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2010

Cross-cultural
differences in
Romania
- comparative study -

Andreea Maruntelu
Business Support Services for Foreigners in Romania
www.bssf.ro
office@bssf.ro
Company Presentation
Business Support Services for Foreigners is a service line
that originated in 2008. It is part of Carbon Consult consultancy
company business offer.

After four years of providing consulting services to


companies in Romania, we have noticed the increasing need of this
new type of services for a neglected category of customers:
foreigners that want to do business in Romania.

BSSF’s service range


We can help you with almost all your needs, that is why we
created a diverse range of services, including:

• Cross-cultural coaching;
• 24/7 Help Line;
• We provide an office in Bucharest in which you can perform
your activity, suitable for your needs in terms of location,
equipment, size, etc.;
• We provide assistance during the business meetings, with
consultants that have solid economic and business background;
3 Episcopiei st, Bucharest
• We provide market research for you;
Tel: (004) 0724.079.495
• We develop business plans, according to your needs;
• We support you in the establishment of a company in Fax: (004) 021.315.87.96

Romania; Email: office@bssf.ro

• We supervise your projects in Romania while you are abroad; Web: www.bssf.ro

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Cross-cultural differences in Romania
– comparative study –

The term "cross-cultural" emerged in the social sciences in the 1930s, largely as a result
of the cross-cultural survey undertaken by George Peter Murdock. Initially referring to
comparative studies based on statistical interpretation of cultural data, the term gradually
acquired a secondary sense of cultural interactivity. The comparative sense is used in phrases
such as "a cross-cultural perspective", "cross-cultural differences, "a cultural study of ... " and so
on, while the significance of interaction can be found in works like Attitudes and Adjustment in
Cross-Cultural Contact: Recent Studies of Foreign Students (1956 issue of The Journal of Social
Issues, written by MB Smith).

In 1954, the sociologist Alex Inkeles and psychologist Daniel Levinson published a study
on cultural differences, which stated that there are some basic global issues which affect the
functioning of society, groups and individuals that are part of it:

1. Relationship with authority ;

2. Self-awareness, in particular:

a) the link between individual and society;

b) the individual's concept of masculinity and femininity;

3. Handling conflicts, including control of aggression and feelings.

A similar study was conducted twenty years later by IBM and it revealed a new list of
problems affecting society:

1. Social inequality, including relations with the (Power Distance);

2. The relationship between individual and group (collectivism over individualism);

3. Concepts of masculinity and femininity, the social implications of birth as a boy or


girl (Femininity to masculinity);

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4. Ways of handling uncertainty with respect to control aggression and expressing
emotions (Uncertainty Avoidance).

More recently a new dimension was added to the differences between national cultures,
short or long term orientation.

Power Distance

This index represents the extent to which individuals with less power in a country expect
and accept that power is unequally distributed. How power is divided is usually explained by the
behavior of powerful individuals, the managers and not of the leaded ones. Inquiries made to
observe differences between countries on this index indicate that differences exist both for
leaded and leaders, but the results gathered from first type of individuals are more relevant. This
is because we are all better observers of our leader’s behavior than of our own behavior.

In the study that Geert Hofstede developed for IBM in 1984, the power distance index in
Romania is 90, of a maximum of 100, which means that features of a great power distance are
well highlighted in our country. Among these traits observed by Geert Hofstede, we mention that
inequalities between people are expected and desirable and that people with less power should
depend on the strongest. Regarding education, it is assumed that all the initiatives in class come
from the teachers that transfer their own knowledge to students, which treat teachers with
respect. Hierarchy in organizations reflects the existent inequality between the ones from the top
and the ones from the bottom, centralization being characteristic, and the difference between
wages between upper and lower level is very high. The leader is ideally a benevolent autocrat or
a good parent, the subordinates waiting to be told what to do and privileges and status symbols
for managers are known and expected. In addition, Hofstede states that all countries with a
significant power distance have an intern political violence, materializing through revolutions,
street manifestations and frequent strikes. (Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 54)

In terms of politics, the qualifications, income, power and status must go along for a great
distance from power, as it is the case of Romania. In addition, the leaders have advantages, the
middle class is small, and the power is based on family, charisma and ability to use the force.
Violence is often a result of political conflicts, and the manner to change a political regime is by
revolution. (G. Hofstede, 1996, p. 60)

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Ioan Mihut, in the book "Cultural Dimensions in Romanian Management" published in
2006 states, like Geert Hofstede, that in Romania there is a huge power distance, corresponding
to an effective mechanism for preserving and highlighting the differences in status, mainly
characterized by arbitrary driving unconditional obedience to superiors, with a "supplement" of
indiscipline (required by the need to display a status as high). Tătăruşanu and Neculăesei also
conducted a study on Romania (Romania cultural and regional differences, 2008) that confirms
the result of Hofstede, assigning, based on the results obtained by questioning the employees of
the accounting department of the State University of Romania, a value of the same indicator of
84.41. (Neculăesei, A., Tătăruşanu, M., 2008, p. 4)

Adina Luca made a study for the Romanian company Interact, based on two surveys,
both in 2005, "Learning about Romanian values and behavior from the perspective of cultural
dimensions by Geert Hofstede method”, which contradicts, however, Hofstede's results on power
distance, obtaining a 29 and 33 points of a maximum of 100 possible. That means, according to
the features highlighted by Hofstede, that the use of power must be legitimate and it is subject to
good and bad criterion. It is not mandatory that wages, qualifications, powers and status work
together, all having equal rights. Power is based on formal position, on the expert ability and on
the ability to give rewards. A political regime is change by evolution, meaning the change in
laws and the violence is rarely used in intern politics. (Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 54)

Collectivism versus individualism


In an individualistic society, the relations between people are free. Support and care of an
individual is reflected only on himself and on his family and relatives. Its opposite is
collectivism, in which groups of people are strongly united, and individuals are integrated even
before birth and the group continues to provide them protection and support throughout their life,
with the price of loyalty.

Hofstede outlines how the work takes place in a society that has typical individualistic
features and that requires a job that allows having sufficient time for individuals or their family,
having considerable freedom to choose a job and the possibility of choosing between the work
that anyone can do and the work that helps them account a personal sense of achievement.

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By contrast, the characteristics of a collectivist society relate to having opportunities for
training, having good physical working environment and fully utilizing their skills. (Hofstede, G.
1996, p. 70)

Following the survey, Hofstede has calculated a value of 30 points out of 100 for this
indicator, the result highlighting the fact that Romania is a predominantly collectivist country. In
line with Hofstede are Neculăesei and Tătăruşanu, allocating 32 points to Romania, and also
Interact, which reached a total of 49 points in each of it’s both surveys. Socially, according to the
features established by the same author, in Romania people are born in extended families, are
parts of subgroups of common interests that continue to protect them in exchange of their
loyalty, and the social environment in which a person carries its life affects its identity.
Intergroup communication is intensive, being necessary to continuously maintain harmony and
to avoid direct conflicts. The purpose of education is to learn how to behave and the diploma
gives access to a group with higher status. At work, the relationship between employer and
employee is perceived in moral terms, as a family liaison, the management is participatory, the
relationship is more important than the task and hiring and promotion decisions take into account
the interests of the employee subgroup. (Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 86)

Politically, according to the same Hofstede, collectivist societies are characterized by the
fact that the collective interests prevail over individual interests, privacy is dominated by the
group and views are predominantly belonging to a group. GNP per person in such societies as
Romania is low, the state having a dominant role and the economic and political power being
exercised by interest groups. (Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 90)

Ion Mihut also agrees with Hofstede, saying that in Romania we have a very low
individualism rate, meaning we have collectivism features, characterized by awaiting help from
the community, lack of initiative, defeating vision on private property and, above all, nepotism
and the primacy of the interests group (regardless of its training grounds).

At the opposite end is Iran Ali, the author of the study issued in 2009, "Cross Cultural
Management", saying that Romania is the most individualistic country in the world: people do
not put high value on group needs when making decisions. Whenever something goes wrong in
Romania, there is a strong tendency among people to think of themselves as victims of
circumstances.

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Femininity versus masculinity

Masculinity is a characteristic of a society where social roles are clearly separated: it is


assumed that men are strong, tough and focused on accumulating wealth while women are more
modest, sensitive and interested in the quality of life. Femininity is the opposite of masculinity. It
is characterized by a society where social roles overlap: both men and women are modest,
sensitive and focused on the quality of life.

From this point of view, although not clear-cut, all results indicate that Romania is a
country characterized by femininity. Interact attributes Romania 39 points in terms of
masculinity, Neculăesei and Tătăruşanu concluded that our country has 45 points and Hofstede's
study gives 42 points to the masculinity index. Typical feminine traits, in Hofstede’s view, claim
that the goal is the welfare of the society and the needy should be helped. The society is
permitting and the environmental protection must be the highest priority. Foreign policy is
reflected in how they resolve international conflicts through negotiation and compromise.
(Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 125)

Interact also addressed this problem and commented on Hofstede's study and confirmed
that Romania has a "feminine" culture, meaning that it’s oriented on relations and cooperation.
From this perspective, we are easy to serve customers and to adapt their requirements, unlike
masculine cultures, such as Great Britain, where you will easily perceive a "cold" position of the
client. We tend to believe that the lack of thinking in terms of customer strategy is a legacy of the
second part of last century, which led to the disintegration of the concept of sales and client in
terms of cultural dimensions and their adaptation to customer services are available to us.

Mihut considers that in Romania the masculinity is average, with a slight tendency of
femininity and he says that, in this regard the Romanian culture is not homogeneous, but it has a
set of very masculine tendencies (accentuated differentiation between behaviors of the two
sexes), counterbalanced by a set of female tendencies such as egalitarianism or convenience
(MihuŃ, I., Lungescu, D., 2006, p. 29).

Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance is defined as the extent to which members of organizations in a


society feel threatened by uncertain, unknown, ambiguous or unstructured situations.

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Hofstede has calculated for Romania a very high level of this indicator, 90 out of 100
points. This means that in our country uncertainty is perceived as a continuous threat that must
be fought. Romanians fear of ambiguous situations and unfamiliar risks and impose strict rules
on children about what is dirty and taboo. Students prefer learning methods with analytic
programs set and are concerned about correct answers, assuming that the teachers have the
answer to any question. Individual motivation is done by security and respect or by belonging.
(Hofstede, G. 1996, p. 148)

The laws and rules are numerous and precise. Individuals must follow the rules otherwise
they are considered sinners that must be punished. When dealing with the authorities, the
individual is seen as incompetent and its protest must be repressed. Countries characterized by a
high value of this indicator are nationalist, xenophobic and seek to repress minorities. (Hofstede,
G. 1996, p. 158) However, reality shows that laws and rules are only a formal version, practice
indicating that many of them are not met. This is why Romania’s behavior is not typical for
countries that strongly avoid uncertainty.

Ioan Mihut extensively discussed this issue and reached the following conclusions.
Avoiding uncertainty is noted above medium size characterized by contrary trends: first evidence
of strong avoidance (social impact of religion, the need as greater control over citizens and so
forth), on the other elements of acceptance of uncertainty (neglect, carelessness, lack of rigor).
We have an average long-term orientation, which is a consequence of both traditionalism that
exists at deeper levels of culture and ease of change in the surface. Romania, like other countries
with similar characteristics, is a culture rich in ideas, often unexpected. It is possible though that
we won’t see many of implemented, due to the high degree of uncertainty avoidance. This
avoidance undermines our confidence in the results of creativity and makes us stop halfway. The
high conformism need, especially inside the group, is another obstacle in developing an idea and
implement it. This is why many works of music and art for which we can identify the source of
inspiration from another culture. It seems that this imitation is not a result of "burning stages”,
meaning the quick assimilation of other models of historical reasons, but a cultural necessity to
avoid ambiguity and unknown.

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Irfan Ali also agrees with Hofstede, arguing that there is a high level of risk avoidance by
the fact that the Romanian nation is very old and has suffered from many wars, the overthrow of
political and economic change. Thus, Romania has a great fear of the unknown.

Two other studies conducted in Romania on intercultural differentiation confirm to some


extent the result of Hofstede, meaning that they state that the Romanians have a strong degree of
avoidance of the uncertainty, but not at a level as high as Hofstede: Tătăruşanu and Neculăesei
obtained 69 points (Neculăesei, A., Tătăruşanu, M., 2008, p. 4) and Interact reached 61 points.
(Luke, A. 2005, p. 5)

Long-term orientation
Focusing on long term or short-term are the extremes of this cultural dimension, that
consists of a set of values affecting certain timelines. Values associated with long-term
orientation are persistence, organization of relations based on social status, including feelings of
shame, while the typical short-term orientation are personal safety and stability, respect for
tradition, reciprocity in terms of congratulations , favors, gifts, etc.

Hofstede's study did not calculate this indicator for Romania, but studies of Interact or
Tătăruşanu and Neculăesei, did. The first study grants Romania 42 points (Luke, A. 2005, p. 5)
and the second, 36 points (Neculăesei, A., Tătăruşanu, M., 2008, p. 4) This shows that
Romanians are mainly short-term oriented.

Romania's position compared to other countries:

Interact company conducted a study with intercultural differences revealed the following:

• Balkan countries (Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia) are collectivist, have a great
distance from power, are characterized by femininity, have a high index of uncertainty
avoidance and short-term oriented;

• Latin countries (France, Spain, Italy) are individualistic, have a great distance from
power, are characterized by femininity, have a high degree of uncertainty avoidance and
short-term oriented;

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• Germanic countries (Germany) are individualistic, have a short to power, are
characterized by masculinity, have a high degree of uncertainty avoidance and short-term
oriented;

• Scandinavian countries (Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden) are individualistic, have a short


to power, are characterized by femininity, have a low uncertainty avoidance index and
short-term oriented;

• Anglo-Saxon countries (UK, USA, Canada, Australia) are individualistic, have a short to
power, are characterized by masculinity, have a low uncertainty avoidance index and
short-term oriented;

We therefore conclude that Romania, like other Balkan countries (Bulgaria, Greece,
Serbia, Macedonia, Albania), is the opposite of Anglo-Saxon countries, countries from which we
borrow our management practices.

Conclusions

Most studies show that Romanians have characteristics typical to Eastern European ex-
communist countries. Inequalities among people are expected and desirable, privileges and status
symbols for managers are expected and known. We seem to have, to a certain degree, a domestic
political violence, street events and frequent strikes. Qualifications, income, power and status
have to work together. The relationship between employer and employee is perceived in moral
terms, as a family liaison, management is participatory and the relationship is more important
than the task. People are born in large families or subgroups of common interests that continue to
protect the exchange for loyalty.

It is important to note that these characteristics tend to change over time. For example,
while the studies show that are prone to revolutions and violent events, in the past twenty years
our country has not made any such major event, and also the strikes decreased in frequency and
intensity. One reason that this happened could be the opening towards the West, due to changing
political environment.

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Annex

PDI: Power distance index

IDV: Individualism index

MAS: Masculinity index

UAI: Uncertainty avoidance index

LTO: Long-term orientation index

Index values received from Romania following specialized studies:

Authors of the studies: PDI IDV MAS UAI LTO

Hofstede 90 30 42 90 /

Interact 1 29 49 39 61 42

Interact 2 33 49 39 61 42

Neculăesei and Tătăruşanu 82 32 45 69 36

Hostede’s index values for different countries:

Country: PDI IDV MAS UAI LTO

Romania 90 30 42 90 /

Bulgaria 70 30 40 85 /

Czech Republic 57 58 57 74 13

Hungary 46 80 88 82 50

Poland 68 60 64 93 32

Russia 93 39 36 95 /

Slovakia 104 52 110 51 38

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References

Ali, I., 2009, Cross cultural management, http://www.scribd.com/doc/18167945/cross-


cultural-management-Romania, [ [Retrieved on March 24, 2010].

Luca, A. 2005, Studiu despre valorile şi comportamentul românesc din perspectiva


dimensiunilor culturale după metoda lui Geert Hofstede, România pur şi simplu, Bucureşti.

Hofstede, G., 1996, Managementul structurilor multiculturale: software-ul gandirii,


Editura Economică.

MihuŃ, I. D., Lungescu, D., 2006, Dimensiuni culturale în managementul românesc, PhD
thesis.

Neculăesei, A., Tătăruşanu, M., 2008, Romania- cultural and regional differences,
Analele UniversităŃii “Alecsandru Ioan Cuza”, Iaşi.

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