Cultural Patterns of Behavior, part II

Bernard’s comment to my previous post on this topic triggered some futher musing from my part on the “essence” of a “culture”, whether it is a national culture, or a culture of an organization.

First, let me bluntly but firmly re-state my position on the (for some people) very sensitive issue regarding whether there is such a thing as a (national) culture or not: in my firm opinion, based on my own experinces over the past half century, having been interacting, either professionally or privately, in many different contexts, with people from a few dozen different national cultures, and hundreds of different organizational cultures, there are definitely identifiable patterns of behavior, and identifiable values,  that do differ between cultures.

Thus, to me, a “culture” consists of at least two components, “behavioral patterns” and a “value system”, where the former consists of the observable behaviors of the average (mean) representative of that culture, and the latter of the ethics and moral of the collective group.

One way to think about a culture is to regard each individual behavioral pattern and each component of the value system as a random variable, subject to a probability distribution.

Let’s take an example: assuming that smoking cigarrettes is one behavioral pattern of interest, by thinking about it as a random variable we can find the  probability of an individual from a specific culture being a smoker or not.  Similarly, an other random variable could be “extrovert”, and yet an other perhaps “honest”.  While the examples given might appear trivial and contrieved, their purpose is to illustrate what I refer to as “behavioral patterns”.

By seeing behavioral patterns as random variables, based on observation of data,  we are able to make informed predictions – asop to prejudiced or biased opinions – on what to expect when interacting with different cultures, be they national or organizational.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, in my role as a tourist coach driver,  I’d be more than willing to make a bet on the concrete outcomes for a random individual of a specific nationality on any of these cultural random variables, and chances are that I’d win the bet more often than not – after all, the “house advantage” for Roulette is very small (2 or 5 %, depending on flavor), but still, the casino’s make a killing from naive players…..! 🙂

So, next time I’m to meet an Aussie in my coach, I will expect a good jocular time with a lot of “G’day mate!”, next time I’ll drive a group from southern Europe, I’ll arrive 30 min late without taking any stress, and next time I’m to drive a group of eastern europeans on an overnight cruise to Stockholm, I’ll have to remember to seal the alcolock of the coach…! 🙂


About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
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4 Responses to Cultural Patterns of Behavior, part II

  1. Bernard says:

    Tommy, do people really argue that there’s no such thing as a national culture?
    I find that amazing. How do they explain such things as cooking style? Many cultures have their own type of cooking, often dictated by or resulting from the sort of food available to them. Isn’t that an example of a national culture?

    To me all it takes is one exception to an argument to disprove that argument. Unless you are talking about prejudice in which case no number of exceptions is going to change a prejudiced mind.

  2. Bernard, it’s fairly common in the Swedish debate, particularly around immigration, multiculture , religious habits, and issues related to immigrants, that the arguments, particularly from the main stream commentators, journalists and politicians quickly conclude that there is really no Swedish culture, therefore we should openly embrace all behavioral patterns and value systems, despite the fact that some of them are against either Swedish customs or laws, or both. This debate has over the past years become so infected, that it is today almost impossible to conduct a rational discussion on any of these topics.

    • Bernard says:

      So the Swedish culture is that culture that believes it has no culture?

      You don’t have journalists from New Limited do you? We have some here in Australia who believe that if you don’t subscribe to their bias, that you’re biased.

  3. good point: even a “culture-less” society exhibits a culture, that of lack of culture…! 🙂

    Nope, we don’t to my knowledge have New Limited here, but the phenomen you point to is fairly common with many of our mainstream journalists.

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