CLMN | 4pm on an ordinary day - measuring individualism19 June 2017
It is around 4pm on an ordinary day when you suddenly find out that the film you have wanted to see for ages is on tonight in town. But only tonight. And since you cannot download it from any internet source, you will have to go to the movies tonight. “Fine”, you think, as you wanted to go out with some friends anyway.
So you call, app or email your fan club to go to the cinema together. However, they are all either out of town, or just very busy and in the end nobody is available to come along. As a result, you will have to go to see this film alone. Will you go? Yes, because in your culture nobody cares: you just sit there, watch the movie and go home. Or maybe no, you will not go, because in your culture, people will stare at you thinking ‘poor-you-with-no-friends-in-town’, and you will feel really awkward and miserable. So this is a no go!
This short case is one of the indicators to measure the degree of individualism or group orientation in cultures around the world. I often tell the story in various intercultural trainings, courses or lectures I give on campus or beyond. The responses are quite diverse. A vast majority of students, staff or professionals see no problem in going alone, although it is more fun everywhere in the world to go to the movies with family or friends.
However, some also prefer not to go in these circumstances, entertainment (including theatre, concerts or sports events) being a collective activity only in their cultures. In a recent trip to Macao and Hong Kong, I got various responses from the international audiences, too. Roughly speaking, natives from these two former Western colonies showed a higher degree of individualism than their peers from mainland China or the other (Asian) nationalities present.
But there is more than only national cultural differences in this diversity overview (not to mention personality and personal preferences). Gender also most likely plays a role. In some cultures, it is just not safe for a woman to go out alone, or it is simply forbidden by law.
Also, parameters like generation, urban vs rural areas and social class may influence the decision to go or not to go alone. In general terms, there is a shift in the paradigm towards more individualism in the world nowadays. Consequently, in those traditionally more group-oriented cultures, many people, especially the younger, urban, highly-educated generation, show more individualistic behaviour than their older peers. This also translates into them taking more individual initiatives, accepting individual responsibility and accountability, and taking their own lives into their hands more frequently.
So… while reading this column… are you making plans for tonight? Going to the movies perhaps? Is going alone an option?
The quality of education seems to have slipped at TU/e. In the latest Dutch-language guide to universities (Keuzegids Universiteiten), Eindhoven's university has dropped from third place in the overall ranking to seventh place in the course of a year. "It's understandable but it's not good," says President of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers, "and it is all the more reason to push on with introducing an upper limit on student intake to our programs. This is a result of the strong growth in student numbers."
Eindhoven's iGEM team has arrived in Boston. In the coming days, the students will participate in the Giant Jamboree, competing with nearly three hundred teams from all over the world. Their competition entry is their project GUPPI, in which they propose encapsulating tumors in a gel to prevent them growing and spreading.
As well as professors, from now on associate professors (UHD-1) at TU/e may also confer doctoral degrees on PhD candidates. Sixty associate professors were awarded the right to confer doctoral degrees at the start of this academic year after the move was approved by the Upper House of Parliament in the Netherlands shortly before the summer recess. “We couldn't wait to introduce this here.”
Before you google yet another one of my invented diseases and subsequently begin to question the title of this story, let me tell you this. With a new academic year having begun and a shiny new batch of freshmen accompanying it, the university is full of people suffering from the so-called octopus syndrome.