Community Society
... Understanding Afghans

Afghanistan can be a real place of culture shock for Westerners. In terms of a Community Society in Afghanistan versus an Individualistic Society (Westerners), there are some key differences in values which must be understood by Westerners.

These differences in values will help to understand why Afghans respond the way they do, but also minimize the apparent differences between our cultures. In the end, Afghans are people who want peace, happy marriages, successful children, and a comfortable life. Isn't that what we all want?

Understanding the Differences

So what are the differences? The table below is adapted specifically for Afghan culture from Hofstede, who describes five different values within culture in his 1980 book, Culture's Consequences.

Here we share his "Collectivist Society vs. Individualistic Societies. Collectivist is a great general term, but within Afghanistan, the over-riding value is the community is more important than the individual. So I am using the term "community" in place of his "collectivist."

Community Society Western Society
People live with close relatives in one compound People live in nuclear or one-parent families
Others are classified as "outsiders" (kharejee) or "insiders" (dakhelee) Others are classified as individuals
Family provides protection in exchange for lifelong loyalty (to Islam, the Afghan way) Children are supposed to take care of themselves as soon as possible
Strong family ties, with frequent contact Weak family ties, rare contacts
Fewer divorces (1-4 wives, divorce almost impossible for women Many more divorces
Children learn to think in terms of what their parents think, "we." Children learn to think in terms of "I"
Non family, unrelated persons can be welcomed into the family to a certain extent (by marriage), but there are limitations Family vs. nonfamily distinction is irrelevant
Care for the aged, the Aged are highly respected Aged relatives care for themselves and have less respect
A marriage without sons is not complete, no matter how many daughters a woman has Choosing not to have children in a marriage is socially acceptable
Business persons live with family - this is socially acceptable Business persons live separately
Nobody is ever alone, ever. Privacy is normal
Opinions predetermined by the elder married men in the family Personal opinions are expected
Avoid all direct confrontation, lie if necessary to avoid giving bad news Speaking one's mind is a characteristic of an honest person
Family relationships can be oppressive Lasting friendships are difficult to achieve

Multi-Cultural Teams

How can we use this knowledge to develop an effective multi-cultural team in Afghanistan?

We will develop this further...after a tea break, of course.

There are more topics on building effective multi-cultural teams in Afghanistan. We will be adding the page links here, so check back frequently.

Questions about any of this or how it applies to Afghanistan? Want to share a story for me to post here? Contact me directly.

Understanding Power Distance

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