Hofstede Cultural Dimensions Most Unlike U.S.
  • Individualism
  • Power Distance (SA is MUCH higher on this than any other country we’re looking at)
  • Uncertainty Avoidance
Implications for the Classroom

Saudi students MAY be more likely than U.S. students to:

  • Work closely with their friends on assignments and share information about exams. In a study of Saudi students, one researcher notes, “What might be called cheating in American is considered cooperation in Saudi Arabia. There is no concept of intellectual ownership in Saudi Arabia, and when writing papers Saudi students sometimes borrow sources and don’t understand the need to distinguish their own voice from others. This kind of textual borrowing and unintentional plagiarism is a result of different academic systems and cultural expectations, as is the Saudi practice of cooperating in learning, which is different than actual cheating with an intent to deceive….” (Al-Romahe, p. 53, 2018)

  • Seek information or make appointments as a group or with the use of a spokesperson. It is not uncommon for a group of Saudi students to join together to seek information on a particular topic. Combining the more collectivist society with a high power distance society means that it might be more culturally appropriate for a group of individuals to try to work through a problem together and to designate a particular member of that group (perhaps seen as the most powerful) to seek the information and then bring the knowledge back to the group. The concept of individual confidentiality is not as important as the desire to work through problems as a community.

  • Be hesitant to speak up in class. A high power distance society sees teachers as “gurus who transfer personal wisdom.” (Hofstede, p. 107, 2001.) With this type of expectation, it can be seen as disrespectful to offer an opposing opinion or even to ask a question about what a teacher says. In the Al-Romahe study, a “participant…noted that in Saudi culture, students tend to be quiet in class, and making eye contact with teachers is considered inappropriate; however, he feels his teachers at the American university judge him poorly for what is considered a sign of respect in Saudi Arabian classrooms. American teachers value classroom discussion and view students’ participation as a sign of competence, but in Saudi classrooms, students are not expected to participate.” (Al-Romahe, p. 51, 2018)

  • Favor structured learning and clear rules. Citizens from a society that avoids uncertainty is more likely to desire clear expectations and rigid rules. This may cause difficulty in a U.S. classroom, where autonomy and critical thinking are of utmost importance. For example, a professor might deliberately provide vague instructions for a research paper, forcing a student to creatively determine the best way to approach the research. For a student who has grown up with strict rules and structures, whose main job in school is to remember and regurgitate information, this type of assignment will be enormously difficult. Add to that issue the fact that the assignment is also in a second language, and the task just increased exponentially.

Back to Top