Cultural Research and Anthropology are interesting fields to look at when one wonders about where to live in the world. A leader in the field, Geert Hofstede, developed a model describing 6 dimensions to characterize a culture:
- Individualism: “Individualism is the extent to which people feel independent, as opposed to being interdependent as members of larger wholes.”
- Power Distance: “Power Distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.”
- Masculinity: “Masculinity is the extent to which the use of force in endorsed socially.”
- Uncertainty Avoidance: “Uncertainty avoidance deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity.”
- Long-term orientation: “Long-term orientation deals with change.”
- Indulgence: “Indulgence is about the good things in life.”
You can find more detailed explanations on dimensions and world maps showing tendencies by country on Hofstede’s website.
For multicultural people, or what Linda Brimm calls “Global Cosmopolitans” in her book of the same title, it can be challenging to have a sense of belonging and know where they call “Home.”
At the individual level, self-knowledge and doing Deep Inner Work is important to know one’s personality. Yet, if you want to unfold your whole potential (or more of it, as I believe that humans are an ever-unfolding potential), you do want to be in a culture that nurtures and supports your growth, development, and unfolding of your gifts. If you don’t have that combination of culture-personality fit, you will not only underperform but also experience less fulfillment and happiness in your life. Indeed, you will either be bored and/or depressed.
To flow fully, you have to be in a culture that resonates deeply with you and brings the best out of you.
There are moments of your life where it is good to stretch yourself and adapt, and others where you simply want to feel at home naturally.
That is the distinction between fitting in, versus belonging (learn more in this article).
Beyond Cultural Fit: Developmental Fit
Early in my career, I was intrigued by coaching, and more specifically Integral Coaching®. I hired my first coach, Kevin Solinski. In the course of only 2-3 sessions together, my life changed completely, for the better. I was about to embark on a 1 month Buddhist meditation retreat in a retreat center in the French Alps, and as I told Kevin about this, he told me very kindly and directly:
“Given your coaching topic, I would highly recommend you DON’T participate in this retreat.”
I was shocked, surprised, and a bit disappointed.
Isn’t meditation supposed to be a good thing to do?
I loved it so much – the past year I had spent a whole week at that retreat center and loved all the peace, quiet and silence there. Why couldn’t I have more of that?
I told my coach I would take that into consideration, but did not make any promises or commitments.
I still went to the retreat, giving myself permission to quit at any time if I felt it was right.
After four or five days up in the mountain, I felt an inner sense that indeed, it wasn’t right for me (or not right now).
I came down the mountain, and went to a bookstore downtown. I strolled at the Travel section. I told myself in my mind:
“I want to go somewhere easy. I’ve had enough challenging adventures so far in my life. I don’t want to go to Africa, India or Latin America. I’d like to see what it’s like to experience the dolce vita.”
Then, I thought:
“I’d like to see what it’s like to explore a society steeped into post-modernity.”
Postmodernity is the idea that a society goes through a stage beyond modernity, where progress is not the main driver anymore, values can become more pluralistic and relativistic, and a questioning of all which has been done previously can take place. On the upside, a post-modern society starts to develop more social care, rekindle a relationship with Nature and the Environment, and learn to live with community and relationality. On the downside, it can lead to nihilism (no truth) or narcissism (my truth). For more, on Postmodernity, read Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything.
My glance got caught on a Lonely Planet: West Coast of the U.S. I knew I was going, and I thought:
“I want to visit San Francisco.”
That was post-modern enough.
Embarking on this trip changed the course of my life, just as coaching did.
This approach of looking at a place to live from a developmental perspective, in addition to the cultural one can be highly rewarding on your journey.
In other terms:
What would be a place to live that can support you best based on your stage of personal growth?
If you are not yet familiar with this concept, here are good summaries:
If you want a sense of your own altitude of development, you might want to look at the Leadership Development Profile test.
If you would like to explore a world map of countries based on developmental studies, have a look at Richard Barret’s World View Dynamics and the Well Being of Nations (available here).
Where would you love to go?
Where would you love to live?
What are 3 takeaways from this article for you?