May/June 2018, Volume 2, Issue 5

Harmonious Interactions and Relationship Building
An American and Chinese Comparison

In the US where individualism is valued, people are expected to take the initiative in advancing their personal interests and well being, and to be direct and assertive in interacting with others.

The Chinese people are completely different. Personal relations are predicated on the assumption that intra-group harmony should be preserved at all costs. The limited social and geographic mobility foster durable, deep relationships in which abrasiveness is condemned and personal assertiveness is branded as selfish and criticized.

Your Chinese friend may find it odd that you want to spend the evening alone. For an American this is a normal way of life, to want to spend time alone, but for the Chinese, this equates to loneliness and there is no word for it or for privacy in the Chinese language.

One behavior a Chinese person will not tolerate is anger. An angry person undermines the dignity and well-being of the group and is not considered worthy of respect, this is the cause of serious loss of face. Even if the anger is justifiable, it is considered in bad taste, where as American's tolerate anger if it is justifiable. So what do you do when you encounter a situation where you need to express unhappiness? You ask to speak with the person in charge or the top administrators.

Friendship and Obligations

If you wish to befriend a Chinese person you must first enter their group. As soon as you become identified as an in-group member, the expectations of the partnership become vastly dependent and expectations are high. Many Americans are not prepared for such a high level of interdependence.

In the US you may change friends, but in China your friends are yours for life. In the US you may not share all aspects of your life with your friends, but instead focus on shared interests and activities, friendships in the US have limits. Whereas the Chinese have a limited number of friends, they are close, and a deep relationship remains intact throughout one's life. Sharing all aspects of your life is expected and the duties and obligations of friendship are virtually unlimited.

In China, one has an enormous responsibility for one's friends. If your Chinese friend senses you are in need they will come to your aid, you won't even have to ask. You are also free to tell them what he or she must do in order to help you.

I end this piece with a quote: "You are a foreigner everywhere, except in your own culture". © 2018, Candida Marques Global Arrival, LLC

Americans the Can-Do People Part 2

Last Month we explored the American mindset of being the people who get things done, because they believe they can. Americans are viewed as being the "can do people." This month, we will take this concept a bit further and see how this mentality plays itself out in the work place. The values in the chart below are deeply embedded in the American mindset, they govern how Americans live and work. Let us explore them.

Land of Opportunity A Driven People
Go-for-it Mentality A ready, highly charged people who get what they want, when they want it, who aim to win.
Equality for All They still don't forget and know whose boss.
Live and Let Live People who do their own thing
The Drive to Achieve Nice guys finish last
Time Matters Obsession with efficiency

Life was so vastly different that the early settlers needed to re-invent themselves.
The old ways of doing things did not apply to the new life.

This led to the idea and the deep belief that people can shape their own destiny and that the way things are is not necessarily the way they have to be.

Nothing will happen if you don't try — the activist mentality — and if at first you don't succeed, then try, try again. Mistakes are okay, giving up is not!

The Go for it Mentality:

  • Set back and failure is temporary — the learning experience says it all. Failure doesn't imply doubt or loss of confidence.
  • Restless attitude that once something is accomplished, there must be something else that needs doing or fixing. Keep moving forward, expand, and seek more opportunities.
  • Proactive belief — very little happens by chance, because it is in your control to make it happen. American's don't wait for things to happen or to see how things will turn out, they prefer to make them happen and determine how things will turn out.

So what happens when people from other cultures don't appreciate it when Americans accuse them of not trying hard enough, or blame them for giving up too easily?

Taking Risk is Okay, Winging it is better:

  • Most Americans don't really seek risk out as they are perceived of doing. Instead, Americans wing it. Americans are forgiving of mistakes and normally when a mistake gets made, blame is not shed, unless it was completely unavoidable or unnecessary or if a person makes the same mistake repeatedly, or continues to make one mistake after another. You will often hear and American say, "Make it up as you go."

Imagine how people from other cultures feel, when in their world, there are no second chances or where failure is permanent.

Knowledge: The only knowledge you can truly rely on is what you learned yourself.

  • Idea of self-learning, learning through experience. Self-help books, training in small snippets etc.

Tradition – some have it, others don't:

Because the early settlers left everything they knew behind, they had a distrust of tradition. Because the past they knew was so vastly different from the world they were living in, when they turned to the old world for help, they usually came up empty handed and the old world lessons were irrelevant, and at times misleading in the new world.

Without tradition to lead them, Americans were forced to be inventive. Contrast that with other cultures that do not need to re-invent the wheel, because they have past tradition with confirmed and proven ways of doing things that work and have always worked for them.

In the new world, there weren't any hard facts or data, so people were forced to "go with a hunch," or act on the basis of "how they felt" rather than something they knew for sure.

Americans do assessments and analyses that lead to major decisions, but they get impatient with over-analysis and too much discussion.

In the workplace or in business, an original idea often generates more enthusiasm than a good idea. If you want to support an idea or proposal that's not especially original, you would be wise to "repackage" it into something that appears to be unique.

The only past an American truly believes in is their own.

Out with the Old – In with the New:

The low regard Americans have for tradition also shows up in the enthusiasm Americans have for anything new.

  • Deep faith in new. Belief that new is not only good, but better. Leads to the phrases in most of our ads and prevails in product development: "New and Improved."
  • Old had no appeal. Old-fashioned has no appeal to Americans. Something that is very old, over 100 years, falls into a different, quite acceptable category and is usually referred to as "classic." Hence why Coca-Cola renamed their drink Classic Coke as an attempt to boost sales, rather than "old Coke."
  • Bored easily. Because American's value new, they get bored easily with anything that they perceive as not being "as new," or with behavior that is habitual. American's are always thinking, "There must be a new way to do this." A popular American saying that stems from this idea is: "There is more than one way to skin a cat." These are some examples of sayings that you will often hear Americans use to describe how they do new things.
  • For the LOVE of Change. Americans are not interested in turning out the perfect widget; they are more interested in making it good enough.

Think about how cultures view products and services, contrast what Americans believe to a culture where tradition is the mindset. Americans are not interested in turning out perfect products; good enough is really "good enough" for an American. Can you think of any examples that support this mindset? What about, "German Engineering, Quality that Lasts," what does that statement tell you about how the German culture produces products? Does it tell you a little bit about how they conduct business?

I end this piece with the following: "Understand the mindset of how and why people work, look at how they do the things, it will help you expand your products and services globally." Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.

Culture and Values....

Where exactly do values come from?

Your cultural values come from your family of origin, they are passed down from generation-to-generation, they get told to you in your family stories.

The environment affects your values too. Where you live, grew up, went to school, all affect what you believe in.

Your personality is part of your values as well, the way you think; feel and how you view the world are all part of your value system.

Learned behaviors are deeply embedded in your value system and include what you were taught as a child. For example, let us look at a US child's primer book.

Children in the USA are taught independence from a very early age. This concept of individuality and independence is deeply rooted in their behaviors, these behaviors do not change; they become part of what the person values and those values last with them throughout their lives.

Now, have a look at what children in the Asian cultures are taught. In their primer books you will see the following theme:

In these cultures children are taught interdependence, they are taught to be part of a group, their survival depends on group harmony and they are loyal to those members of the group. This is a very different value system than you find in the USA where going off on your own is what children are taught and what society expects of them. How do you think these two mindsets affect people's behavior at work?

Rule of thumb: "Know your people, understand what they value and you will never fail at placing the right person on the right task at the right time." Candida Marques – Global Arrival © 2018.

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