‘100 Countries’ Project

[This article first appeared on Medium.com, 06 March 2022, and is excerpted from several posts which first appeared in 2018 on the EastWest Psyche Ltd blog of this writer. It is provided here in order to set the scene for a related series of (100+!) articles to follow.]

June, 2018: Dr Anne here — setting out on yet another, this time epic, journey.

I’ve just concluded an additional year on South Korea’s Jeju Island, this time in a role as Visiting Professor at Jeju National University. There I taught culturally-related courses of my own design: Intercultural Competency, Developing a ‘Global Mind’ (based on UN Sustainable Development Goals), and Multicultural Societies, as well as a class in practical psychology.

Now, following visits to my bases of Hong Kong and New York, I’ll set off in just a few days for Russia — the first of 55 countries over these next 9 months. I’ll be conducting cultural research throughout Eastern Europe, Central Asia, 10 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and more of South America. Research goals, beyond generally increased cultural understanding, include reconciliation and reconstruction in post-conflict zones, the status and nuances of gender equality, and the identity and self-presentation of nations and cultures, including the preservation of tradition in the quest for modernity.

A new series of articles, entitled ‘100 Countries’, will soon commence. In it, I’ll share cultural highlights and interesting anecdotes from my ongoing research — on these upcoming 55 countries, as well as many of the 50+ others previously researched. Of particular importance to me is not only to learn about each culture from its own members, and my observation and participatory experience, but also to ‘connect the dots’ — to draw correlations, compare and contrast, gain ever-increasing understanding of these intertwined histories, and in so doing, to look at the greater picture: our shared humanity.

I invite you to join me in this quest.

The author (front right) in a ceremony on Jeju Island, South Korea, honouring the island’s creation goddess, Seolmundae Halmang. [May, 2011]

To get us started, I offer you the following from University of Washington|Bothell [modified by me].

Cultural Awareness Self-Assessment

To begin to assess your cultural self-awareness, ask yourself several questions:

  • What are some of my core beliefs and how have they been culturally influenced?
  • How would I describe my worldview?
  • How would I describe the worldviews of my friends/relatives/colleagues/students?
  • How might these differ from the ways in which I see the world?
  • How much do I know about the cultural backgrounds of my friends/relatives/colleagues/students?
  • What information am I missing and how can I get that information?
  • How can I incorporate the worldviews of my friends/relatives/colleagues/students into my own?
  • What worldviews are demonstrated through the way in which I currently live?
  • How can I enhance my interactions with others, so that other worldviews are represented?

The following cultural assessment tool is based on research by Edward Hall, Geert Hofstede, and Aperian Global, and was compiled by Natalia Dyba. Each pairing represents poles on a continuum, between which you may plot your own self-assessment.

Map your own cultural orientation, that most accurately reflects your values, on each continuum below. Remember that a continuum represents an infinite number of possibilities between the two opposing ends. There are no right or wrong answers.

Monochronic………………………………Polychronic

Monochronic: I like to be on time and expect the same of others.

Polychronic: What happens is more important than when it starts and ends.

Low Context………………………………High Context

Low Context: When rules are presented, I prefer that every detail is spelled out clearly.

High Context: Some rules are understood by everyone so it’s not necessary to spell everything out.

Individualistic………………………………Collectivistic

Individualistic: I prefer to work independently and be recognized individually.

Collectivistic: I prefer to work as part of a group and think it’s better when individuals are not singled out.

Egalitarian………………………………Hierarchical

Egalitarian: All people should be treated the same, no matter what their position.

Hierarchical: People should be treated differently depending on their title, position, rank.

Task…………………………Relationship

Task Focused: When working on a project, I prefer to focus on getting the job done and become impatient with socializing.

Relationship Focused: When working on a project, I value time spent in building relationships and work better with people when I get to know them.

Differences………………………………Harmony

Surfacing Differences: I directly address differences when there is an issue so the problem can be solved quickly.

Maintaining Harmony: I prefer to deal with differences indirectly, behind the scenes, to avoid causing upset.

Restrained………………………………Expressive

Emotionally Restrained: It’s better to keep emotions private.

Emotionally Expressive: It’s better to express emotions openly.

Being………………………………Doing

Being: I derive my identity from who I am and who is my family.

Doing: I derive more of my identity from what I do: schoolwork, activities, etc.

Reflection:

  • How does your cultural orientation map help you in your life?
  • How does your cultural orientation map hold you back in your life?
  • How is your cultural orientation map similar or different from your peers’?
  • Which traits are difficult for you to deal with in other people?

For pdf download: https://www.uwb.edu/getattachment/globalinitiatives/resources/intercultural-competence-tool-kit/Mapping-Your-Cultural-Orientation.pdf

One of the prominent models for understanding cultures is, indeed, that of Geert Hofstede, which identifies countries and cultural groups according to 6 dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism / Collectivism, Masculinity / Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-term / Short-term Orientation, and Indulgence / Restraint. Rather than duality, these dimensions are mapped on a spectrum, as in the exercise above. The global view[click on each to enlarge]:

For more information: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/models/national-culture/

For a useful tool to see these dimensions by country, and to compare countries: https://www.hofstede-insights.com/product/compare-countries/

More cultural assessment tools will be shared in upcoming articles.

The series of articles in this ‘100 Countries’ project — in fact, I’ve conducted culturally related field research in 105 countries and 5 territories to date — will begin with Hong Kong, as that’s where I was based when I began this project and where my company, EastWest Psyche Ltd, is headquartered. While Hong Kong is not a country but a territory of China, with several periods of political unrest around that topic since 2014, it is nonetheless, like its neighbor Macao, a ‘special administrative region’ with its own government, legal system, and passport, and is culturally distinct from the Chinese mainland as a result of its complex history — to be unpacked in my upcoming article.

Thanks for joining me as we explore this grand and glorious globe together.

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