Matt was speaking primarily in terms of an application Dr. Livermore surely had not thought of — creating realistic characters in fiction.
Building on earlier work by, e.g., Simcha Ronen and Oded Shenkar, Livermore considers the following ten “cultural value dimensions”:
- Identity: Individualist vs. Collectivist
- Authority: Low vs. high “power distance”
- Risk: Low vs. high “uncertainty avoidance”/risk averseness
- Achievement: cooperative vs. competitive
- Time orientation: short-term vs. long-term
- Communication: direct/explicit vs. indirect/contextual
- Lifestyle: being vs. doing
- Attitude to rules: universalist vs. particularist
- Expressiveness: affective vs. neutral
- Social norms: tight vs. loose
- Nordic European (Scandinavia)
- Anglo (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,…)
- Germanic (including Switzerland, and with the Netherlands as a semi-outlier)
- Eastern European & Central Asian
- Latin European: not just the “vulgar Latin”-speaking countries, but also Belgium (including its Dutch-speaking northern half, Flanders) and… Israel
- Latin American
- Confucian Asian (primarily CJK=China-Japan-Korea)
- South Asian (Indian subcontinent plus SE Asia)
- Sub-Saharan Africa
- Arab world
For instance, he describes Germanic culture as follows (in a sample chapter of one of his books):
- individual goals are important, but not as paramount as in Anglo culture. [There is, however, the inconvenient truth that Germany gave birth to not just one but two forms of totalitarian collectivism.]
- power distance is small. Even the most powerful officials lead fairly modest personal lives. Consider Angela Merkel — whatever you may think of her politics — and her husband, a chemistry professor who flies budget airlines to join her on vacations.
- Germanic societies are definitely competitive
- Punctuality is demanded and respected. Until digital watches came along, these cultures were literally watchmakers to the world.
- “Ordnung muss sein” (there must be order/rules) is a prevailing norm, though the Netherlands is the more liberal odd duck in the gaggle
- Directness in communication is valued. Expressions like “To explain something in good German” (auf gutes Deutsch) and “to make something Dutch to somebody” (iemand iets Diets maken) speak for themselves. [“Diets” is an archaic word for the Dutch language, which presently calls itself “Nederlands”.]
- Getting things done is definitely high on the list of priorities, particularly in Germany and Switzerland.
There is variability within the cluster, of course: Austrians are much less punctual than the Swiss, and the Dutch even more direct than the others.
The inclusion of Israel with the Latin-European cluster may seem counterintuitive, but it does ring true to this blogger, who substantially grew up in Europe and presently lives in Israel. Again, there is intra-cluster variability, for example between the notoriously risk-averse Belgians and the Israeli “start-up nation”, or between the “dugri” [blunt, no beating around the bush] ways of Israelis and the more suave ways of some Latin countries — but I know from experience that of all the major immigrant groups to Israel, the French have much less of a culture shock than, say, Americans or Russians.
One must keep the limitations of this model in mind — it is a model, after all, not a theory—but it does offer a useful framework for making head or tail of the different cultures in the world.