Have you ever choked?
Not in the usual, expectation and subsequent failed execution sort of way. And not in the way that something, perhaps, got physically stuck in your windpipe.
I’m talking about when you’ve been in a position where you’ve had to literally swallow an instinct in order to fit the flavor of the social situation or environment.
Perhaps you were in a business lunch meeting. Someone, your boss or coworker, stabbed a comment a bit harshly in your direction. You weren’t expecting it. You felt embarrassed or mad or sad or straight up furious. Despite how you felt, you had to keep your cool and keep chewing your sandwich.
Or, you were introduced to someone new. That can often happen when traveling in a new country. You amicably stick out your hand for the shake and they lean in for a kiss! After quickly retracting your hand from stabbing them in the belly button, you bob your head side to side, unsure of which cheek to offer for the kiss.
In life, we are constantly presented with unordinary situations that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of learning and fighting past the culture shock. Other times, it’s accepting differences or learning to feel free to express yourself.
A useful tool for understanding cultural differences
Knowing how to act or react can be a proverbial minefield. Each social situation is unique as each of us. Feeling as though you aren’t being yourself or can’t is exactly why we need to talk about differences based on culture.
Knowledge can help us navigate these moments better.
So, have you heard of IBM? Do you know a man by the name of Geert Hofstede?
I’ll take a gander that you answered yes to the former and a no to the latter. To bring it all together for you, Geert Hofstede was an employee of IBM in the 60s and 70s. His role was to analyze surveys and statistics from IBM employees all over the world. The surveys were focused on their personal value systems.
All. Over. The. World.
Results pulled in from 50 countries were captured in his final theories.
His work uncovered the differences in value systems between people based on culture. The final Six-Dimensional Model of Cultural Differences became and still is a popular framework and reference for large corporations. It helps them master managing international communication and management and celebrate diversity. The 6 Dimensions as defined by Hofstede are:
- power distance
- individualism vs. collectivism
- masculinity vs. femininity
- uncertainty avoidance
- long-term vs. short-term orientation
- indulgence vs. restraint
Hofstede makes sure to point out that these measurements are there to provide a guideline for us. Though his findings uncovered many consistent patterns to help him establish his theory, they are not hard rules for each cultural body. They are ultimately generalizations.
Each person has their own unique personality, experience and communities from which they evolve. So, each individual within a culture can fall in a different place on each particular dimension regardless of their culture.
To learn more about each dimension more in depth check out the full Global Cultural Differences infographic below from Reservations.com.