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What about Italy?

If we explore the Northern Italian culture through the lens of the 6-D Model©, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of Italian culture relative to other world cultures.

Power Distance

This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. 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.

With a score of 50, Northern Italy tends to prefer equality and a decentralisation of power and decision-making. Control and formal supervision is generally disliked among the younger generation, who demonstrate a preference for teamwork and an open management style. Bear in mind that the high score on Individualism accentuates the aversion of being controlled and told what to do.

In Southern Italy all the consequences of PDI are often high, quite the opposite of Northern Italy.

Individualism

The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”.

In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

At a score of 76 Italy is an Individualist culture, “me” centered, especially in the big and rich cities of the North where people can feel alone even in the middle of a big and busy crowd. So family and friends becomes an important antidote to this feeling; but the word “friend” should not be misinterpreted because in business it has a slightly different meaning: someone that you know and can be useful for introducing you to the important or powerful people.

For Italians having their own personal ideas and objectives in life is very motivating and the route to happiness is through personal fulfillment. This dimension does vary in Southern Italy where less Individualist behavior can be observed: the family network and the group one belongs to are important social aspects, and rituals such as weddings or Sunday lunches with the family are occasions that one can’t miss. People going from Southern Italy to the North say that they feel cold not only for the different climate but for the less “warm” approach in relationships.

Masculinity

A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational behaviour.

A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).

At 70 Italy is a Masculine society – highly success oriented and driven. Children are taught from an early age that competition is good and to be a winner is important in one’s life. Italians show their success by acquiring status symbols such as a beautiful car, a big house, a yacht and travels to exotic countries. As the working environment is the place where every Italian can reach his/her success, competition among colleagues for making a career can be very strong.

Uncertainty Avoidance

The 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 with it anxiety 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 75 Italy has a high score on Uncertainty Avoidance which means that as a nation Italians are not comfortable in ambiguous situations. Formality in Italian society is important and the Italian penal and civil code are complicated with clauses, codicils etc. What is surprising for the foreigner is the apparent contradiction between all the existing norms and procedures and the fact that Italians don’t always comply with them. But in a bureaucratic country one learns very soon which the important ones are and which are not, in order to survive the red tape. In work terms high Uncertainty Avoidance results in large amounts of detailed planning. The low Uncertainty Avoidance approach (where the planning process can be flexible to changing environment) can be very stressful for Italians.

In Italy the combination of high Masculinity and high Uncertainty Avoidance makes life very difficult and stressful. To release some of the tension that is built up during the day Italians need to have good and relaxing moments in their everyday life, enjoying a long meal or frequent coffee breaks. Due to their high score in this dimension Italians are very passionate people: emotions are so powerfully that individuals cannot keep them inside and must express them to others, especially with the use of body language.

Long Term Orientation  

This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.

Italy's high score of 61 on this dimension shows that Italian culture is pragmatic. 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.

Indulgence

One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are socialized. Without socialization we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. Relatively weak control is called “Indulgence” and relatively strong control is called “Restraint”. Cultures can, therefore, be described as Indulgent or Restrained.

A low score of 30 indicates that Italian culture is one of Restraint. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to Indulgent societies, Restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are Restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.

Scores of countries marked with an asterisk (*) are - partially or fully - not from Geert Hofstede but have been added through research projects of other researchers or have been derived from data representing similar countries in combination with our practitioner experience. For the official scores check Hofstede`s books or his private website