Management International Review

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 455–487 | Cite as

Does Country Equate with Culture? Beyond Geography in the Search for Cultural Boundaries

  • Vas TarasEmail author
  • Piers Steel
  • Bradley L. Kirkman
Research Article


Traditionally, cultures have been treated as though they reside exclusively within, or perfectly overlap with countries. Indeed, the terms “country” and “culture” are often used interchangeably. As evidence mounts for substantial within-country cultural variation, and often between-country similarities, the problem with equating country and culture becomes more apparent. To help resolve the country-culture conundrum, we evaluate the extent to which political boundaries are suitable for clustering cultures based on a meta-analysis of 558 studies that used Hofstede’s (Culture’s consequences: international differences in work-related values. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, 1980) cultural values framework. The results reveal that approximately 80 % of variation in cultural values resides within countries, confirming that country is often a poor proxy for culture. We also evaluate the relative suitability of other demographic and environmental characteristics, such as occupation, socio-economic status, wealth, freedom, globalization, and instability. Our results suggest that it may be more appropriate to talk about cultures of professions, socio-economic classes, and free versus oppressed societies, than about cultures of countries.


Culture Cultural values Cultural regions Cross-cultural management 


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  3. 3.North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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