As human beings we are instinctively drawn to patterns of all sorts, for example in our environments, behaviours and cultures. We derive comfort from ‘rules of thumb’, short cuts that can help us make sense of the variety and diversity of the circumstances we find ourselves in. On one level, this deeply ingrained habit helps us to make decisions quicker and more easily. However, in intercultural contexts and when dealing with a concept such as ‘quality of life’, there is a risk that our temptation to go fast leads us to overlook fundamental drivers of the way we think, behave, and therefore interpret others and the world around us.

In 2016, the Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life sponsored a project led by a French expert in intercultural relations who set out to explore the multiple interpretations and components of quality of life across ten countries: South Africa, Namibia, India, the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Chile and Brazil. She conducted interviews with professors, administrative staff and students of all origins and generations to find out how they perceive quality of life through their own local culture.

The Sodexo Institute for Quality of Life distilled the essence of insight gathered into a report which takes a closer look at the variety of ways in which quality of life is conceived of an experienced across cultures in three sections:

  • our place in the world

  • our relation to others

  • our work culture

The report recognises that frameworks that help us understand and track improvements in quality of life through its various dimensions are a useful way to bring structure and coherence. However, we should always question the temptation to devise and apply universal rules. Instead, we should seek to develop a more nuanced perspective from deep insight that combines the person, place, community, moment in time, situation and culture. Only then can we truly understand what it means to improve the quality of life of individuals.

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