I have recently added a resource page to Culture Matters (click here to get it), which is the so called Cultural Reference Sheet.
This Cultural Reference Sheet gives an overview of countries and their respective scores on 4 culture dimension, partially inspired by the work of Professor Geert Hofstede.
One thing that is very important to remember and realize every time you refer to any of the scores in this Cultural Reference Sheet is the following: One can Only speak meaningfully about Cultural Differences by the Grace of Comparison!
What this means is that making a single (or absolute) statement about one country (e.g. “The USA is the most individualistic country in the World“) is an invalid statement (or in other words, total nonsense!).
A valid statment (one that makes sense) is the following: “The USA is more individualistic than India“. This is true and valid.
So again, any statement about one single country/culture on any (or combination) of these four dimensions does not make sense. It’s an error that is commonly made, mostly by in-experienced people.
Using the Cultural Reference Sheet
As stated before, in order to say something sensible about any culture and use this Cultural Reference Sheet, you should compare two countries.
I use 5 distinctions in the list: H+; H; M; L; L+
- H+ Is a relatively high score on that dimension
- H Is a significantly lower score on that dimension then H+
- M Is a middle score, but significantly lower than H & H+ (but significantly higher than L & L+)
- L Is a relatively lower score than M (but significantly higher than L+)
- L+ Is a relatively low score
When comparing any one country on any or more dimensions, you look for a significant difference (e.g. L+ and M; or H+ and L). When scores are equal on any one dimension between countries there is no significant difference between those countries (although they might differ on other dimensions!).
I have used the term Significant Difference a couple of times. What is meant by this is that a Significant Difference, a difference is that one will “Experience” and be able to observe. In a way a gut feeling (although our gut feeling is not always correct). The thing is, culture is first felt in our gut and our emotions first (“Hey, people in these and these countries do things such and such way”), and later on rationalized by our brains. So Emotions first, Ration second. Not the other way around!
What did I miss? Comments? Leave them at the end of this postPlease do not leave your comments on any LinkedIn group. Since this article is published in more groups, the discussion “lives” longer like this. Thanks!
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Gee Chris, I don’t agree with your basic propositions for several reasons. For example, if I have established that the US is more individualistic by binary comparisons than every other country in the world, then I should be entitled to say, The US is the most individualistic culture in the word. Even more, I can also be making an implicit personal experience or learning statement. “Given all that I know, I think the US is the most … etc”. And of course, people very often say things that are simply a form or casual speech and are not intended to be taken litarally.
Thanks for your comment.
Indeed, the US is the most individualistic country in the list (actually together with the UK & Australia).
The point is that being the most individualistic country does not mean much, if you don’t compare it with any other country.
Compare it with being rich. If I say “I’m rich” that has little meaning. I need to know how rich you are (for example) to know how much richer (or poorer) I actually am.
Therefore, you need to compare countries/cultures with each other. Not make absolute statements about them.