Cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand on what shapes a country’s norms and rules.

Trying to Assimilate Into a New Country? Good Luck—Most of the Rules Are Unwritten.

Trying to Assimilate Into a New Country? Good Luck—Most of the Rules Are Unwritten.

A daily news and culture podcast with Mike Pesca.
Sept. 21 2018 7:54 PM

Tight Countries, Loose Countries

We’re used to thinking of nations as liberal or conservative. Cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand has a new axis to consider.

Getty-resized-China-crowded-train
Loose norms and a crowded train during the 26-hour journey from Beijing to Chengdu, in China, on Feb. 10.

Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

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In the interview, we’re used to thinking of societies along the “liberal/conservative” spectrum, but cultural psychologist Michele Gelfand has her own axis to consider: tight versus loose. They aren’t quite the same: Abu Dhabi, for instance, may be conservative, but its role as the crossroads of the Middle East lends it looser norms. In Scandinavia, we’ve got the opposite. Gelfand’s book is Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World.

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Podcast production by Pierre Bienaimé and Daniel Schroeder.

Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.