When East and West Meet - AsiaConnect | Illinois State

When East and West Meet:
In Pursuit of Cultural Synergy
S. J. Chang
Associate Dean
College of Business
AsiaConnect is a campus affinity group established to promote Asian cultures
and represent the interests, needs, and concerns of Asian faculty, staff, and
students. It is open to everyone who shares and supports these ideas. For
more information visit http:/AsiaConnect.illinoisstate.edu, or contact us at
[email protected]
When East and West Meet:
In Pursuit of Cultural Synergy
Why Culture?
Different cultures breed different socio-politico-economic
systems and paradigms.
A definition of “Culture” – An integrated pattern of knowledge,
values, beliefs, rules, attitudes, and behaviors shared by the
members of a society/community.
 How people live and die.
Having multicultural understanding and perspectives is becoming
more critical as the world gets more integrated.
Why Asia? Why AsiaConnect?
Most populous, Economic/political/cultural influences growing.
Not only students but also faculty/staff/administrators and the
public in the community need insights into Asian cultures.
While the importance of cultural understanding looms large,
the gaps between cultures remain wide.
While we seek cultural harmony, cooperation, and synergy,
what we often encounter first is cultural misunderstanding,
naiveté, conflict, hostility, and collision.
How do we effectively communicate across cultural gaps - How
do we understand people from the other side? How do we
make them understand us?
Attempts were made to theorize cultural differences:
Hofstede (1980, 1997, 2011), Adler & Graham (1986), Black &
Mendenhall (1990), Hickson & Pugh (1996), Doz & Prahalad
(1997), Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner (1998), Schwartz (1999), Nisbett
(2003), Licht (2004), Matsumoto (2007), Minkov (2009), …
But, …
… one can acquire cultural knowledge through casual,
informal observations and experiences in daily lives.
So, here is a very casual, liberal, informal, and unscientific
discussion on comparative cultural understanding between
the “West” and the “East” …
… abstracted, presupposed, and simplified through
the cultural contrast between America (West) and
Korea (East) … only to make use of the speaker’s
bicultural experiences.
Today, America and Korea are still very different in terms of
the way people think, talk, act, eat, play, live, and die.
Here are some samplings.
What’s in a name?
In America anything can be a name.
Your occupation – Baker, Brewer, Butler, Carpenter, Cook, Farmer,
Fisher, Hunter, Mason, Miller, Slaughter, Smith, Taylor, …
Your look/shape – White, Black, Brown, Green, Long, Short, Small,
Young, Whitehead, Strong, Armstrong, …
Where are you from – Hill, River, Field, Bush, Wood, Underwood,
Forest, Water, Lake, West, …
From the Bible – Adam, Andrew, Daniel, David, Jacob, James, John,
Joseph, Matthew, Mark, Michael, Paul, Peter, Samuel,
Stephen, Thomas, Timothy, Deborah, Elizabeth, Mary,
Rachel, Rebecca, Ruth, Sarah, …, and Chris.
Whose offspring are you – Anderson, Johnson, Jackson, Robinson,
Stevenson, Wilson, Adams, Andrews, Jones, Roberts,
Williams, McDonald, O’Neill, …
Anything – Candy, Love, Dull, Frost, Street, Monday, Peoples, Rice,
Coffin, Graves, Roach, Strange, Swindle, … (name calling?)
In America a name can be anything.
Disney World, Smithsonian Museums, Carnegie Hall,
Fulbright Scholarships, Webster’s Dictionary,
O’Hare Airport, USS Reagan, Harvard University,
Mayo Clinic, Pulitzer Prize, Wrigley Field, Dow Jones
Averages, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Ford Motors, Bone
Student Center, Fell Hall, Fell Street, …
In America a name is a name.
Lisa, Lise, Liz, Lizzie, Liza, Eliza, Elisa, Elissa, Elise,
Bess, Bessie, Beth, Bette, Bettie, Betty, Betsy, …
… all for Elizabeth.
Cathy, Cathe, Cathee, Cathie, Cathye, Kathy, Kathee,
Kathi, Kathie, …
… all for the same pronunciation (kǽɵi).
Perhaps America can be called a “name” culture;
But Korea is different - The status-conscious
Koreans typically address people by their family
name with some ‘socially acceptable’ title, and
thereby hide their given names, like President
Kim, Professor Lee, Doctor Park, or simply Mr. or
Miss Choi, or so-and-so’s mom.
– A nameless culture
In Korea people take their names a little more
seriously. They don’t play with names – no nick,
pet, or shortened names or spelling variations.
What’s in a language?
I love you.
I don’t think blah blah blah.
I you love. Love. …
Blah blah blah I think not.
Eat your dinner.
Said in nearly 10 different ways
(Gradation in honorific expressions)
Seven different titles in Korean
One dollar, two dollars
I/You/They go, He/She goes
No distinction
That man/woman (“Her wife”)
No distinction
I – My
We – Our (“our wife/husband”)
You don’t like kimchi?
Can anyone talk about taking out a low-rate mortgage or car loan?
What’s in a mannerism? (Non-verbal communication, Etiquette)
Waving, handshaking, touching, patting, blowing
kisses, cheek kissing, hugging, high-fives, snapping
fingers, crossing fingers, winking, shrugging, …
Traditionally Koreans have refrained from such
Eye Contact, Conversational Distance, Personal Space, …
Beckoning, Counting with fingers, Crossing legs, …
Knocking on wood, Finger pointing, Flipping a bird, …
Not native to Korea
Belching, Blowing nose, Sneezing, Slurping, …
In Korea give/receive things with your right hand or both hands.
What’s in a custom?
John Doe, 123 Main Street, Any City, Any State - Reversed.
Standing culture vs. Sitting culture
“Please take your shoes off when going into homes.”
Hi, Thank you, You’re welcome, Sorry, Excuse me, I love you, …
↔ Let the circumstances or posture do the talking.
Course meals vs. Communal dishes (Forks vs. Chopsticks)
Man’s best friend.
Traditionally no pets.
In Korea you try not to pour your own drink at a dinner/party.
But you may ask some personal questions (age, marital status, …).
These are just a few of the countless divergent points casually
observed between the two cultures. - Can be conceptually
categorized as follows…
American Individualism vs. Korean Collectivism
(Names everywhere)
(Privacy, personal checks)
Subject to the family/group/company/
community/country they belong.
(Nameless society, ‘our wife’)
All are equal yet different.
(‘Eat your dinner’)
(‘Don’t be a number’)
Particularistic, relational, paternalistic,
mutually reliant, …
(sister-in-law, honorifics)
Legacy of Feudalism/Confucianism
 Capitalism, stock market,  Group loyalty, filial piety, consensus
consumerism, jury system, decision, collective responsibility, …
show-and-tell, …
American Diversity/Pluralism
Korean Homogeneity/Conformism
“E Pluribus Unum”
(Vowel ‘A’)
(Name variations)
One race, one language, one history,
one skin color, hair color, eye color, …
(Different = Wrong)
Equal opportunity
Fair competition
Stability over disruption
Cooperation, Fungibility
America: Disruptive innovations: from light bulb to Internet
↔ Korea: #1 in High-speed Internet, DRAM, TFT-LCD, OLED
… although none of these are their own invention.
American Functionalism vs. Korean Formalism
Pragmatism, Practicality,
Contents, Specificity,
(No free riders)
High Contextuality (Love)
Implicit, Indirect, Circumstantial, …
Forms, Pride, Pretentiousness:
(Seniority: Honorifics)
Ethical Boundaries - Broad
(Good Samaritanism)
Narrow – Relational
(Uncomfortable with strangers)
Korean people tend to accept formality-based pretentiousness as
part of their traditional metaphysicism or moralism.
A group-oriented, conforming society can also run smoothly when
people look the same, think the same, talk the same, and act the
So, East and West are different. Korea and America are
From certain perspectives Korea may look different, strange, or
Like in “Gangnam Style,” the Korean rap video by Psy
featuring the now viral bouncy pony romp.
But it is probably America that is more different, more strange,
and more unique…
America is a country …
that has the largest economy in the world.
that is still very young.
where one immigrant enters every 40 seconds.
that has no centers.
where one out of four is over-weight.
whose school campuses are quite dangerous but still draw
many students from all over the world.
where many people do not speak national language, English.
where you can live even if you don’t speak English, but can’t if
you can’t drive.
where people go crazy about a crazy sport called ‘Football.’
that is immeasurable.
that does not look like one.
• Socio-politico-economic paradigms are dictated by
the cultural heritage of the society.
• Every culture has its own strengths and uniqueness.
 Neither the Western nor the Eastern culture is
inherently better than the other.
• Employing different sources of productivity and
efficiency, the two cultures have developed different
modes of social progress and advancement.
 We can and should seek the best of both worlds.
• First we must exert our effort to understand different
cultures  Cross-cultural competence
• Then, try to achieve better outcome by sharing
different cultural perceptions, insights, and knowledge.
• Culturally diverse workforce tends to outperform
homogeneous groups in identifying problems and
generating creative solutions by utilizing different
cultural perspectives, skills, and attitudes.
 Cultural Synergy
• “Live and Help Live” - Anchored Individualism
 Isolated or Drifting Individualism
• It is up to enlightened, multicultural leaders and
educators to promote and propagate cultural synergy.
Khawp khun
Salamat po
Terima kasih
Cám ơn
‫خیلی ممنون‬
Thank you

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