a Yellow cylinder, blue cube and red pyramid sit on top a piece of white graph paperDeveloped by Paula MacDonald


Interpreters work with a variety of cultures.  It is imperative that they be familiar with cultural dimensions and how they will impact cross-cultural communication. This activity will use Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to orient participants to the effects culture has on the values of the members and how these values relate to behavior.

Competencies Addressed

  • NMIP Multicultural Background and Knowledge Competencies.
    • Identify the cross-cultural implications of patterns of time, social protocols, and taboos
  • NMIP Multicultural Interpreting Skill Competencies
    • Demonstrate cultural and linguistic analysis skills

Time Required for Activity: 30 mins


Interpreters will:

  1. Assess where the U.S American six dimensions of culture are on a framework
  2. Reflect upon their own understanding of U.S. American culture


Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing cultures: The Hofstede model in context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2 (1). Retrieved from dx.doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1014.

Step One: Familiarize yourself with Hofstede’s Dimensions of Culture

Download the article, Dimensionalizing Cultures:  The Hofstede model in context.

Read pages 9-16 that explain the 6 dimensions of culture:

  1. Power Distance, related to the different solutions to the basic problem of human inequality;
  2. Uncertainty Avoidance, related to the level of stress in a society in the face of an unknown future;
  3. Individualism versus Collectivism, related to the integration of individuals into primary groups;
  4. Masculinity versus Femininity, related to the division of emotional roles between women and men;
  5. Long Term versus Short Term Orientation, related to the choice of focus for people’s efforts: the future or the present and past.
  6. Indulgence versus Restraint, related to the gratification versus control of basic human desires related to enjoying life. (Hofstede, 2011, p. 8.)

As you read the article, think about how the majority U.S. culture is related to each of these dimensions.  Rate the dominant U.S. culture for each of these areas on a scale from 0 – 100.  Write your answers down on a piece of paper.

  1. Power Distance
  2. Uncertainty Avoidance
  3. Individualism
  4. Masculinity
  5. Long Term Orientation
  6. Indulgence

Remember that as a multicultural nation, there are many other cultural orientations that are represented in the United States.  In this exercise, we are asking you to think of the majority U.S. culture.

Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing cultures: The Hofstede model in context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2 (1). Retrieved from dx.doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1014.

Step 2: Compare Your Ratings to ResearchWorld map showing different counties colored with ligher and darker shades of purple representing more individulaistic and more collectivist culturesImage Credit: geerthofstede.com

Compare your ratings to the results of a worldwide survey on cultural dimensions.  The above image shows the rating scales for the dimension of Individualism <-> Collectivism.  After reviewing the website, look at your own ratings and see how closely your analysis matched the research shown on the website.

Step 3: Reflect

If you are working with a community of practice or a classroom, debrief with others about what you found.

  • Think about how your initial assessment compares with the worldwide survey.  
    • What is your initial reaction to the comparison?
    • Why might your first assessment differ from the worldwide survey?
    • What additional learning activities you could do to learn more about cultures?
  • How do you think the cultural dimensions of other cultures within the United States that are not in the majority might different from the results you saw on the website?
    • What implications does this have for interpreting practice?

Write out your reflection or create a video reflection if you choose to do the exercise in sign.