Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cultural Mileage

I have just come across the term 'cultural mileage' thanks to this 'missiographic' from gmi. It shows the idea of cultural distance between two countries and uses the research of Geert Hofstede and his associates.

Geert Hofstede conducted a huge cross-cultural study of the employees of the multinational corporation IBM. Through his research Hofstede demonstrated that national and regional cultures can be evaluated on a number of dimensions of culture, particularly in so far as they are related to the work place. These dimensions or values belong to a very basic level of culture, affect the behaviour of organizations and are very persistent over time. Hofstede’s initial work delineated four dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism v. Collectivism, Masculinity, and Uncertainty Avoidance. The initial research did not include China or the Soviet Union or most other eastern European countries. Further research was done by Chinese colleagues who constructed a survey called the Chinese Value Survey by which a fifth value, Short v. Long Term Orientation, was added to the initial four.

More recently still Hofstede’s associate, Michael Minkov generated two dimensions using recent World Values Survey data from representative samples of 93 national populations. One has been treated as an update of the Short v. Longer Term Orientation dimension (LTO). The other is called Indulgence versus Restraint (IND). This is how this dimension is described by the Hofstede Centre.

Each of the six dimensions has now been given a scale from 0 to 100. From this the idea of ‘cultural mileage’ is quantified. Cultural mileage is the ‘cultural distance’ from one country to another using the six dimensions of Hofstede’s work. Any two countries can be compared giving a total mileage anywhere from zero to 600, with the top score describing two countries that we might say are ‘poles apart’, i.e. totally different. You will see by going on the web site how many cultural ‘miles’ there are between your country and others with which you wish to compare it.

Like all of these attempts to scientifically compare cultures there are weaknesses. Rarely will any one individual be representative of their country, for a start. A host of factors should be considered in assessing whether one is suitable for ministry between cultures, but anyone who is thinking of crossing cultural boundaries to share their lives and their message will want to check this web site out and consider carefully the implications for their calling. 

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