Masculinity is one of the five intercultural dimensions developed by Hofstede. It is also one of the least understood as many people tend to associate it with masculinity literally. In essence it looks at the degree to which 'masculine' values like competitiveness and the acquisition of wealth are valued over 'feminine' values like relationship building and quality of life.

Hofstede never meant to describe how gender empowerment differs in a culture but rather uses the term 'masculinity' to capture certain propensities. If one looks at the cultures with a low masculinity rating they will notice that many also have low gender equality, i.e. Middle East. The terms relate to nurturing (feminine) versus assertive (masculine) behaviours and ideals. 

From Hofstede's research Japan was found to be the world's most masculine society, with a rating of 95. Sweden was the most feminine with a rating of 5. Other examples of "masculine" cultures include the USA, the Germany, Ireland and Italy. "Feminine" cultures include Spain, Thailand, Korea, Portugal and the Middle East. Have a look at the world map of masculinity scores.

So how does this manifest in a culture or country?

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score low on the masculinity scale:

. In life the main priorities are the family, relationships and quality of life
. Conflicts should ideally be solved through negotiation
. Men and women should share equal positions in society
. Professionals "work to live", meaning longer vacations and flexible working hours

Below are some of the common traits found in countries that score high on the masculinity scale:

. Life's priorities are achievement, wealth and expansion
. It is acceptable to settle conflicts through aggressive means
. Women and men have different roles in society
. professionals often "live to work", meaning longer work hours and short vacations

Intercultural Business Communication Tips

If you are working or doing business in a country with a higher masculinity score than yourself then:

. To succeed in this culture you will be expected to make sacrifices in the form of longer work hours, shorter holidays and possibly more travel.
. Be aware that people will discuss business anytime, even at social gatherings.
. Avoid asking personal questions in business situations. Your colleagues or prospective partners will probably want to get straight to business.
. People are not always interested in developing closer friendships.
. Communication style that is direct, concise and unemotional will be most effective in this environment.
. People will use professional identity, rather than family or contacts, to assess others.
. Self-promotion is an acceptable part of the business culture in this competitive environment.

If you are working or doing business in a country with a lower masculinity score than yourself then:

. Recognize that people value their personal time. They prioritise family and  take longer holidays. Working overtime is not the norm.
. Small talk at social (or business) functions will focus on an individual's life and interests rather than just business.
. Personal questions are normal rather than intrusive. 
. In business dealings trust weighs more than projected profit margins and the like. 
. Nepotism is seen as a positive and people openly show favouritism to close relations. 

Read about Hofstede's other intercultural dimensions:
Power Distance
Uncertainty Avoidance