Ethnocentrism and the Lewis Model of Cultural Classification

The Lewis Model of Cultural Classification. Draw a triangle of the LR, MR and R number scores that you receive that the result will be that your location on the diagram is your cultural profile. The countries close to and connected to your cultural profile are the ones that you are most compatible with/identify with.

I received the biggest cultural shock of my life when I arrived in Mainland China. I remember how completely bewildered and at times, judgmental, I was in China. Meanwhile my family is Chinese and I study Anthropology (and had studied ancient and contemporary Chinese culture).

No matter how cross-culturally competent one is, we all suffer from ethnocentricity. Ethnocentricity is in the internal infrastructure of the culture that we grow up in. This manifests itself in people thinking that the infrastructure of their home country is superior to the country that they are visiting, that the way that other people do things is wrong, inefficient, or just plain mind-boggling. At some point, people can begin to feel disillusioned, confused, and frustrated. The values that they have internalized are being turned upside down and challenged by a culture that they do not understand. This is why learning the language and talking with as many people from that particular country is a good idea. It will help you come closer to understanding their mentality, their point of view, and the reason that they do things. You can begin to curb your stereotyping of “them”, as ethnocentricity often breeds negative stereotyping and promotes an “us versus them” mentality. Hopefully, you will begin to understand and start to appreciate elements of this foreign culture, and will perhaps even experience reverse cultural shock when you return home.

I’m closer to that point with Chinese culture. While I was in Hong Kong, I volunteered for the International Art Fair (I gave art tours to children. Remember that you can volunteer for anything, anywhere, folks!) and I met many Mainland Chinese artists. Talking with them in Mandarin about their works, the themes that they chose to present and the issues that these themes represented, helped me to see more from their point of view, the worldview from which some Chinese understand the world and survive in their society. This is something that growing up in a Chinese family didn’t teach me to do, because I separated myself from my mother identity-wise early on. That’s why Chinese culture is not something that I say that I personally identify with. That’s the second element that I will bring in here: personality compatibility.

Wilson Shieh, a HK artist, juxtaposes typically masculine elements with nude females here. Besides the fact that women are sexually evaluated before all, these Asian women are painted in the traditional gong-bi style and look demure and impassive: things that Chinese society highly values in “good” women.

Let’s just say that the Chinese do not value the expression of one’s opinion.

In her book The Global Citizen, Elizabeth Kreumpelmann calls this discovering your cultural profile. Interestingly enough, your cultural profile is not necessarily determined by the culture that you come from, even though we all are affected by ethnocentricity. She says, “Many global citizens, by the very nature of our interests in other cultures, deviate from the cultural norm of our societies to some extent…. Finding out where you stand, culturally speaking, will help you understand yourself better compared to the culture in which you choose to live, travel, and work. And it will give you an overview of the similarities and differences of various other cultures” (34).

A very useful model for finding out your personal cultural profile is the Lewis Model of Cultural Classification. The Richard Lewis Communications Plc ( is a cross-cultural training organization known for its 50 years of extensive research and training in cross cultural issues. There are three cultural categories of the Lewis Model: linear-active, multi-active, and reactive.


1. Find your cultural profile by answering the fifteen question survey. Circle the description that best describes you out of the three choices.
2. Transfer the totals for each column (linear active (L), multi active (M) and reactive (R)) to the LMR box.
3. Plot your LMR score on the numbered lines in the triangular diagram.
4. After you fill in and circle your LMR score, connect the dots as shown to form a triangle. Place a dot in the middle of the triangle. This dot represents where your natural preferences stand in relation to the cultures of the world.

Lewis Model Summary: How close is your cultural profile to the countries that you plan to visit? How much are you prepared to adapt your thinking and behavior? Even with cultures that are similar to your profile, do you know what the differences are? 
Talks half the time Talks most of the time Listens most of the time
Gets data from stats, research Solicits information first-hand from people Uses both data and people sources
Plans ahead step by step Plans grand outline only Looks at general principles
Polite but direct Emotional Polite and indirect
Partly conceals feelings Displays feelings Conceals feelings
Confronts with logic Confronts emotionally Never confronts
Dislikes losing face Has good excuses Must not lose face
Compartmentalizes projects Lets one project influence another Sees the whole picture
Rarely interrupts Often interrupts Doesn’t interrupt
Job-oriented People-oriented Very people-oriented
Sticks to the facts Juggles the facts Statements are promises
Truth before diplomacy Flexible truth Diplomacy over truth
Sometimes impatient Impatient Patient
Limited body language Unlimited body language Subtle body language
Respects officialdom Pulls strings Networks
Separates the social & professional Interweaves the social & professional Connects the social & professional
Does one thing at a time Multi tasks Reacts to partner’s action
Punctuality very important Punctuality not important Punctuality important
Linear-Active Cultures: tend to be data and fact oriented. Speech is mainly used to exchange information. Linear-active cultures tend to stick to planned agendas, work fixed hours, be results oriented and gain status through achievement. Linear-active people will secure deals by compromising. Contracts are binding and short-term profit is most desirable. In general, linear-active countries rarely borrow or give. The cultures at the high number end of this scale are Germany, Switzerland, the U.S.A, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, and Norway.
Multi-Active Cultures: are dialogue oriented. In general, the people are animated, they love to talk (usually quite fast), they show their emotions, and they value relationships. Multi-actives like a flexible work schedule and sometimes they ignore the rules. They would rather win an argument than compromise. Because relationships are more important than fixed appointments, they tend to complete meetings with friends or colleagues before moving on to the next meeting, even if that means showing up later than the scheduled time. Multi-actives achieve status in their culture by having charismatic personalities and connections. In business, having a good relationship with the client is deemed more important than drawing up a contract, which is considered more idealistic than realistic. Pulling strings and doing favors is a way of business and life. Latinos, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks etc are at the heart of the multi active scale, followed by some African and Arab cultures.
Reactive: cultures are the polite listeners of the cultural categories. They prefer a slower-paced dialogue to have time to reflect on what is being said, they are sometimes suspicious of fast talkers. They never confront as they must never lose face. In addition, reactive cultures prefer to live in harmony with people and the environment. Speech is a reflection of their desire to promote harmony in relationships, as is the practice of compromising. Reactive cultures are respectful and give ritually, but rarely borrow. A person gains status in this society through birthright and education. In business, long-term profit and increased market share are important. Ancient philosophies like Confucianism dominate the way of life. Reactive cultures are found typically in Asia, with China, Japan, and Vietnam being at the far end of the spectrum.
Remember that individual behaviors vary but the general conclusions that this model can provide are invaluable !  As for me, my natural tendencies mostly mirror those of multi-active cultures. My score was L 1 M 11 R 3 and not surprising as I love to talk and value relationships, y es que también bailo salsa! (Although that actually has nothing to do with the Lewis Model, I would add love of and willingness to dance to the survey).

Dancing salsa with my family in Cartagena; it was the aunt’s birthday. We played old salsa records until late morning…

Friends that I made at a salsa party and met again at another one on the outskirts of Paris.

What do you think about the Lewis Model? What is your own cultural profile? Does that fit with your worldview and experiences in other cultures?

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