One of the Characteristics of Power Distance is respect for the elderly.Power Distance Respect for the Elderly

In other words, in countries that score high on Power Distance people, who are older (and greyer) get (and deserve) more respect than the young ones.

A Story

I was sitting on the couch a couple of years ago when the world championship football was being played in Germany.

My in-laws from India were over in the Netherlands for a couple of weeks! Since my father-in-law (age 68 then) is a great football fan he was very eager to watch the games being played. As he did.

One evening my mother-in-law and partner were out to see a Hindi movie. Leaving my father-in-law and me alone at home. Not a problem.

There was food in the fridge, ready to be eaten. Around dinner time I suggested the two of us would have a bite. My father-in-law jumped to his feet and opened the fridge, taking out the ready-to-eat salad. “How long should this go in the microwave?” he asked.

Not!” I replied. “Salad should not be microwaved“, I replied. “Of course…” he said.

Not a House Man

You should know that my father-in-law is not much of a houseman. Really not. Not his fault: In India, it is very common that the wife makes the food, and the man provides an income. My Indian father-in-law could not even boil an egg! He never had to. He worked as a General Manager in a big Indian Steel factory.

After Dinner

Having finished his dinner salad, taking his plate, he walked to the kitchen. Wondering where to put it other than just in the kitchen sink. I saw him think: “Where do they put the dirty dishes…?“. He looked around but couldn’t seem to find the dishwasher. In and by itself that was amusing.

The Dutch in me

Having had my in-laws in our house for several weeks turned out to be a bit much for me (I’m Dutch…). I appreciate my independence and personal space. But what to do?

It turned out that my mother-in-law was very active in our house: cooking, cleaning, etc, and that my father-in-law did…, well, nothing really. Eventually, that started to annoy me. Although I never said anything to him directly (I’ve got some manners), he did seem to pick up that he also should contribute somewhat to our household (both my partner and I were working full time, and my mother-in-law took over the kitchen).

One Day

So one day my father-in-law decided and told us that he would take care of the garbage. He would collect the garbage, put them in the bins, and put the bins outside.

Nice,” I thought. “Good work“. And even “finally (he’s doing something)” came to my mind.

That one day, the first time he actually took out the garbage my partner and I were sitting on our couch. My father-in-law passed by carrying the garbage to put it outside, just like he told me he would.

I turned to my partner and said to her: “Perfect, finally he’s doing something

She turned to me and said: “You can’t let an old man (he was 68) do something like this. Taking out the garbage!

The Moral

Evidently, my partner and I had very different insights. I (Dutch) was very happy that he pitched in as well. My partner (Indian) could not see her father do this. Typically not taking out the garbage!

Indian culture dictates that older people deserve more respect than younger people. India’s score on Power Distance is relatively much higher than that of the Dutch, where people of all ages are more seen as equal.

Examples of the dimension hierarchy or power distance can be found here.

What’s your experience with this? Please leave your comments here below!

Please do not leave your comments on any LinkedIn group. Since this article is published in more groups, the discussion “lives” longer like this, when you leave your comments here. Thanks!


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