Hierarchical, feminine, short-term, restrained: How to define Egypt’s national culture

Egypt is dubbed a feminine society which focuses on working in order to live (Photo courtesy of Flickr)

“We are the Pharaohs” – with Egypt’s national football team taking part in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the phrase keeps being reiterated and reassured, showcasing the collective culture of the population and the keenness to hold on to traditions.

But what does Egypt’s national culture really look like? How can one define the traits and collective identity of the population that surpassed the 100 million mark?

Hofstede Insights, a Finnish management consulting firm, helps answer those questions for 76 countries all over the world through analyzing employee value scores in different companies, and highlighting how values in the workplace are influenced by culture.

The Hofstede culture framework started in 1967 and has since expanded, being used in academic and professional management settings. The initial definition of culture, according to the study, is “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others”.

The framework looks at six dimensions: the power distance index (PDI), individualism versus collectivism (IDV), masculinity vs femininity (MAS), the uncertainty avoidance index (UAI), long-term orientation versus short-term orientation (LTO) and indulgence versus restraint (IND).

Each country gets assigned a score out of 100 in each dimension, and is evaluated accordingly.

Egypt is considered a very strained society

Egypt as a hierarchical society
The PDI looks at the extent to which less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.

Egypt scored high on the PDI dimension, which is code for people accepting a hierarchical order in which “everybody has a place and which needs no further justification”. Such a framework stipulates inherent inequalities, centralization of power, an expectation by subordinates to be told what to do and a benevolent autocrat as the ideal boss, according to Hofstede.

Egypt as a collectivistic society
The IDV measures the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members.

Here, the country scored 25, labelling itself as a collectivistic society. This means that each member is part of a close long-term commitment to a group, be that family, extended family or extended relationships. In such a society, each member of the group carries the responsibility of fellow group members – one man’s action affects everyone else.

“In collectivist societies, offence leads to shame and loss of face, employer-employee relationships are perceived in moral terms (like a family link), hiring and promotion decisions take account of the employee’s in-group [actions], management is the management of groups,” Hofstede explains.

Egypt as a restrained society
The IND dimension looks at the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on how they were raised.

With a score of only four, Egypt is considered a very strained society, with a tendency to pessimism and cynicism. Leisure time and gratification of desires are not emphasized, as people “have the perception that their actions are restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong”.

Egypt is dubbed a feminine society which focuses on working in order to live

Egypt as a short-term, traditional society
The LTO dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with current and future challenges.

Egypt scored noticeably low with a seven, indicating a very normative society. Normative societies “prefer to maintain time-honored traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion”. Coupled with a great respect for traditions, normative societies focus on achieving quick results and have a small propensity to save for the future.

Egypt as a feminine society
A masculine society is driven by competition, achievement and success by being the best in the field, while a feminine society is dominated by caring for others and quality of life as a sign of success.

With a low score in that dimension, Egypt is dubbed a feminine society which focuses on working in order to live. Equality, solidarity and quality in the worklife are valued by employees, as conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. The incentives favored are free time and flexibility in the workplace.

Egypt as an uncertainty-avoiding society
The UAI evaluates 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.

In the index, Egypt scores a solid 80, meaning that Egyptians have a high preference for avoiding uncertainty. How do they do that? Namely by “maintaining rigid codes of belief and behavior and [being] intolerant of unorthodox behavior and ideas,” according to Hofstede. Although an emotional need for rules exists, it does not mean that these rules need to work. The study adds that security is considered an important element in individual motivation and that innovation may be resisted.

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