If we explore the Estonian culture through the lens of the 6-D Model©, we can get a good overview of the deep drivers of Estonian culture relative to other world cultures.
This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us. Power Distance is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organisations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
Estonia scores low on this dimension (40), which suggests that the Estonians do not readily obey and respect people in authoritarian positions based merely on their rank and status as power-holders. Instead, Estonians welcome managers that give them the opportunity to state their opinions and express disagreement, as well as to be included in the decision-making process. Estonia has recently passed the transition state, which means however that the older generation and state organisations often demonstrate high PDI tendencies. The older Soviet ways of thinking and relating to the world still remain and the boss-subordinate relationship among Estonians is sometimes more hierarchical than the score suggests.
The fundamental issue addressed by this dimension is the degree of interdependence a society maintains among its members. It has to do with whether people´s self-image is defined in terms of “I” or “We”. In Individualist societies people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist societies people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.
Estonia is an Individualist country with a score of 60. Among Estonians, there is a solid conviction about the personal responsibility and everybody’s own achievement and contribution in order to be self-fulfilled. Most Estonians believe that everyone should be allowed to do his/her own thing, reach new heights or even dig their own graves. Work situations are driven more by a task-orientation than by a relationship-orientation, which is to say that for Estonians, work relations serve a functional purpose. Achievement is reflected directly on the person responsible. Given the loosely knit social framework of Individualist countries where progress in life does not depend on how well connected you are, transparency and honesty rather than harmony and loyalty are virtues. For this reason, Estonians tend to be direct communicators. They usually say what they mean and mean what they say and there is limited time for small talk.
A high score (Masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success, with success being defined by the winner / best in field – a value system that starts in school and continues throughout organisational life.
A low score (Feminine) on the dimension means that the dominant values in society are caring for others and quality of life. A Feminine society is one where quality of life is the sign of success and standing out from the crowd is not admirable. The fundamental issue here is what motivates people, wanting to be the best (Masculine) or liking what you do (Feminine).
At a score of 30, Estonia is a Feminine country. It means that society is driven by a certain amount of modesty and fairness. The Estonians do not boast about their achievements. Instead they enhance their character through hard work and diligence and show their competitiveness by letting the results speak for themselves. As opposed to some Masculine countries where conversational overlap is common and people compete for the word, Estonians prefer to take turns out of fairness and consideration of the other person’s time. Passive silence and listening are very much part of the communication style. Although Estonians communicate in a direct way, they do tend to shy away from conflicts. They are reluctant to raise problems for this reason and are quick to take constructive criticism personally. Many of the companies in Estonia are run and staffed by people of a younger generation, who favour an informal, democratic and consultative management style. Thus, decisions are ideally made by gaining support through participation.
The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways. The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations and have created beliefs and institutions that try to avoid these is reflected in the score on Uncertainty Avoidance.
With a score of 60, Estonia thus has a high preference for avoiding uncertainty. Countries exhibiting high Uncertainty Avoidance maintain rigid codes of belief and behaviour and are intolerant of unorthodox behaviour and ideas. In these cultures there is an emotional need for rules (even if the rules never seem to work), time is money, people have an inner urge to be busy and work hard, precision and punctuality are the norm, innovation may be resisted and security is an important element in individual motivation.
Long Term Orientation
This dimension describes how every society has to maintain some links with its own past while dealing with the challenges of the present and future, and societies prioritise these two existential goals differently. Normative societies. which score low on this dimension, for example, prefer to maintain time-honoured traditions and norms while viewing societal change with suspicion. Those with a culture which scores high, on the other hand, take a more pragmatic approach: they encourage thrift and efforts in modern education as a way to prepare for the future.
With a very high score of 82, Estonian culture is shown to be highly pragmatic. In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions, a strong propensity to save and invest, thriftiness, and perseverance in achieving results.
One challenge that confronts humanity, now and in the past, is the degree to which small children are socialized. Without socialization we do not become “human”. This dimension is defined as the extent to which people try to control their desires and impulses, based on the way they were raised. Relatively weak control is called “Indulgence” and relatively strong control is called “Restraint”. Cultures can, therefore, be described as Indulgent or Restrained.
Estonia’s very low score of 16 indicates that its culture is very Restrained in nature. Societies with a low score in this dimension have a tendency to cynicism and pessimism. Also, in contrast to Indulgent societies, Restrained societies do not put much emphasis on leisure time and control the gratification of their desires. People with this orientation have the perception that their actions are Restrained by social norms and feel that indulging themselves is somewhat wrong.