Category Archives: American Culture

Research on Well-being and Aging: Comparison between U.S. and Japan


We have only begun to look at the evidence, but it appears that different aspects of well-being matter for health in different ways depending on the cultural context where people reside

Source: blogs.plos.org

 

Well-being in the West is formulated more in terms of the individual and how he or she may feel about how they’re doing in life.

 

In the East, well-being is much more about the self embedded within social relationships; for example, how well you’re doing in meeting your obligations to others.

 

In the U.S., self-report tools ask people to report on their levels of positive and negative affect. Usually the two types of affect tend to be inversely correlated. Emotions are strongly related to people’s health in the U.S.: those with more positive and less negative affect report better health. This is true even when we look at more objective health criteria, like stress hormones, or other biological risk factors.

 

That is not true in Japan. Both affects tend to be more moderately reported. That is, there is no cultural prescription for feeling mostly positive emotion and not feeling much negative. In Japan there’s nothing wrong with feeling negative emotion; it’s not viewed as something amiss that possibly needs to be fixed in therapy

 

In the West, the core objective is to get people out of the experience of negative emotion – whether it’s anxiety or depression. The way that well-being tries to do that is to get patients to focus on their experiences of well-being by keeping daily diaries of positive experience.

 

In Japan therapy is designed to treat distressed or maladjusted people, but the focus is not on fixing emotions. In fact, they are viewed as beyond the person’s control. Emotions come and go and people do not control them. They may be positive or negative, and you can observe them, but it’s not worth your time to try to fix them. What you can fix is what you do. So the therapy tries to get people to shift into thinking not so much about how they feel, but what they are doing.

See on Scoop.itGreat Life Coaching

Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


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I found the question in this article very interesting:   Is It Racist to Ask People Where They’re From?
As an expat, I am asked all the time where are you really from ?  and I usually have different answers for different audiences. However to many expats, they don’t feel comfortable with this question especially if they have been living in a foreign country for quite a long time and interpret the question as obviously you are not from there, you are different.
After 25 years of expatriation, I still have some mixed feelings about this question but sometimes it is good to feel different and not from “here”.  Being a French in France is actually harder for me than living abroad, I don’t know anything about popular TV shows or the secret lives of French politicians and I have often a very different view on sensitive questions as I am living on the “other side”.
When I lived in Japan in the 90s I obviously did not look Japanese and I have been asked frequently where I was from, but at that time, being French and saying I was from Paris, were magic words and I was very well treated both at work and with perfect strangers in the streets. I was kind of “exotic” there. However Caucasians were better treated than non-Japanese Asians, especially Chinese, Koreans or Filipinos.
In the US, when I lived in New York City and 8 months pregnant, strangers were giving me a “god bless you” very often, then we had the 9/11 dramatic events and my son was born 12 days later. However I got unpleasant remarks when I said I was French because at that time the French president and the government refused to send troops to Baghdad as if I had anything to do with this decision.
Altogether I had a very positive experience in NYC. I also lived in Atlanta and we were very well-integrated partly because of my son being at the Atlanta International School but generally speaking, Atlanta is a very international city. However I was shocked to see that nothing really changed since Martin Luther King Jr, I saw a lot of segregation between African-Americans and White Americans. Each community including Latin American people had their own neighborhood with very strict boundaries. I then realized that America was far from being a melting pot !
Then we spent one year in New Jersey and it was painful to have in the neighborhood listing “the French” instead of our family name.
Now we live in Russia, I don’t have any specific problems with racism, the “where are you from? ” is still there since my Russian is pretty basic but unlike the stereotypes, I find Russians very courteous with men giving their seats to women in the Metro for example. But here again even for wealthy expatriates,  it is better to be a Caucasian than having a dark skin color.

How do you feel about being asked : where are you really from ?

Related Article:  Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

Indulgence vs. Restraint – Do we need this 6th Dimension in Intercultural Training and Coaching ?


What insights does Hofstede’s 6th and least frequently discussed dimension on Indulgence vs. Restraint give us to help us to collaborate more effectively with people from other cultures? See on www.communicaid.com

I don’t think this is a valid dimension and would really like to see more validation.

For example, I don’t agree with the score differences between France and USA, France shown as medium indulgence and United States as very indulgent.

I don’t think United States is a more indulgent culture than France. In the USA there is no law that oblige employers to give paid holidays while in France by law people work only 35 hours/week but also have more than 5 weeks of paid holidays per year compared to 25 % of American workers that don’t take their vacation.

Paid maternity leave is also much more in France than in the US : six weeks before birth and up to 8 weeks after birth.

People don’t work on Sundays in France and you cannot do your shopping 24/7 as you do in USA, Japan or Russia (personally I think it is a wrong thing for the economy but majority of French people are against opening stores on Sundays to preserve the quality of family life)

Have you ever find this 6th dimension useful to explain some cultural differences or similarities ?

Related articles: 

American Culture: The Non Vacation Nation

Do You Work Too Hard ? Some Cultural Perspectives

 

 

The “How Are You?” Culture Clash: Americans v.s. Russians


How Are You ?

The answer Americans give, of course is, “Fine.”

But when Russians hear this they think one of two things: (1) you’ve been granted a heavenly reprieve from the wearisome grind that all but defines the human condition and as a result are experiencing a rare and sublime moment of fineness or (2) you are lying”.

True for French people too, they don’t always understand that “how are you?” is not a question, just another way to say “hi” in the United States

Read more on : The ‘How Are You?’ Culture ClashBy ALINA SIMONEJAN. 19, 2014

 

American Culture: “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays ?


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A recent Pew survey, shows that while nine in 10 Americans take part in the holiday that theologically commemorates the birth of Jesus, only about half actually see it as a religious celebration.

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Pew found that religious and non-religious Americans largely celebrate the holiday the same. Though those who believe in Christmas as a religious holiday and those believe in the virgin birth are much more likely to go to church services for Christmas, both cultural and religious observers were just as likely to gather with family, exchange gifts and take part in the tradition of Santa Claus visiting their homes at night.

In addition, nearly 50 % of Americans say stores and businesses should greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths, according to a poll released in December 2013.

How about in Your Culture,

How do you greet people for the holiday season ?

Is Humility A Universal Leadership Value Across Cultures ?


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Humility in leadership can be defined as the ability to understand yourself and bring the best from other people. You must first know your talents and limitations, then recognize that you have to rely on others and empower them to discover their own strengths and manage their weak points to focus on achieving a common goal.

Global leaders and managers working in multicultural teams must manage conflicts, poor communication and lack of teamwork as a result of misunderstandings and wrong assumptions from people driven by different internal core values and beliefs.

What we know, from the work of Professor Geert Hofstede on dimensions of national culture is that some countries have high power distance such as Russia that scores 93 on a scale of 1-100 and others have a low power distance dimension like United States that scores 40.

What it means, is that in Russia the power is distributed unequally and highly centralized with 80% of the financial potential concentrated in Moscow. It also means that in high distance countries people believe that power and authority are facts of life and inequality is institutionalized. Leaders are therefore expected to have a top-down approach to solve conflicts and take important decisions. Subordinates will simply comply with their leader.

For doing business In Russia, you must understand that hierarchy and status are important and that Russians respect age, rank and position as well as technological expertise. Russians see negotiations as win-lose and compromise as weakness.

On the other hand, in lower power distance countries such as the United States, there is a preference for consultation and collaborative leadership. Subordinates are encouraged to be independent  and contribute to problem solving. In the United States. business communication is informal and based on a win-win negotiation style.

If you are coming from the U.S. or another low power distance country when you have to deal with high power distance countries like Russia, you need to take your time  to understand who has the power of making decisions, otherwise nothing is going to happen especially when dealing with the administration and its very complex bureaucracy. For Americans, “time is money” but trying to force Russians to take quick decisions will only delay the processes and decrease trust.

So in a sense, humility in business negotiation is highly valued by Russians in general as humble business leaders have patience, try to understand first  and at the same time are strong enough to deal with conflicts without showing any sign of arrogance or superiority.

Most of the studies on humility as a value in leadership have been conducted in the United States and therefore it is difficult to separate the empirical and anecdotal from the real science-based evidences.

Leadership is a question of character (integrity, confidence, curiosity), not temperament (biology and genetics), therefore it is possible for global leaders and expatriated managers to learn cultural differences and the benefits of humility, holding judgment and avoiding placing one culture above another.

The role of effective intercultural leaders is to shape the corporate and local cultures of their organization to be understood and embraced by individuals from different race, ethnicity, religion and gender with a minimum of misunderstandings. 

Related Articles:

Perception of Time Value In America and Russia


Business in Russia

Many managers working in multicultural teams or dealing with clients and business partners overseas have often little idea that conflicts could have underlying cultural differences.

Time and its perceived value is one of those key cultural differences. We may measure time with same metrics such as hours or days  but time is perceived differently on a personal level and on a cultural level.

Time management is a frequent cause of conflicts between Americans and Russians when doing business together and this is due to the cultural context.

For Americans the value of time is material:

  • “Time is money”
  • They tend to have a materialistic approach attached to achievements and time.
  • Time is sacred in the U.S.,  being late is very rude, deadlines  are fixed.
  • “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.”Peter F. Drucker

For Russians, the value of time is “elastic”:

  •  “People” come before time, a Russian proverb says: “seven people do not wait for one”.
  • Being late is not perceived as being rude
  • Deadlines are flexible
  • Russian management does not fit easily in “westernized” practices of time management
  • Planning is not rigorous
  • Issues and problems are solved under pressure and stress at the last-minute
  • If you want to manage your Russian team you better be a night owl. Often employees work late until 11 pm or 1 am (the direct consequence of dealing with things at the last-minute)

When doing business in Russia, American companies should spend more time than they usually do in the US on establishing personal connections before talking business. Frequent contacts should then be maintained.

Organizing bi-cultural meetings is often the first step of intercultural business communication. Handled poorly, those events can lead to frustration and lack of trust, jeopardizing collaboration. The organizers of such introductory intercultural meetings between Americans and Russians should create an environment in which time perception differences are explained and accepted by all. 

In the US, an agenda is always sent before a meetings and it is usually followed. In Russia there is often reluctance to put in writing a detailed plan. If the meeting is conducted in English, more time should be given to people who are not the native speakers. Do not rush the call and make sure to allow extra time for unplanned topics that could emerge during the discussion. Always send minutes or a summary of what’s been said just after the meeting. However, with Russian partners what has been discussed and perceived as agreed by their American counterpart may be challenged and rejected at any time.

Related Resources

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