myth.

Elsa Dorlin, associate professor at the Sorbonne, currently a visiting professor in California, dispatches the first quantity pretty swiftly. “French feminism is a kind of American construction,” she says. “Figures like Helene Cixous are not really recognised in France. In civil society, there is a hugely anti-feminist mentality.”

The standard structural markers of inequality are all in place: the figure proffered for a pay gap is a modest 12%, but this is what is known as “pure discrimination”, the difference in wages between a man and a woman in exactly the same job, with the same qualifications. When the Global Pay Gap survey came out at Davos, France came a shocking 46th, way behind comparable economies (Britain is 15th, Germany 13th), and behind less comparable ones (Kazakhstan scored higher).

Female representation in politics is appalling, due to very inflexible rules about the pool from which the political class is drawn. All politicians come from the highly competitive set of graduate schools Les Grandes Ecoles (apart from Nicolas Sarkozy) which, until recently, had only a smattering of women, and none at all in Polytechnique (it is sponsored by the Ministry of Defence: women are now allowed in).

When there is a high-profile female face in politics, it is indicative of some force other than equality. At the local elections last week the two big winners were the Socialists, whose leader is Martine Aubry (daughter of Jacques Delors), and the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen (daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen). So what we’re seeing there is not so much the smashing of the glass ceiling as a freak shortage of sons in a political culture so stitched-up that it’s effectively hereditary.

As for the lived experience of being female, it sounds like hard work, even as described by women who say they love it. Thomasine Jammot, a cross-cultural trainer (who teaches travelling business people how they might overcome cultural misinterpretation, on their own or someone else’s part) says that she does not feel discriminated against, nor objectified. “There is a permanent ode to women in France,” she explains. “We are loved very well.” But then she continues: “There are many things you can’t do, as a woman, in France. You can’t be coarse or vulgar, or drink too much, or smoke in the street. I would never help myself to wine.” “How would you get more wine?” I ask, baffled. “At the end of an evening, I might shake my glass at my husband. But no, I would never touch the bottle.”

Sometimes it sounds not so much sexist as so intensely gendered that even men must feel the weight of constraint, of expectation. But at least they won’t have to do the laundry as well.

(Williams, Zoey . “New Europe: Why France’s gender code makes life hard for women

” The Guardian. 5 Maret 2017.

Long/Short Term Orientation

At 63 France is a long-term oriented society.  This dimension describes how people in the past, as well as today, relate to the fact that so much of what happens around us cannot be explained. In societies with a normative orientation, most people have a strong desire to explain as much as possible.

In societies with a pragmatic orientation, most people don’t have a need to explain everything, as they believe that it is impossible to fully understand the complexity of life. The challenge is not to know the truth but to live a virtuous life.

In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.


In this below article, we can see how French is constantly changing from cultural oriented into how they adapt their traditions towards constantly changing business environment especially in the use of Corporate Social Responsibility.

Influence of History, Culture, and Religion

Beyond the terminological hurdles are several features of French business– society relations that differentiate the culture from the Anglo-American context of CSR: the strong role of the State, the mistrust toward private actors to provide general good, and a certain skepticism toward transparency. The most significant principle distinguishing the business–society nexus in France from the AngloAmerican context is the strong role of the State. The “government’s right to influence and, where necessary, intervene quietly and effectively behind the scenes is expected, respected, and, it would seem, admired” (Charkham, 1995, p. 120).

 The longstanding tradition of centralized power and faith in changing society via legislation in France is one factor behind the acceptance of what in other cultures would be seen as intolerable state interventionism. It is thus not surprising that the discourse and practice of CSR in France has generated a body of legislation regulating business behavior corresponding with the culturally shared understanding of roles and responsibilities. For example, France was a pioneer in introducing mandatory corporate social reporting in 1977, and it used legislation again in 2001 to try to mainstream the integration of social and environmental criteria in the annual report of listed companies. Stemming from the Jacobean tradition of “State monopoly on providing for the general interest of society” (Halba, 2003, p. 13, our translation), and the concomitant mistrust of intermediary organizations between citizens and the state that finds its roots in the French Revolution, the role of other actors, for example, companies and trade unions, has for a long time been limited. Even concerning the internal aspect of CSR, that is, the business employee relations, “government interference through formal laws in labor management relationships and in management is widely accepted” (Rey, 1980, p. 292).

Trade unions in France were able to influence the regulation of labor relations; however, unlike the processes in other countries, traditionally the legitimacy and the power of these unions stemmed more from their relationship with the government than from their actions on the company level. Indeed, still today the ability of a union to negotiate with the employer and to present candidates to the elections of the works council Berthoin Antal, Sobczak / Corporate Social Responsibility 5 depends on their representative character that is defined by the public authorities.

The French legislator defined a list of criteria to determine whether a union is representative or not (Law on Collective Bargaining, 1982, Article L.133-2), and the list of five unions drawn up by the government had drawn up in the 1960s is still in force, determining which unions are automatically recognized as legitimate in all companies nationwide (Decree on the Representativnesss of Trade Unions, 1966). In this context, any form of self-regulation in the field of labor relations that is elaborated without the State is traditionally considered to be a form of privatizing law (Delmas-Marty, 1998, p. 73), a solution that seems acceptable to French labor lawyers only if it relies on a form of social dialogue and not on unilateral decisions of the employer (Supiot, 1989). It is, therefore, difficult in France to conceive of business as taking a lead in social affairs, even in conjunction with other actors, without government involvement at least to ensure that all the parties have their say.

Another key difference between the cultural contexts of CSR development is that the principle of transparency that underlies CSR in the Anglo-American context is foreign to the French tradition. The idea of communicating about corporate social performance to a larger public goes against the grain of the French catholic culture. Instead, “discretion about good deeds, on the part of individuals or companies, is regarded as a proof of sincerity and disinterestedness” (Segal, 2003, p. 17, our translation). Traditionally, to the extent that business chose to engage in the community, it was not deemed appropriate to report on its activities publicly. This skepticism about transparency and public reporting of good deeds explains why the “business case for CSR” has been particularly problematic for France. viIndeed, until recently (Trébucq & d’Arcimoles, 2004), very little research has been conducted by French researchers about the link between social and financial performance.

 The skepticism about public reporting and the understanding of the central role of government have had a clear influence on the French legislation on social reporting. In the 1977 law, companies were required to submit their social reports to their works council and to a government agency rather than to the general public. Up to the mid-1970s, the French approach to CSR was thus still influenced in many aspects by the national traditions and characterized by the important role of the State, a focus on employees and reluctance to transparency. In the following section, we analyze the degree to which these national traditions still play a role in the debates and experiences during the past few decades.

The Concomitant Influence of Traditions and Factors of Change

Since the Mid-1970s Since the mid-1970s, the business–society nexus in France has undergone significant change. The old French model has disappeared and a new model has emerged, which still relies on many elements of the old French system, in which the state and the large firms are critical actors, but it does so against a corporate governance background which is integrated in the international (Anglo-Saxon) capital market. (Hancké, 2001, p. 307) The changes have come about from a combination of forces and processes. Some changes were generated by the traditional actors and processes, whereas others have been stimulated largely by external actors and pressures; however, this article argues that in both cases the influence of the cultural context on stakeholder strategies and policies has been of great importance. To highlight the endogenous and exogenous factors of change, the evolution of the main characteristics of the traditional French approach to CSR is analyzed. (Ariane Berthoin Antal, Andr´e Sobczak. Corporate social responsibility in France: A mix of national traditions and international influences. Business and Society, SAGE Publications, 2007, 46 (1), pp.9-32.)


Price, B. (2008). Understanding Cross-Cultural management. United Kingdom: Pearson.

Ariane Berthoin Antal, Andr´e Sobczak. (2007). Corporate social responsibility in France: A mix of national traditions and international influences. Business and Society. SAGE Publications.

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