Group E consists of Switzerland, Ecuador, France, and Honduras. Switzerland and France are both European nations. Ecuador is a South American nation playing close to home, and Honduras is located in Central America.
The Swiss are known for many things, but many overlook some basic cultural differences. This small country has three (or four) distinct subcultures: German, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romance (Romansh). So it is important to note that the French and German parts of Switzerland can have widely different dimensional scores, as can the Italian canton. Overall, the Swiss see foreigners in two ways: those who take money, and those who leave money. It is important to understand this mentality when doing business with the Swiss. The Swiss also have a very low profile police force due to the low crime rates; however, they can be very strict on foreigners. Punctuality is important to the Swiss, in both business meetings and social events. The Swiss sense of humor tends towards witty remarks that can be quick and intelligent. Modesty is important to the Swiss, even some of the most expensive items they may have tend to look less flashy or showy.
At 34, Switzerland sits in the lower rankings of the power distance index – i.e. a society that believes that inequalities amongst people should be minimized. This means that the following characterizes the German Swiss style: Being independent, hierarchy for convenience only, equal rights, superiors accessible, coaching leader, management facilitates and empowers. Power is decentralized and managers count on the experience of their team members. Employees expect to be consulted. Control is disliked and attitude towards managers are informal and on first name basis. Communication is direct and participative.
On this dimension, there is a vast difference with the French speaking part of Switzerland, which scores higher in PDI (very similar to France), which means that people accept a hierarchical order in which everybody has a place and which needs no further justification. Hierarchy in an organisation is seen as reflecting inherent inequalities, centralization is popular, subordinates expect to be told what to do and the ideal boss is a benevolent autocrat. Challenges to the leadership are not well-received.
The Ecuadorians who live in the interior of the nation tend to be more catholic and conservative, while those on the coast tend to be more liberal and serene. It is important not to talk about other South American nations to the Ecuadorians due to the historical skirmishes. Defamation is a crime in Ecuador, this shows how important honor is to them. Like other Latin-American nations, Ecuadorians tend to converse at closer distances.
At 63 Ecuador is a masculine society – highly success oriented and driven. This contradicts the stereotype that Latin Americans avoid hard work. Ecuadorians are competitive and status-oriented, though collectivistic rather than individualistic. This means that competition is directed towards members of other groups (or social classes), rather than towards the members of your own in-group. People seek membership in groups which give them status and rewards linked to performance, but they often sacrifice leisure against work. It is difficult to “let go” of work and often this only happens through binge drinking, a common practice among the working classes.
The French are a powerful European nation that has spread its influence worldwide. When negotiating, French people tend to voice every possible objection, and it is necessary to respond to each. It is important to admit you cannot speak French well. From an American perspective, people in France are not necessarily unfriendly, but it can be difficult to build meaningful relationships with them.
France, with a score of 71, is shown to be an individualist society. Parents make their children emotionally independent with regard to groups in which they belong. This means that one is only supposed to take care of oneself and one’s family.
The French combination of a high score on Power Distance and a high score on Individualism is rather unique. We only find the same combination in Belgium and, to some degree, in Spain and northern Italy.
This combination is not only unique, but it also creates a contradiction, so to speak. Only so to speak, because scores in the model don’t influence anything. They just give a structured reflection of reality. This combination manifests itself in France in the following ways:
- It is claimed that one reason why the French are less obese than people in other EU-countries is that parents still have more sway over children than in other EU-countries. Whether this is true or not is not known by us. All the same, what is true is that the family has still more emotional glue than in other individualistic cultures. This is a reflection of the high score on Power Distance with its stronger respect for the elderly.
- Subordinates normally pay formal respect and show deference to their boss, but behind his/her back they may do the opposite of what they promised to do, as they may think that they know better, yet are not able to express so. Another reflection of high Power Distance contrary to formal obedience is the total rejection of those in power as there is no way to change by evolution but only by strikes, revolts and revolution.
- Employers and trade unions don’t really talk together as they look at each other as almost belonging to a separate species.
- The need to make a strong distinction between work and private life is even stronger in France than in the US, despite the fact that the US scores higher on Individualism. This is a reflection of the fact that employees more quickly feel put under pressure than in the US because of their emotional dependence on what the boss says and does. In cultures which score high on Power Distance and Collectivism, the “normal” combination, such dependence is welcomed. At least, if the power holders act as benevolent fathers.
- The French prefer to be dependent on the central government, an impersonal power centre which cannot so easily invade their private life.
- What is human, but more pronounced in France, is the need for strong leadership in times of crisis. In spite of that, when the crisis is resolved the president should make space for much weaker leadership.
- Many French have the need to become a “patron”, whether as mayor of a small village or as the chairman of the bridge club.
- Customer service is poor in the eyes of all those Anglo-Saxons who believe that the customer is king. Not so in France. The French are self-motivated to be the best in their trade. They, therefore, expect respect for what they do, after which they are very much willing to serve you well.
Honduras is 97% Roman Catholic, and faith is very prominent in society. Although punctuality is expected of foreigners, it is not very important to Hondurans. Personal relationships are very important to Hondurans, and it is necessary to use those instead of cold contacts. Avoid saying no in public, “maybe” or “we will see” typically means no. Honduran men are typically friendly and make a lot of physical contact, do not back away. “No” is indicated by waving the index finger. Joining ones hands together shows strong approval.
A low score of 40 indicates that Honduras can be considered a relatively feminine society. In feminine countries the focus is on “working in order to live”, managers strive for consensus, people value equality, solidarity and quality in their working lives. Conflicts are resolved by compromise and negotiation. Incentives such as free time and flexibility are favored. Focus is on well-being and status is not shown or emphasized.
To learn more about the other 28 cultures represented at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, go back to the main article on this topic.