Cultural Dimensions of Hofstede Model in the UAE

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Knowing national cultures is vital for establishing better policies, understanding individual and group behaviors, and building productive international relationships in different areas ranging from politics and economics to personal lives. However, culture is a broad phenomenon; therefore, in order to make it easier to study and understand it, Hofstede developed a model comprising several cultural dimensions. The key feature of the Hofstede model is that it views culture through the lens of differences among various countries (Zainuddin et al., 2018). Although this framework is solid and has served as the basis for many studies, some scholars argue that it is flawed and outdated. This paper aims to explore the criticism of the Hofstede model and explain why it is still relevant. The relevance of this framework will be illustrated by applying it to the UAE. This paper will argue that the Hofstede index in the five cultural dimensions provides a correct general picture of the Emirati culture.

Criticism of the Hofstede Model

Despite the popularity and wide applicability of the Hofstede model, some scholars criticize it for being biased and outdated. The framework is considered obsolete because it is based on the IBM data obtained in the 1960s and 1970s (Zainuddin et al., 2018). However, this assertion seems to be unfounded because the country ranking suggested by Hofstede has been validated in many studies and has been proven to remain relevant (Zainuddin et al., 2018). Furthermore, the country scores determined by Hofstede show the relative position of countries to one another (Zainuddin et al., 2018). It means that the framework reflects the core of the national cultures that are unlikely to change abruptly after some modifications in the environment, such as the advent of technologies. Therefore, the model should not be considered outdated only because it is founded on old data.

Regarding the flaws in the Hofstede framework, scholars provide several arguments. For example, researchers state that the model is biased because it makes conclusions about the entire national culture based on the information about a single company (Zainuddin et al., 2018). However, since Hofstede studied culture, the use of one company’s data ensured that the differences in policies and practices of several firms did not influence individuals’ behaviors (Zainuddin et al., 2018). The Hofstede model has also been criticized because its cultural dimensions reflect Western values (Venkateswaran and Ojha, 2019). In response to this, Hofstede invited scholars with different value systems to contribute to the framework (Venkateswaran and Ojha, 2019). Finally, the model received critique because it views a country as a unit of analysis, thus simplifying the multidimensional concept of culture (Almutairi, Heller and Yen, 2021). However, this approach enabled scholars to apply a quantitative research design, the results of which are generalizable, in contrast to quantitative methods (Almutairi, Heller and Yen, 2021). Despite this criticism, the Hofstede framework remains relevant because its validity is continuously proved, and it allows for using large samples and producing generalizable results.

The Hofstede Index in the UAE

The Hofstede model comprises five cultural dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism versus collectivism, masculinity versus femininity, and long-term versus short-term orientation. These dimensions represent specific aspects of national culture that can be measured by comparing countries to each other (Zainuddin et al., 2018). Power distance refers to people’s willingness to accept inequalities in the distribution of power. Uncertainty avoidance determines whether individuals are tolerant toward ambiguity and risk. The dimension of individualism evaluates to which extent people are integrated into and dependent on groups. Masculinity versus femininity is related to the dominant cultural characteristics and assesses whether they are more male-typical or female-typical. Finally, long-term orientation determines if the country is future-oriented or focuses on the past and present.

In the Hofstede model, national cultures are evaluated using the Hofstede index for each of the five cultural dimensions. Figure 1 demonstrates the Hofstede index characterizing the national culture in the UAE as estimated by Hofstede Insights (no date). The Emirati power distance score is 90, which implies that people in this country are willing to accept inequalities in power distribution. The individualism score is low, meaning that Emirati society is collectivistic rather than individualistic. Regarding the masculinity dimension, the UAE’s position is in the middle, suggesting that its national culture is neither masculine nor feminine. The country scores high in uncertainty avoidance, which signifies that its people are intolerant toward ambiguity and risk. Hofstede Insights (no date) provide no data for the dimension of long-term orientation in the UAE.

The Hofstede index in different cultural dimensions in the UAE
Figure 1. The Hofstede index in different cultural dimensions in the UAE (Hofstede Insights, no date).

The Hofstede index in the UAE has also been assessed by other scholars. Almutairi, Heller, and Yen (2021) aimed to update the Hofstede index for several Arab countries to show the difference between their national cultures. This research was performed because Hofstede estimated the index of four cultural dimensions for a cluster of Arab countries without making distinctions among them. Figure 2 shows the data obtained by Hofstede in 1967 and the findings of the study conducted by Almutairi, Heller, and Yen (2021).

The Hofstede Index of the UAE estimated in 1967 and 2020
Figure 2. The Hofstede Index of the UAE estimated in 1967 and 2020 (Source of data: Alhadhrami, Goby and Al-Ansaari, 2018).

It may be concluded that the Hofstede index in the UAE did not change significantly over time. Another finding is that the Hofstede index identified by Almutairi, Heller, and Yen (2021) allows for making the same conclusions about the Emirati national culture as the data provided by Hofstede Insights (no date). One difference is that Almutairi, Heller, and Yen (2021) have found the long-term orientation index in the UAE. The country’s score in this dimension is 22, implying that the Emirati national culture is short-term-oriented.

Validation of the Hofstede Index

This section will validate the Hofstede index in the UAE by referring to particular aspects of the Emirati culture related to the five dimensions of the Hofstede model. Table 1 summarizes the Hofstede index, arguments elicited from it, evidence supporting it, and validation. It has been decided to use the Hofstede index suggested by Hofstede Insights (no date) because this tool is common among researchers and allows for comparing countries with each other. For the long-term orientation, the data from Almutairi, Heller, and Yen’s (2021) study will be used because other sources do not provide information on this dimension.

Table 1. Validation of the Hofstede Index in the UAE.

Cultural Dimension The Hofstede Index Argument Evidence Validation
Power Distance 90 In the UAE, people are willing to accept unequal distribution of power. Unequal distribution of power; prevalence of autocratic leadership style; subordinates’ expectations of guidance Agree because hierarchical structures are common in the UAE, and leaders usually separate themselves from subordinates
Uncertainty Avoidance 80 The Emirati society is intolerant toward uncertainty and ambiguity. Importance of rules and codes of conduct, e.g., the Islamic religion; job security is valued Agree because the UAE society is regulated by many strict laws and rules to avoid any unexpected situations
Individualism 25 The UAE culture is characterized by collectivism. Success of the family is more important than individual success; strong social and family relationships Agree because strong emphasis is put on family ties and loyalty
Masculinity 50 The UAE culture is neither masculine nor feminine. Equal competition for leadership between men and women; traditional gender roles within a family; caring for others is important Agree because the UAE possesses the features of both masculine and feminine cultures
Long-Term Orientation 22 The Emirati culture is short-term-oriented. Value of traditions and social obligations; low persistence and thrift Partly agree because the Emirati society values tradition, but its government is future-oriented

Power Distance

Since the UAE scores high in the power distance dimension, it means that the Emirati society readily accepts inequalities in power distribution. One characteristic feature of countries with a high power distance index is a well-established hierarchy and privileges given to people in power (Almutairi, Heller and Yen, 2021). In the UAE, many companies have a clear vertical hierarchy. Leaders are respected, and subordinates are expected to follow their directives without questions. In their study, Gaweesh and Al Haid (2018) found that the UAE culture is viewed as high in power distance by expatriates because there is a significant difference in rights and opportunities of the Emirati people, but they accept these inequalities. Further, the researchers mention that, in UAE organizations, leaders prefer an autocratic leadership style, and subordinates expect to be provided with clear instructions (Gaweesh and Al Haid, 2018).

Power distribution is also unequal within Emirati families. For example, Alhadhrami, Goby, and Al-Ansaari (2018) note that women in the UAE often rely on their husbands for making important decisions. It implies that the husband is considered the head of the family, vested with considerable authority. Based on this evidence, one may conclude that Emirati society is indeed characterized by high power distance.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Since the UAE’s uncertainty avoidance index is high, it means that its society is intolerant toward ambiguity. Countries that try to avoid uncertainty are characterized by having strict codes and regulations necessary to protect people against unexpected situations in the future (Zainuddin et al., 2018). In the UAE, one way of dealing with ambiguity is adhering to Islam. This religion regulates many aspects of Emirati society, for instance, family relationships, economic life, and responsibilities to the community. One example of how Islam reduces uncertainty is that it obliges wealthy Muslims to pay zakat – the money necessary to help the poor. This practice eliminates the ambiguity related to whether the rich should assist those in need. The laws and regulations in the UAE are also strict and are meant to address many situations that may arise in the future. For example, there is even a law clarifying whether the husband can prohibit his wife from working (Alhadhrami, Goby and Al-Ansaari, 2018). Since the Emirati culture is regulated by multiple strict laws, rituals, and codes, one may conclude that it is indeed intolerant toward uncertainty.

Individualism versus Collectivism

The UAE has a low individualism index, which implies that its culture is collectivistic. Collectivism is characterized by “we” consciousness and strong social ties among people (Zainuddin et al., 2018). The Emirati culture is indeed collectivistic rather than individualistic because it places a great emphasis on relationships among individuals. In particular, people in the UAE value their families high and assume responsibility to their relatives. In Emirati society, people’s duties to care for their parents continue even after they marry and have their own children. Facchini, Jaeck, and Bouhaddioui (2021) also found that the Emirati people value the success of their families more than their own achievements, which is a strong indicator of a collectivistic culture. In addition, in the UAE, extended families are common, meaning that several generations often live under the same roof. The importance of social ties goes beyond the family; for example, the Emirati people appreciate the employer-employee relationships and demonstrate loyalty to their leaders in the workplace. Therefore, one may conclude that the Hofstede index correctly defines the national culture of the UAE as collectivistic.

Masculinity versus Femininity

Based on the Hofstede index, the Emirati culture is neither masculine nor feminine. The main characteristic of masculine societies is a focus on individual achievement and competitiveness, while feminine cultures put emphasis on relationships and caring for the well-being of others (Almutairi, Heller and Yen, 2021). As was mentioned, the Emirati people stress the importance of social ties and value the success of the family more than their own, which are female-typical features. At the same time, individuals in the UAE want the best for themselves as well, which is evidenced, for example, by equal competition for leadership roles between men and women (Alhadhrami, Goby and Al-Ansaari, 2018). Additionally, this culture supports traditional gender roles within the family, which is a male-typical sign. Thus, the Emirati culture possesses both male and female features, which is why it can be considered neither masculine nor feminine.

Long- versus Short-Term Orientation

The UAE’s long-term orientation score is 22, meaning that its culture is short-term oriented. Long-term-oriented cultures are characterized by persistence, saving and investing, and achievement of results, while short-term-oriented cultures value stability and tradition (Almutairi, Heller and Yen, 2021). The Emirati people may indeed lack persistence and competitiveness. It is evidenced by the study conducted by Facchini, Jaeck, and Bouhaddioui (2021), who found that individuals in the UAE prefer careers in the public sector instead of establishing their own businesses. Moreover, the Emirati people value traditions and focus on fulfilling their social obligations, which is a feature of short-term orientation. At the same time, expatriates believe that the UAE has a long-term orientation because of its future-focused policies and plans (Gaweesh and Al Haid, 2018). Thus, one may conclude that the Emirati culture is short-term-oriented, but the UAE government attempts to shift the society’s focus toward long-term goals.


This paper has investigated the relevance of the Hofstede model in the UAE. It has been found that the Hofstede index in the five cultural dimensions correctly represents the Emirati culture. The national culture of the UAE can be described as tolerant toward unequal power distribution, intolerant toward uncertainty, collectivistic, short-term-oriented, and neither masculine nor feminine. The Hofstede model is still relevant today because it provides a general overview of national culture and facilitates an understanding of core cultural differences among various countries.

Reference List

Alhadhrami, A., Goby, V.P. and Al-Ansaari, Y. (2018) ‘Women’s enactment of leadership in a heavily gender-marked Islamic context: an exploration within the United Arab Emirates,’ International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 26(4), pp. 728-747.

Almutairi, S., Heller, M. and Yen, D. (2021) ‘Reclaiming the heterogeneity of the Arab states,’ Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 28(1), pp. 158-176.

Facchini, F., Jaeck, L. and Bouhaddioui, C. (2021) ‘Culture and entrepreneurship in the United Arab Emirates’, Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 12(1), pp. 1245-1269.

Gaweesh, K. and Al Haid, A. (2018) ‘The Image of United Arab Emirates culture among the non-Arab expatriates in the UAE’, Journal of Media Critiques, 4(14), pp. 171-189.

Hofstede Insights (no date) United Arab Emirates. Web.

Venkateswaran, R.T. and Ojha, A.K. (2019) ‘Abandon Hofstede-based research? Not yet! A perspective from the philosophy of the social sciences,’ Asia Pacific Business Review, 25(3), pp. 413-434.

Zainuddin, M. et al. (2018) ‘Alternative cross-cultural theories: why still Hofstede?’, Proceedings of international conference on economics, management and social study, Jakarta, Indonesia, 30-31 December. Web.

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