Cultural Encounters/Clothing

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INTRODUCTION[edit | edit source]

The photo shows two college girls near campus in typical clothing. Credit: Shtanjel.

In this section we will discuss the fashion differences and what they represent in various European countries. We will be focusing on Croatia, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia. During our research, it became evident that the perception of formality differs from country to country. This can be observed in certain situations, such as going to the university, to work, attending a job interview, partying, visiting friends or family. In order to support our research, we have taken the following theories into consideration: Hofstede’s theory of power distance (2010), theory of individualism versus collectivism (2010), and also Byram’s model of Intercultural Communicative Competence (Hartmann, A., & Dirtfurth, M., 2004). The latter has allowed us to use our skills of interpreting and relating i.e. “interpreting things from other cultures, comparing them to own culture, and developing new perspectives through comparison and contrast. Following Byram’s theory, we were able to use our "knowledge of self and others" and raise "awareness of the relationship of the individual to society" (Hartmann, A., & Dirtfurth, M., 2004). Our results are divided by the topics mentioned above, which include sub-topics in order to cover more specific sections of our respective societies and to facilitate their understanding.

EDUCATION[edit | edit source]

UNIVERSITY[edit | edit source]

IRELAND[edit | edit source]

There is no established dress-code for universities in Ireland. Each student is free to wear clothes that best express his or her personality. However, some common fashion styles can be distinguished when "assessing" the students in Irish universities. First of all, let us present the situation as regards male Irish students. Tracksuit bottoms (also called sweatpants) are definitely one of the most popular fashion choices for Irish students at the moment. They can be seen in lecture theatres, as well as all around the campus. This does not pose a problem to the majority of teachers, although this may depend on their own perceptions and what they associate with this type of "sporty" attire. As in every other country, the topic of fashion and clothes is quite problematic in Ireland. Other styles can also be found among the male student population in Ireland, such as: shirts, hoodies (jumpers) and jeans. Regarding the female students in Ireland, we are also confronted with many varieties of styles. While walking through any Irish university campus, it is possible to discern girls wearing summer dresses, flat shoes and quite often a light jacket. However, it is equally easy to notice students wearing jeans, sweaters, coats and boots. Tracksuits are also quite common. Another style which is becoming more and more popular in Ireland is wearing denim shorts, tights, and a top or a t-shirt. As has been mentioned above, it is impossible to generalise and list all of the fashion styles present in a given country or a society; however this information is aimed at people who want a “sneak-peek” into the Irish fashion in the student world in order to be able to build upon it in the future. University oral exams in Ireland are not considered to be exceptional events. Therefore, no formal clothing is required. Generally students dress casually for this occasion, although a little bit more care is usually put into their choice of clothes. This means that instead of wearing jeans and any t-shirt, students would pick a more elegant one. However, this is a personal choice and students aren’t obliged to change their style just for the duration of the exam.

GERMANY[edit | edit source]

As there is no dress code at German universities, students in Germany are allowed to wear whatever they feel expresses their personality best. This goes hand in hand with Germany being an individualistic country with a "strong belief in the ideal of self-actualization" as Holfstede Centre (2011) asserts. In general, students tend to wear what is considered casual clothes when going to university. In contrast to Ireland and Croatia, it is seen as completely inappropriate for male students to wear tracksuits. Some years ago it was also considered inappropriate for female students to show their bellies but this has changed due to cropped shirts being quite in fashion at the moment. However, a different dress code seems to apply in terms of important oral exams. When comparing the different cultures, it was rather surprising to find out that in Germany, oral exams play a much more important role in students’ academic careers. One reason for this might be the fact that, according to Holfstede Centre (2011), Germany is considered a rather masculine country, i.e. being built on a society that is "driven by competition, achievement and success". For this reason, it is not surprising that students undertaking important oral exams dress the same way they would when applying for a job (cf. "Formal Situations").

CROATIA[edit | edit source]

Based on Croatia’s score on Hofstede’s theory of individualism (2011), we could conclude that Croatia is a collectivistic society and therefore Croats do not like to stand out. The relatively low score on Hofstede’s scale points out that it would not be wrong to apply a generalised opinion concerning the clothes students wear when attending lessons. It is quite common for men to wear jeans combined with a T-shirt during warm seasons, whereas hoodies and sweaters are preferred when it is colder. Tracksuits are also common pretty much throughout the year. A greater variety of styles can be observed in the way women dress for going to class. Some of them really dress up for the lessons, so they wear skirts, blouses and blazers. Other women vprefer to wear something more casual,just like their male colleagues. In conclusion, students tend to dress casually. Students in Croatia generally do not have a strict dress code for oral exams with a possible exception of students of the law, who usually do wear formal clothes. On a large scale it depends from faculty to faculty, but generally students can wear whatever they have planned to wear that day. Anyhow, something too casual or revealing should be avoided.

SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

Student wear in Slovenia ranges from formal to casual and even sporty depending on the type of the faculty a certain student attends. It is not that uncommon for a law student to dress in a formal and elegant manner.The same goes for clothes and accesories. Students of language, literature and art, on the contrary, favor casual or unique fashion styles, with little restrictions regarding make-up, accessories and haircuts. We could deduce that the level of diversity with regard to the choice of clothing largely depends on the social environment of each faculty. Hofstede’s model of national culture (2011) places Slovenia under the category of feminine societies, which show little tolerance towards the individuals wishing to rebel or "stand out from the crowd". Each student will therefore strive to adjust to the general fashion tastes of their faculty. As a result, an art student will rarely be seen wearing formal clothing and a law student will never consider the choice of a tomahawk as an acceptable hair cut. While Slovenian students may not be pressured into dressing formally when attending oral exams, the general rule dictates that sporty outfits suitable for attending lectures be replaced by slightly more formal yet still comfortable casual wear. It is interesting to note the restrictions posed on female students; short skirts, cleavages, high heels, excessive make-up and accessories are not an option since they may leave a bad impression on the examiners as they may stand out. Equal restrictions apply to those students whose dressing preferences are considered extreme i.e.: designed to overtly express the wearer’s affiliation with a certain sub-culture. The unwritten rules of unobtrusive dressing can be attributed to the fact that Slovenia, according to Hofstede’s model of national culture (2011) is a feminine society and any attempt of "standing out from the crowd is not admirable".

PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

According to Hofstede Centre (2011), Portugal is considered a collectivist society where people follow the desires of the community more than their own. This justifies a visible majority when it comes to the general everyday and going-to-school style. The university wear therefore is composed of what is considered casual wear, such as jeans, t-shirts, sneakers or elegant shoes with low heels for women. Although oral examination occurs rarely at Portuguese universities, some areas of studies do require students to take part in those examinations. In such cases the examinees are expected to follow a more formal dress code (cf. "Job Interview").

SCHOOL[edit | edit source]

Colegiais (6178588425)

In Ireland, school uniforms are compulsory in all primary and secondary schools. Contrary to common belief, they do not represent wealth or a higher social status. In order to better understand this Irish phenomenon, we could refer to Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions (2011). The power distance in a given country can be measured by "the degree to which the less powerful members of the society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally" (2011). This means that the lower the power distance, the fairer the power distribution (exhibition) in a country. Ireland is a prime example of a low power distance country, which can be demonstrated with an example of uniforms used throughout the Irish education system. Uniforms, as the name suggest, ensure "uniformity" which is a synonym of "homogeneity" or "regularity". As for the theory of individualism versus collectivism, Hofstede Centre (2011) considers Ireland to be an individualistic country, scoring a high 70 (out of 100). According to Hofstede Centre (2011), members of an individualistic society are "supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only". Relating all of this research back to the issue of clothing, it becomes clear that the Irish society strives to bring people closer together by means of uniforms.

Slovenian, Croatian, German and Portuguese primary and secondary public school systems pose no regulations regarding a uniform dress code. Even in private educational institutions pupils are not required to wear school uniforms. This dismissal of school uniforms can be examined in the light of two dimensions of the national culture model provided by Hofstede Centre (2011): power distance and individualism versus collectivism. Since power relations in social interactions such as teacher-pupil interaction are strictly maintained there is no need to enforce order and discipline with the help of school uniforms. Hofstede Centre (2011) places Slovenia, Croatia, and Portugal under collectivist societies and states that in these countries "loyalty and collectivist culture is very important. The introduction of school uniforms as a tool of establishing a more collectivist atmosphere in educational institutions is therefore redundant as the collectivist values already constitute a part of the mental frame of each pupil. Germany, however, does not belong to this framework. Germans are individualistic and as such are an exception to the rule.

PERSONAL LIFE[edit | edit source]

VISITING FRIENDS[edit | edit source]

IRELAND[edit | edit source]

Two Irish girls clothed casually for shopping. Credit: Schtanjel.

Visiting friends for a chat and a cup of tea is still a popular activity in Ireland, even among young people. This does not require any specific clothing, which means that the majority of Irish people would wear casual, comfortable clothes. Men would normally opt for jeans or tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt, while women opt for jeans or leggings and a top. However, the fashion rules undergo a slight modification when we are invited to a house party, especially if clubbing afterwards is likely. In such circumstances, the usual choice for men does not differ greatly from an ordinary visit. However, when attending a house party/going to a nightclub, girls would normally wear short skirts/dresses, high heels (not always at house parties) and accessories such as ear-rings, bracelets and necklaces.

GERMANY[edit | edit source]

This shows a German woman comfortably clothed for shopping. Credit: Schtanjel.

As visiting friends is not considered a special occasion in Germany and therefore an event that allows people to be themselves rather than acting according to competitive conventions existing within their society (Hofstede, 2011) Germans would usually wear casual or comfortable clothes, for example jeans and a top or a shirt. When invited to a house party or going out to a night club, some female Germans would still wear jeans, a nice shirt and rather light make-up whereas others would be dressed slightly more elegantly or provocatively wearing a skirt or a dress, make-up, jewellery and high heels. This, however, is always a matter of personal taste and cannot be generalised. Again, this underlines the importance of individualism in German society.

CROATIA[edit | edit source]

This is a casually clothed Croatian male. Credit: Schtanjel.

Clothing is not an important issue when visiting friends comes to play. In such situations Croats tend to wear something as comfortable as possible. When going out or to a party, women can usually be seen in dresses and high heels, while men would be wearing jeans or pants combined with shirts or nice T-shirts. Clubbing clothing actually depends on which music you listen and where you go out, but generally people do dress up. Women usually wear skirts, dresses, blazers, nice tops, high heels, etc. while men prefer, again, jeans or pants combined with nice T-shirts or shirts.

SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

Here the woman is comfortably clothed for shopping. Credit: Schtanjel.

The majority of Slovenians wear informal casual and sportswear when they are visiting friends, which is indicative of a feminine society that "fosters strong relationships", as Hofstede Centre instigates (2011). These relationships create a friendly and relaxed environment for the visitor, which is reflected in their choice of more relaxed clothing styles. There are, of course, some deviations from the general rule. Your clothing style depends on the company you keep and the social circles you revolve around. House parties belong to the same category and people attending such events dress more or less casually. Pubs and clubs are the places where people feel more comfortable with expressing their multilayered individualities and cultural identities. Since Hofstede Centre (2011) shows that Slovenianan society is not otherwise supportive of individuals who set themselves apart from the rest, club parties are an excellent opportunity for those individuals to "create a particular cultural identity card" and "communicate" their distinctive cultural identity to the people around them (Holliday, Hyde, & Kullman, 2006). One way to achieve this is through the choice of clothing, which on such occasions can be as striking as possible and encompasses everything from short skirts and high heels, distinctive and heavy make-up, torn t-shirts and jeans to sub-culture specific wear (e.g. heavy-metal music fans, Goths, etc.) with body decoration in the form of tattoos and body piercing.

PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

The girl is comfortably clothed for shopping. Credit: Schtanjel.

In social meetings with friends the usual dress code is casual, comfortable clothes, much like those you would wear at universitiy. It is interesting to point out that, in Portuguese culture, the closer the individuals become to others emotionally the more comfortable they feel around each other. People can take their shoes off at a friend's house and even borrow a more comfortable piece of clothing from their hosts, depending entirely on the proximity between them.

Despite being a collectivist society and clearly showing a predominant style in every dress code, Portugal stands out in this category since the winning majority of Portuguese seems to veer away from those traditional rules. For the last couple of years there has been a big change on this sort of attire resulting in a new and more provocative style where tight clothes, big cleavages and short skirts are preferred to pieces that would cover up the body. According to Hofstede's work (2011), the Portuguese people can be identified as a short term orientation culture, which means they generally exhibit great respect for traditions. This puts a certain amount of stress on the population because they are torn between tradition and a newer, innovative and individualistic style of dressing.

VISITING FAMILY[edit | edit source]

IRELAND[edit | edit source]

When visiting family during the week, casual clothes are the most popular choice in Ireland, for men as well as for women. This might change depending on the occasion and the purpose of the visit. For example, women might wear an elegant dress for a Sunday lunch or dinner, while men might even opt for a suit and tie, although a shirt and jeans would be sufficient.

GERMANY[edit | edit source]

Similar to the Irish, Germans tend to be dressed casually when visiting their family. Depending on the purpose of their visit, however, i.e. if it is a special occasion, women might consider wearing an elegant skirt or dress (e.g. when attending a birthday party or anniversary), whereas men might even choose to wear a suit or a tie. What becomes obvious again is that in Germany, there is a strong tendency of individualism but also the awareness of certain conventions that have to be fulfilled within more formal situations, as Hofstede Centre asserts (2011).

CROATIA[edit | edit source]


Croatia scored 33% on Hofestede's scale of individualism (2010) which means that generally family plays an important part in their lives. According to this notion, namely putting such an emphasis on family, we might assume that Croats would prefer formal clothes when visiting their families so as to show respect. However, this is not the case. When visiting familiy, Croats wear casual clothes due to their tendency to favorize comfort as much as possible. Therefore, Croats wear elegant clothing only on special occasions, like holidays and birthday celebrations.

SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

As already stressed in the previous entry, the relaxed environment forged by the strong relationships within the Slovenian society enables those individuals who visit their family members dress in comfortable, sporty or casual clothes. Slight restrictions apply only in the case of attending formal events within a family circle such as Sunday lunch or wedding parties where the visitors are required to dress more elegantly. We must, however, mention a slight deviation from the general rule. Older generations tend to put greater importance on appearance when visiting family members.

PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

Much like during social encounters with friends, Portuguese people usually wear everyday clothing unless it is a very special occasion. Important traditional family events such as weddings, baptisms, birthdays and marriage anniversaries will most likely take place in a private house instead of a rented venue, but people are expected to respect the importance of the occasion and to dress in accordance with the formality of the situation even though they are still in the comfort of their homes.

FORMAL SITUATIONS[edit | edit source]

JOB INTERVIEWS[edit | edit source]

IRELAND[edit | edit source]

Job interviews are taken very seriously in the Irish society. Education about the required clothing for such an interview starts as early as in secondary school. The general requirement is very formal clothing which includes black trousers/skirt, an elegant shirt and a blazer for women, and suit and tie for men.

GERMANY[edit | edit source]

As Hofstede Centre (2011) instigates that the relationship between employer and employee in Germany is defined by "loyalty, [….] a sense of duty and responsibility", Germans are expected to dress in a smart and formal way during job interviews. Women would wear a blazer and a top matching their trousers or their skirt that is long enough to allow them to sit down comfortably. Men would wear a rather dark suit. Based on the job they apply for, female applicants would sometimes be expected to wear a suit and shoes with heels, whereas men would have to wear a tie. This way, the applicants point out they are able to meet the expectations held by a rather masculine society. But once again, this cannot be generalised since the way applicants are expected to dress during the job interview is dependent on the company itself.

CROATIA[edit | edit source]

Job interviews are taken seriously in Croatia and wearing formal clothes is expected. Men usually wear suits (with or without ties) or pants and shirts. Women wear suits as well, but they are most commonly seen wearing skirts or pants combined with blouses or shirts.

SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

The research of Hofstede Centre (2010) shows that Slovenians treat "employer/employee relationships in moral terms (like a family link)" and "hiring (…) decisions take account of the employee’s in-group". The employers will therefore pay a great amount of attention to the qualities of the potential candidate with whom they will eventually form a strong bond. One of the elements that an employer will immediately take in consideration is the display of the candidate’s taste of clothing style, which has to be in accordance with the style predominant in that particular working place. An office worker or somebody applying for a position within a public relations sector will be required to dress formally for a job interview, while those applying for the position of a fashion designer have to display the desired level of creativity through the choice of more unique and personally customised wear. What is considered normal slightly differs from company to company.

PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

Regardless of the job position an individual is applying for, they are expected to look and do their best. The employers expect the new candidates to be dressed orderly and in clean clothes. Both experienced workers and those entering the job market for the first time follow the same dress code and that is formal working attire, such as suits for men and elegant dresses or suits for women. Hofstede's study on the Portuguese culture (2010) reveals that "employer/employee relationships are perceived in moral terms" in Portugal, meaning that entering a work place is much like joining a family and so it is only natural that employers consider only those applicants who would present themselves as ideal candidates.

FESTIVITIES[edit | edit source]

IRELAND[edit | edit source]

St Patricks Day, Downpatrick, March 2011 (046)

After St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween is the most popular holiday/festival in Ireland. The main attraction of Halloween is the tradition of dressing up in scary costumes, which is practiced by children as well as adults. However, this has been changing over the years and ordinary costumes such as fairies; comic book heroes etc. are becoming more and more popular among the Irish population.

For St. Patrick’s Day, which takes place the 17th of March every year, people dress in national Irish colours which are green, white and orange. Green hats with leprechaun beard, wigs with green hair, green dresses etc. are the most common accessories used on that day. Creativity knows no limits, therefore the most extravagant and original outfits are encouraged.

GERMANY[edit | edit source]

Karnevalsumzug Meckenheim 2013-02-10-1894

As far as festivities in the different countries presented in this section are concerned, it was quite interesting to discover that in contrast to the Irish, German people wear exclusively scary costumes for Halloween. In other words, it would be considered inappropriate to dress up as a fairy, comic hero, an animal, etc., in Germany unless it is done by women in a rather provocative way. This, however, is different during Karneval, a festive season in February where people are encouraged to wear tremendously creative and extravagant costumes. Similar to St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Karneval in Germany has a long tradition and mirrors the short term orientation of German culture, i.e. a truly authentic respect for tradition.

CROATIA[edit | edit source]

Poklade (Shrove Tuesday) is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent. There are public celebrations in many towns and people wear various costumes. During this time, a certain tradition is nurtured according to which children wearing costumes go from door to door singing songs. Halloween is becoming more and more popular, so many Croats wear scary costumes and usually go clubbing. Croatian national costume or Croatian dress is the traditional clothing worn by Croats during special events and celebrations, e.g. ethnic festivals, weddings, and religious holidays. National costumes are not worn on a daily basis due to the fact that Croats generally wear Western-style clothing. Depending on cultural and geographical regions, national costumes differ in many ways.

SLOVENIA[edit | edit source]

In Slovenia, Halloween is considered an imported celebration and is closely connected to the consumerist American culture. The fact that the festival is detached from its American traditions means that no restrictions are applied when it comes to the choice of costumes. Those who celebrate can choose from a variety of costumes; from scary ghost and skeleton to provocative and funny cat and bunny outfits. In the last few years, the festival has gained on importance and is quite popular among the younger generations. Pust (Shrove Tuesday) resembles Halloween in the choice of costumes, but because this festivity is deeply rooted in Slovene tradition, it also sports traditional historical outfits, such as kurent. These outfits are usually worn by the participants of city festivals that take place during "pust". A lot of parades have floats featuring satirical representations of various politicians and recent scandals. Another imported holiday that has gained on importance, is Saint Patrick's day. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in all shades of green and sporting various kinds of hats. The hat is almost seen as a symbol of excellence in drinking and you can hear people bragging about the amount of alcohol they had to consume to get it. As far as the traditional festivities are concerned, we must mention the traditional Slovenian national costume, which slightly differs from region and region and is generally worn on festivals, holidays and on various celebrations. It is meant to preserve and promote traditional Slovenian culture.

Parade of people in traditional Slovenian dress


PORTUGAL[edit | edit source]

Unlike Germany and Ireland, Portugal is still new to the Halloween commemorations and does not possess much tradition in that area. However, Carnival (or Carnaval as it is called in Portuguese) is widely celebrated throughout the country and people are expected to dress up in all kinds of different costumes, depending entirely on personal preference. There are slight differences with regards to where the celebrations take place. In Lisbon, for example, although adults and teenagers still like to be a part of it, this is a holiday directed especially towards children - all kindergartens and elementary schools as well as the parents will support and motivate the little ones to be a part of the national masquerade ball. In other regions, on the other hand, Carnaval is celebrated by all age groups. The costumes worn for Carnaval are usually very pompous, flashy, colourful and, generally speaking, extravagant. Especially in Madeira, people also like to dress up as famous (former or active) politicians.

CONCLUSION[edit | edit source]

During our research we came to the conclusion that our perceptions of formal and informal clothes differ from country to country and individual to individual. Therefore, we could only establish some basic prevailing dressing habits for a country in certain situations. Because of the intertwining of cultural and personal preferences, these habits cannot be applied too strictly. Clothing styles may not be as strongly associated with national culture as such, but rather with each person's individual preferences and social surroundings. Based on our research, clothing choices generally do overlap in the five countries we have been interested in. This may be associated with the omnipresent phenomenon of globalization. With the development of technology, much more easier and cheaper travel arrangements, and the accessibility of information people around the world are just more aware of each other. The impact of multinational corporations is immense as well, so very similar clothing styles are actually something to be expected for. We can exemplify this easily: a person can get a pair of Nike sneakers basically anywhere in the world.

Clothing styles change quickly and are under constant influence of the multiple factors. This is why we would like to invite you to contribute to this research.

REFERENCES[edit | edit source]

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

  1. Holliday, A., Hyde, M., & Kullman, J. (2006). Intercultural communication: an advanced resource book. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon : New York, NY: Routledge.
  2. Hartmann, A., & Dirtfurth, M. (2004). Introduction to English language teaching (1. Aufl.. ed.) Stuttgart: Klett Sprachen.
  3. THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. (n.d.). Dimensions. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from
  4. THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. (n.d.). Croatia. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from
  5. THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. (n.d.). Portugal. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from
  6. THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. (n.d.). Slovenia. Retrieved August 7, 2014, from
  7. THE HOFSTEDE CENTRE. (n.d.). Ireland. Retrieved August 4, 2014, from