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The 3 Cultural Types

INDIA / FRANCE: UNDERSTANDING CULTURAL DIFFERENCES


In addition to the 6 cultural dimensions of HOFSTEDE and the work of the authors cited in the previous articles, the work of Richard D.LEWIS allows to identify three cultural types and their nuances in order to map compatibilities between geographical areas. Here too, we can enjoy convergence with previous work and the effectiveness of this reading grid in explaining the recent events and the diplomatic and economic trends of last decades.


THE THREE MAIN CULTURAL TYPES AND THEIR CARACTERISTICS
LINEAIRE - ACTIVE MULTI-ACTIVE REACTIVE
  • Separation between professional and personal aspects
  • Structured time
  • Delegated work to competent colleagues
  • Focus on work
  • Respect of administration
  • Recurrent use of databases and statistics
  • Time management = key element

  • Representative countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland

  • No separation between professional and personal domain
  • Emphasis on human aspect
  • All aspects and activities are linked together
  • Oral information more important than other media
  • People do many things at once
  • Emotion = key factor

  • Representative countries: Latin America

  • Conflict avoidance, diplomacy
  • Willingness to listen to speakers
  • Delegated work to competent colleagues
  • Words are promises
  • Link between the personal and professional areas
  • Importance of principles
  • Respect = key factor

  • Representative countries: China, Japan, Finland


Through the characteristics peculiar to each cultural type we can bring out elements of incompatibility. Linear-Active culture emphasizing the optimization of a structured time, giving priority to the work and clearly separating the professional aspect and the personal field thus appears incompatible with the multi-active culture and its focuses on the human aspect and which mixes different areas.

On the other hand, some cultural aspects suggest possibilities of compatibility, especially in the field of business. Reactive culture, for example, and its avoidance of conflicts seem to agree with the importance of the human aspect in multi-active cultures. The "holism" of multi-active cultures, that is, the global vision of systems versus fragmented vision, seems to find an echo in reactive culture. The idea that linear - active and reactive countries offer significant potential for collaboration in the business field is also strongly supported by time management and the importance of the result within Anglo-Saxon countries.


THE NUANCES BETWEEN THE 3 TYPES

Here is how Richard D. LEWIS represents his model of the 3 dominant cultural types:

Source : Cross-Cultural Communication: A Visual Approach – Richard D. LEWIS


As we can see, a color chart between each of the 3 types is needed to categorize all countries. What is remarkable about this model, however, is the fact that no country is within the triangle. Each is presented either as being clearly part of one of the 3 cultural types, or as being influenced by 2 cultures with more or less influence from the concerned cultures. Distribution is therefore visually extremely clear and efficient.

This model allows us to notice an important point: if we can clearly see some geographical poles, we must however take into account the fact that two similar cultures can be found within distant geographical areas. It is therefore surprising at first to find Finland culturally closer to East Asian countries than to its direct European neighbors. If we take into account migratory movements and the colonial past, we may be a little less surprised to find the US next to the countries of Northern Europe or Italy and Spain alongside South American country.

The representation of Richard D. LEWIS is therefore a wonderful testimony to the historical complexity that is the basis of the distribution of the different cultural profiles. A less harmonious geographical block than others like Europe is a concrete example. In the "old continent", Linear - Active cultures and Multi - Active are pronounced along with countless nuances, some of which are tinted with reactive culture (Finland and Estonia).

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