Trompenaars' Model of National Culture Differences

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The Trompenaars' Model of National Culture Differences is a framework for cross-cultural communication applied to general business and management. Developed by Dutch organizational theorist Fons Trompenaars and his research partner Charles Hampden-Turner, the model identifies cultural differences along seven dimensions. It provides insights into how varying cultural norms and practices influence workplace dynamics and business interactions.


Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner developed the model in the early 1990s, building upon existing frameworks of cultural dimensions, including Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory. Their research involved thousands of participants from various countries and cultures to identify key dimensions of cultural variability.

The Dimensions

The Trompenaars' Model identifies seven dimensions to explain cultural differences:

  • Universalism vs. Particularism: This dimension explores whether people in a culture are more rule-based (universalism) or relationship-based (particularism) in their thinking.
  • Individualism vs. Communitarianism: Similar to Hofstede's Individualism vs. Collectivism, this dimension looks at whether individual goals or community goals are prioritized.
  • Specific vs. Diffuse: In specific-oriented cultures, relationships are compartmentalized, and people have a public life separate from their private life. In diffuse cultures, public and private lives are closely linked.
  • Achievement vs. Ascription: This dimension examines how status is accorded, either through achievement (what you've done) or ascription (who you are).
  • Sequential vs. Synchronic Time: Sequential time cultures view time as a series of linear events, while synchronic cultures perceive time as a continuous cycle where past, present, and future are interconnected.
  • Inner-directed vs. Outer-directed: This looks at how people relate to their environment, either by trying to control it (inner-directed) or by adapting to it (outer-directed).
  • Neutral vs. Emotional: This dimension assesses the extent to which emotions are openly expressed or suppressed in social or business settings.


  • Cross-Cultural Communication: Understanding of different communication styles.
  • International Business Strategy: Assists in business planning and decision-making for diverse markets.
  • Team Development: Helps build cohesive and effective teams in multicultural environments.
  • Conflict Resolution: Useful for resolving cultural conflicts within organizations.

Comparison with Hofstede's Model

While both models aim to describe national cultures, Trompenaars' framework dives deeper into relational aspects, such as how people engage with their environment or how they express emotions, which are not covered extensively in Hofstede's model.


  • Over-Simplification: Like Hofstede’s model, it is criticized for oversimplifying complex cultural traits.
  • Static Representation: Doesn’t account for the dynamic and evolving nature of cultures.
  • Context Dependence: Some critics argue that the dimensions may not apply uniformly in all contexts.


Trompenaars' Model continues to be a valuable resource for academics, business leaders, and anyone interested in understanding the complex nuances of cross-cultural interaction. Although it has its critics, the framework's applicability in real-world situations has made it popular across various disciplines.

See Also