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Individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, not collectivism. The individualism-collectivism dimension is one of the most important of the value dimensions, which occur when "varying degrees of importance [are placed] on those deeply felt views of what is right, good, and worthwhile," that distinguish cultures from one another. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. They see each other as only loosely linked, and value personal goals above that of the group. Individualistic cultures tend to have a more diverse population and are characterized with emphasis on personal achievements, and a rational assessment of both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of relationships with others. Individualistic cultures have such unique aspects of communication as being a low power-distance culture and having a low-context communication style. Highly individualistic cultures include the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
About 20% of the world population could be considered scoring high on individualism (a score of 50 and higher).
Individualistic cultures are often wrongly associated with a low score on power distance. Although most countries that score high on individualism also score low on power distance, not all do. Some notable exceptions are France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy. All these countries score both high on individualism and on power distance.
Low power distance cultures challenge authority, encourage a reduction of power differences between management and employees, and encourage the use of power legitimately. Despite this, these cultures don't expect to completely eliminate power difference. People within this low power distance culture, however, are more likely to respond to such imbalances in power with more negative emotional responses than in the alternative, high power distance cultures. Low power distance cultures include Austria, Israel, Denmark, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and Sweden. The U.S. ranks 38th on the scale.
In the earlier mentioned countries France, Belgium, Spain, and Italy, challenging authority is not common.
Individualistic cultures are also classified as having a low-context communication style. This means that communication is precise, direct, and specific. Unlike in high-context communication, reading between the lines is not necessary in low-context communication. This explicit communication is used in order to prevent any form of misunderstanding between cultures. The ability to articulate the thoughts and opinions one holds as well as to express them eloquently are encouraged, as is persuasive speaking. Low-context communication is all content and no relationship dimension.
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