Power Distance Index
One of these indices is the Power Distance Index – a measure of how close, or how distant a relationship superiors like to have with their subordinates, and that subordinates like to have with their superiors. My friend at Tsun-Am-I recently posted a link to a very useful website that shows you the PDI of various countries.
So a high PDI country is one where people prefer, or are used to having a large power distance between a teacher (say) and the students. These countries are Malaysia (104), China (80), Indonesia (78) and the Phillipines (94). And so the norm in such countries is for leaders to be highly respected, for people not to ask embarrasing questions, for students and subordinates to listen.
However low PDI countries are those which prefer, or are used to having a small power distance between the boss and the workers. These countries are Australia (36), New Zealand (22), Ireland (28) and the Austria (11). The norm here is for leaders to be accessible, to be at the same level as their subordinates, to be open to challenge and suggestions.
This is all about expectations, about what people are used to, what they have had modelled for them again and again during their formative years – and which they then take with them into their working life. And of course individuals will be different, but on the whole this gives you an insight into some of the conflict that can happen in a ministry training situation, or in a second-generation church.
Conflicts can happen when people who are born overseas (say Hong Kong with a PDI of 68, or Malaysia with a PDI of 104), starts to interact with those who are born or raised in Australia (with a PDI of 36). After a short while, those who are used to a higher PDI will find those who are used to a lower PDI to be disrespectful, disobedient, and to take an overy casual and relaxed approach to important things. However those who are used to a lower PDI will find those who are used to a higher PDI to be controlling, talking down to them, distant, making decisions for them without really consulting them.
One of the things that list of countries does is it immediately makes someone question the inherent rightness of their own culture. Are you really going to argue that a PDI of 68 is correct? what about 74, or 66? And are you really going to say that whole countries are wrong in their approach? Of course not. This is just our cultural preference. And what we, and in fact all cutlures need to do, is to submit our culture under the lordship of Christ. To allow our culture to be tested and transformed by the gospel – and love those from other cultures, whom God has also brought into his kingdom.
There are other differences between cultures that Hofstede has written about, which are really worth investigating for ministry (such as Individualism, with Australia at 90 and Hong Kong at 25). You can see them all from the link posted above!
[ PS: how close would you prefer your bosses / teachers to be with you? ]