Cultural values of cultural clusters


A tiny bit of knowledge regarding cultural intelligence CQ was detailed in my previous post and you can have read here – What I learned this week.

Understanding, using and increasing our cultural intelligence improves the way we relate to and network with diverse others. As we see a lot of migration, a lot of change regarding where people move to study or work or live or retire, we learn a lot about the specific country and customs there, but not all the times, we look deep into the cultural values of that place.

I believe what you will read next will help you not only know more about yourself, but also help you in being more empathetic with different people and cultures and with respecting one’s point of view and perspective. While I was reading through the book of Gaston Dorren (who is a polyglot), who wrote “Babel, Around the world in 20 languages”, I was able to get more insight into the different cultures of the world, how those people of other countries than me think and how their culture reflects in the language itself and it really opened my eyes to how unique and beautiful people are but also how little we actually know about the world. Cultural Intelligence highlights the importance of understanding different perspectives and then appropriately and effectively adapt our behaviour to obtain success. As an expat myself it is very hard to accept specific norms of the country I am in, because of personal and cultural value I grew with. But what you are about to read below will give a context or a form for better classifying your values, others’s values and then correctly identify in a new person or group of people or even in an organization these values. And why is this crucial? Because we, as human beings enjoy to feel at home wherever we are, we need comfort and familiarity. When we know our own values, we can better cope ourselves with others and we can expand on our self-knowledge even further, we can understand ourselves better and then it will become so much easier to cooperate, collaborate and work on our desired achievements.

There are 10 cultural clusters – Nordic Europe, Anglo, Germanic Europe, Eastern Europe, Latin Europe, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Arab.

Over the decades a number of scholars and researchers identified cultural value dimensions and general geographical clusters for these cultural value dimensions. As a disclaimer there is a wide range of variation in cultural values that individuals in the same cultural cluster may actually express. This means an individual’s personal orientation may not reflect the generalised tendency of a specific geographical cultural cluster. At the same time, research does reveal that a large number of people within these geographic clusters do share similar values. So it can be a starting point to begin understanding the similarities and differences between your preferred values and the cultural values of others.

Cultural clusters provide possible insight into where we may likely find the presence of a cultural value dimension. We have the opportunity to use cultural intelligence to determine if diversity or differences in cultural values might explain a challenge, a misunderstanding, confusion or miscommunication. Using CQ provides an opportunity to recognize difference and diversify in order to adapt our behavior which facilitates effective and appropriate interaction across diversities.

Cultural intelligence or CQ is defined as the capability to be effective across different cultural context, including national, ethnic, generational, organizational and other contexts. The culturally intelligent have a good grasp of overarching patterns that exist across various cultures around the world. It’s not that the culturally intelligent are walking encyclopedias who can spout off random facts about any culture on the planet. That’s impossible. But they have a macro understanding of cultural similarities and differences, something we identify as CQ knowledge – one of the four capabilities of cultural intelligence. CQ knowledge is the degree to which you understand how culture influences how people think and behave; it’s also your level of familiarity with how cultures are similar and different.

One way to improve your CQ knowledge is to learn the key characteristics of 10 global cultural clusters, which are large cultural groupings that share some core patterns of thinking and behaving. The countries and groupings of people within each cluster typically share a common history and they often share similar geography, language, religion or cultural values. The 10 clusters are simply a place to begin comparing one predominant worldview with another. As you develop a deeper understanding of the clusters’ similarities and differences, you’ll find yourself more adept at handling all kinds of intercultural situations. Why talk about clusters, and overall patterns and norms for people from various cultures? Because there’s value in something that cross-cultural psychologists Joyce Osland and Allan Bird describe as “sophisticated stereotypes” – broad comparative differences based on empirical intercultural research. Sophisticated stereotypes such as those that stem from understanding the 10 cultural clusters, are most helpful when they are:

-used to compare various cultures rather than to understand the behavior of a singular culture

-consciously held

-descriptive not evaluative

-used as a best first-guess prior to having direct information about specific people

-modified based upon further observation and experience

The cultural value dimensions

Individualism – Collectivism

An individualist is motivated by personal rewards and benefits. Individualist persons set personal goals and objectives based on self. Individualistic workers are very comfortable working with autonomy and not part of the team.

The collectivist is motivated by group goals, Long term relationships are very important. Collectivistic persons easily sacrifice individual benefit or praise to recognize and honor the team’s success.

The generalized geographic clusters of individualism may be found in Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Geographic clusters for collectivism are often located in Arab countries, Latin America, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Low and high-power distance – is a lot about authority and hierarchy.

A person with low power distance thinks the less formal the better. They prefer to forego formalities and are willing to respectfully question or challenge authority. Titles and positions of authority and leadership are not important to a low power distance person.

A high-power distance individual feels obligated to follow strictly the chain of command and is far less likely to question authority or leadership. Respecting and honoring the position of leadership is highly important in a high-power distance society.

An example is in Germanic Europe, a low power distance culture cluster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband live in a very modest flat in Berlin. On the other hand, Southern Asia is a high power distance culture cluster. In Southern Asia using formal titles are very important and not to be ignored. High power distance mandates that people of higher status receive special seating at dinning or in a business meeting.

Low versus high uncertainty avoidance

The cultural value dimension of low or high uncertainty avoidance resides in the question of should we try to control the future or just let the future happen? How shall we deal with the future when the future can never be known for sure?

Low uncertainty avoidance persons act first and then get the information. They are very comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Cultural value clusters of low uncertainty avoidance work hard to minimize rules and laws that infringe on people’s diverse perspectives.

High uncertainty avoidance often requires rigid codes of behavior and beliefs. There may easily be intolerance of unorthodox behaviours and ideas. Persons with high uncertainty avoidance appreciate explicit instructions. They often rely on procedures and policies to reduce the change of things getting out of control.

Anglo countries, Eastern Europe and Nordic Europe have a preference for low uncertainty avoidance. Latin Europe and Latin America emphasize planning and predictability or high uncertainty avoidance.

Cooperative and competitive dimensions

A person with a cooperative cultural value emphasizes collaboration, nurturing and family.

A person who has a competitive value dimension emphasises competition, assertiveness and achievement.

The cooperative versus competition cultural value dimension considers how you wish to achieve results and accomplish goals. A cooperative person believes the best way to accomplish an objective or reach an outcome is by getting people to work together. However, a competitive person believes people are best motivated to reach a goal when competition is involved in the process.

If we consider geographic cultural dimensions, Nordic Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa prefer cooperation. Germanic Europe and Anglo countries emphasize a competitive cultural dimension. In the middle between cooperative and competitive, we find Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Latin Europe and Southern Asia.

Short versus long term

This cultural dimension is based on how a culture views time and the importance of the past, present and future. Short term is the cultural dimension which emphasizes immediate outcomes and success now. Long term planning and success later guide the long-term cultural dimension.

Confucian Asia is in the long-term geographic cluster. It is interesting that China is said to be planning for the next 500 years while other nations have a 5-year plan. Anglo-countries, Arab nations, Eastern Europe, Nordic Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa are in the short-term geographic cluster. Eastern Europe, Latin America and Latin Europe use both a short-term and a long-term dimension.

When we use a long-term dimension, we focus on the future. We value persistence. We easily delay social success. Personal and emotional gratification is delayed.

A short-term orientation cares more about immediate gratification. The past and present is more important than the future. A short-term orientation values the current social hierarchy. Meeting current social obligations is emphasized by a person with a short-term perspective.

Low and high context

In a low context cultural dimension encounter, the emphasis is on explicit and direct communication. In a high context experience, the communication is indirect and the tone of voice and context of the communication is most important.

The individual with a low context orientation values direct communication. He or she choose their words very carefully. Logic is important.

A low context person believes in clearly saying what they mean and totally meaning what is said.

A high context and indirect person will pay attention to what is not said as much as what is said. A high context person will notice the context such as where people are seated and how individuals are dressed. A preference for high context means you need to constantly read between the lines. High context persons speak indirectly to peers and tend to avoid conflict that is head on.

Geographic clusters that prefer low context and direct communication are Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa emphasize a high context with an indirect communication cultural dimension.

Being versus doing

Being and doing is the extent to which you derive meaning from activity and being productive.

A high doing person wants to be productive on a day off or holiday. A doing culture emphasizes being busy and meeting goals. A being culture stresses the quality of life and work-life balance.

In a doing culture getting a job done takes precedence over personal relationships. You may miss a family member’s birthday celebration because you have work to do. You earn status through the work you do. Status is not based on your age, seniority or birthright. Deadlines and schedules are emphasized in a doing culture. Work-related emails are often answered 24h a days and 7 days a week if the person emphasizes doing over being.

In a being culture, status is automatic and difficult to lose. Status is often based on your age, birth and seniority. Relationships take precedence over tasks or getting a job done. Much time is spent getting to know someone before agreeing to do business with them. Greeting and farewell rituals are considered important. A work-related email is probably not going to be answered by a being orientated person if it is received during vacation.

Geographic clusters of doing cultural dimension are found in Anglo countries and Germanic Europe.

Being geographic clusters are located in Arab countries, Latin America, Nordic Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Universalism and particularism

The cultural dimension of universalism versus particularism is the same as rules versus relationships. Universalism is about the rules and standards. Particularism is about the unique specifics and relationships.

In a culture that prefers universalism, the rules and standards apply to everyone the same. In a culture that emphasizes particularism, there are unique standards and exceptions. Applications of the rules depend on the unique exceptions and the relationships of the persons involved.

A person with a universal perspective applies all procedures the same universally to ensure equity and consistency. A particular oriented person encourages flexibility by adapting to particular situations and making exceptions to the rule.

Rules and standards that apply equally to everyone are typical of Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. An emphasis on the specifics allowing room for unique adjustments to rules based on relationships is common in Arab countries, Confucian Asia, Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Asia.

Non-expressive versus expressive

The communication cultural value that prefers to emphasize non-emotional communication and to hide feelings is the neutral or non-expressive cultural dimension. The affective or expressive cultural dimension prefers expressive communication and sharing feelings.

The geographic cultural value clusters for the neutral or non-expressive cultural value dimension are Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe. Anglo countries and Southern Asia emphasize both non-expressive and expressive cultural values. Arab countries, Latin America, Latin Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa prefer affective, expressive communications and sharing feelings.

Monochronic and polychronic dimensions

A monochronic persons sees time as a commodity. It is quantifiable and there is limited supply of it. You can waste time.

The polychronic individual considers time to be limitless and unmeasurable. Time is a servant and a tool we use.

Monochronic and linear cultural dimensions emphasize doing one thing at a time, always being on time, events are scheduled to start on time, and work time and personal time are separated. Anglo countries, Germanic Europe and Nordic Europe emphasize the monochronic and linear cultural values.

Confucian Asia, Eastern Europe and Southern Asia emphasize both a monochronic linear and a polychronic non-linear as cultural values.

Polychronic and non-linear cultural values emphasize multi-tasking, find interruptions very acceptable, and easily combine work with personal life. Arab countries, Latin America, Latin Europe and Sub-Saharan prefer the polychronic non-linear cultural value dimension.

Individuals have personal preferences or individual value orientations. Sometimes individual orientations reflect one’s nationality or ethnicity or diversity but not always. Cultural value orientations can be grouped into general geographical clusters. Knowledge of these cultural value dimensions and 10 of the largest cultural groupings can sometimes give us insight into potential cross-cultural misunderstandings and challenges.

The 10 largest cultural groupings in the world are:

ANGLO – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and etc

ARAB – Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and etc.

Confucian Asia – China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, South Korean, Taiwan and etc

Eastern Europe – Albania, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Russia and etc

Germanic Europe – Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, etc

Latin America – Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico and etc

Latin Europe – France, French-speaking Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain and etc

Nordic Europe – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and etc

Sub-Saharan Africa – Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe and etc

Southern-Asia – India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and etc

These are simply places where you are likely to find a significant presence of the cultural values and are not to be taken as stereotype, they are created and researched to help us all better understand each other as we live in this globalised world, where many different people from a variety of cultures come together in the big cities.

Have you been able to identify which of the 2 options from the 10 cultural value dimensions you personally and culturally are? Tell me in the comments!

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