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When East and West Meet: In Pursuit of Cultural Synergy S. J. Chang Associate Dean College of Business President AsiaConnect AsiaConnect is a campus affinity.

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Presentation on theme: "When East and West Meet: In Pursuit of Cultural Synergy S. J. Chang Associate Dean College of Business President AsiaConnect AsiaConnect is a campus affinity."— Presentation transcript:

1 When East and West Meet: In Pursuit of Cultural Synergy S. J. Chang Associate Dean College of Business President AsiaConnect 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:/, or contact us at

2 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.

3 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: HofstedeHofstede (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, …

4 … 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.

5 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?)

6 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).

7 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.

8 What’s in a language? I love you. I you love. Love. … I don’t think blah blah blah. Blah blah blah I think not. Eat your dinner. Said in nearly 10 different ways (Gradation in honorific expressions) Sister-in-law Seven different titles in Korean One dollar, two dollars No distinction He/She That man/woman (“Her wife”) I/You/They go, He/She goes No distinction I – My We – Our (“our wife/husband”) You don’t like kimchi? Yes/No. Can anyone talk about taking out a low-rate mortgage or car loan?

9 What’s in a mannerism? (Non-verbal communication, Etiquette) Waving Bowing Waving, handshaking, touching, patting, blowing kisses, cheek kissing, hugging, high-fives, snapping fingers, crossing fingers, winking, shrugging, … Traditionally Koreans have refrained from such gestures/mannerisms. 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.

10 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, …).

11 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 Individual-centered Subject to the family/group/company/ (Names everywhere)community/country they belong. (Privacy, personal checks)(Nameless society, ‘our wife’) All are equal yet different.Particularistic, relational, paternalistic, (‘Eat your dinner’) mutually reliant, … (‘Don’t be a number’)(sister-in-law, honorifics) Individualism/Liberalism Legacy of Feudalism/Confucianism  Capitalism, stock market,  Group loyalty, filial piety, consensus consumerism, jury system, decision, collective responsibility, … show-and-tell, …

12 American Diversity/Pluralism vs. Korean Homogeneity/Conformism “E Pluribus Unum” One race, one language, one history, (Vowel ‘A’)one skin color, hair color, eye color, … (Name variations)(Different = Wrong) Equal opportunityStability over disruption Fair competition Cooperation, Fungibility Problem-seeking Problem-solving (Apple/Google/Facebook)(Samsung/Huyndai/LG) 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.

13 American Functionalism vs. Korean Formalism Pragmatism, Practicality, High Contextuality (Love) Contents, Specificity,Implicit, Indirect, Circumstantial, … MeritocracyForms, Pride, Pretentiousness: (No free riders)(Seniority: Honorifics) Ethical Boundaries - Broad Narrow – Relational (Good Samaritanism) (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 same.

14 So, East and West are different. Korea and America are different. From certain perspectives Korea may look different, strange, or unique… Like in “Gangnam Style,” the Korean rap video by Psy featuring the now viral bouncy pony romp.Gangnam Stylebouncy pony romp But it is probably America that is more different, more strange, and more unique…

15 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.

16 Conclusions 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

17 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.

18 감사합니다 谢谢 Dhanyavaad धन्यवाद 謝謝 ありがとう Khawp khun Salamat po Terima kasih Cám ơn خیلی ممنون Thank you

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