Consumption Patterns and Cultural Values in Europe

Consumption Patterns and Cultural Values in Europe

Agnes Neulinger (Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary), Tino Bech-Larsen (Aarhus University, Denmark), Jacob Rosendahl (Aarhus University, Denmark), Audur Hermannsdóttir (University of Iceland, Iceland), Regina Karveliene (University Šiauliai, Lithuania), Hans Rüdiger Kaufmann (University of Nicosia, Cyprus), Yianna Orphanidou (University of Nicosia, Cyprus), Janka Petrovicová (Matej Bel University, Slovakia) and Annemien van der Veen (Hogeschool Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 47
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2857-1.ch006

Abstract

The chapter focuses on cultural differences in consumption across Europe and describes general attitudes towards consumption and brands, the significance of shopping, and how these are linked to the motives of consumption of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. These topics have been analysed using the Hofstede dimensions, and the evaluation also considers regional differences within the European Union. The main objective of this research is to attempt to understand consumption patterns and national cultural dimensions, general consumption values, and what their connections are to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinking patterns. The main research question is how cultural styles influence consumption styles within Europe. This analysis concluded that some European societies are more adaptable to cross-cultural influence than others in relation to beverage consumption. The authors’ findings suggest that the cultural dimensions identified by Hofstede supported the understanding of cultural differences related to purchasing, brands and beverage consumption both at national and individual levels. However, there is an overlap between some countries in their drinking behaviour, which supports the claim that existing cultural patterns cannot fully explain the new beverage trends, especially in alcohol consumption. This indicates the necessity of a shift toward new dimensions with regard to beverage consumption and/or eventually consumer behaviour.
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6.1. Objectives

The analysis of culture and cultural differences incorporates several sensitive issues, which create a complex and interesting environment for our study. This sensitive nature leads to numerous challenges which academics, executives and managers around the world face on a daily basis. For example, as Europe continues to move toward a more united identity, the differences between border countries may sometimes appear greater than differences between Europe and the US.

This chapter focuses on cultural differences in consumption across Europe and describes general attitudes towards consumption and brands, the significance of shopping, and how these are linked to the motives of consumption of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. These topics have been analysed using the Hofstede dimensions and the evaluation also considers regional differences within the EU (European Union).

The main objective of our research is to attempt to understand consumption patterns and national cultural dimensions, general consumption values and what their connections are to alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinking patterns. The main research question is how cultural styles influence consumption styles within Europe, and the sub-questions to be addressed are the following:

  • How do we understand the cultural/regional differences in consumer styles expressed in brand attitudes and shopping experiences?

  • How do we understand the cultural/regional differences in alcoholic and non-alcoholic consumption?

  • How can we discover the relationship between the Hofstede dimensions and drinking patterns?

  • How can we discover the relationship between the Hofstede dimensions, brand relevance and the significance of shopping?

The answers to these questions will support understanding of whether Hofstede’s cultural dimensions can be used to interpret cultural consumption styles. Aside from academic interest, there is a strong business need to study drinking culture across Europe, as the EU can be considered the heaviest-drinking region in the world (WHO, 2004).

Hofstede (1980) analysed cultural values based on four distinct dimensions across several countries through interviews with IBM employees. Hofstede’s metric is a widely accepted measure for cultural differences. Past studies have applied this methodology at both country and individual levels1. According to De Mooij & Hofstede (2011) we can consider the early country scores measured by Hofstede to still be valid, based on several replications of his metric. In our study, the focus of analysis is twofold: national and regional (the results will be introduced by countries or regions), and individual (the results can be interpreted at the individual level). The second approach (individual) is a relatively new approach in this field, as scales aimed to measure culture at an individual level have in the past had poor levels of reliability. Yoo, Donthu & Lenartowicz (2011) suggest the usage of CVSCALE, a 26 item five-dimensional scale, for this purpose. Our study introduces an alternative approach and uses single items for each one of the Hofstede dimensions.

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6.2. Theoretical Background

In relation to culture and cultural values, the analysis uses dimensions defined by Geert Hofstede. As Hofstede (2008) has stated2, culture ‘is always a collective phenomenon, because it is at least partly shared with people who live or lived within the same social environment, which is where it was learned’; as such, culture should not then be separated from nation and individual personality. We can, however, state that these two dimensions define culture. Turning to the consideration of national cultures, this concept can be described according to the analysis of Hofstede’s “Model of Cultural Dimensions” (2001). The cultural dimensions model developed by Hofstede is based on an extensive study of how values in the workplace are influenced by culture. This model of dimensions of national culture has been applied in many social domains, e.g. in the interpersonal and national world, in public and business life and in education and health care.

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