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i knew it, Firefly

The King does Dishes

Today I've been looking at some anthropological research. It was fun, so I thought I'd share some thoughts and links here.

We're all aware of cultural stereotypes: the French smell of garlic, Americans are loud, Indians are ambitious etc. The party line in polite society is that these stereotypes are bad. And it's true that they can jeopardise relationships with people before we've even met them. On the other hand, there are definitely differences between countries' cultures that you become aware of if you travel to these countries or meet people from them.

A Dutch academic, Geert Hofstede, has developed a five-dimensional model for figuring out and playing with cultural trends in different countries. The five dimensions are:

Power Distance: How unequally people lower on the totem pole expect to be treated.
Individualism: Favouring individual rights and privileges over loyalty to community.
Masculinity: Assertiveness among males, and to a lesser extent females.
Uncertainty Avoidance: To what extent people are comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity and inconsistencies.
Long-Term Orientation: Thrift and perseverance are long-term strategies, meeting social obligations, saving face and respecting tradition are short-term strategies.

You can look at the values for some interesting countries:

I for one have become much more aware of how I'm shaped by Swedish culture since leaving Sweden. That's part of the fish-becoming-aware-of-water dynamic of leaving your native culture. I'm sure others who have made similar journeys have noticed these things too.

That's where the subject of this entry comes in. First, if the words "The King" makes you think of Elvis Presley, you likely grew up in the US. If you automatically want to substitute it with "The Queen", it's possible that you're from the UK. If, on the other hand, your thoughts went to stamps, you might very well be Swedish or Norwegian or one of the other countries that have a male monarch.

Secondly, being Swedish, I was of course referring to the Swedish king, Carl XVI Gustav. I don't know if he does dishes but I wouldn't be the least surprised if he at least rinsed out his coffee cup. Egalitarianism and personal responsibility are traits that figure heavily among Swedish people.

In fact many Swedes have a hard time with the idea that they'd hire somebody to clean their house because of the combination of these two traits. Personally, I don't have a problem with it, provided that the cleaning staff are paid a living wage and treated like people. But even given that, some Swedes would be very uncomfortable with the implied inequality in getting somebody else to clean up their personal mess.


This is interesting! Thanks for sharing that.