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  • Writer's picturemartafarkas

Rules or Friends - Our Intercultural Dilemmas and the Divisive Tobacco Coffee


Imagine the following situation. You're in a car. Your friend, your best friend, is driving. A little faster than it should be.

He/She hits someone.

Let's say the police check doesn't tell that you were driving fast, only you know it happened and the police ask you about it.

There are two dilemmas!

1. Do you lie for your friend?

2. Can your friend ask you to lie for him/her?

Surprisingly, the answers to these questions may also vary culturally.

If you ask the question in a Nordic group, the answer is quick and easy, there is no real dilemma.

1. I'm not lying. I trust my friend to the system, which is reliable and fair.

2. Of course, my friend can't ask me to lie, he/she can't put me in that situation.

If you ask these questions to an Italian audience, the answers might be as follows.

1. Of course, I lie for my friend, I will not give up him/her on the system.

2. Of course, he/she can ask me anything, since he/she is my friend.

These answers reflect on one of the 7 cultural dimensions of Fons Trompenaars and Charles Hampden-Turner, and describe dilemmas of the values of Universal vs. Particularism.


Universalism vs. Particularism

Universalism vs. particularism answers whether rules are accepted and followed by individuals without question or exception, or whether they are willing to make exceptions in individual cases, primarily for human relationships.

The universalist value believes that rules are paramount, and those with universalist values believe that rules are good and should always be followed by everyone.

According to the particular value, there are individual situations that exempt you from following the rules. For example, when one's close friends and relatives are inevitably threatened by the rules. Those with particular values prefer to side with their friends and relatives rather than obey the rules when they come into conflict with each other.

This does not mean that a person with universal values does not stand up for his friends and relatives when they need them, nor does it mean that a person with particular values does not follow the rules in other circumstances.

The question is when human relationships and rules come into conflict, which one takes precedence?

The above story was thrown in by our teacher at a social identity seminar, causing quite a stir. The group was completely divided by this dilemma. Confirming that we Hungarians are somewhere between the two extremes on this scale of cultural dimensions.

In addition, we usually ask back first: How serious was the injury? We make our decision dependent on this.


Where are you on this scale?

Is your value system universal or particular?

Do you prefer Swedes or Italians?

Or do we stay in the middle?

As I mentioned, there is no right or wrong value system here, it is simply our relationship to the system. If we feel safe, we dare to trust it and our friends, if we have different feelings, stereotypes, or experiences about the system, then our personal relationships can override the rules of the system.

Of course, I do not want to suggest that there are reliable and less reliable systems. We perceive them as such through our cultural filters. This goes all the way back to our infant attachment pattern, and I can already see that several people have slept in at this point.

So I'll turn to my coffee story about it.


Tobacco coffee

It was also a kind of accident. Since I never refuse anything new when it comes to coffee, when a dear friend, who is also a coffee gourmand, offered me his coffee with tobacco, I naturally enthusiastically said yes. In this special drink, espresso was complemented by milk steamed through tobacco and a little soft brown cane sugar. It smelled magical. I don't smoke myself, but I love the smell of tobacco, and that seemed like an exciting promise with coffee.

After consuming it, however, I was confronted with the shocking effect of nicotine, unknown to me and, as it turned out, shocking. My heart rate became so high that I felt my heart almost jump out of my rib cage.

After a lot of water and several minutes of rest, I was able to stagger out of my friend's office, because there he delights his guests with special coffee experiences.

Of course, this does not mean that tobacco coffee is not worth trying, but for those who may be sensitive, like me, it is worth being careful. As usual, I share the recipe, but please consume it carefully, at your own risk!


It's a drink the size of a cortado. Accordingly, steam 100 ml of fatty milk, 1 g of hookah tobacco, and a coffee spoon of brown, soft cane sugar. I especially emphasize hookah tobacco, as it is much weaker than conventional tobacco, which would make this coffee completely unpalatable.

Then strain and whisk the milk. We prepare the espresso in a cortado or other glass and pour the foamed smoker, sugary milk on it.

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