By Paul Tokonaga

East vs. West Cultural Comparison

…a compilation & adaptation from leadership management institute,Paul Tokunaga’s talk, & personal/ ministry experiences.

Disclaimers: general & stereotypical—not all items do not apply to all Asians/ Asian Americans or westerners; Not an exhaustive list…

EAST VS WEST VALUES & WORLDVIEW

EAST

WEST

COLLECTIVE

  • Family, group, team
  • Others shape identity
  • Uniformity (nail that sticks out…)
  • Attention devalued
  • Belonging to group
  • Collaboration
  • Others’ input
  • No permission to op out, critique

* oldest child responsibilities

INDIVIDUALISM

  • Self
  • personality/interests shape identity
  • uniqueness
  • attention valued
  • own person
  • own contribution
  • own opinion

DUTY & OBLIGATION

  • to collective community/ others
  • group achievement
  • loyalty
  • compliant
  • need-driven

RIGHT & PRIVILEGE

  • personal development
  • for time-being

HIERARCHY

  • age, position, education

EQUALITY

  • personality & skills

DEFERENCE

  • Modesty & self-effacing
  • Nominate others
  • Give input/ lead in appropriate setting, when invited
  • Share complete thoughts 
  • Ascribed authority

SELF-ASSERTION

  • Leadership
  • Volunteer self
  • Express when have an idea
  • External processing
  • Earned authority

 

RESTRAINT

  • Don’t make a scene or show emotions
  • Formality
  • Speak when spoken to (proper)
  • Tolerate crisis/ fatalism

EXPRESSIVENESS

  • Self-expression
  • Casualness
  • Social skills important; small talk
  • Promote flexibility & change

EVENT/ PEOPLE-ORIENTED

  • People/ relationships/ events are priority
  • Rude to leave event/ person or to say no

TIME-ORIENTED

  • Punctuality is priority
  • Rude to be late

WHOLISTIC

  • Big picture
  • Circular
  • Inter-relationships (medicine)
  • Long term perspective
  • Synthetic

PARTICULAR

  • details
  • linear
  • isolation
  • immediate perspective
  • analytic

INDIRECT

  • subtlety
  • direct asks can shame someone
  • not confrontational

DIRECT

  • obvious
  • indirect asks are frustrating, annoying, & confusing
  • confrontational

HARMONY

  • conflict-avoidance
  • cooperative; compromising

CLARITY

  • prefer knowing what someone wants/ thinks
  • assert opinion

HUMILITY & SACRIFICE

  • Most respected leaders: modest, sacrificial, serving (level 5 leader) 

LEADERSHIP/ ASSERTIVENESS

  • Directive

PERCEPTIONS OF ASIAN BEHAVIOR

  • Quiet => not interested, lack knowledge
  • Not assertive => lacks leadership, authority
  • Limited facial expression => lack feeling or vulnerability 
  • Avoid eye contact => lack interest or confidence; don’t catch verbal cues
  • Not complain => exploitable; everything is working
  • Not social in work/formal settings => not social, prideful
  • Not risk-taker => lacks leadership & ideas
  • Speaks w/ accent => not credible or knowledgeable; can’t understand English
  • Physically small => lacks maturity, ability, leadership

ASIAN VALUES IN WORK/LEADERSHIP SETTING

QUALITIES

HELPFUL

CHALLENGE

  1. HARMONY
  2. AUTHORITY
  3. SHAME*
  4. HUMILITY
  5. TRADITION
  6. FAMILY
  7. EMOTIONAL RESTRAINT

* shame vs guilt…

  1. Cooperative
  2. Respectful / loyal to superiors
  3. Sensitive to others’ feelings
  4. Not boastful
  5. Conform to rules, structure
  6. teamwork & loyalty
  7. strong performer; enduring
  1. Unassertive
  2. Reluctance to voice disagreement (passive aggressive, or withdrawal)
  3. Overconcerned w/ mistakes, avoid risks
  4. don’t get credit; avoid power
  5. don’t think outside the box; inflexible
  6. attachment to family; their voice/ influence is strong; pressure
  7. lack of freedom

GIFTS:

  • Friendship/ community
  • Loyalty & endurance – defer gratification
  • Hospitality
  • Bridge people (AA’s)
  • Education
  • Gift of Pain – identify w/ others, w/ Jesus’ suffering…
  • History

CHALLENGES:

  • Parental expectations => int’ls – added pressure of government etc
  • Family – not express love; distant esp w/ fathers; lack affirmation but strong criticism (role of extended family)
  • Painful family history (in language)

ASIAN AMERICAN DISTINCTIONS:

  • Ethnic identity development:
    • varies from person to person (degree of western influence & shame in past etc…) 
    • torn between two cultures
    • some begin to embrace ethnic i.d. in college/ later in life
    • unaware of ethnicity (what’s Asian about them)
    • struggle w/ shame / specific aspects of culture
    • dissociate w/ “FOB” identity
  • Model minority myth – added pressure or rebellion against stereotype
  • Immigrant families (role reversal w/ parents)

IMPLICATIONS:

  • Deference to elders => take much more initiative in summer…
  • Relationships over time /gradual introductions & lifelong friendships => Ginny’s lab experience…
  • Lack of value for small talk: don’t talk to strangers => challenge in meeting new friends, esp outside of ethnic circles/ need “formal” or structured settings
  • Family: take care of their own => why many prefer ethnic churches (what makes Mormon church attractive) why some AA’s found IV unwelcoming compared to other fellowships
  • High degree of shame/ perfectionism => many barriers to “leading”
  • AA’s & others volunteer their leadership => how can int’ls lead in this context?

Application?

  • Sign-up’s to make asking for help easier
  • Brainstorming-give internal processing time/ think ahead
  • Cast vision
  • Invite them to head toward potential
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