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Indulge… Good Thing or Bad Thing?


Indulgence was added as a dimension of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory (IND for short) in 2010, making it its newest dimension.


Indulgence is defined in a dictionary as “the practice of allowing enjoyment of whatever is desired.” Now, the idea of being indulgent carries moral weight, balancing between being a good, regular or bad thing, and the tendency of such balance is usually defined by our values, our education, and, of course, our culture.


The other end of this dimension is restraint. This index measures the tendency of national culture to be either indulgent or restrained. Let’s take a closer look.


A society regulates indulgence by defining social norms—the measure of how strict those social norms are, determines how restraint or indulgent a culture tends to be.


This is how Hofstede’s website defines it:

In an indulgent culture it is good to be free. Doing what your impulses want you to do, is good. Friends are important and life makes sense. In a restrained culture, the feeling is that life is hard, and duty, not freedom, is the normal state of being.

So, it is not surprising that there’s a direct correlation between how positive or negative a society is with how indulgent and restrictive they are. The more indulgent, people tend to remember positive emotions, while the more restrictive, people tend to remember more negative emotions.


This has a direct influence on spending habits. The more indulgent, the more spending. This is obvious at first glance; however, there’s more to it. Restraint-oriented cultures tend to place less value on fun, leisure, and other hedonic activities, including tourism, visiting restaurants, going to the theater, and other forms of entertainment.


It is essential to highlight that this index has nothing to do with excess and debauchery. It is an indication of how society tends to be more oriented towards well-being or survival. Also, like all other elements of a cultural intelligence report, are generalizations, and individuals of a given culture can have different degrees of compliance with the behaviors described for this and any other dimension. Keep in mind: there’s no right or wrong; it just is.


The following graphic compares IND between Canada, India, Mexico, and the USA.



Mexico has a notable score of 97, outlining a clear tendency toward indulgence. For Mexico, this means they possess a positive attitude and tend towards optimism. Also, Mexicans place a higher degree of importance on leisure time and are big spenders.


The United States and Canada score an identical 68. With an index of 68, both are considered indulgent, with a measure. The phrase “work hard, play hard” is common in these countries. Even though the score is high, indulgence can be situational, meaning there are places and moments to engage in indulgent behaviors. A work environment is not a place for play; however, individuals know how to have fun in the proper setting.


India is low, with a score of 26, and is considered restrained. In India, social norms play a significant role in restraining individual behavior. People tend to be pessimistic, and they do not emphasize leisure time or personal gratification activities.


Some countries with the higher IND index are Mexico, Venezuela, Angola, Colombia, and El Salvador.


Some countries with the lowest IND index are Egypt, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia.


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