The cultural rules we learn as children are wide-ranging and hard to forget. Throughout our lives, they influence our table manners and our basic ideas about who we are, as well as how we perceive and use the physical world that surrounds us. This is the first in a series of posts about how our early experiences affect the environments in which we flourish as adults.
Some cultures value individual independence more than interdependence with other people, while other cultures cherish interdependence instead of independence. Geert Hofstede has not only identified this cultural parameter, but also researched how residents of particular countries tend to vary on it. People from Great Britain and its former colonies in the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand generally value independence, as do Germans, Belgians, Swedes, Italians, Danes, the Dutch, and the French, for example. Countries that generally value interdependence include some countries in Central and South America (Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, and Chile, for example), as well as people from China, South Korea, Pakistan, Portugal, and Greece, among others.
Not surprisingly, people from cultures that value independence use the design of the places they control, such as workplaces and homes, to show off that individualism. People who value interdependence use those same spaces to reinforce their group memberships, often by following the implicit design rules established by other members of the same culture regarding furniture and color selections, the way spaces are used, etc.