Exploring Hofstede and writing advice for Erasmus students

This activity is aimed at getting students to become familiar with the work of Geert Hofstede and his cultural dimensions but also view them with a critical eye. Students compare the scores for their country/ies to those for the countries of their telecollaboration partners, and discuss their findings together.
Subsequently they individually write a text with advice and information for Erasmus students intending to come to their university, basing it in part on their exploration of Hofstede&#39 s cultural dimensions.

Institution reporting the task:

University of Padova

Language of task instructions:


Target Group:




References and acknowledgements:



Comparison & analysis

Estimated Duration:

2 sessions


Hofstede s Cultural dimensions, university life


intercultural competence
university life


This task uses resources of the Hofstede Centre

Language Configurations:

Lingua Franca

Language(s) that the task can be used in:


Dominant language production:

Writing/reading asynchronous
Speaking/listening synchronous

Target Competences:

Language competence
Intercultural skills

Specific pedagogical objectives:

Development of students interest in cultural similarities and differences
Development of students analytical skills

Suggested Communication Tools:

Asynchronous text
Collaborative tools
Real time conferencing

Suggested Resources:

Hofstede Centre –

National Culture



For a brief critique

Clearly Cultural


First of all students in their separate classes explore the Hofstede Centre website and learn about Hofstede&#39 s six dimensions of culture, if they are not already familiar with them. This can be done autonomously or with their teacher.

Subsequently, from the Countries page, they select two or three countries to compare. These should be: the country/ies they are most familiar with and the country/ies of their partner(s). They make notes on their findings and prepare questions to ask their peers either in a synchronous SKype session or in an asynchronous forum.
All partner classes should do this.

Students then engage in a question and answer session with their peers, and discuss whether they agree with the image that emerges of their selected countries on the basis of these
dimensions, how these dimensions might manifest themselves in real life situations, for example in their university contexts.

Students are then asked to imagine that their peers are coming to study at their university, and to write them a letter giving them advice on what to expect in terms of some of Hofstede&#39 s dimensions. Once they have exchanged letters they can follow up with feedback and more questions for each other either on Skype or asynchronous forum.

Either before talking to their partners, or when debriefing, students should be asked
questions which highlight the limitations and critiques of Hofstede&#39 s work. How was the study carried out? Who were the participants in Hofstede&#39 s research? How representative might they be of a &#39 national culture&#39 ? Are country and national culture
useful categories? Why might they be problematic? To what extent do you identify with your country/countries of origin? What other aspects of your identity do you feel are important?

Learner Texts:


Dear Malin,
I will give you some advice because as Erasmus student you will find some differences between Norway and Italy.
First of all I will tell you something about the University, the professors and the courses.
You have to know that the Italian power distance is higher than the Norwegian one and so you will find some differences in the relationship between professors and students. When you talk to the professors you must use the ” Lei” form and never forget to demonstrate respect when you have a conversation with them, you can’ t talk to them as if they were friends like you would do in Norway. If you need to write emails to them you might try to be polite also if you can’ t write in a good Italian for the first months because in Italy ” the form” is considered very important. Here you don’ t have to attend lessons you can choose to study by yourself but if you are going to attend classes you will notice that students often don’ t interact with the teacher because they are shy and not used to do group works. I hope this will not condition you. Never be afraid to talk! Professors like when students say their opinion. If I were you I would try to ask some mates if you can enjoy them during the lunch time, students go to eat to the university table, this will be a nice way to get fiends!!
I strongly recommend you to attend lessons because it will be easier for you to understand the books especially if you have problems with the language and sometimes teachers give facilitations to the students that go to lesson. When you have an oral exam I suggest you to be sure of what you are saying if you contradict a professor opinion because many of them don’ t accept to be contradicted. Don’ t forget that the way we feel power distance is higher than yours and it’ s common than the ones who have major authority are respected and not questioned.
I suggest you to find someone to study with, in Padua there are many university libraries and you can study there. If you are interested in finding a little job there are many opportunities in the centre of the city, be careful, remember to be polite when you are talking to a possible boss because superiors are used to consider subordinates as different from themselves but always demonstrate to be a self-confident person and they will respect you.
I wish you a god time here and I hope you find something useful in my advice.



My respected colleagues,
Since I am fresh Erasmus in Padua, I haven’ t been able to experience a lot of student life here, therefore I choose to compare Romania with Italy, focusing on what it means to be an Erasmus student in Timisoara.
Reffering to all those 5 dimensions that Geert Hofstede highlights, we note that there are considerable differences in terms of certain categories such as power distance (Italy scores 50, while Romania 90) Italy, being in the middle of the chart, means that Italian society deems hierarchy is required and should be respected because the inequality between people is acceptable as opposed to Romania which is almost at the top of the clasament, denoting that everyone has his place in the mechanisms of society and each one is subordinated expects to be told what is his job individualism (Italy scores 76 and Romania 30) and masculinity/femininity (Italy enlists 70, while Romania only 42) I believe these two dimensions are interdependent, individualism conditioning the masculinity/ femininity of the countries. Italy is a masculin country where individualism prevails which means that people are less likely to have contact with others and to focus more on professional life. Romania is a feminine country with a high score on colectivism, hence it is important to belong to a group, place great emphasis on loyalty and comitment, also family is very important uncertainty avoidance (Italy 75, Romania 90) in terms of this category, the two countries are similar, both trying to keep away from uncertain events creating an institutional system to work to avoid such unpleasant situations that would make them feel insecure long term orientation – Italy scores 34 means that Italian society places a high value on traditionalism but also is interested in what the future holds.
Being an Erasmus student in Timisoara (Timisoara is one of the most important university town in Romania) is similar with being an Erasmus student here, in Padua, except a few things. First of all, you will not face bureaucratic problems that you meet here – there is an office that handles all formalities that must be done. Secondly, if you want to stay in a hostel, you have nothing to worry about, your place is assured and you will stay there for free. Thirdly, academic year is organized differently from that in Italy, so the first thing after you set the home is to go to the secretariat and look for the schedule.
Soon as you get in Timisoara, the Faculty of Political Science will appoint a buddy for you who will be at your disposal whenever you face a problem regarding the town, university, etc. It is better to own a map (Timisoara has an area greater than Padova) and an romanian phone number. The teachers are young and very open to the students (do not be surprised if they will provide you their phone number and say you can call them whenever you need!) they encourage debates and contradictory discussions, you will have to get used to working on team projects. Students are very welcoming and helping persons so keep in touch with them through social networks. However, I must warn you that teachers do not tolerate to be late for class.
Life in Timisoara is much cheaper than in Padova, you will enjoy the same things but at lower prices: food, drinks, clothes,etc. Because Timisoara is a multicultural city, you&#39 ll have the opportunity to meet people of different nationalities or participate in various events.I think you will have little trouble in terms of Romanian cuisine because it is different from the Italian, but if anything isn’ t to your taste, there are many Italian restaurants.
As far as I can tell, these are the most important things you should be aware of when you come in Timisoara but if I have missed some aspects, I am available for any questions.


Document related to the task:


Criteria for Completion:

Students can be evaluated on their letters for Erasmus students.

Alternatively, more advanced learners in particular, could be asked to write an essay on Hofstede&#39 s dimensions of national culture and their limitations.

Comments and suggestions:



Francesca Helm