A few years ago, I debated another author on this site, and he rejected the scientific fact that there are different types of cultures on this planet. He said, ignoring all the studies on this topic, that there was no such thing as a collective or individualistic culture.
In this 5-part series, we will explore the differences between what it means to grow up in a collective versus an individualistic culture.
Sidney Rittenberg says China is a ‘we’ society while the West is a ‘me’ society.
China and America are not the same. China has a collective culture. The United States has an individualist culture.
I’ve discovered that some people from individualistic cultures don’t understand what a collective culture is, and some hate what they don’t understand. Even the Western media often shows its ignorance by how it reports events in China and by judging what happens in China as if it were an individualist culture.
It might surprise many in the West that China is not the only country with a collectivist culture.
Along with China, one list I saw had Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, Egypt, Greece, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Scandinavia and Portugal on it.
For individualist cultures, there was Canada, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand and the United States.
In Chinese society, collectivism has a long tradition based on Confucianism, where being a community man or someone with a social personality is valued.
In a collective society such as China, each person is encouraged to conform to society, to do what is best for the group and to not openly express opinions or beliefs that go against it.
Group, family or rights for the common good are seen as more important than the rights of the individual. In a collective culture laws exist to promote stability, order, and obedience.
Working with others and cooperating is the norm. Being uncooperative is often seen as shameful. For instance, Psychology Today reports how to sell online to individualist vs collectivist cultures.
Nathalie Nahai, writing for Psychology Today, says, “A very individualist country (such as the USA) will tend to form loose-knit social groups, and value autonomy, freedom and personal time. They tend to proactively seek out challenge, and are often motivated by extrinsic factors such as material success.
“In comparison, countries that score highly in collectivism (such as China) tend to develop large cohesive social networks, valuing loyalty, good physical conditions and intrinsic rewards as motivating factors.”
Psychologists have found that intrinsic rewards, an outcome that gives an individual personal satisfaction such as that derived from a job well done can be more powerful motivators than an external reward system such as an employee bonus program.
Continued on March 15 in Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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