I am about to leave for Milan – doing three one-day programs on the Enneagram, Leadership, and Coaching – and am wondering about the Enneagram type of Italy. Some have said it is a Two country because of its focus on food and beauty, while others are sure Italy is a Seven, full of fun and spontaneity. Although I’ve been to various parts of Italy many times, this time I will ask the program participants what they think and why.
Asking people who know the Enneagram and live in the country has served me well in the past, and here is some of what I’ve learned:
Finland is a Five culture. The average newspaper reading time per person is 4+ hours per day, and this statistic includes those too young to read. The literacy rate is astounding. People often complain that on the streets and in hallways, Finnish people don’t look at you or smile. From the Five perspective, doing so would be invasive of another’s space, but it would also invite a potentially unwelcome conversation. In addition, I was told that many people from Helsinki have cottages that have been passed down through generations, but that these cottages are acres away from any other cottage. The idea of a vacation is a retreat unto oneself!
Germany is a Six culture, probably a social subtype Six. With a reliance on rules and processes and an eye toward what authority figures are doing, one of my German colleagues described it this way: We have such a beautiful country and even those who live in apartments have balconies overlooking lush greenery. But do we really enjoy it? We’re always wondering what might happen next that won’t be so good that we can plan for. When I was there for a while, I was amazed at their recycling systems. Worried about the planet (which is a good thing!), the Germans have at least six different processes for recycling waste from cooking. I could hardly remember which foods went in which color bags.
Switzerland is a One culture, and I speculate it might be a social subtype One. To quote Bea Chestnut, self-preservation subtype Ones are the true perfectionists who try to make themselves and everything go without mistakes. One-to-One subtype Ones try to perfect everyone else, while social Ones think they’re closer to perfect and think they serve as role models for the rest of us! Just about everything in Switzerland runs perfectly and on time, just like their watches. Once, as I was going through security at a Swiss airport, the woman who was in charge of how our carry-on luggage went through the machine screamed at me in Swiss-German. Why? Because she was supposed to put our soon-to-be scanned luggage into the small bins, not me! I don’t speak Swiss-German, but it was very clear I had done something terribly wrong.
Although I’ve been to France more than any other country in the world – and it is obviously a Four country – on my most recent visit, it became clearer that France may even be a one-to-one subtype Four culture. The Fourness that is France is obvious in its deep aesthetic orientation, from clothing to art to food and more. For example, the French café culture in which individuals, pairs, and groups sit for hours, engaging in meaningful conversation about art, philosophy, cinema, or they engage in elaborate people watching. Why might France be a one-to-one subtype Four? On my most recent trip to Paris – conducting a Train-the-Trainer based on What Type of Leader Are You? – it became very clear that the French compare themselves regularly to other countries in a way that is both charming and highly competitive. For example, during the Train-the-Trainer, I was told this: The French are very smart and don’t need you to lecture to us about the concepts. We pick these ideas up faster than other people! I was also told this: You Americans are just so good at marketing, but we French invent things! I still love France.
That Hong Kong is a Three culture would be hard to challenge. Some call Hong Kong New York on steroids, and New York City is also a Three culture. In Hong Kong, people work, pray, eat, and shop. And yes, there are an incredible number of people who live there to support the amazing number of high quality restaurants and shopping malls filled with designer clothing. The pace is fast, the output is high, and their image as the vortex of commercial exchange is unsurpassed. I am told that mainland China is also a Three culture, though of a different nature since it has become more central to the worldwide production of consumer goods. Shanghai, for example, has magnificent architecture, both sophisticated and flashy.
If ever there were a Seven country, Brazil is it, and I was in Sao Paulo – the country’s commercial center – not in Rio de Janeiro, where the Mardi Gras speaks for itself as a Seven event. Everything in Brazil is upbeat and positive, with high energy and more talking than I have heard in any other country, even Ireland. The Fives I met in Brazil say that they have been required from the earliest ages to engage and interact, even when they wanted to be alone. The Sevens in Brazil are unstoppable in all kinds of ways. When I was doing a Train-the-Trainer in Brazil, the Sevens in the group were smart and charming, and they also thought they could talk whenever they wanted to, even when I was talking (or the translator) or another participant was in the middle of a sentence. Why? Because the Seven culture encourages everyone do to so, but individuals of the others styles control this when someone is teaching or a peer is speaking. It got to be funny and because their intention was so positive, who could get upset?
When I get back from Milan, I’ll have an answer to Italy’s Enneagram type! Stay tuned for this as well as some other countries such as Thailand, Korea, and the US.