You often hear various groups and cultures talk about their “values.”
But what are values, really?
Are they only ideals? How are they put into practice?
Values are practiced ideals; they’re principles or standards to live by. In a culture, they distinguish between what is important or unimportant. What is worth fighting for and what is not. What is good and what is evil and, correspondingly, who is good and who is evil.
Values are a culture’s unwritten rule of law. In fact, sometimes, a culture’s values influence the nation’s written laws.
Let’s take a look at Swiss values, for example.
According to ediplomat, “The Swiss value cleanliness, honesty, (and) hard work…They value sobriety, thrift, tolerance, punctuality and a sense of responsibility.”
Swiss values also include environmentalism, freedom, orderliness, neutrality, and world peace. We’re also savers and are proud of the material wealth that accompanies economic responsibility.
You can see these values come to life in our culture. In the way we dress, the way we behave, the way we live.
Walk down any street in Geneva, and you’ll notice several things: gorgeous greenery, an absence of litter, Swiss people dressed clean and neat and, yes, plenty of wealth.
You can also see these values in our policies and politics.
The Swiss unadjusted unemployment rate rarely exceeds 4% and dropped to 3% in June of 2017, which is less than the average 4-12% unemployment in other developed countries. This may be partially attributed to our values of hard work and our sense of responsibility.
Being a neutral nation, we’re also not a member state of NATO. We are, however, members of the Partnership for Peace, which cooperates with NATO on crisis-management training and operations, as well as humanitarian missions.
This is how cultural values are made manifest: putting into practice the ideals that are most important to you and your broader culture.
You can see Swiss values represented in written law, as well.
Take jaywalking, for example.
In many countries around the world, a slap on the wrist is the most you’ll get for jaywalking. In fact, in most places, you won’t even get that – it’s acceptable to cross the street wherever and whenever you choose.
But, in Switzerland, our values of orderliness, sobriety and our sense of responsibility come into play yet again. Jaywalkers are disturbing the order of things and aren’t taking the risk of potential pedestrian fatality seriously. Therefore, jaywalkers are fined on the spot by police if caught in the act.
This is just one of many written laws and unwritten norms that exemplify our values in Switzerland. Next week, we’ll talk about the difference between individualist and collectivist cultures and where their values diverge.