I believe that the way I look at life has developed independently from the cultural restraint dimension that is present in Latvia. I always noticed that after some point in my life I realized how blessed I was and from there on kind of lived with a constant smile on my face. I also realized that I was different from the kids around me, but not until I came back after having lived in Italy and Spain. I didn’t like the people back home, because they were always grumpy, cynical and overall seemed to be pressured down by all their responsibilities. (yes, Latvia scores one of the lowest on indulgence in Hofstede’s research if you were wondering) And when I went home, I always dreamed about moving to Latin America where people joyfully dance in the sun.
In fact, Latin American countries score the highest. Maybe hereby we tend to associate Latin America with happiness and cheerful people. That is also how Latvians look at Southern Europeans, for example. And after me having lived here, in the South for years, that’s how they look at me. In Latvian folklore and culture there is the idea of an adventurer going out in the world to find the happiness he doesn’t have at home. At the end he finds this treasure and status, however returns back home to his family and friends, flying on a magical creature or something. So people seek out happiness, but find the value at home, the things that are outside are just wealth, no real happiness can really be acquired in any way.
In Hofstede’s research, indulgence is measured by cognitive evaluation of one’s life and a description of one’s feelings (278). The questions were formulated asking for the level of
- Happiness: “”Taking all things together, would you say you are very happy, quite happy, [..] or not at all happy.” Measured was the percentage choosing “very happy”.”
- Life control: The people were asked to rate on a scale how much “freedom of choice and control” they feel over the way their “life turns out”.
- Importance of leisure: rating how important leisure time is, and recording the percentage that chose “very important” from a country. (280)
Other traits the research shown indulgence to correlate with were respondents with high indulgence score described themselves to be in good health, expressed optimism towards the future, which leads to higher birth rate. Latvia has been struggling with declining child rate and aging of the country for a long time now(288).
So let’s look where Latvia is on the rank, indeed, let’s look at the whole Eastern European, particularly the ex-soviet countries in the ranking. Here are the 10 lowest indulgence/restraint indexes, with the ex-soviet countries underlined: Pakistan, Egypt, Latvia, Ukraine, Albania, Belarus, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Iraq (284). Half of these are post-soviet countries, particularly the ones located in the Eastern European region and the Baltic States. The research has no dimension scores listed for the Central Asian post-soviet countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan (36).
This statistically show that in post-soviet and Eastern European kids grow up in a society with already existing restraint, where curtain traits are present. And I believe the trends highlighted in the chapter. I have seen a great number of them while growing up, like helplessness, cynicism, pessimism, low life satisfaction, less connections and contacts with foreigners (290-298). So the Latvian is modest, concerned about his future, but unhappy. And generally, the cultural restraint can remain even after moving to a new place, so even after emigrating to another place, it doesn’t mean that the people will be any happier (278).
I have no idea what made me different. I could have been my family, or my connection with nature. Or my friends. Or the books that I would wonder off with. And a big deal has been moving to Spain and seeing the difference. And it is quite the difference in the way people look at life for someone coming from Latvia. And this is the element of my culture where I’m an outsider.