• michela henke cilenti

Deep Dive - Different Cultural Responses to the Pandemic


I am about to make my annual pilgrimage across the pond, leaving the good ol' US of A for a few months to find, truly long lost friends and family, I haven't seen since the onset of the pandemic. Being British and Italian and married to a German, we are spread around the globe. Great pre-pandemic, not been so great the past 15 mont


The fact of the matter is, even though Covid-19 is rife in the States, the spirit of individualism has prevailed and as we fought Covid-19 with rage, aggression to not be beaten, not be stopped and not offset our daily pleasures, comforts and indulgent habits.


Geert Hofstede, a Dutch social psychologist and in his brilliantly practical work on national cultural dimensions places the USA and our cultural behaviors as nearly one of the most individualistic countries in the world. The past 15 months have supported these assertions to a tee.


“Every person's mental programming is partly unique, partly shared with others.”


Geert Hofstede, Culture's Consequences : International Differences in Work-Related Values


His teams' notable work compares national cultures on Six Cultural Dimensions .


His website compares countries and is utterly unlimited in it's utility from designing an ideal culture that fits and suits the members, to preparing for a meet with those holding different values to our own or an acquisition with a person or organization from a different culture to name a few. It's free and a brilliant way to lose time and challenge your values and how they can be a barrier to communication.


These cultural norms and values have shaped the way we have reacted to the pandemic. Global turmoil, but with entirely local responses have been show in behaviors from acceptance of the situation, demonstration and defiance, singing from balconies, rule following or not following the rules at all (what rules?)


A fascinating impact paper by Festing, Schumacher and Lee (2021) examines government responses to uncertainty during the pandemic. This is on pulse paper explains what we do when we don't have enough information- is it a passive or an active response or is it head under the carpet? Is it a structured response of rule following, relying somewhat on the knowledge from the past or a suck it and see into the new future?


"The potency of culture and values in shaping behaviors"


As we move from a state of uncertainty (its been over a year now, right) to now navigating risk and how we will deal with the risk of living/working with Covid-19, let's hope some international alignment occurs with informed decisions to minimize the continued devastation of the pandemic. The wait wasn't long as the CDC announced 4.27.2021 that it will be easing mask guidelines for vaccinated people whilst outside. This is again an individual and unique statement in comparison with that of other countries. Have a read, the evidence is quite compelling supporting national cultural differences. Let me know your thoughts and observations, we have a unique quasi experimental setting and some very different outcomes.


More info on culture and how a sales or organizational culture can be shaped to get a different outcome michelahenkecilenti@gmail.com