We all judge other people cultures according to our own cultural values. This is fine when two people share the same culture. But when people from two different cultures interact, using your own culture to judge others can be disastrous.
The cultures of the West and East are different—that is obvious. But most cultural problems arise when Westerners and Easterners radically misperceive those cultural differences.
The infographic “Cultural Vantage Points” identifies cultural differences in six areas of everyday life. But more importantly, we also note how those cultural values seem immoral to people of the other culture. Cultural differences are easy to note. Cultural biases are much harder to sniff out, and that is the danger.
Below is a short explanation of the infographic. Chapter 3 of Ministering in Honor-Shame Cultures details these cultural values from a biblical vantage point. Click here to download a hi-resolution .jpg of this free infographic. Feel free to share, print, or post.
RELATIONSHIPS: Equality vs. Hierarchy
Western culture is egalitarian. Everybody is equal, regardless of age, status, or position. We’re all buddies! But to Easterners, ignoring social distinctions is disrespectful and rude. People should “know their place” in society!
Eastern culture is stratified. The older people are more respected and admired. There is a social hierarchy, a status-based pecking-order. For Westerners, this perceived oppression limits people’s freedom and personal expression. Such inequality is injustice!
TIME: Task-Focus vs. Event-Focus
Westerners use time to complete a task. They “save time” and “spend time” as efficiently as possible. For Easterners, focusing exclusively on the task at hand is unkind and demeaning to others.
Easterners are event-focused. People have unlimited time for relationships. For Westerners, staying 3 hours for tea is inconsiderate. People should respect my time!
SPEECH: Honesty vs. Harmony
Westerners speak to communicate truth. They “get to the point” and “don’t beat around the bush.” For Easterners this style is rude and makes people lose face.
Easterners value harmony in communication. You avoid saying “no” because that doing so would disrupt relationships. For Westerners, focusing on face instead of facts seems like deception and lying.
MONEY: Independence vs. Patronage
Westerners try to be financially independent. We raise our kids not to be dependent, because that indicates a moral deficiency. For Easterners, an unwillingness to share resources comes across as stingy and even immoral.
Easterners share resources through patron-client networks. The wealthy provide security and stability to people in exchange for loyalty and praise. For Westerners, these “financial friendships” seem like corruption.
FOOD: Efficiency vs. Hospitality
Westerners view food as an unavoidable nuisance, an interruption of our day. So we eat “fast-food” as we drive to a meeting or work at our desk. For Easterners, this food-efficiency neglects rituals of ethnic identity, like having special foods or eating with family.
Easterners value hospitality. They share food generously, making sure to honor their guests. For Westerners, the expectations of lavish feasts are ostentatious and onerous.
ETHICS: Guilt-based vs. Shame-based
Westerners regulate social behavior with guilt. The government creates and enforces laws. And children are socialized so their conscience feels guilty for breaking rules. For Eastern cultures, people who disregard social decencies have no sense of shame (i.e., shameless), even if they are 100% innocent before the law.
Eastern cultures regulate behavior with shame. Relationships and public opinions determine what is right and wrong. Children are taught to bring honor to their family or tribe. For Western cultures, this contextual ethic appears lawless—people ignore the laws and do whatever they want.
Do you have an example of misjudging the other culture, or having your actions been misjudged by the other culture? Did this infographic prompt an ah-ha moment for you? Please share below in the reply section.
Click here to download a hi-resolution .jpg of this free infographic. Feel free to share, print, or post.