Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions – 4. Uncertainty Avoidance


I have already written about some of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, namely about the PDI – Power Distance, the IDV – Individualism vs. Collectivism and the MAS – Masculinity vs. Femininity.

We have arrived now to the fourth dimension, the UAI – Uncertainty Avoidance.

The Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

This dimension shows us how well people can cope with anxiety when it comes to uncertainty and ambiguity. There are some countries, which are pretty easy-going regarding the unknown nature of the future, while other countries try to control many things in order to decrease the level of anxiety, that would be brought to them by facing the unknown – as they cannot cope well with the anxiety itself.


Traits of low Uncertainty Avoidance countries

low uai

In these countries people say that they are happier, they are more relaxed and it can also be observed that they consume less medicine on each recipe. They tend to consume more of the practical convenience products. They have less sense of urgency and in general they are more willing to change or innovate and they are generally very inclusive and welcoming.

In the education students accept open-ended discussions and answers and it is also accepted if the teacher says “I don’t know”. In these countries the teacher involves the parents and discusses things with them about their children.


What about the work life of the low UAI countries?

work low uai

In the work environment they prefer the generalist mindset, they have less need for planning and structure. They also need less information to make a decision or even to take a risk. People in these countries are comfortable with changing jobs and they can also bare ambiguity and chaos at the workplaces. As they are pretty easy-going, they face less stress, they have self-control and have a low level of anxiety. As they react well to uncertain things as well, they dislike the rules – written or unwritten ones. They accept in work as well that each day is taken as it comes. Managers at work are more interpersonally oriented, and emotions are not shown in general.

Low Uncertainty Avoidance country examples: China, India, Sweden, Singapore, UK, Ireland, Malaysia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Jamaica.


Traits of high Uncertainty Avoidance countries

high uai

These countries are conservative, rigid and structured. The only way they have a more flexible attitude, is if there is a danger of failure. There are many societal conventions and people dare to show easily their real emotions or anger. People of these countries feel that they are in control of their lives instead of drowning in ambiguity.

People normally say that they are more worried, they are generally more stressed and also have more stress related diseases. The consume more cleaning products and there are more pharmacies per person in these countries.

In the school children need structure and definite answers and it is a ‘must’ for the teacher to always know the answer. The teacher in these countries only informs the parents about their children.


 What about the work life of the high UAI countries?

work high uai

In work the experts are preferred and needed, they also have a strong need for planning and structure. They avoid risks and need a lot of information before making a decision. Change is considered as a threat, therefore they put extra energy into having everything unchanged. They have emotional needs for rules – even if they are not obeyed. They have high level of stress at the workplaces, high level of emotionality and anxiety. They tend to stay in their job, even if they dislike it – just for the sake of not changing. Failure is considered ‘lethal’, which must not be allowed. Adoption of innovations is slow – as uncertainty is a threat that must be fought. They have a strong need for agreement and cannot tolerate well the diverting opinions. Managers are more task oriented and showing emotions is accepted.

High Uncertainty Avoidance country examples: Greece, Russia, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Serbia, Turkey, South Korea.


mapSource: https://geerthofstede.com/




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