Are you a misfit in your own country? Your values vs cultural values

In my past explorations of research on well-being, I was introduced to Shalom Schwartz’s culture model, which breaks down the cultural values of countries into seven clusters, like this:

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There is another model by Geert Hofstede called Cultural Dimensions Model, which dissects culture into six dimensions:

– Power Distance Index (PDI): Higher PDI = more tolerance of power differences in the society
– Individualism (IDV): As in individualistic vs collectivistic attitudes. Higher IDV means more individualistic.
– Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI): The higher the UAI, the less comfortabe the culture is to uncertainty.
– Masculinity (MAS): Troublesome name for this one. Higher MAS means a preference for competitiveness, assertiveness and materialism over relationships and quality of life.
– Long-term Orientation/Pragmatism (LTO): Higher LTO means the culture places more value on the future livelihood of the society.
– Indulgence vs Restraint (IVR): High IVR means the culture believes that members of the society do not face societal expectations to suppress their desires and impulses.

Detailed descriptions can be found at (you guessed it) Wikipedia.

It goes without saying that models of culture are–by design–reductive. One can easily create a cultural model specific to gender, income level or even career. However, for the sake of comparability, I think Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions are so fascinating to play with.

My main point is this: For any given country, there will be cultural misfits. And being a misfit is not so fun.

I’ve been exploring this neat tool on Hofstede’s website that allows users to compare the cultural values of three different countries. Try one on your own! Here’s one I created comparing 1) Thailand, my hometown, 2) USA, where I spent my formative years and 3) Denmark, one of the countries I respect the most:

Hofstede Thailand US Denmark

From the above data, it makes sense why Thailand currently has its current form of government, why Occupy Wall Street happened, why the Danes are among the happiest people in the world, or why there are more senior citizens in nursing homes in the US than in Thailand.

This comparison gets me thinking about my own values and how I don’t fit in to the Thai society. Here’s what I look for in a culture:

– PDI: As low as it can get.
– IDV: Probably somewhere in the middle. I do enjoy the pursuit of my own goals in life, but they are grounded in what I believe have to be done for the betterment of the society as a whole.
– MAS: Can a country have a MAS value of 0?
– UAI: At this time, we need a society who embraces bold ideas for the future. A high UAI is the way to go.
– LTO: The future shouldn’t be discounted. A high LTO is only appropriate.
– IVR: Well, for this one, I retain in me the teachings of Thailand. A low IVR is more to my liking.

So, based on my preferences, it’s easy to understand why I’m not happy in Thailand, nor in the United States. I have to move outside this planet to Denmark! Or somewhere in northern Europe.

What about you? This is a fun exercise! Go compare some countries.


0289 – First taste of India

It’s Sunday evening here in India and I am well into my first full day in the 2nd most populated country in the world. It’s been uneventful so far. I came in with a little trepidation, not really knowing what to expect. So I’m not complaining too much that not much has happened.

Few thoughts:

– My luggage took forever to come out. Apparently they didn’t care that my bag has priority baggage tag on it. In general, people here seem to care less about order and more about getting through things quickly. The  taxi driver was waiting for me when I came out though, and I had a good conversation with him during the 1.5 hr car ride. Outside, I was greeted with the night time temperature of 20 C. Not complaining. Not complaining at all. Supposed to be about 30 C during the day. Not too shabby.

– Most of the billboard signs here are in English! The taxi driver told me that there’re a lot of foreigners here. Lots of construction too. Land cost has skyrocketed with the influx of foreigners and IT companies. I’m glad Infy is housing me on their campus!




This is my room: It’s an 18×10 single. I had an 11×15 double at Michigan. So no complaints here. Attached bath too!






View from the room. Nothing to write home about. Glad to see the green though.




– Security here’s tight. They asked me to declare all my electronics, and took forever before they let me go. For some reason they had an issue with my laptop charger.

– I’m still having a tough time adjusting to their accent. They speak so fast it’s tough for me to follow.

– This is just the first day so I haven’t met any of the other interns. Most of the locals here seem… apathetic to my presence. I was the only non-Indian in the restaurant during lunch today. Good that they’re not staring, but I kinda wish someone would be kind enough to strike up a conversation.

– Just had my first meal. This may not turn out well. haha.

Well, it’s my first day and I’m still trying to find my way. It’s definitely going to be a different experience. I keep thinking about this:

The only journey is the journey within.” – Rainer Maria Rilke.

I’m going to be doing some introspection and meditation here. Trying to find myself away from the rush back home and in the US. Still daunted by it all.

Deep breath, and off I go.