The Crosscultural aspect of COVID-19

19 Mar 2020

The CrossCultural Aspect of COVID-19 – Germany, UK and India

The Crosscultural Aspect of COVID-19

The alarm bells have rung.
And countries and governments have sat up and taken notice.
They have rung and they have wrung the best out of people.
Spreading panic and fear initially, slowly settling into a reality check and now ensuring that compliance comes not from fear but from a place of understanding.
As the information dam bursts open and the COVID-19 fatigue sets in, two more countries are following Italy in a lockdown.

Both Germany and India.

The CrossCultural Aspect of COVID-19

So, why is looking at countries with this lens important?
At a time when the world is coming together to battle a common enemy, it’s important to approach all with the spirit of compassion and understanding. For everyone who is either fighting the virus or fighting the fear of contracting it, there needs to be more kindness, more empathy, more support. And understanding is the space to be in.

Let’s look at the scores of three dimensions* for the three countries

  Individualism Uncertainty Avoidance Indulgence
Italy 76 75 30
Germany 67 65 40
India 48 40 26

(*from Hofstede’s dimensions of culture)

The CrossCultural Aspect of COVID-19: Individualism

This is to be noted. Countries that have a high Individualism score (look at 76 and 67 for Italy and Germany respectively) will find it very difficult to self-isolate or even manage the quarantine themselves. That is not to say they won’t do it. It’s just to acknowledge that it is going to be tough on the culture.

Comparatively, for India, with a relatively lower score it will not be that difficult but being on the halfway mark between individualism and collectivism Indian will vacillate between doing what’s good for the society and the extended family and what the individual wants. A struggle but that’s in the DNA.

The CrossCultural Aspect of COVID-19: Uncertainty Avoidance(UAI)

Here’s a descriptor of Uncertainty Avoidance

The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.,india,the-uk/

With a score of 75 and 65 with Italy and Germany respectively, the discomfort that the populace must be facing battling a new virus that too NOVEL Coronavirus must be huge. One needs to understand the difficulty the entire people must be having battling not just the threat of a disease but the ambiguity that surrounds the entire situation.

Exploring Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) in India

In India again, things are different. There is uncertainty, fear and misinformation but the ambiguity of the situation is not something the people are dealing. (Thank heavens, for that). At this point the Prime Minister of India has exhorted Indians to follow curfew orders and maintain social distancing to enable a country our size to combat the virus.

With a low score on UAI, Indians can deal with unambiguity with complacent ease. If you add authority to it, there’s nothing better. With the curfew declaration, now Indians are happy to slip into an authority taking over and managing the difficult part of the situation. Well done my fellow Indians. It’s all in your cultural DNA!

The CrossCultural Aspect of COVID-19: Indulgence (IVR)

And finally we come to the last but still important dimension of Indulgence versus Restraint. Well described in the pic below.

The point here is what will we forego now so that things are better later? Here we see that both Germany and Italy score on the lower side of Indulgence (all three are less than 50). With Germany being 30 and Italy 40 and India being as low as 26, all 3 countries are okay to forego instant gratification for a delayed benefit later.  Which now tells me that we are ready to work hard to drive this virus away. (Well done Cultural DNA!)

All in all, a study of cultural scores does give us an insight of a generalised popular behaviour. And in this case, we can only hope it means well.

And in the final analysis, I’d like to end with a Shanti Mantra, in the ancient Sanskrit language, that will mean well for the entire world

Read the earlier ones in this series

United States and the Culture Lens

Italy through the culture lens

Cultural Dimensions & China

Blurred Boundaries