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Purpose: This paper seeks to propose Albert Hirschman's theory of "exit, voice and loyalty" as a complementary conceptual framework to Hofstede's cultural dimensions and use them in conjunction to compare consumer satisfaction with services across cultures. Design/methodology/approach: A model of satisfaction with complex services (higher education) is developed and then tested in two different cultures, Colombia and Spain, with a sample of 879 students. Structural equation modeling based on the partial least squares algorithm is used to test the proposed model. Findings: Colombian students are more satisfied with the educational system than Spanish ones. This is explained by cultural and contextual differences that pose greater restrictions on accessibility to higher education, provide fewer choice alternatives and present more switching costs for the Colombian student. Originality/value: This study applies the conditions of Hirschman's theory in an international setting, offering a rich basis for understanding differences in consumer satisfaction that accounts for intra-national diversity.