What's your story? Discussions your reasons for going abroad.
More or less in line with Hofstede scale.Happiness(subjective well being) is about feeling you are free to have fun without restraints and that you feel in control of your life.See below:
In its special Christmas edition, at a time when people in the traditionally
Christian world are supposed to be merry and happy, the
well-known British magazine The Economist once published the following
Once a week, on Sundays, Hong Kong becomes a different city. Thousands
of Filipina women throng into the central business district, around Statue
Square, to picnic, dance, sing, gossip, and laugh. . . . They hug. They chatter.
They smile. Humanity could stage no greater display of happiness.
This stands in stark contrast to the other six days of the week. Then it is
the Chinese, famously cranky and often rude, and expatriate businessmen,
permanently stressed, who control the center. On these days, the Filipinas
are mostly holed up in the 154,000 households across the territory where
they work as “domestic helpers” or amahs in Cantonese. There they suffer
not only the loneliness of separation from their own families, but often
virtual slavery under their Chinese or expatriate masters. Hence a mystery:
those who should be Hong Kong’s most miserable are, by all appearances,
its happiest. . . .
278 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
Happiness, or subjective well-being (SWB), as academics prefer to call
it, is a universally cherished goal. Some philosophical schools, such as classic
Buddhism, condemn the pursuit of happiness and consider it a reproachable
waste of time in which an enlightened person should not engage.
However, such elitist doctrines cannot have been easily embraced by the
masses. Throughout the world and regardless of their religion, most people
would like to attain a state of bliss here and now and, in contrast to classic
Buddhist pundits, are not deterred by the certainty of its transience.
Unfortunately, some nations as a whole do much better than others in
the universal chase of happiness. Even more disturbing for the stragglers
is that research on cross-cultural differences in SWB evidences a high level
of stability in the country rankings. There are fl uctuations, to be sure, but
no major shifts have been observed since the fi rst national rankings were
reported decades ago, based on large-scale measurements of happiness.
Moreover, some studies have demonstrated a high similarity between the
SWB rank order of twenty nations and the SWB rank order of groups of
Americans with ancestors from those nations. This means that even when
people of different ethnic origins share the same environment, they do not
become equally happy, and some old differences remain for some time.2
The Nature of Subjective Well-Being
There is a vast academic literature on SWB. Usually, two main aspects are
distinguished: a cognitive evaluation of one’s life and a description of one’s
feelings.3 Life satisfaction and emotional affect are not necessarily one and
the same phenomenon. Some people may perceive that their lives are going
well without necessarily being in an elevated mood, and vice versa.
The World Values Survey addresses both aspects of SWB by asking
people how satisfi ed they are with their lives and how happy they feel.
Nations that score high on the fi rst of these two questions usually score
high on the second as well, but the correlation is not very strong. National
differences in life satisfaction can be explained convincingly by means of
differences in national wealth, but this variable has relatively little to do
with the happiness item in the WVS. The countries with the highest percentages
of very happy respondents are typically poor or not particularly
wealthy. They are located in western Africa (Nigeria, Ghana) and in northern
Latin America (Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Venezuela). What are
we to make of this?
Light or Dark? 279
Disbelief is not an uncommon reaction to such fi ndings. Not only some
laypersons but also a few scholars consider the practice of measuring happiness
dubious. It seems to them that this is simply something too elusive,
vague, and changeable to be measured. Such views, however, are a minority
in mainstream social science. Leading experts on the matter, including
U.S. psychologist Ed Diener and Dutch sociologist Ruut Veenhoven, have
demonstrated beyond any doubt that measuring happiness is meaningful.4
Also, Misho has pointed out that nations with higher percentages of people
who state that they are very happy have a lower incidence of deaths from
cardiovascular diseases.5 A strong correlation between the two remains
even after taking into account a major factor: national differences in wealth
(and hence in the quality of health care that people receive). People’s reports
of their personal happiness are not empty words removed from reality.
There is no shortage of theories that explain the observed national differences
in happiness.6 Many of them are based on relatively small country
samples and are consequently unreliable as a general explanation. No one
denies the evident fact that the determinants of happiness are numerous
and that some of them may be more prominent in one society than in
another. Nevertheless, that does not mean that universal trends are impossible
to fi nd.
Subjective Well-Being and the World Values Survey
In Chapters 4 and 5 we cited the dimension well-being versus survival in
Inglehart’s overall analysis of the WVS. It was associated with the combination
of high individualism (IDV) and low masculinity (MAS). Although
a search of the cultural determinants of happiness was not in the focus of
Inglehart’s interests, his dimension includes at the survival side a measure
of unhappiness.7 Other items that defi ned this dimension had to do with
giving priority to economic and physical security over quality of life, being
politically passive, rejecting homosexuality, and being very careful about
trusting people. Further, the dimension was strongly correlated with a
belief that men make better political leaders and that women need children
to be fulfi lled, an emphasis on technology, a rejection of out-group members
(such as foreigners), a perception of low life control, and many more
Inglehart’s well-being versus survival dimension is statistically correct.
Also, despite the mind-boggling diversity of items that defi ne it, it is
280 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
after all conceptually defendable, since everything with which it is associated
seems to stem, one way or another, from national differences in wealth
versus poverty. It functions well as a catchall dimension that explains the
differences between rich and poor nations and indicates what cultural and
social changes one might expect after a particular country has achieved
economic development. However, this telescopic view leaves many salient
details unexplained. In particular, it says nothing about the important
question of why some poor nations have such high percentages of very
Indulgence Versus Restraint as a
Intrigued by Inglehart’s analysis of the WVS, Misho performed his own.
He discovered that Inglehart’s well-being versus survival dimension can be
split into two, not only conceptually but also statistically. Items that have
to do with relationships between groups of people or between individuals
and groups (such as agreement that men make better leaders or that a
woman needs children) form the dimension that Misho called universalism
versus exclusionism, discussed in Chapter 4 as a variant of individualism
versus collectivism. Items primarily related to happiness form a separate
group and a different dimension.9 Across more than ninety countries, two
WVS items in particular predicted happiness better than any other survey
variables reported so far.
Misho considered these as the core of a new dimension. This is how
they—and the happiness item—were formulated in the WVS:
1. Happiness: “Taking all things together, would you say you are very
happy, quite happy, not very happy, or not at all happy.” Measured was
the percentage choosing “very happy.”
2. Life control: “Some people feel they have completely free choice over
their lives, while other people feel that what they do has no real effect
on what happens to them. Please use this scale where 1 means ‘none
at all’ and 10 means ‘a great deal’ to indicate how much freedom of
choice and control you feel you have over the way your life turns out.”
Measured were the average national scores reported by the WVS.10
3. Importance of leisure: “For each of the following, indicate how
important it is in your life: very important, rather important, not very
Light or Dark? 281
important, or not at all important: family, friends, leisure time, politics,
work, religion, service to others.” Measured was the percentage
choosing “very important” for leisure time.11
The correlates and predictors of happiness at the national level are therefore,
fi rst, a perception of life control, a feeling that one has the liberty to
live one’s life more or less as one pleases, without social restrictions that
curb one’s freedom of choice; and second, importance of leisure as a personal
value. Happiness, life control, and importance of leisure are mutually
correlated, and these associations remained stable over subsequent survey
waves. They thus defi ned a strong common dimension.
Apart from the three key items, the dimension was also positively
associated with a high importance of having friends and negatively with
choosing thrift as a valuable trait for children.
It follows that one of the two poles of this dimension is characterized
by a perception that one can act as one pleases, spend money, and indulge
in leisurely and fun-related activities with friends or alone. All this predicts
relatively high happiness. At the opposite pole we fi nd a perception that
one’s actions are restrained by various social norms and prohibitions and
a feeling that enjoyment of leisurely activities, spending, and other similar
types of indulgence are somewhat wrong. Because of these properties of
the dimension, Misho has called it indulgence versus restraint (IVR).12
National scores for the dimension are listed in Table 8.1.13
The defi nition that we propose for this dimension is as follows: Indulgence
stands for a tendency to allow relatively free gratifi cation of basic and
natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun. Its opposite pole,
restraint, refl ects a conviction that such gratifi cation needs to be curbed and
regulated by strict social norms. As a cultural dimension, indulgence versus
restraint rests on clearly defi ned research items that measure very specifi c
phenomena. Note that the gratifi cation of desires on the indulgence side
refers to enjoying life and having fun, not to gratifying human desires in
This is a truly new dimension that has not been reported so far in the
academic literature; it deserves more study. It somewhat resembles a distinction
in U.S. anthropology between loose and tight societies. In loose
societies norms are expressed with a wide range of alternative channels,
and deviant behavior is easily tolerated; tight societies maintain strong
values of group organization, formality, permanence, durability, and soli282
DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
TABLE 8.1 Indulgence Versus Restraint (IVR) Index Scores for 93 Countries and Regions
Based on Factor Scores from Three Items in the World Values Survey
EUROPE N/NW EUROPE C/E MUSLIM WORLD ASIA EAST
RANK AMERICA C/S EUROPE S/SE ANGLO WORLD EX-SOVIET M.E & AFRICA ASIA SE INDEX
1 Venezuela 100
2 Mexico 97
3 Puerto Rico 90
4 El Salvador 89
5 Nigeria 84
6 Colombia 83
7 Trinidad 80
8 Sweden 78
9 New Zealand 75
10 Ghana 72
11 Australia 71
12–13 Cyprus 70
12–13 Denmark 70
14 Great Britain 69
15–17 Canada 68
15–17 Netherlands 68
15–17 United States 68
18 Iceland 67
19–20 Switzerland 66
19–20 Malta 66
21–22 Andorra 65
21–22 Ireland 65
23–24 S Africa 63
23–24 Austria 63
25 Argentina 62
Light or Dark? 283
26 Brazil 59
27–29 Finland 57
27–29 Malaysia 57
27–29 Belgium 57
30 Luxembourg 56
31 Norway 55
32 Dominican Rep. 54
33 Uruguay 53
34–35 Uganda 52
34–35 Saudi Arabia 52
36 Greece 50
37–38 Taiwan 49
37–38 Turkey 49
39–40 France 48
39–40 Slovenia 48
41–43 Peru 46
41–43 Ethiopia 46
41–43 Singapore 46
44 Thailand 45
45–46 Bosnia 44
45–46 Spain 44
47–48 Jordan 43
47–48 Mali 43
49–51 Zambia 42
49–51 Philippines 42
49–51 Japan 42
52–53 Germany 40
52–53 Iran 40
54 Kyrgyzstan 39
55–56 Tanzania 38
55–56 Indonesia 38
284 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
57 Rwanda 37
58–59 Vietnam 35
58–59 Macedonia 35
60 Germany E 34
61–62 Portugal 33
61–62 Croatia 33
63–64 Algeria 32
63–64 Georgia 32
65 Hungary 31
66 Italy 30
67–69 S Korea 29
67–69 Czech Rep. 29
67–69 Poland 29
70–72 Slovakia 28
70–72 Serbia 28
70–72 Zimbabwe 28
73 India 26
74 Morocco 25
75 China 24
76 Azerbaijan 22
77–80 Russia 20
77–80 Montenegro 20
77–80 Romania 20
77–80 Bangladesh 20
81 Moldova 19
TABLE 8.1 Indulgence Versus Restraint (IVR) Index Scores for 93 Countries and Regions
Based on Factor Scores from Three Items in the World Values Survey, continued
EUROPE N/NW EUROPE C/E MUSLIM WORLD ASIA EAST
RANK AMERICA C/S EUROPE S/SE ANGLO WORLD EX-SOVIET M.E & AFRICA ASIA SE INDEX
Light or Dark? 285
82 Burkina Faso 18
83–84 Hong Kong 17
83–84 Iraq 17
85–87 Estonia 16
85–87 Bulgaria 16
85–87 Lithuania 16
88–89 Belarus 15
88–89 Albania 15
90 Ukraine 14
91 Latvia 13
92 Egypt 4
93 Pakistan 0
286 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
darity.14 In Geert’s earlier publications, this distinction was conceptually
associated with uncertainty avoidance, but he did not fi nd objective ways of
The indulgence versus restraint dimension solves the paradox of the
poor Filipinas who are happier than the rich citizens of Hong Kong. The
Philippines in Table 8.1 can be seen to rank higher on indulgence than Hong
Kong, but still a lot lower than societies in northern Latin America or some
western African nations.
The correlations of IVR with the IBM dimensions described in this
book are as follows: IVR shows a weak negative correlation with power distance
(PDI), indicating a slight tendency for more hierarchical societies to
be less indulgent. It is not correlated with the other IBM dimensions, nor
with long-term orientation as measured with the Chinese Values Survey
The relationship of IVR with LTO-WVS is shown in Figure 8.1, which
crosses the two dimensions among ninety common countries. The overall
correlation is signifi cantly negative.17 This is to be expected, in view of
the lack of support in indulgent societies for thrift as a desirable trait in
children. However, the common variance of LTO-WVS and IVR is just 20
percent, much less than, for example, the 35 percent shared variance of two
other established dimensions, PDI and IDV.
The quadrants of the diagram show a clear regional pattern. The
relatively rare combination of high indulgence plus long-term orientation
groups nine European Union member countries plus Switzerland, Taiwan,
and Singapore. The most common pattern—high indulgence plus shortterm
orientation—groups twelve Latin American countries, four African
countries, four Anglo countries, fi ve northern European countries, four
southern European countries, and two Southeast Asian countries. The next
most common pattern—restraint plus long-term orientation—groups nine
East and South Asian countries, nineteen Eastern European countries, and
a few others. The rarer combination of restraint plus short-term orientation
is found in fi ve Muslim countries, six black African countries, and a
Statistically, there is a positive relationship between indulgence and
national wealth, signifi cant but weak.18 National wealth explains about 10
percent of country differences in indulgence. Restraint is somewhat more
likely under poverty, which makes sense.
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Indulgence Versus Restraint and Subjective
Well-Being in Other Cross-National Studies
A team of researchers led by Peter Kuppens, from Belgium, studied what
they referred to as recalled frequency of emotional experience (or how well
people remember positive and negative feelings).19 Their sample consisted
of 9,300 individuals from forty-eight nations. Two nation-level dimensions
emerged from the study, labeled Component 1 (positive affect) and Component
2 (negative affect). Participants from societies with higher scores on
Component 1 were more likely to recall positive emotions, whereas those
who were higher on Component 2 remembered more negative emotions.
The two components were unrelated.
Component 1, which measures the frequency of positive feelings, is
strongly correlated with our IVR.20 People from more indulgent societies
are more likely to remember positive emotions.
A similar large-scale study was reported by U.S. researchers Ulrich
Schimmack, Shigeiro Oishi, and Ed Diener. They asked 6,780 college students
from forty countries how often they had experienced pleasant and
unpleasant emotions in the previous month. The reported mean frequency of
pleasant emotions is positively correlated with indulgence.21 Students in more
indulgent societies reported more often experiencing positive emotions.
IVR did not relate to LTO-CVS, but Michael Bond’s Chinese Value
Survey reported another dimension, labeled moral discipline; in Chapter
3 we found it to correlate with power distance. Its two poles were “moral
restraint” versus “lack of a strongly disciplined stance.”22 The items that
defi ned the positive pole of this dimension were “moderation,” “keeping
oneself disinterested and pure,” and “having few desires.” As these items
are easy to associate with restraint, one would expect a negative correlation
with indulgence. Indeed, such a correlation exists.23 Societies that
score higher on indulgence have lower scores on moral discipline. Their
members are less likely to value moderation and to have few desires.
With another group of associates, Bond later studied what he called
social axioms in the general beliefs of 7,672 students from forty-one societies.
24 The researchers obtained two cultural dimensions, one of which they
labeled societal cynicism. It implies agreement with statements such as “To
care about societal affairs only brings trouble to yourself,” “Kindhearted
Light or Dark? 289
people usually suffer losses,” “Old people are usually stubborn and biased,”
and “People will stop working after they secure a comfortable life.” It also
refl ects a view that powerful people are arrogant exploiters of less powerful
individuals. According to the available data, societal cynicism is strongest
in Eastern Europe, East Asia (Korea, Taiwan), Pakistan, and Thailand. It
is weakest in Norway, the United States, and Canada. Societal cynicism
is signifi cantly and negatively correlated with IVR.25 This suggests that
members of less indulgent and more restrained societies tend to have a
more cynical outlook. Societal restriction not only makes people less happy
but also seems to foster various forms of negativism. Cynicism is only one
of them. Other forms will be discussed in the following sections.
Finally, indulgence is correlated with national norms for two of the
fi ve personality dimensions in the Big Five model of personality traits,
described in Chapter 2 and referred to in several other chapters: positively
with extraversion and negatively with neuroticism.26 Since extraversion is
associated with positive affect, whereas neuroticism refl ects a tendency
to experience negative feelings, this fi nding is consistent with the nature
of the indulgence versus restraint dimension. Indulgent societies are
likely to host more extroverted individuals and fewer persons manifesting
Indulgence Versus Restraint, Subjective Health,
Optimism, and Birthrates
Societies with higher scores on indulgence have higher percentages of
respondents who in the WVS described their personal health as “very
good.” This correlation is especially high across the wealthy countries.27
The Pew Research Center, a public opinion survey agency located in
the United States, collects data from some fi fty countries, using mostly
nationally representative samples. One of the questions in its cross-national
surveys asks respondents how optimistic they are about the future. The
percentages of respondents who expressed high optimism are signifi cantly
correlated with the indulgence scores.28 More indulgent societies have
more optimistic people, and vice versa.
Happiness, subjective health, and optimism about the future all play a
role in the number of children born in a society.
290 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
Evidence of a relationship among wealth, cultural femininity, and number
of children was reported in Chapter 5. Education level has an infl uence
as well: less educated populations tend to have more children. Across
twenty-eight wealthy countries (those that had a GNI per capita of more
than 10,000 U.S. dollars in 1999), indulgence versus restraint is the main
signifi cant predictor of birthrates, explaining more than education level or
national wealth.29 Populations that do not feel very happy and healthy are
not very excited about having children, especially if they refl ect the education
level that is typical of an economically developed country.
We mentioned already that higher indulgence is associated with lower
death rates from cardiovascular diseases even after controlling for national
differences in wealth.30 This association proves that the higher subjective
well-being that indulgence represents is actually not so subjective. More
restrained societies have some tangible health problems that are not the
product of people’s imaginations. Cardiovascular disease is a complex phenomenon
with multiple causes at the individual level, but it seems that
unhappiness can be one of them.
National governments of low-fertility countries are usually concerned
about raising birthrates, but they have few tools to achieve this goal. Apart
from lowering education levels, which is hardly a choice, their only option
is to increase the level of happiness in the country, which would enhance
subjective health and optimism. Unfortunately, there is no known method
for boosting the percentage of happy people in a given nation. It may seem
that economic development should have such an effect. However, this process
may take a long time. Between 1998 and 2008 almost all countries
in the European part of the former Soviet Union, as well as Bulgaria and
Romania, doubled their GNI per capita. Still, the dismally low happiness
levels that characterized them at the outset of the period remained virtually
unchanged a decade later. And the demographic crisis that is devastating
all of them continued.
Table 8.2 summarizes the differences between indulgent and restrained
societies discussed so far.
Indulgence Versus Restraint, Importance of
Friends, and Consumer Attitudes
In Chapter 4 we saw that having a “close, intimate friend” is a value that
is more likely to be selected by respondents in individualist societies. But
what about the importance of friends in general? If indulgence stands for a
Light or Dark? 291
propensity to enjoy life, friends should have a higher importance in indulgent
societies, since one of the functions of friends is to provide fun and
The WVS provides an opportunity to test this hypothesis. One item
asks respondents how important friends are in their lives. The percentages
of respondents who answered “very important” are positively correlated
with IVR. This is consistent with the fi nding that indulgent cultures are
characterized by greater extraversion—a personal-level measurement of
sociability and fun-orientation.
The Pew Research Center in its 2002–03 surveys asked respondents
whether foreign movies and music are a good thing. The percentages of
respondents who chose the “very good” option are positively correlated
with indulgence. More indulgent societies have higher percentages of peo-
TABLE 8.2 Key Differences Between Indulgent and Restrained Societies
I: General Norm, Personal Feelings, and Health
Higher percentages of very happy
A perception of personal life control
Higher importance of leisure
Higher importance of having friends
Thrift is not very important.
More likely to remember positive
Less moral discipline
More extroverted personalities
Higher percentages of people who
In countries with well-educated
populations, higher birthrates
Lower death rates from
Lower percentages of very happy
A perception of helplessness: what
happens to me is not my own doing.
Lower importance of leisure
Lower importance of having friends
Thrift is important.
Less likely to remember positive
More neurotic personalities
Lower percentages of people who
In countries with well-educated
populations, lower birthrates
Higher death rates from
292 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
ple who fully approve of some imports of entertainment, such as music and
fi lms. These percentages range from 68 (highest approval) in Nigeria to 11
(lowest approval) in Pakistan. They are completely uncorrelated with WVS
measures of religiousness or patriotism, so the observed differences in
acceptance of foreign music and fi lms cannot be explained in those terms.
Dutch marketing expert Marieke de Mooij correlated IVR scores
with recent Eurobarometer and other consumer-related data. Among the
twenty-seven European Union countries covered by the Eurobarometer,
IVR separates most Western member states (more indulgent) from most
Eastern ones (more restrained). De Mooij found a number of signifi cant
correlations. In more indulgent societies people report more satisfaction
with their family life; they more often consider unequal sharing of household
tasks between partners a problem.31 They are more frequently (at
least once a week) actively involved in sports.32 They more often exchange
e-mails with family, friends, and colleagues, and they report more Internet
and e-mail contacts with foreigners.33 They also consume less fi sh and
more soft drinks and beer.34
The World Health Organization provides obesity data on men and
women for most countries in the world. There is not much sense in comparing
obesity rates across countries in which many people may suffer
from undernourishment, so those countries are excluded from this analysis.
Across twenty-six wealthy countries for which data are available, and after
controlling for GNI at purchasing power parity, indulgence is positively
correlated with obesity.35 Although many infl uences play a part, it appears
that when affordability is not an issue, more indulgent societies will be
more inclined toward unrestrained consumption of so-called junk foods
that can result in obesity.
We also correlated IVR with the national culture dimensions in the
GLOBE project. Across forty-nine common countries, IVR was signifi -
cantly correlated with fi ve of GLOBE’s eighteen measures. The strongest
correlation of indulgence was with gender egalitarianism “should be” (there
was no correlation with gender egalitarianism “as is”).36 Strictly prescribed
gender role differences belong to restrained societies. Next, indulgence
correlated negatively with in-group collectivism “as is” and positively with
in-group collectivism “should be.”37 Restrained societies report more ingroup
collectivism and are less happy with it. The remaining correlations
are with performance orientation “should be” (positive) and with assertiveness
“should be” (negative).38 The indulgent society wants performance without
Light or Dark? 293
Indulgence Versus Restraint and
U.S. psychologist David Schmitt founded the International Sexuality
Description Project and coordinated a number of interesting crosskcultural
studies under its umbrella. One of them focused on what he called
sociosexuality. According to Schmitt, this is a single strategic dimension of
Those who are relatively low on this dimension are said to possess a restricted
sociosexual orientation—they tend toward monogamy, prolonged courtship,
and heavy emotional investment in long-term relationships. Those
residing at the high end of sociosexuality are considered more unrestricted
in mating orientation, they tend toward promiscuity, are quick to have sex,
and experience lower levels of romantic relationship closeness.
The fi ndings of Schmitt and his team show that self-reported female sociosexuality
is strongly positively correlated with individualism/universalism
(and strongly negatively with collectivism/exclusionism). This could mean
that women in Western countries are more liberated sexually, but a parallel
interpretation, which does not preclude the fi rst one, is that women in
collectivist countries are more inhibited when discussing their sexuality.
It is interesting that the reported male sociosexuality differences do not
correlate signifi cantly with individualism and exclusionism. Men, all over
the world, are probably less reluctant to talk about sex, and in many cultures
they are actually inclined to boast about their exploits—be they real
This means that conclusions about national differences in sociosexuality
on the basis of self-reports should be guarded. However, across wealthy
countries, in which sex is less likely to be a taboo subject, respondents can
be expected to be somewhat sincere about it, at least in anonymous surveys.
Results from paper-and-pencil studies are therefore probably more reliable.
All told, differences in individualism (and hence in the degree to which
respondents are inclined to be outspoken) and in masculinity, with its
taboos, may still contribute to differences in self-reported sociosexuality.
Nevertheless, across twenty-one wealthy countries, national sociosexuality
scores for men as well as for women correlated positively with indulgence.40
This correlation suggests another facet of the indulgence versus restraint
dimension: members of more indulgent societies, especially wealthy ones,
294 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
are more likely to report greater sociosexuality. It is presumable that these
reports refl ect real behavior, although this point merits more research.
One item in the WVS asks respondents (only European samples) what
they think of casual sex. The national percentages of those choosing position
10 (always acceptable) correlate positively with indulgence.41 In this
case the question is formulated as a norm; the respondents do not necessarily
talk about themselves but rather refer to the behavior that they wish
to prescribe to others. Therefore, the results are more reliable. More indulgent
societies have higher percentages of people who have nothing against
lax norms concerning casual sex.
Indulgence Versus Restraint in the Workplace
Russian management professor and cross-cultural expert Sergey Myasoedov
is known across Eastern European business schools for his colorful
narratives that illustrate cultural confl icts between American expatriate
managers and local employees or customers. He noticed that American
front-desk personnel are required to smile at the customers. This practice
seems normal in a generally indulgent and happy culture such as that of the
United States. But when a company—in the present case, McDonald’s—
tries to mimic its American practices in a highly restrained society, there
may be unexpected consequences:
When they came to Russia, they brought their very strong corporate culture.
They decided to train the Russian sales boys and girls. They wanted
to get them to smile in the McDonald’s way that makes one display all
thirty-two teeth. Yet, sometime later, the McDonald’s experts found out
that Russian customers were shocked by those broad smiles. They stared in
amazement at the sales personnel: “Why are you grinning at me?” They
did their research and found that a broad smile at a stranger does not
work in Russia. The Russians never smile like that when they run across
a stranger. When somebody does that to a Russian, the likely reaction is
“What is wrong with this person?” 42
These differences also translate into norms for the public image of
political leaders. In the United States, maintaining a poker face would be
a virtual death sentence for a political candidate or a holder of a highranking
political offi ce. American public fi gures are expected to exude joy
Light or Dark? 295
and optimism even if they are privately worried about the way their political
careers are going. Over in Russia, a stern face is a sign of seriousness,
and it only seems to bolster the high rating that Vladimir Putin has always
Geert postulates that indulgence also explains the norm of smiling in
photographs (“say cheese”). His Eastern European friends lack this habit.43
Indulgence Versus Restraint and the State
One item in the WVS waves from 1995 to 2004 asks respondents to choose
the most important of four national goals: maintaining order in the nation,
giving people more say, fi ghting rising prices, and protecting freedom of
speech.44 The percentages of respondents choosing “maintaining order in
the nation” as a fi rst goal correlate negatively with indulgence;45 hence,
they correlate positively with restraint as a cultural trait. People in more
restrained societies are more likely to see the maintenance of order (whatever
they understand by that) as an important national goal superseding
In the WVS there is an even stronger correlation between indulgence
and choosing freedom of speech as the most important national goal.46
This is a key fi nding for Western politicians and journalists, many of whom
have trouble understanding the fact that people in quite a few nations do
not prioritize their national goals in the way the Americans or Dutch do.
Freedom of speech may be a prominent goal in an indulgent Western society,
but in a restrained one it may be downplayed, especially if people have
to make more compelling choices. Percentages of respondents who chose
freedom of speech as the fi rst national goal range from 36.6 in the Netherlands
to 1.5—the lowest in the world—in Russia. Russians, as well as
other Eastern Europeans, give low priority to a number of human rights
that citizens of rich Western countries consider very important. This fi nding
explains why such a high percentage of Russians do not mind being
governed by autocrats: in a restrained society with large power distance,
authoritarian rule can be well accepted. It also explains why many citizens
of Russia who have lived abroad and are familiar with life in the West
are far from being impressed with the freedoms that they have witnessed.
Commenting on the strong-arm tactics of the Kremlin, they insist it is a
good thing to have a strong government; otherwise, there would be chaos,
and that is the last thing the country needs.
296 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
The same conclusion emerges from 2008 Eurobarometer data. Across
twenty-six European countries, the percentage of respondents choosing
“freedom of speech” as a goal to be pursued for the future is strongly
correlated with indulgence. The same holds for the percentage who
select “democracy” as most important in connection with their idea of
In the preceding chapters the occurrences of freedom of expression
and of democratic government in a country have been shown to be related
to people’s values in the fi elds of power distance, individualism, and uncertainty
avoidance. The correlations with IVR show another infl uence on
how people in a country feel about the related political ideals.
Not only does the indulgence index predict attitudes toward national
governance in paper-and-pencil studies, but also it is de facto negatively
correlated with the number of police offi cers per 100,000 people across
forty-one countries for which data are available.48 Societies that are more
restrained are more serious about their restrictiveness—they have more
police offi cers per capita.
Table 8.3 completes the key differences between indulgent and
restrained societies described in this chapter.
Origins of Societal Differences in
Indulgence Versus Restraint
As in the case of most other cultural dimensions, it is hard to explain with
certainty what historical processes have created the differences in indulgence
versus restraint that we observe today. One possible explanation
was offered by Misho in an article for the anthropological Sage journal
Cross-Cultural Research as well as in his previous publications.49 He argues
that indulgent societies do not have a millennia-old history of Eurasian
intensive agriculture stretching all the way to the present.
Traditionally, intensive agriculture was never practiced in sub-
Saharan Africa. Some forms of such agriculture existed in some places
in the Americas, but just as in Africa, no draught animals were available
there, which was a severe impediment to its development. As for the Scandinavian
and English-speaking countries, the cultural legacy of traditional
intensive agriculture has long since been overcome. Highly intensive agriculture
of the Eurasian type brought innumerable calamities upon those
who practiced it: strenuous work, alternating periods of food abundance
Light or Dark? 297
and starvation, oppressive states and exploitation, devastating epidemics,
and never-ending wars for territory. It is not unreasonable then that the
Eurasian societies of intensive agriculturalists have generated philosophies
such as Buddhism, according to which all life is suffering and the pursuit of
happiness is a waste of time, or the three great Middle Eastern religions—
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—which teach that real bliss is achievable
only in the hereafter.
TABLE 8.3 Key Differences Between Indulgent and Restrained Societies
II: Private Life, Consumer Behavior, Sex, and Politics
Higher approval of foreign music and
More satisfying family life
Household tasks should be shared
People are actively involved in sports.
E-mail and the Internet are used for
More e-mail and Internet contacts
Less consumption of fi sh
More consumption of soft drinks and
In wealthy countries, higher
percentages of obese people
Loosely prescribed gender roles
In wealthy countries, less strict
Smiling as a norm
Freedom of speech is viewed as
Maintaining order in the nation is not
given a high priority.
Lower numbers of police offi cers per
Lower approval of foreign music and
Less satisfi ed with family life
Unequal sharing of household tasks is
People are rarely involved in sports.
Less use of e-mail and the Internet for
Fewer e-mail and Internet contacts
More consumption of fi sh
Less consumption of soft drinks and
In wealthy countries, lower
percentages of obese people
Strictly prescribed gender roles
In wealthy countries, stricter sexual
Smiling as suspect
Freedom of speech is not a primary
Maintaining order in the nation is
considered a high priority.
Higher numbers of police offi cers per
298 DIMENSIONS OF NATIONAL CULTURES
Societies of hunter-gatherers and horticulturalists were not burdened
by the evils of intensive agriculture to the same extent, which may partly
explain their stronger sense of freedom and happiness. As U.S. experts
in SWB Ed Diener and William Tov indicate, research among Inuit and
Masai populations revealed that these people are about as happy as the
richest Americans.50 Further, intensive agriculture requires a restrained
discipline, planning and saving for the future, indifference to leisure, and
tight social management, conditions that are neither necessary nor possible
to the same degree in a society of hunter-gatherers or horticulturalists.
Highly advanced modern societies with service-based economies seem
to be reverting to the more indulgent culture of the distant past, before the
advent of intensive agriculture.
From the Wikipedia article on Happy Planet Index: "Much criticism of the index has been due to commentators falsely understanding it to be a measure of happiness, when it is in fact a measure of the ecological efficiency of supporting well-being"
Also worth reading: World Happiness Report
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Lifestyle Service Agency
I just realized that there are two more reasons why we are happier around poorer people than richer people.
1. Poor people are more humble and easier to get along with. You see, if you give someone everything they want, they will become spoiled and arrogant, and thus difficult to get along with. So giving someone everything they want is not a good thing. American culture never acknowledges that.
People with humility are far easier to get along with. They are far more relaxed and easygoing. Not as uptight or anal retentive about little rules.
2. Poor people are more natural, open, relaxed and fun. They aren't strict and anal retentive about little rules. And not judgemental or shallow either.
So they seem happier, even if they often complain about their poverty. This is because they are more focused on fun and social relationships rather than money and consumerism, which makes the human soul more naturally happy and free. And they seem much more alive as well.
In contrast, those who are middle class and above are much more strict, serious, closed, uptight and anal retentive about little rules. They are much more judgemental and shallow as well. So they are not as fun to be around, nor do they look happy either. This is why the middle class tends to be snobby and repressed, and look less alive.
Middle class and above people are also much more judgemental and more likely to criticize you for shallow reasons. So you will feel much more judgement and condemnation from them. This means you cannot be as relaxed and be yourself around them, like you can with poorer people.
Significance and Implications
What this means is that if you care about happiness and fun, and in being open and wild, then YOU will be happier and have more fun around poorer people and in poorer countries. But of course, if you are very materialistic and judgmental, and focused on status and image, then you will not.
This explains why people in poorer cultures such as Southeast Asia, Latin America and Mexico seem so much happier and have more fun. And it explains why YOU will be happier, freer and have more fun in such cultures as well.
Reasons and Causes
What you gotta understand is that in industrial societies, people must be MODIFIED to fit the system or else the system cannot survive. So the more orderly and mechanistic the system is, the more orderly and mechanistic people must be modified to become.
Thus a highly artificial robotic society, like America or Japan for example, must create highly artificial robotic people in order to function. But in doing so, its people are no longer natural, wild and free. This is a deeper aspect of freedom which you are programmed not to see.
People sense all this at a deeper subconscious level but their conscious mind is programmed not to see it. Instead they are programmed to think that being artificial, robotic and enslaved to a job is a good thing, as long as they have an income and can afford material goods.
But their souls can feel all this and that's why they feel unhappy and miserable deep down, which shows on their faces, but they can't understand why.
Of course poor people suffer too, from poverty and hunger, even though they may be happier and look more alive. But wealthy people suffer too from ignoring the needs of their soul, and from being attached to their assets and possessions. We all suffer in some way.
Still, I'd rather be around people who are more natural and alive, because I am that way myself. Hope that makes sense.
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"It takes far less effort to find and move to the society that has what you want than it does to try to reconstruct an existing society to match your standards." - Harry Browne, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World
The ultimate FU on us is the rulers of the world completely totally know this who created the system in the first place.
The rich souls must suffer, the have made countries poorer by design but they don't live rich countries alone as well..They have Fu'ed their psyche as well causing more misery in a GOLDEN CAGE called America, Europe and Japan etc
Its all currency manipulation...taking resources from other countries and making few countries richer.
Many Americans, Europeans tried a simple life style which became Hippie movement and that was destroyed too....Its like they don't want Americans to live any other life than be fake and rich.
I read recently that feeding the poor, living on streets is illegal in America now a days, also some Americans decided to get off the grid and live in camps in forest and they were thrown out with an excuse that, they are on government reserve land.
One women in Florida decided to live off grid and the court did not allow it. Its unbelievable what is happening in America
Florida court challenges off-the-grid living
Off the Grid in a Florida Suburb, Fighting Municipal Code
The rulers of the world, want to create this fake image of America even if when people want to live it. They are artificially creating rich vs poor society.
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