Culture Dimensions

Culture dimensions

Power distance or hierarchy – Egalitarianism
During our internship with PPHPZ we experienced the hierarchy within the company several times. Nelson was the boss and had clearly the last saying about everything even though he didn’t have any knowledge about the subject We also saw that no one dared to speak against Nelson although sometimes the things he said were totally irrelevant. Also interns were send to do groceries if Nelson needed some private groceries and they also had to carry Nelson’s suitcases when he came back from a business travel.

Individualism – Collectivism
The people work ten hours a day and have very few holidays during the year. We also noticed that besides PPHPZ the most people don’t have other things to do. Due to this PPHPZ also has a social aspect and most of the people working for PPHPZ are good friends. Besides this almost all people work with the same mindset. They want to help the people in informal settlements and contribute in this way to the development of the country. Due to this reasons it can be said that PPHPZ definitely has a collective attitude.

Masculine – Feminine
In Zambia it is usual that men built houses. There are still a lot of young men and women dying because of aids and malaria. For the widows it is difficult to build a proper house. Among other things, PPHPZ helps these women with the building of their house. They give them financial support like loans without rent and education about building. This shows that PPHPZ is feminine, because they take care about the weaker people in the communities.

Uncertainty avoidance – traditionalism
When we had our first meeting Nelson told us to be open-minded. In this way we can learn from them and they can learn from us. So at first it seemed that they did not avoid uncertainty and were open minded themselves. But when we were in meetings and had discussion with them the opposite seemed to be true. During the discussions about our new project they only give us options, which were already done. All our new innovative ideas were rejected without any argumentation. Also during the building of the Eco Wash we experienced this traditional attitude. Our design differs from the one they were used to build. It was very hard to explain it to them and to make them willing to buy it that way. Along the way we made some changes so the design looked more like the one they were used to build.

Universalism – particularism
The particularism became clear to use when we were told about the corruption in the country. They told us that is was really easy to bribe a policeman and that everyone assumes that you are a corrupt person. We also stood half an hour in traffic jam. It seemed that the president was traveling and the whole road had to be empty.

Specific – Diffuse
We experienced the diffuse character of the Zambian people several times. When we asked someone if a restaurant was expensive, we usually get the answers; ‘it is not expensive’, ‘it is an affordable price’ or ‘the price is normal’. This was the same when we asked someone at the office if they could help us with something. They never gave us a specific time or date or any other specific number. They gave answers like, ‘okay I will do it soon’ or ‘not very expensive’. If we wanted to ask someone something, we always had to chitchat first for fifteen minutes about the weather, how busy we are and how tired we were of all the hard working.

Neutral – Affective
Zambian people won’t show their feelings when they are in public and don’t know you. They will just be happy and smile all the time. In contrast to this we also had a lot of personal conversations and discussions with people from the organisation, but most people were very superficial. It was hard for us to find out what the true emotions of these persons were.

Status by achievement and labour – Status by position
The statuses you have in a company or a community still mainly depends on your position and which position your parents have. People mostly have an important function because they are the oldest, not because they are the smartest or most talented person. But we also see a shift in this. The youth changes their mind set more to a ‘status by achievement and labour’ society. They have dreams about the future and want to go to school to accomplish these dreams.

Sequential – Synchronous
The sequential way of working was one the first problems we faced. Everyone is doing ten things at the same time and it takes a long time before a project is finished. It also causes a lot of confusing and a lot of things were often forgotten. So you had to ask several times before you got the documents or information you asked for. It took us a few weeks before we were familiar with this way of working and it also caused some delay in our planning.

Internalism – Externalism
Christianity still plays a major part in the lives of the Zambian inhabitants. They believe in God and that he decides what happens in your live. This causes an externalist mind set, because everything is in God’s hands. You can’t change anything, the only thing you can do is pray. This is especially seen by the older people in the communities. The youth still believes, but they also think they are able to change their lives and make the best of it. This is also what PPHPZ wants to accomplish. They want to show the people in the informal settlements that it is their choice to change and they have to do it by themselves. Though PPHPZ wants to help them.

Civil Society
The previous cultural dimensions show that Zambia is not yet a Civil Society. The most important factors that counteracted this process are the major influence of the church and the corruption of the police and other government institutions. However we experienced a change in the attitude of the youth, which indicates a transition to a civil society.