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An influential Dutch researcher in cultural economics identified, in 1981, a cultural dimension he terms "power distance", defined as "the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally".

On PDI, scaled zero to one hundred, the U.S. scores 40 and China scores 80 (Russia scores 93).

Another dimension of significance is individualism, defined as "the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members".

On IDV the U.S. scores 91 and China 20 (Russia scores 39).

China (and Russia) value social cohesion along implicitly informative, i.e. highly contextual, information flows. Leaders are given tremendous leeway to do their jobs and are to be questioned only in cases of extreme breach of obligation, i.e. when they threaten social harmony.

Note that Russians, in surveys, explicitly prefer social stability to free speech and a free media. Chinese find the legalistic contortions American politicians have to go through to do something generally favoured as awkward and wasteful. We see allowing elites to enrich themselves off market reforms to help them buy into the idea of change as distasteful whereas from a social utilitarian perspective it's strategically kosher.

The full data are available on Hofstede's site, too


The differences between Japan and China are truly interesting.

The only thing surprising to me is that Japan's number is not much higher. Their political apathy is astonishing; in my opinion there is no functioning democracy in Japan.

Call me jaded but I am surprised to see the numbers so low for a lot of countries. Perhaps the questions asked how things should be, rather than how things actually are.

>Note that Russians, in surveys, explicitly prefer social stability to free speech and a free media.

I wonder how much this is informed by Russians being conditioned by their media to "prefer social stability to free speech and a free media."

If russians do indeed explicitly prefer social stability to free speech and media, then it must be an artifact of a troubled past and one where the divide between rich and poor has always been wider than europe and the americas. I think it's ingrained into their whole culture really, this kind of slave mentality which is similar almost to a serf who wouldn't dare attempt to gain his freedom for fear of starving once he'd gained it.

American individualism is hardly a natural born trait, we are all influenced by our environment. What people value and how they act in the interest of those values is what culture is all about.

While that may be true, it is also true that the environment is shaped by the people that inhabit it. Most of the people in the US come from immigrants, people who weren't afraid to set out on their own to a new place. Those kinds of people generally value individual freedoms over the stability of society.

I'm curious what the actual stats are with regards to that theory. More than a few historic immigration waves were prompted because things were so bad "back home" - for a variety of reasons including social instability - that the fear of setting out to a new place was far less than the fear of remaining. I'm not sure if that was so much an issue of individual freedom.

Examples off the top of my head would be the rise of the communist party in China and the Irish potato famine.

However, the first wave of Europeans colonists to come the US definitely did value individual freedoms over stability. I don't know how strong their influence is on the population itself, but their views are definitely reflected in the laws and historical document (e.g. The Constitution).


The short answer is that the data doesn't support generalizing the motives of American immigrants over 300 years from very diverse social, political, and economic conditions. There is no suitable generalization. The same goes for attempting to describe America's current cultural values as a single group.

Longer answer requires the gradiated initial cultural values held by every significant immigrant group (puritans, slaves, Irish, Chinese... significant defined by impact, population, whathaveyou), determining how resilient those values were when thrown into America's melting pots (assimilated? insular?), and to what extent they influenced the groups around them over time. That's a career question, though - not a HN comment that I'm underequipped to answer.

Even in the case of migration to avoid a bad situation, it's still a small minority that left whatever the old place was. The vast majority stayed there, so you've still got a tiny self-selecting population of immigrants.

That's interesting. I wonder how Japan scores on those scales as they share many cultural values with China, but have vary different governments.

The Japanese closer to the Chinese, that the USA.

The vast difference is 'Uncertainty Avoidance' - while Chines go with the flow and are able to accept Uncertainty, the Japanese will do nearly anything to avoid uncertainty. [J:92, C:30]

The second difference is in Competition/Cooperation [Masculinity/Feminity], (J:95, C:66]. Japanese society values hard work and competition and excelling in work far more than any other society.

Living there, I was curious about that too.

See this link: http://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html

Interestingly India and China are pretty close on PDI, MAS and UAI, with some differences in Individualism [India 48, China 20, USA 91], and Long Term Orientation [India 61, China 118, USA 29].

But cutting off freedom of information like this would be impossible.

Perhaps it has something to do with the non-homogeneity of India? There is not as much trust and social cohesion as in China perhaps, and therefore more willingness to openly question those in power.

I just checked the latest figures for the UK vs Germany. As a British citizen who spent the best part of a decade living in Germany I was surprised by how accurately they capture the cultural differences and similarities.

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