Gospel & Culture blog
Do you assume that travelers are more accepted in certain countries,and less accepted in others? What accounts for the difference? One major factor may be cultural values. The more collectivist a culture is, the harder it can be to get into the "in-group." Another cultural value that can affect an expatriate's experience of finding acceptance would be the host culture's value of uncertainty avoidance. Cultures which highly avoid uncertainty tend to be less tolerant of difference- they tend to be tightly regulated and prefer many prescribed norms of behavior.
Without invoking "cultural values" framework (viz Kluckhohn and Hofstede), Berry (1990) focused on how cultural values affect whether immigrant communities will assimilate. His conclusion was that the more an immigrant community values convergence, and the less they value the in-group, the more likely it is they will assimilate. If they value the in-group and divergence to the wider culture, they will live separately in enclaves.
It occurs to me that we could use cultural values to work the other way around. Not only can values like collectivism and Uncertainty avoidance affect how an immigrant community assimilates to a new culture, but they can influence how expatriates are accepted when they travel. Below, I have plotted data from Geert Hofstede's study of value dimensions throughout the world. I have plotted 26 countries on a 2 dimensional grid that compares tolerance (uncertainty avoidance) and in-group cohesion (collectivism/individualism).
Countries in the upper right quadrant have a strong in-group; and with a high UAI, people are anxious about differences. That is, they tend to be both cliquish and intolerant. These would be the hardest countries for travelers find acceptance.
Countries in the lower right quadrant are pluralists. They accept cultural differences; but since they value the in-group. Nepotism or Guan Xi in China characterize social interactions. So travelers may not find people anxious about their own differences; but they still may find it hard to be accepted.
Countries in the top right quadrant do not have strong in-group mentalities, but are nonetheless fairly intolerant of cultural differences. Travelers who fit within the cultural norms (i.e., know the language and behave like the host culture) may make friends easily; but those who diverge will find socializing more difficult.
Countries in the lower right are the most open. The in-group boundary can easily be crossed, and differences are tolerated.
This theory relies on previous work that has been done on value orientations. The theory that the acceptance travelers experience is dependent on UAI and IDV could be further explored through a quantitative study on people who have traveled to various countries. We may have participants answer the following questions with a Likert Scale:
1. How easily did you make friends?
2. To what extent did you find people frustrated with your own culturally-bound behaviors?
There are, of course, many other factors that influence the way that travelers experience acceptance from their host country. One salient value orientation would be hospitality, but we do not have global data on "planned v. spontaneous hospitality."
© 2015 Kenneth Nehrbass. All Rights Reserved.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor