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Reflections on Yemeni culture

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Ten days of teaching Organisational Behaviour in Yemen provided me with a lot of impressions that were in some way related to 'Arab' or 'Yemeni' culture. If we look at Hofstede's dimensions, the Arab world is often seen as
- high power distance
- low individualism
- high uncertainty avoiding
- rather masculin.


These easy labels do not tell too much about the culture though. China, for example, has comparable scores. Yet, teaching in Yemen was much easier for me than in China. Why?

There are at least two reasons. First, Chinese culture and Arab culture differ on dimensions not accounted for in the Hofstede model. Second, the same dimension means different things in different cultures, so similarity of scores does not tell us the whole story.

Let us begin with a dimension that we do not see in Hofstede's model, expressive versus reserved, also called neutral versus emotional or affective versus neutral. Looking at the data of Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, we see Musl…