Cultural Comparison- Happiness
Declaration of Independence grants the right to happiness to every American citizen, an emotion every citizen seeks fervently. Ironically, though, happiness has become a marketable commodity being sold through everything from inexpensive books in self-help guaranteeing buyers a relaxed existence to all sorts of TV hucksters claiming to possess the means to bliss. A major 2006 scientific research into international happiness, conducted by England's Leicester University has placed America on the 23rd spot, far behind Costa Rica and Canada, with Denmark topping the list as happiest nation on earth (CBSNews).
Comparison of Culture of Denmark and America using Hofstede's Model
The first of Hofstede's cultural dimensions, namely power distance, determines different perspectives and acceptance of societal inequality by different cultures. This factor is derived from Mauk Mulder's social psychology work, The Daily Power Game; it outlines the emotional gap between different hierarchical levels in society. Obviously, Denmark depicts a low 18-point score, ranking 51st, together with Australia, Austria, Canada, Costa Rica, Finland, Great Britain, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, USA, and West Germany. The key characteristics of these cultures include: superior-subordinate (or manager-employee) interaction and reciprocity, team work, partnership, small income gaps, interdependence, decentralization tendency, pluralism, democracy and enterprise. Low power distance is also characterized by low violence rates, a strong middle-class, and change through revision (Sauciuc).
America's dictum of justice and liberty for everyone is showcased by a clear-cut emphasis on equality of rights in every facet of U.S. governance and society. Hierarchy in U.S. companies is instituted merely for convenience, with superiors being readily accessible to subordinates, and managers depending on the expertise of team members and individual workers. Employees as well as management are consulted; there is frequent information-sharing; and organizational communication is direct, participative, and informal, to some extent (The Hofstede Center).
Individualism versus collectivism
This dimension is used for evaluating individual's and group's role in any particular society. Research conducted by Hofstede revealed a relationship between individualism and wealth. Denmark (scoring 74 on the dimension) is one of the top 10 individualist nations in the world. The main characteristic of individualist societies is that individual interests are prioritized over collective interests. Also, inter-individual correlations are fairly loose and family and career form personal achievement's bases. Workplace relationships are quite shallow and individual privacy is valued. Individual conscience and guilt govern behavior, job contracts are made bearing in mind mutual advantages, and there is recognition of individual skill. Lastly, business and economic relationships are founded on reciprocity of profits, with utilization of state-of-the-art processes and technology (Sauciuc).
Societal bonds in America are loose, and everybody is expected to care only for themselves and for members of their immediate family, without overly depending on the government for assistance. Further, the U.S. depicts a great degree of geographic mobility. While Americans are known to be the world's best joiners, the men typically find it hard to cultivate meaningful friendships. They are used to communicating and having business dealings with individuals not very familiar to them. Accordingly, they do not shy away from seeking or gathering requisite information from prospective counterparts. Employees in America must display initiative and be independent (The Hofstede Center).
This dimension deals with gender roles; femininity is associated with modesty, whereas masculinity is linked to assertiveness. Denmark has one of the lowest scores on masculinity (i.e., 16); the country's largely feminine culture is characterized by charity, modesty, collaboration and firm bonds. Family and safety are considered as key values. Usually, there is an overlap of gender roles, and failure is not viewed as disaster (which is how masculine societies regard it), but as accident. Danish society is not contemptuous of shows of weakness, tenderness and caring. Politically-speaking, Danish ideals are of a universalistic welfare state, wherein democracy, environmental concerns and aid and support for all are the principal aims. The methods of negotiation and compromise are adopted for resolving disputes (Sauciuc).
The U.S. has a highly-masculine culture (masculinity score-62), which manifests itself in the distinctive behavioral patterns of its people. America combines extreme individualism and high masculinity; consequently, American citizens exhibit a masculine drive. A large number of U.S. assessment systems center on exact target-setting, allowing American employees to display job effectiveness. White-collar American employees typically relocate to a more upscale neighborhood following every major promotion. American society feels that disputes, to some degree, help people put their best foot forward, with the aim to win. Therefore, the U.S. witnesses a large number of court cases and polarization, thereby undermining the nation's motto of justice and liberty for all. Democracy is being endangered by growing inequality in U.S. society, as individualism may lower and power distance may increase when the gap between classes broadens (The Hofstede Center).
Uncertainty Avoidance vs. Risk Taking Propensity
The fourth and final of Hofstede's dimensions assesses the extent of aversion to risk in societies. The culture of Denmark shows one of the lowest uncertainty avoidance scores (23). High uncertainty avoidance is characterized by people avoiding risks and novel methods, and sticking to the norm. On the other hand, low uncertainty avoidance signifies high levels of innovation and a willingness to try riskier avenues. Stress levels are low and optimism is witnessed; intense emotions, aggression and violence are allowed. Diversity is welcomed (Sauciuc).
America shows a below-average score on uncertainty avoidance (46). Consequently, citizens' perceived context will determine actions more than if scores were either lower or higher. Hence, American society is manifested as follows: Novel ideas, innovation in products, and readiness to attempt unfamiliar or new things (whether in the context of business, technology or food) are accepted to a reasonable degree. American society is normally rather open to views or inspiration from anybody; freedom to express oneself is accorded to individuals. But, concurrently, U.S. society doesn't demand a hodgepodge of rules; Americans don't express emotions well, a characteristic seen among higher-scoring societies. The attacks of 9/11 have, however, instilled a great degree of fear among them, culminating in governmental efforts to keep a watchful eye on everyone, via security organizations like the National Security Agency (NSA) (The Hofstede Center).
How can Americans be happier?
Lecturer of 'positive psychology' (a course in happiness) at Harvard University, Tal Ben-Shahar, states that Americans want the entire package; the more, the better (in the material context) is the theme of American philosophy. And since this outcome does not ensue, Americans are not happier. Ben-Shahar's course turned out to be Harvard's most sought-after course, with nearly 1400 students enrolled in it. The pursuit of happiness, in America, starts in what people expect to be life's happiest years. Ben-Shahar believes that university campuses are filled with unhappiness, with more than 94% of American college-goers feeling trounced and stressed, and paying a steep price for such pressures (resulting from exorbitant expectations). Also mankind, right from the youngster to the elderly person, desires more of everything he/she has - a larger house, more things, a better car, etc. But man's cravings never end, and after reaching where one desires, one will always find somebody who has even more, but is equally unhappy. It is believed by some that the unhappiest areas of the U.S. are the most upscale locales (such as New York's Upper East Side) (CBSNews).
There is no pressure of student loans in Denmark. The country provides free education up to university level to all; also, students may complete education over any length of time. One Danish student remarks that, unlike America's pay-to-study system, students in Denmark get paid for going to school when they pass examinations; CBS news reporter, Morley Safer remarks that this knowledge would most definitely shock the Americans. Another male, Danish student claims to be paid for skipping school and concentrating on parenting, a government-sponsored benefit that he can enjoy for 6 months (CBSNews).
Furthermore, the Danish government delivers healthcare for free, and has subsidized elder and child care, all over the country (CBSNews).
However, the Danes do have one complaint --they have to pay high taxes, equaling 63% of their earnings; this complaint, however, is compensated by the government by covering their educational and healthcare expenses; the Danish government-spending on senior citizens and children is the highest worldwide. Consequently, Danes feel their government keeps them highly secure; also, they do not feel overly unhappy with taxes, due to the knowledge that their money goes to somebody who efficiently cares for them. The people of Denmark do not take income into account while choosing a career; the Danish garbage man easily resides within middle-class society and maintains dignity (Youtube.com). The U.S. government can, perhaps, take a leaf out of Denmark's book, in its effort to provide citizens with happiness.
CBSNews. And The Happiest Place On Earth Is... 17 February 2008. 04 October 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/and-the-happiest-place-on-earth-is/
Sauciuc, Gabriela. Cultural Values in Danish Advertising. 2002. 04 October 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.limbistraine.com/ro/cercetare/Gabriela-Sauciuc/3.Denmark-Hofstede-s-cultural-dimensions.html
The Hofstede Center. n.d. 04 October 2015. Retrieved from: http://geert-hofstede.com/united-states.html
Youtube.com. 20/20 Happiness. 22 February 2008. 04 October 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.unblock.pk/url.php?q=aHR0cDovL3d3dy55b3V0dWJlLmNvbS93YXRjaD92PXRTUHpZZTZOeS1V