I like frameworks. I like using them as tools. I like running random thought experiments with them sometimes. Today's framework, which I've written about before: Hofstede's Framework for Assessing Culture. With the recognition that, as Brian Bingham says, "all models are broken, and the best model for a cat is a cat - preferably the same cat," here's the quick gedankenexperiment I'm running to see what my cultural calibration is according to this framework's dimensions.

Low power distance. "This dimension measures how much the less powerful members of institutions and organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally." I understand that power is distributed unequally, and I have learned to navigate worlds with high power distance, but I strongly prefer cultures where "people relate to one another more as equals regardless of formal positions" and where "subordinates are more comfortable with and demand the right to contribute to and critique the decisions of those in power." Note that this means I do accept the need for formal positions and hierarchies of decision-making and that power sometimes needs to be distributed unequally for things to get done, but I think that the rationale behind that power-granting should be transparent (and therefore, eventually, changeable when circumstances warrant) at all times. I will gladly follow someone, but I first need to know why.

More individualist than collectivist, but not by much. "This dimension measures how much members of the culture define themselves apart from their group memberships." I expect that I, as an individual person, will "develop and display [my] individual personality," but a large part of my identity comes from the long-term communities that I have chosen to join (or remain in). I'm a Mel, and if you ask me what that means, I'll tell you that it also means I'm a member of my family and part of this American/Filipino/Chinese cultural mix, I'm an engineer, I'm learning how to be a woman, I'm a hacker, I'm a member of these open source communities, I'm part of CommArch, I like tea. But these groups weren't assigned to me (well, for the most part - the family and gender ones are an exception) and I know how and why I want to be a part of those groups, and I define my own relationships to them.

Feminine. This one was a surprise to me, but after thinking about my rating for "power distance," I had to revise myself from "androgynous" to "feminine" on this scale. The Femininity/Masculinity dimension is about the "value placed on traditionally male or female values (as understood in most Western cultures)." I value relationships and quality of life over competitiveness, assertiveness, ambition, and the  accumulation of wealth; I value quality of life over quantity of life. "In [masculine] cultures, the differences between gender roles are more dramatic and less fluid than in [feminine] cultures."

The thing that threw me off in the beginning is that I can hold my own extremely well in a masculine culture, and have done that for so much of my life that when I stumble into a feminine culture, I'm at a total loss for how to cope, even if I agree with it - if that makes any sense at all. Perhaps it's like the way I feel when I encounter Deaf culture and the functional practices they've developed to accommodate not having auditory input - it's an "oh yes, this would be so much easier if only I were used to it - I'm totally not used to other people doing this, how do I deal with it?" thing.

Extremely low uncertainty avoidance. I might even go so far as to say I actively seek out uncertainty. I don't usually "attempt to cope with anxiety by minimizing uncertainty" - at least not in the environments I seek. I'm confident enough in my ability to minimize uncertainty in my own mind when needed that I can throw myself off cliffs into deep water and expect to be expected to be able to swim. Now, this isn't true for all areas of my life; notably, I have an extremely high uncertainty avoidance value for relationships and identifying with minority groups. But generally speaking, I love chaotic improvisational randomness because I know that I can hold my own.

Long term orientation. I plan for the future - the far, far future. The twist is that I improvise in the present to do so - my long-term plan is to improvise. I know I'm very impulsive and spontaneous and can't always see that long horizon in the moment that I'm acting, so when I do pull back and think of the long-term, I set things up so that when I'm spontaneous, I make the choice that my long-term-looking self would want to make.

There. I have now deployed Hofstede's framework on something that's probably a total misuse of its intended purpose. What does this tell me? I can cope in a number of different cultures (and I'm usually pretty decent about quickly recognizing where these dimensions lie in a culture I've just stumbled into), but some things are harder for me to deal with than others; high uncertainty avoidance drives me nuts and I have a hard time with it, high power distance is annoying but I'm just so used to it that I can cope, and I'm ambidexterous in the remainder, whether that's by nature or by training. Now I can keep a slightly better eye out for things that might be tough to cope with in the cultures I find myself surrounded by.

Mostly this was just a lovely way to start the morning. Some people begin their mornings with coffee; I begin my morning with reading and gedankenexperiments. (Except for the times I begin my morning with "AIEEE LATE FOR CLASS" - but those days are over now.)