Bridging Cultural Divides: Eastern and Western Worldviews in Focus


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Approaches worldviews from the perspective of a cultural hybrid of both Eastern and Western culture. Uses the unique method of playing both cultural roles to give the reader a more insightful understanding of Eastern and Western cultural differences through the eyes of each worldview. Many personal anecdotes and experiences from the field are shared as pithy examples of these cultural differences. Using these examples, practical, real life, solutions are given of how to successfully bridge these cultural divides.

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Bridging Cultural Divides: Eastern and Western Worldviews in Focus

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  2. 2. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 2BRIDGINGBRIDGINGCULTURALDIVIDESEastern and WesternWorldviews in focusPAUL RATTRAYBRIDGING CULTURAL DIVIDES (Text Version)By Paul Stewart Rattray© ETC Indonesian Language and Business Services, 1998, Revised April 2013All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used, reproduced or transmitted in any form or byany means, without prior written permission of the publisher except in the case of brief quotationsembodied in referenced articles and reviews. For further information contact: Paul Rattray 26 SpringMyrtle Avenue Qld 4560 Australia.Tel: +61-(0)7 5441 4803 or 5477 1555 Fax: +61-(0)7 5477 1727 Mobile :0418 712 919
  3. 3. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 3TABLE OF CONTENTSPreface 3Introduction 4Chapter 1 Backgrounds and Worldviews 5Chapter 2 How Worldviews Effect Thinking 91. In Individuals 92. In Education 113. In Communication 134. In Organisation 15Chapter 3 The Outworking Culture 191. In Relationships 192. In Business 223. In Management 284. In Politics 31Chapter 4 Working Out Cultural Differences 331. In Feelings and Emotions 332. In Religion and Belief 353. In Ethics and Principles 374. In Language and Customs 39Chapter 5 Overcoming Cultural Differences 431. In Learning Culture 432. In Talking Culture 473. In Transferring Culture 524. In Applying Culture 57Epilogue 61Bibliography 63
  4. 4. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 4PREFACEIn this rapidly changing world, the notion of East and West has become blurred aswe are physically brought together by technology and communications. Multiculturalism isthe new mantra for equality, but its often an ideal, the reality being that when we arethreatened by change, we cling even more strongly to our cultural roots. East has metWest. We live and work together, but do we understand each other?The world has become a global village with hundreds of thousands of Easternersmoving to the West. In parts of Australia more people speak a first language other thanEnglish. Thousands of Western expatriates now live and work in the East. Despite thisconvergence of peoples, convergence of the minds seems to remain an ideal. In thinking,East and West often seem as far apart as ever.Yes, we are all part of the human race. We are not that different. But we thinkdifferently. And as we think so we are. The stereotype of the arrogant Westerner andinscrutable Easterner continues. This book attempts to bridge that cultural divide.Understanding why we see things differently will help us to learn how to overcome thesedifferences in a mutually beneficial manner.Oftentimes we compare the relative merits of our worldview against those of others.However no people or culture is better than another, simply different. In the West weadmire a steady gaze, firm handshake and upright manner when greeting. In the East,many cultures prefer a deferred manner, bowed head and pliant handshake. Bothgreetings are expressions of mutual respect.Indeed this example is stereotypical in itself, for there are numerous sub-cultureswithin cultures. Each country is different. The aims of this book are: "To provide abalanced perspective of Eastern and Western worldviews and deliver a practical means ofrecognising and overcoming these cultural differences." To achieve this aim, this book hasbeen written in a unique way.This approach doesnt look at Easterners and Westerners as specimens to bestudied, but represents views from each perspective. For me, this is perfectly natural, as Iam a mixture of two cultures, having grown up and lived in Indonesia for over 20 years,then worked and studied in Australia. For this reason I have taken on the dual role of bothEasterner and Westerner, hence my use of "we", "us" and "our".A worldview is a combination of similar cultures, not the specific cultural differencessay, between Australians and Indonesians. So, this book deals with generalisations byusing some culturally specific anecdotes. I trace the Eastern worldview to a largelyHindu/Buddhist heritage. While North and Southeast Asians differ culturally, theirunderlying thinking is similar. The same can be said for Westerners: Europeans, Americansand Australians are culturally diverse, however they adhere to basic principles found inJudaeo/Christian philosophy. Generalisations will help us see these differences moreclearly.
  5. 5. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 5Due to our rapidly changing world, all cultures today are in transition. More Asianstudents than ever before are studying in the West, learning to research, question anddebate long held views. Westerners in ever-increasing numbers are living and working withEasterners, learning to define experiences and relationships based on time honouredtraditions. This interaction has produced some hybrid cultures (like me). English speakingand educated Malaysians are a composite of East and West, as are Western followers ofHindu and Buddhist New Age philosophies.Change however is relative and often superficial. Beneath the surface, how wethink and react is still determined by our original culture. This means that a western-educated Indonesian may know Western business principles, but continue to interpret themin the Asian way. An Australian expatriate manager living and working in Indonesia mayknow about Indonesian culture, yet continue to work in the Western way.INTRODUCTIONReceiving a visit from some Western colleagues, Mr John Scott decides to take themon-site to see how the new residential housing project is going. (All names have beenchanged for privacy reasons). A few days ago he had mentioned to the site manager, Pak(Mr) Suhardi, he would be coming to show his business colleagues the development. PakSuhardi had indicated that this was fine. No formal appointment was made, as they knoweach other socially and work together.Arriving at the construction site the foreman invites them to tour the development.Not wanting to interrupt the obviously busy site manager (Pak Suhardi), John and his groupleisurely set off, stopping to talk with the builders and tradesmen while checking the overallprogress of the job. This enjoyable reverie is cut short by a request from Pak Suhardi forJohn to come and see him in his office as soon as possible.An obviously perturbed Pak Suhardi ushers John into his office, proceeding tolambaste him for not bringing his guests to the office first and introducing them personally tohim. John explains that he knew Pak Suhardi was very busy and that the foreman hadinvited the group to look around. He had intended to bring his colleagues back to PakSuhardis office after the tour. Pak Suhardi counters that John had not shown him theproper respect accorded by his position.John is hurt and disappointed with Pak Suhardis attitude. He had not wanted tobother an obviously busy Pak Suhardi. Furthermore, Pak Suhardi already knew he wascoming on-site with his colleagues and had agreed to it. Pak Suhardi does not understandwhy John is so insensitive, treating him as if he is inferior, whereas they are equals in status.John should know by now that even when busy, Pak Suhardi should always be given thechance to meet the guests and excuse himself.Westerners can be so arrogant and insensitive when they want to be, they just neverseem to see things the way we do. Easterners are so inscrutable, always leaving thingsunsaid and assuming that we should know what they mean. Now, how do we bridge thiscultural divide?
  6. 6. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 6CHAPTER 1Backgrounds and WorldviewsFirst of all we need to get back to basics and ask ourselves how we view reality. Dowe see ourselves as the key player, an individual seeking to understand the outside worldin order to shape our own destiny? Or, do we recognise the world as the great reality andour holistic harmony within it as being the key to achieving our personal destiny? Thesetwo fundamentally different approaches sum up the differences between Western andEastern worldviews.Western Background and WorldviewMuch of Western thinking is based upon Greek philosophy and the individual humanbeings relationship to the world. Reality begins with mans personal interpretation of itbased upon empirical observation, exploration and verification. The Christian principle ofindividual action through a personal faith in God, and Gods command to subdue the earth,was a further impetus for individual self-determination. Such rationalist philosophers asDescartes and more recently Jean-Paul Sartre have further reinforced these principles.It is not my intention to expand on these various systems of thinking any more thanis necessary to illustrate their influence on the current Western worldview. Descartes, wholived from 1596 to 1650 made famous this statement: "I think therefore I am." Jean-PaulSartre continued this line of thinking with the words, "Man is nothing other than what hemakes himself."In simple terms, these influential thinkers interpreted reality as beginning with theindividual person and their own existence. Reality thus becomes a personal responsibilityby virtue of the power of reason and logical deduction. We either make ourselves or, in asense, allow ourselves to be made by others. This view of reality is determined by ourpersonal interpretation of what we define reality to be. This viewpoint places man apartfrom the world of reality outside as he tries to relate to it. This may be represented usingthe following diagram:A result of this thinking is the Western version of logic, which begins with doubtrather than faith and becomes belief only if it can be substantiated. Rationalistphilosophers such as Aristotle, Descartes and Sartre held that one should not accept truthas being absolute unless one clearly knows it to be so. Thus, to find truth one follows aprocess of elimination, first identifying the subject to be examined, and then dividing it intovarious parts. After moving from one part to another, proceeding from more simple tocomplex, the whole process is reviewed to ensure that nothing has been left out.
  7. 7. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 7By dividing reality into parts, conclusions can be drawn about a concept as a whole.This process involves logical thought by employing principles of cause and effect is knownas the scientific method. It is widely credited for the advanced economic and technologicaldevelopment of the West. The following illustration describes this thinking:Such thinking moves from A to B to C to D in logical progression. When applied toreality, the sum total of the parts defines the whole. Thus Western philosophy seeks to unitemany parts into a oneness that explains and integrates the many. The heavy emphasis onreason in understanding life and the universe has seen Western thinking compartmentalised.Even individual psyche can be divided into thinking, feeling and will. The importance ofrationalism and personal fulfilment in determining reality has taken the cult of the individualto new heights, nothing is absolute. This worldview has spawned relatively stablegovernments, societies and economies, and developed certain extremes of individualism.Increasingly though, many Westerners are "escaping the rat race" to seek a more naturalexistence or embracing holistic [Eastern] New Age philosophies.Eastern Background and WorldviewThe origins of Eastern thinking can be traced to the Hindu concept of Dharma, whichcomes from the Sanskrit word dhar, meaning to "support, uphold and nourish." Dharma isoften defined as that which supports life, the sustaining force of the world, the divineessence of the universe (Chin-Ning, 1995:69-70). In human terms dharma is first proactive:to understand the appropriate action for any circumstance, then reflexive, where one acceptslife as it comes and acts according to ones duty. The diversity of Asian religions, beliefsystems and philosophies stem from the concept of duty. ‘An individual knows what isexpected of them and does it.’ Thus from Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism toMalay Islam, reality is as the individual finds it.This view of reality recognises the universe as a holistic entity that functions as awhole, with every part fitting harmoniously within it.A Hindu maxim provides an interesting interpretation of this concept: "With what youget from others you make a living for yourself; what you give to others makes a life foryourself." The Bhagavad-Gita Hindu philosophical writings expounded this thinking further,"According to your life your duties have been prescribed for you; follow them and yourdesires will be naturally fulfilled." An individual gets in tune with the whole by relating to it,not through the self, but by being in harmony with the surrounding wholeness.Therefore an individuals first duty is to their family, clan, race and nation, rather thanto themselves. The effect of this thinking on a person is that an individual’s reality is notseparated from that of the whole.DA BC
  8. 8. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 8This thinking is illustrated with the following diagram:Lateral thinking of this nature begins with the external universe already in existence.Rather than trying to understand how it came to be, it is more beneficial to relate to it as itis. Relating to others has thus become an art form in Eastern societies. How we interpretfeelings may be an appropriate analogy. Westerners attribute emotions to the heart, theengine room of the body, that active pulsating organ responsible for keeping our wholesystem functioning. For Asians, feelings emanate from the belly.In the Indonesian language, the word hati or "liver", the organ which acts to absorband break down waste materials in the blood is an apt descriptive, reacting to the externalelements in such a way as to protect the internal system. This thinking also comes throughin a quote from Sun Tzus Art of War: "If one is able and strong, then one should disguiseoneself in order to become inept and weak." Rather than simply being concerned withphysical and mental prowess in overcoming obstacles, the Eastern holistic approach takesinto account both projected and internal feelings. Concentration and preparation are whatmake the difference.The ability to achieve victory without direct confrontation epitomises Eastern thinking.In this thinking, the reality of here and now is far more important than how it came to be.Natures law is holistic and absolute. An individual must choose before acting, for once anaction is delivered, absolute consequences will follow. To reach this state of mind requires acertain amount of passivity rather than activity. The key element of this thinking is thatreality is here. Our task is to learn to relate to reality as harmoniously as possible. Thus theidea of God is impersonal and pantheistic—God is everything there is.Malay Muslims often attribute their core existence to the central pillar of their house,the tiang seri, which represents everything that is important in their lives. From this centralpillar emanates the life force of family, clan, religion and community. That is, everything anindividual needs to exist. This apparent minimisation of self also appears in ClassicalBuddhism, where true harmony is gained not from personal fulfilment, but from absorptioninto the whole and cessation from a tiresome sense of individual existence.The main emphasis of Eastern thinking is geared towards relating to life holistically.Personal fulfilment is measured against the group as a whole, rather than individually. Thisworldview has seen the rapid development of nations and economies through education andcooperative activity, sometimes at the expense of the individual, and tending towardextremes in wholeness. However, as more Easterners become exposed to Western ideals ofself-determination, their views are changing.
  9. 9. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 9When East meets WestIn the East to relate to the whole is to understand the individual. In the West, to understandthe individual is to relate to the whole. These diametrically opposing ways of approachingreality are the roots from which our cultures and ways of thinking have grown. Unless weacknowledge these differences, we can never understand each other. The rest of this booktraces the effect these divergent worldviews have on our relationships. What is yourworldview?Rate your worldview in order of importance from 1 to 6:• Self?• Community?• Job?• Family?• Beliefs?• Values?Western Eastern
  10. 10. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 10CHAPTER 2How Worldviews Effect ThinkingNow that we have examined some of the basic differences between Eastern and Westernworldviews, we will move on to see the effect this thinking has in the way we interact withothers.1. IN INDIVIDUALSThe Western ApproachDevelopment of rational thinking in the West has tended to be limited, exclusive,focused and results-driven. Thus, to be rational, one centres attention on the brain to theexclusion of feelings. To be emotive is to feel rather than to think rationally. Advantages ofthis rational approach include being able to investigate our environment and to some extentcontrol it. By applying the scientific approach to almost all levels of interaction we can oftencontrol outcomes. First we develop strategies, and then define goals by excluding any falsetrails on the way to an objective. Our significant technical achievements pay homage to thisrational approach.Westerners like to employ logical thinking, be reasonable and straightforward andfollow through on principles. This includes the practice of discussion and debate, whereby agroup defines particular goals and individuals within the group then proceed to hammer outtheir differences. This style of interaction is characterised by disagreement, as each side in adebate has a slightly different view of how the issue is to be resolved. Often rationalthinking experts in particular fields are called in to give their opinions, thus turning to reasonto overcome an impasse.The direct approach of the Westerner tends to view long discussions as beingindecisive. We are eager to arrive at a conclusion. Time is also of utmost importance. Thesaying "time is money" aptly describes our reluctance to go around in circles. Getting to thesubject at hand and resolving it as quickly as possible is definitive of the Western way.Western thinking centres on individual intellect and goal-focused strategies designedto reach a conclusion by the shortest possible route. This is achieved by resolving issues ona point-by-point basis utilising individual skills and knowledge. Things are placed into anarrow-as-possible context. Language also comes into the equation, with the precise natureof English represented by its use throughout much of the developed world as the languageof technology and media. Whereas many Asian languages rely on context to explain logic,English is fundamentally literal in explanation, with a word to describe almost every activityor thing.The Eastern ApproachTaking time to achieve a rational solution seems to define Eastern thinking, with asubject discussed from almost every conceivable angle. The development of thinking in theEast holistically combines intellect, emotions, seniority and experience. When conclusionsare reached they can appear to the uninitiated as if by accident.
  11. 11. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 11This begins with the group and not the individual, with the whole situation ratherthan just the point being discussed. The objective is to find a mutually beneficial solution tothe whole situation, rather than to simply reason out an understanding.Dealing with others is much more personal and relates to all those present at thediscussion, with considerations such as family ties, religion, seniority and status all factoredinto the equation. Our focus is on relationships and what effect a decision will have onthem. Going around a problem helps participants get a feel for the discussion, with allcontributing to the outcome. Respected senior members of the group then apply theirintuition and ability to understand the groups feelings to decide on a mutually agreeablesolution.Intuition is a highly prized commodity in the East. It is the ability to "feel" the rightcourse of action using all our senses. Thus the English saying, "A womens intuition isalways right" may not be so far off the mark, since in Asia it is regarded as both a male andfemale virtue to be admired. This way of thinking can be seen from the Indonesian wordrasa, which means to feel, taste or think. Rasa in its various forms describes the differentbut related senses.Eastern thinking focuses on the whole rather than the separate. Thus, to sacrifice theindividual for the group is natural in Asian culture. Leaders who use their intuition and driveto determine the fate of others are admired, provided they can continue to represent thegroups interests. Things are placed in the widest possible context, with achievements beingjudged by their continuation rather than their realisation.Accepting ones fate or lot in life and carrying it out to the best of ones abilityepitomises Asian thinking. Those who are superior in rank or status are to be respected andobeyed. Decisions determined by group consent are to be received gratefully by theindividual. The widespread use of the passive structure in many Asian languages symbolisesa different emphasis to the more active approach of Western tongues.When East meets WestWhen we review these different ways of thinking, we realise that rather than beingcontradictory, they are in fact complimentary. Without clear logical thought and carefulexclusion of extraneous factors good science and technological development is difficult. TheEast has embraced logical, brain-centred reasoning in its push to gain the technical skillsneeded for scientific advancement. Western thinking is also changing as Easternexplanations of life, health and human relations seem to be better served by this holisticapproach than by rational science. These two different approaches to thinking arecharacterised by the following diagram:Narrow Context Holistic Context
  12. 12. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 122. IN EDUCATIONWestern Learning: Think for yourselfWhile we may not always consciously know why we think in a certain way, we seldomunconsciously act. The most obvious outworking of differences in thinking is through ouractions. In the context of worldview and culture, thinking begins at the stage an individuallearns to distinguish categories of imagination and thus begins to develop a reality principle.This learned reality is primarily cultural. Beginning with our worldview, thinking and learningbecome more defined by our cultural environment, and therefore influences our actions.Western education is active, teaching us to think for ourselves, to find out all that wecan and apply this knowledge in practice. In one sense the learner is the centre of theequation, learning to research and apply principles to different life circumstances. Thiscreative method focuses on learning how to think inventively. The teacher acts as a guide,leading learners to discover, rather than telling them what they ought to know.This educational process emphasises individual thinking and personal expression ofopinions. Putting forward points of view, asking questions, seeking answers and debatingthem is all part of the Western educational method. A high value is put on an individualsability to defend their viewpoint rationally, using researched principles to verify their findingsand to answer their critics.Increasingly in the West the emphasis on education is for a more practical approachdetermined by skills rather than general knowledge. Some of the results of this vocationallearning and emphasis on personal discovery can be found in the poor literacy and readinglevels of many Westerners, prompting a return to some traditional rote learning methods.In general however the scientific method remains prominent in the West, with mosteducational books written in the logical and precise lexicon of English. The only real changein Western educational thought is that it is more inclusive and that holistic learning continuesthroughout education, as focusing on more exclusive skills may limit an individualsopportunities in a rapidly changing world.Eastern Learning: Learn from othersThe holistic approach of Eastern education is more passive, teaching us to learn,know and understand what we are taught. In this equation teachers are at the centre,representing the knowledge students must learn to be part of their society. Teachers arehighly respected and senior members of society. The Sanskrit word guru, meaning revered,is often used in the West to denote prominent leaders who excel in particular fields, whereasin the Malay language "guru" means teacher.Because teachers hold such high status in Eastern society, learners rarely questionthem and the educational process emphasises the ability of the learner to reproduceinformation given. Rote learning is the primary educational method and students developstrong skills in pure memory work. To thoroughly know what you have been taught is thekey. The emphasis of education in the East is to have knowledge. To be educated isesteemed in itself, for an educated individual understands their environment and society. Aweakness of this approach is its lack of application, thus in vocational and research contexts,where knowledge must be applied practically, learners have often learned the principle butare unable to apply it in different situations.With many more Asian students studying in the West and the rapid industrialisationof the East, traditional rote learning techniques, especially in the vocational skills area areunder question, as the ability to practically apply skills in a variety of contexts becomesincreasingly important. Learning to apply does have a long history in Asia.
  13. 13. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 13However, these skills were often presented informally over long periods of time,being handed down from generation to generation. Formalising and integrating these skillsinto the educational system has been more difficult. Because education is so highly regardedas a means of obtaining status and respect, the more practical aspects of learning are oftenless emphasised. It is unlikely that highly educated individuals will be expected to provethemselves on the shop floor, as they have already done so with their academicqualifications. This means that there is often a shortfall of practical skills, because manuallabour is considered above those with status. These views are changing, albeit slowly.The benefits of general knowledge and the ability to remember are still regarded asthe most important educational benchmarks in the East. For those who have the means,higher learning is in itself an end, for with it come respect, status and rank—values Asiansregard as being at the core of holistic living. Thus even in this era of rapid change, the valueof knowledge and education in itself remains offset by the need to apply theory to practice inwider and more diverse contexts of learning.When East meets WestAs the world is brought closer together through global trade, the differences in theway we think, learn and process information come to the fore. Understanding thesedifferences will help us to better manage the cross-cultural exchange of information.Interestingly enough, the more we work together, this mix-and-match of Eastern andWestern learning methods will actually improve educational standards. Yet because learningis primarily socio-cultural, it is vitally important to understand each others backgroundsbefore attempting to share information. Thus for anyone wishing to work with othercultures, understanding how each other thinks should come before anything else.Three key areas of learning that are strongly influenced by worldviews are content,process and context. Knowing the right mix of resources for each of these three areas isvital to providing an effective transfer of knowledge to a new learning environment. Thediagram below provides an example of Eastern and Western learning cultures:EASTERN LEARNING CULTURE WESTERN1. Emphasis on retaining andusing general knowledge Content1. Emphasis on analytical skillsto problem solve2. Based on observation,imitation and participationProcess2. Based on research, selfthought and verification3. Teacher-centred seniorityand cooperative approach Context3. Learner-centred, individualand critical approachBecause learning is so vital to most activities, knowing what information to present[content], how to present it [process] and the social environment of the learner [context] isa priority. In more practical terms it means being sensitive to the learner and their culturalvalues.This factor can be illustrated by the strong motivation to learn amongst mostEasterners. There is no need to motivate us to learn, only to practically apply it. On theother hand motivating Western learners is the key. Getting us to apply it is relatively easy.These principles become even more important where teachers and learners hail fromdifferent cultural backgrounds.
  14. 14. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 14Some of my students have complained that their Japanese lecturers do not explain tothem how to learn the language. "You just do as I tell you and you will learn," does not sitwell with those trained to reason through a problem. However it cuts both ways.A colleague of mine, Mr Richard Coggins, with much training experience in Indonesia,laments that while Asian learners are able to reproduce information faithfully, they havegreat difficulty in applying it practically. After a few sessions together looking at the wayIndonesians learn, he was able to report much better results on the next trip because hespent more time concentrating on practically applying knowledge.3. IN COMMUNICATIONWestern Approach: Seek an outcomeAs a direct result of the way we think and learn, communicating in the West focuseson achieving an outcome. Communication involves interaction with others and is theoutworking of our internal thinking. Discussions in the West usually begin with individualsputting forward their ideas about a specific topic. No particular idea is considered superior toanother and each participant is prepared to argue the case for their idea. An example mightbe the practice of brainstorming, where ideas are tossed around, argued, discounted oraccepted.The key aspect of Western communication is to solve the problem at hand, thenmove on to the next point of discussion. To keep discussions rational, there are certain nogo zones such as politics, religion and race. "Putting your cards on the table" and "notbeating around the bush" are all examples of how we communicate in the West. While thereare certainly exceptions to this rule, such as in personal relationships, this is definitive of theWestern communication method.Conversation, the most personal of communication methods considers the individualsinvolved as equals, even if their knowledge and learning is not. While this situation may bedifferent at a private or personal level, where equality can in reality be only a cliché, itremains a Western ideal. Furthermore, speaking together at a professional level is usuallyformal, matter of fact and to-the-point, since it should not relate to the personal view of theindividual, but rather their particular knowledge of the subject at hand. Discussion ofpersonal views is rarely entered into, as this may discriminate against an individual and isunprofessional, besides MY private life is not anyones but my business.Written communication in the West is even more formal than in conversation, beingconcise and factual with an emphasis on form. Texts are organised clearly so as to ensurethat the message is in no way ambiguous. Business letters are to the point, seeking to layout the technical or legal matters to be discussed in plain English. There is no wasting ofwords and ideas are put forward as proposals on which to argue for particular results. Whilerelationships are important, it is the content of the material that is the key to effectivecommunication.Eastern Approach: Seek a consensusTo communicate effectively in the East we need to understand the factors influencingour communication—all those mitigating factors leading to a consensus. Communicationrequires interaction with others to arrive at a mutually agreed solution. Discussions in theEast begin with the most senior partners defining the context of discussions, often puttingforward their views of how they see the situation. This allows individuals to discuss issueswithin certain relational guidelines, knowing full well that their views should represent theirstatus in the group.
  15. 15. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 15Being polite and deferring to superiors is part of the process and eventual consensusis reached by leaders interpreting the mood and tone of the group in a decision which takesinto account group interests.One of the most important aspects of discussions in the East is that the harmony ofthe group be maintained. Thus religion, politics, family, seniority and status all influence thefinal outcome. Personal relationships and alliances within the group are vital to ensuring anindividuals wishes are represented. "When benefits are mutual, cooperation will follow" by"performing the sacrifice of doing our duty" are Eastern examples of communication whichapply both personally and professionally.In conversation face features highly in the exchange, as how we are perceived byothers and consequently treated, is tremendously important. The concept of face in the Eastis all about our place in the whole and our personal dignity. Thus it is considered extremelyrude and insensitive to carry on a formal conversation without first determining each othersstatus at an informal level, since in the East people are defined by their holistic role insociety. In the East my private life is OUR business.Written communication in the East is based on the oral tradition, thus people writehow they speak and focus on context. This genre concentrates on the development andprogression of a relationship and its surrounding opportunities and constraints (Mead,1990:84-87). Correspondence is organised into a strongly interpersonal and cooperativeapproach where technical and legal matters may be alluded to, but not clearly stated. It isonly after careful reading that a picture emerges from the background relationship on whichit is based.When East meets WestWhen these two very different ways of communicating meet there is often a clash ofwills, as both sides feel uncomfortable with the others way of doing things. In jointdiscussion Eastern and Western expectations are very different, and when certain unspokenprotocols on either side are not observed, misunderstandings occur. When the Westerner isfirst introduced to the group the ensuing silence appears to be a prompt to put forward anidea. Uncomfortable with silence and hearing murmurs of affirmation the Westernercontinues expounding an idea, surprised at the easy acceptance of his or her view. Themeeting proceeds with the Westerners motion carried with the apparent acceptance of thegroup.The Easterners on the other hand have not necessarily agreed with the Westernersviewpoint, they were simply nodding and affirming that they had heard what was said. Theywere not satisfied with the Westerners approach because it failed to take into accountfactors outside of the issue itself. There was no time to discuss these factors becausewhenever there was silence, the Westerner began to detail the plan further, probablyassuming that they did not understand. Surely the Westerner knows that silence in Asiausually means possible disagreement, that the group is waiting for a senior to speak or thatthe meeting should wind up.Two myths are perpetuated in the above discussion. One is the myth of the arrogantWesterner, quick to express ideas and too impolite to wait for others of higher status. Theother is the inscrutable Asian, saying one thing and then going out and doing somethingelse. While cross-cultural miscommunications will occur, the important thing is tounderstand where the other is coming from. This often does not occur because neither sidehas built up sufficient trust with the other.
  16. 16. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 16This concept is graphically illustrated in a current project. The Australian side of theventure has made it clear in writing and verbally their views on the projects progress, withthe ensuing strategies to achieve these proposed outcomes.Their Indonesian counterparts on the other hand have written asking my assistancein explaining to the Australians that they want correspondence to be on-going and written ina more questioning manner, in order to seek the advice of seniors in the venture rather thanto propose strategies. The following illustration helps clarify the cross-culturalcommunication process:EASTERNER WESTERNER4. IN ORGANISATIONBased on real life experiences and formal and informal learning, values arecommunicated via social organisation. How we organise our lives and societies very muchdepends on our thinking. While social values are difficult to define, they usually include fourdimensions: (1) Individualism versus Collectivism, (2) Hierarchy versus Egalitarian, (3)Independence versus Dependence and (4) Masculinity versus Femininity (Hofstede, 1983:8-10). East and West are a constantly changing mix of the above. Our societies reflect thesevalue dimensions in everyday life.Western ValuesIn the West we begin with the individual and hold on to values which focus onpersonal rights and the ideal of giving everyone a fair go. Democracy is based on the "onevote one value" rule, as we want to have a say in who governs us and how they will do it.We jealously guard individual rights believing that their suppression will lead to fewer rightsfor all. Because we see ourselves as isolated entities, we form like-minded groups to protectour rights: pitting pro-lifers against pro-abortionists, blacks against whites, and labourunions against business…the list goes on.Ironically, amidst this apparent chaos, we are generally law-abiding citizens, providedthese laws are enforced equally throughout the community. Due to our political system,which allows for the periodic removal of unpopular political leaders and parties, either bylegislative or electoral processes, the worst excesses of government are able to be curbed. Arelatively free and independent press and judiciary is a further safety valve, enablingindividuals to let off steam without disrupting the society.According to Hofstede (1983) four Western organisational value dimensions are asfollows:1. Individualism is looking after ones own interests and that of ones immediate family(husband, wife, children, etc) and being independent of that in society with which we donot wish to be associated.LEVELS of COMMUNICATION Know each others beliefs and culture Understand each others expectations Respect different personal reactionsWorldviewHolisticCultural ValuesGroup ExpectationsPersonal ResponseSeek a ConsensusWorldviewIndividualisticCultural ValuesIndividual SolutionIndividual ResponseSeek an Outcome
  17. 17. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 172. Egalitarianism is the level to which weaker members of society are protected frominequality within society. Inequality exists in all societies, but is defined by the extent ofits acceptance.3. Independence is the characteristic which defines individuals as being prepared to actoutside of strict codes of behaviour and belief observed in a particular culture.4. Masculine cultures tend to emphasise male qualities of assertiveness, ambition andcompetition in seeking material success, and respect is for physical strength, size andspeed.In the above value dimensions we can recognise generalisations, though it is obviousthat we as a society are not that easy to define. The aim of this exercise is to help us torecognise our own values first. From there we can better analyse the values of others—thencompare them.Eastern ValuesEastern values begin with the group and what is best for them. This is usuallydecided by one who is seen by the group to have an inspired almost spiritual ability to bringoverall harmony to society. Once this is established—in the interim there may be muchbloodshed and chaos—it is the leaders right to determine the fate of the nation. Only inextreme circumstances will the people rise up to overthrow an ordained leader, as this coulddisrupt the harmony they have brought. Special interest groups are formed to discuss issuesand authorised representatives make recommendations for the welfare of society. Thosewho are seen to threaten social harmony are removed, detained or neutralised.Interestingly enough, within this apparently harmonious and tightly controlled society,we generally accept that laws will be circumvented in some way or another, since laws arenot applied equally across the board. Most individuals accept a strong state as necessary—even preferable.The four Eastern organisational value dimensions are summed up below.1. Collectivism is looking after the interests of ones in-group (immediate and extendedfamily) and protecting their interests and welfare, but in return expecting theirpermanent loyalty.2. Hierarchical is the level to which weaker members of society accept and regard certaininequalities according to their status in society, thus accepting these realities as beingunavoidable.3. Dependence is the characteristic which usually defines individuals as being willing to actwithin the strict codes of behaviour and belief observed in a particular culture.4. Feminine cultures tend to emphasise the more feminine qualities of overlapping socialroles, in which harmony and quality of life in material success are sought and respect isfor inner strength and humility.Again we can see that these definitions are generalised and cannot be taken at facevalue, but like all models of organisations in a particular society, are the starting point for amore in-depth study of culture.When East meets WestAs more and more Easterners come to study and learn in the West and moreWesterners embrace the New Age teachings and philosophies of the East, a peculiar meldingof cultures can be seen in many of the large metropolitan areas of the world.
  18. 18. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 18Scratch a little below the surface however and we tend to find that many of thesenew ideas are just that—ideas. Traditional views in organising society have not changed agreat deal. Studying values all depends on their scale. As Hofstede (1985:13) states,"Studying cultures is like using a zoom lens": interest in a particular country requires us tozoom in on the differences within the country. If we want to compare countries we canzoom out on a world scale to see the differences between countries.A technique often used to evaluate differences between countries in order tocompare their organisational values is a scoring and ranking system based on four culturaldimensions. Although research into cultural views and values can be somewhat subjective, itis an informative exercise.Here is an example:Organisational Values ChartIndividualismScore RankHierarchyScore RankIndependenceScore RankMasculinityScore RankAustralia 90 49 36 13 51 17 61 35Indonesia 14 7 78 44 48 12 46 22Source: G. Hofstede, Cultural Consequences, SAGE Publications 1980, R. Mead, Cross-cultural Management Communication,John Wiley and Sons 1990 and additional research.The aim of this research is to gain information about the difference between twocountries organisational values or to compare these countries against a broader cross-section of countries. The scoring system is based on a set of numbers, say one to 100, witheither the Western or Eastern values as the denominator. The distance of a culturaldimension can be measured as "high" or "low" i.e. “near” to or "far" from that value. Thisscore then becomes the numerator. A ranking system is usually based on certain criteria ora comparison between differing factors [countries].There are discrepancies between both source authors (Hofstede, 1980, Mead, 1990).For example, Mead states the "power distance" (Hierarchy level in my diagram) to be 35points for Australia and 85 points for Indonesia. Hofstede on the other hand quotes 36 and78 points respectively. What this research does tell us is that at no point did Australian andIndonesian value dimensions cross, meaning that we are scored and ranked as twosignificantly different cultures with few similarities.Organisational culture is an important benchmark for gauging and measuring thevalue dimensions of a particular people group, society, country or worldview. However, weknow from personal experience that values are relative to them being put into practice. Theideals of honesty and sticking to ones principles are well known Western values, yet areoften not practised in real life.In the East the notion of strong family ties and quality of life are similarly regarded asvirtues, however may not always apply to the vast majority of people. Our values define us,but by our deeds are we known. As Eastern and Western values collide and meld it isimportant not to lose the positive values of each in the process. Knowing our own culturalvalues helps us to better determine the values of others.
  19. 19. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 19What are your cultural values?VARIOUS CULTURAL VALUESValues About Western EasternENVIRONMENT Mastery HarmonyTIME Precise [Future] Flexible [Past]ASPIRATION Success ContentmentCHANGE Rapid GradualEXPLANATION Scientific NaturalINDIVIDUALITY Self-realisation Group identificationWhat are your cultural values in relation to:ENVIRONMENT?TIME?ASPIRATION?CHANGE?EXPLANATION?INDIVIDUALITY?
  20. 20. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 20CHAPTER 3The Outworking of CultureNow that we have a firm basis of what constitutes a worldview and how this thinkingmanifests itself in our societies, we are able to move on to the outworking of culture in ourdaily lives. Some say that what you see is what you get. To a certain extent this is true.Yet we all consciously (or unconsciously) wear masks or play roles which culture and societyhave set for us—striving in the process to define a certain individuality or harmony forourselves.1. IN RELATIONSHIPSWestern ApproachDeveloping good relationships based on individual choice and mutual advantage isthe hallmark of Western alliances. Thus our sphere of personal contacts may not beparticularly large, whereas business contacts and those with which we have a professionalrelationship are generally considered separate. We dont tend to mix business with pleasure.Because of our individualistic nature, we draw a strong distinction between private and publiclife. As long as I carry out my responsibilities to society through work and taxes I shouldhave the right to be left alone.We admire those who show initiative in developing relationships, those who go outand get what they want. Of equal importance is the principle of being forthright and honestwith constructive criticism. It is considered juvenile to not have the courage to facesomeone directly. "If you have a problem, tell me!" is an oft-heard expression. As adultswe consider it wrong to tell others of a perceived slight without the perpetrators priorknowledge. This means being up-front. You should say what you mean. In the case ofconflicts, resolving them is considered more important than avoiding them, since there willalways be conflicts. In fact conflicts can be good because they allow us to let off steam.Relationships form as a natural dynamic, because we as social beings need them tosurvive. However, it is the motivation for forming and maintaining relationships that is thekey. When we form relationships in the West we establish them with those we think will beof direct advantage to us. This choice may be subconscious, but has the aim of securing aninterpersonal relationship with the other person. Relationships are with individuals andbased on that dynamic alone. It is regarded as being manipulative to use friendship withone person to foster a relationship with another, though most of us have done this at somepoint in time.Gift giving in the West is a common means of expressing appreciation and is usuallyopen-ended. A simple thanks will do, as a gift affirms the advantage (love, friendship,assistance) that the other person brings to the relationship. We are also incredibly generousto those in need, especially in natural disasters, as we sympathise with the individuals caughtup in the calamity. Because of our care for individual rights and values we sympathise withthe underdog, not so much for those who do little to better themselves, but for thebattlers. We also like relationships to be on as equal a footing as possible—not one sided.Eastern ApproachIn the East relationships form across a much broader spectrum due to theunderstanding that an alliance is a mutually beneficial relationship extending beyond thosedirectly involved.
  21. 21. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 21We have many friends and the line between personal and professional relationships isvirtually non-existent. Relationships are also much less direct, since issues like status andrank mean that inequality is an accepted fact of life. Often we form friendships with go-betweens who we know will benefit them and us through the relationship. We bothunderstand and accept that we are indebted to each other.Those who excel at relationship networking are admired for their ability toharmoniously bring people together for the mutual benefit of the group. A key criterion ofsuccessful relationships is achieving the above without conflict or criticism, as that couldjeopardise the relationship and make both parties lose face. Losing face is to be avoided atall costs.We avoid criticism like the plague, but if necessary, it will usually be via a thirdperson, as we rarely are critical to ones face. Easterners are much more honest to amutually trusted third party, as they know the criticism will be passed on, but with the rightprotocols accorded to the other person. This has saved both of us from a confrontation andthe possibility of one or both of us becoming angry and upset. Conflicts are to be avoided atall costs. Needing to resolve a conflict means that we have failed to avoid them in the firstplace. Harmony is the key to good relationships. Conflicts only serve to disturb the setboundaries of a friendship.When we form relationships in the East we do so with those who may be of indirectbut mutual benefit to us. While our relationships are with individuals as well, this is not theonly dynamic, as this person is also part of a group. It is expected that the friendships wehave with individuals will be used by them to attain benefits for us and we accept that theywill use our relationship with them to gain benefits for themselves.It is good to be indebted to one another and we give gifts to affirm that relationship,expecting in return a similar gift according to our status in the relationship. If we arestrongly indebted to the other person the gift should be large or vice versa. We aregenerous to those within our own relational group but tend to be less generous to those withwhich we have no personal contact, as they belong to a different group. NeverthelessEasterners extend friendship to everyone, since it is not considered just a personalrelationship but part of our way of community life.When East meets WestThese rather distinct ways of forming and maintaining relationships survive quite wellin isolation from the other, but when they coincide or collide, problems can arise. BecauseEasterners identify with individuals through groups, expectations are very high that they willact according to the groups values. This means that our handling of situations defines oureligibility in the group, i.e. a high or low status. It is not the solving of a problem thatcounts. Rather, it is how a problem is handled that is the benchmark. This may be quitedifferent to how Westerners approach the same situation. Even if we ruffle a few feathers,the main thing is to solve the problem.The best way to study some of the differences in our maintenance of relationships isto see their outworking in culture. Here are some examples.1. Expressing emotions in awkward situations: Pak Migi had a very difficult son whowas a constant source of embarrassment to him. In this particular instance he hadcaused Migi to lose face by his actions and as the father he had a responsibility toreprimand his son and make amends to the offended party. This he did with a personalapology and material reparation. On explaining the situation to his friend, Bruce, hehighlighted the fact that he had handled all of it without getting upset or angry eitherwith his son or at the situation. Bruce commented that he was pleased that he had
  22. 22. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 22resolved the situation, but the most important thing to Migi was that he had handled itwithout [apparently] getting angry or upset.2. Resolving conflicts in the best possible way: An individual had been stealing—again. The company leadership called a meeting to decide on appropriate action;disciplinary action that ensured the culprit would be forced to confess was decided upon.The group leader of this persons division was party to the decision. On the following daythe offender would be confronted, her bag searched and the stolen item returned to itsrightful owner. However, the group leader called the girls in her group together andproceeded to tell them that a certain item was lost and invited any person(s) in thegroup who may have it to return it to a particular location. This was done, without theperpetrator being made accountable, even though most everyone knew who she was.Understandably the Western leadership were concerned about their authority beingusurped and demanded an explanation. The Indonesian group leader felt her actionswere justified because the situation had been resolved without any major loss of face toany individual, even though the culprit was spared the humiliation of being madeaccountable for her actions. Management had wanted to solve the problem by bringingthe culprit to account and punishing her. The group leader decided that to resolve thesituation by avoiding a direct confrontation and loss of face was a better way to solve it.Another interesting facet of culture in relationships is its outworking throughinteraction with others. Get-togethers are a good medium to study how people interact bothformally and informally, because we tend to follow certain (often unwritten) protocols.1. Entertainment rules: Budi has been invited out to dinner. On arrival he notices onedinner guest arriving with a bottle of wine and another with some sweets. When heintroduces himself to the host he apologises for not bringing anything. He is told that itdoesnt matter, and another guest explains that we [Australians] often bring somethingfor the host. He can bring something next time. Budi is confused, why would you bringfood or drink to someone elses house—arent they embarrassed by that? (On the otherhand Budis Western hosts probably think it a little selfish that Budi contributed nothingto the evening.)2. Expensive Hospitality: Richard has been invited to supper at his new friends house.He knows theyre not well off, as he has been to their house before. So on his way hestops for some biscuits. On arrival he offers the lady of the house the biscuits—sherefuses. He offers it to her husband and he wont take them either. The meal laid outfor him is fit for a king and he knows they have gone way beyond their means. Richardcant understand why they wont accept even a small contribution to such a lavish meal.His Indonesian hosts are offended that he didnt feel they could cater for him. Theywould sell family possessions or go into debt to ensure their guest was well catered for.3. Catering Capers: At an important East-West function it soon became obvious that theywere going to run short of [cooked] rice. The speedy solution for the function to run ontime was to restrict the consumption of cooked rice. The Western conference convenerhumbly apologised and politely informed guests that they would be restricted to oneplate of rice each. While he felt the best had been made of a bad situation, the Easternguests were somewhat offended. Its almost a cardinal sin to run out of rice in Asia."Far better to have guests wait while more rice was being cooked," was the commentfrom the Asians. The Westerners felt it better that everyone got a share.These customary examples of hospitality may seem unimportant until we considerhow we feel about certain etiquette observed by us. We dont like it—even if we pretendthat it doesnt matter—when our cultural values are not respected. The way we form andResolve co
  23. 23. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 23maintain relationships is coloured indelibly by our cultural values and worldview. On the onehand Westerners dont like being indebted to anyone (except the bank), as it infringes ontheir individualism and independence. Easterners prefer being indebted to each other ratherthan a faceless entity like a bank, as it reinforces their group dependence.A further manifestation of these values is our Western concept of space—we like ourown space to be physical—my own room, house, car. "A mans home is his castle", definesour view of the world. We need space to breath and often find solace in solitude. In theEast there is little personal space, in fact we tend to feel uncomfortable away from thegroup, finding solace with people, since we dont consider physical space to be thatimportant. Our space is in our minds—there we can think our own thoughts and nobody canintrude.Based on the examples given in this section, we can see the influence of cultures andworldviews on relationships. While all of us as human beings need to be in relationships, theway we approach their development is different, and the way we deal with the conflicts thatinevitably arise from this interaction is not the same. Some of these differences can besummarised as follows:Western Relationships (Individual)Eastern Relationships (Group)2. IN BUSINESSThe concept of doing business is a wide field, but in this particular case I am referringto the interaction between individuals where the objective is to achieve a mutually beneficialoutcome. The primary difference between East and West in relation to business is that inthe West, business is usually equated with work and occupations, whereas in the East, thesame term is understood to be more holistic, relating to life, work and play. Thus, oftentimes, the context and expectation of what business is and where it should be done can bequite different.Western Approach: Regulations and a level playing fieldIn the West we have a long tradition of business being based on a system of fair playwhereby certain rules govern the way we do business. Like almost all other competitiveactivities in the West, business is regarded as a game played on a (mostly) level playingfield. Sporting bodies (Governments), with specific written rules (laws) controls the gameand umpires (lawyers) determine the rules in disputes involving players (businesses). Thekey criteria for this system to work are that all concerned understand and obey the rules.Those that do not are usually dealt with in a uniform manner according to the rules—irrespective of their position in society. This system has worked relatively well in mostWestern countries and goes hand-in-hand with the cherished ideals of individualism andIndividual mutual advantageSolve problems and conflicts and stick to principlesSupport the individual<>Support the groupResolve conflicts at all costs and negotiate principlesGroup benefits through individual relationships
  24. 24. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 24personal effort we regard so highly as fundamental human rights. Where this approach hasfailed somewhat is in international business, where rules and regulations are not the sameand standards are not uniform.Many Western businesspersons feel that if Easterners simply followed the same rulesand regulations that we do, then they would be saved from the often nepotistic and less thantransparent Eastern way of doing business. While there are elements of truth to this view,attempts to impose monetary and financial controls have often proved ineffective, sinceEasterners consider that Westerners are imposing their values on them. Because financialdominance has and continues to come from the West, it is often assumed that businesspractices should as well.Western Business PracticesThe influence of Western culture in organisations is most often seen in business.Business skills play such a significant role in defining individuals in Western society. Thosemost admired are able to carve a niche for themselves in a particular profession, occupationor sport. The true entrepreneur has vision and an ability to get things done. Because weare an individualistic society we like to play by the rules, as this gives everyone an equalchance to win.When it comes to doing business we like to work within firm guidelines and knowexactly where we stand. Anything unclear is to be cleared up and documented in sufficientdetail to ensure both parties understand exactly each others responsibilities. Beingprofessional when dealing with others is a key Western business skill, where personalconsiderations are not supposed to enter into the equation.This is an ideal practiced religiously in the West and evaluations based on objectivefactors are regarded as being the most credible. When dealing with others at the businesslevel we prefer not to be drawn into discussions about our private lives, as these issuesshouldnt influence the business relationship. Because we tend to compartmentalise things,we do the same with people, assuming someones home and work life as being twocompletely separate areas. We jealously guard OUR privacy and believe that personal choicein matters aside from the business at hand is not the other persons business.Thus while we may not agree with an individuals lifestyle, this becomes an issue onlyif it effects their job. We have legislated for political correctness, gender equality andindividual rights. When we disagree we prefer to find a third party arbitrator who is able todecide right from wrong, win or lose, based on the objective facts contained in contracts anddocuments. The independent umpires decision is what we regard as being the most fair.We regard any deviation from these practices in business to be detrimental tobusiness, as it can lead to favouritism and nepotism. We stick to the written word andexpect others to do the same. However we regard verbal communication as beingsomewhat less important in business unless it is in the presence of a third person. Businessis now and our interaction with business colleagues should reflect this urgency.Eastern Approach: Traditional values and hierarchiesBusiness in the East is much more traditional and based on the reality that we dontoperate on a level playing field. Thus, one of the key business skills any individual canposses is the ability to develop a strong network of personal business relationships.Eastern business is more a community structure, where elders (government) arerespected members of society who determine the principles of business (policies) and ensurethat beneficiaries (businesspersons) are rewarded for their efforts. This business
  25. 25. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 25environment is governed more by decree and interpretation of policies than directlyenforcing regulations.This system works surprisingly well where community leaders practice a high level ofhonesty, because people accept that certain benefits are derived from being at the top of aparticular society. Problems arise when leaders are corrupt or nepotistic to the extreme.This has been the case in Indonesia, where ‘small’ people, who rely on the leaders forpersonal rights, are not treated according to recognised cultural values. However, most ofus prefer business to remain an integral part of daily life and that it is governed by the sametraditional principles and values that govern other aspects of our lives.Eastern Business PracticesIn the East business skills revolve around relationships. Thus, an individual isadmired for their ability to do business rather than their specific skill or profession inbusiness. Special interest groups dominate Eastern society and individuals align themselveswith groups they believe will assist them to succeed in business. Making and maintainingcontacts is the key, since it is only through these relationships that a firm picture of the truesituation is gained. While written guidelines and contracts are important to the actualundertaking of business, they have little effect on the overall business relationship.When dealing with others we like to take all factors into account, especially at aninterpersonal level, as this will affect the outcome. We accept that decisions will includesubjective elements such as the closeness of our relationship, and we tend to apply objectiveanalysis only to things, not people. This means that everything about a person is part ofbusiness, and we discuss family, religious and political beliefs as part and parcel ofdeveloping an understanding of the business activity. In fact, we see relationships in workand play as being fairly homogenous, as we want to be sure the person being adopted willbe compatible with the group. Personal privacy is respected, but our personal choices doaffect the way we live and work—and that affects business practices.An individuals personal beliefs, race and lifestyle will all affect their acceptance intothe group and sacrificing their individual rights is not an issue where group harmony isinvolved. This is the way it should be. While there are regulations that must be observed, itis our status within the group which often determines how we interpret those rules. Whenwe disagree, our disputes are dealt with in the group by the group. If they need to be takento an arbitrator, far better it be a group elder who makes a decision based on the bestinterests of the group. Favouritism and nepotism are regarded as being part of groupdynamics, provided that it does not damage the overall cohesion of the group. We respectthe written word as a concrete record of the developing relationship.However, verbal communication is the seal of business approval. Business is a long-term venture between friends, requiring trust and perseverance.When East meets WestIt is at the point of exchange, where we actually start to do business together, thatthe outworking of cultural differences becomes most pronounced. The stakes are high, youwant to get the best deal for yourself or gain more benefits for your group.Because of the risk and uncertainty, we quickly return to the safe ground of OURCULTURAL WAY of thinking and doing things. Establishing trust in business is the key todeveloping a long term mutually beneficial business relationship.For Westerners unwilling to approach business development from this angle, it will bealmost impossible to progress business further, unless it is purely a trading arrangement.First we will look at the expectations of Eastern and Western businesspersons when they
  26. 26. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 26conduct business and compare the different approaches used in developing businessrelationships and achieving business outcomes.Business PrinciplesWEST EAST1. Business is often agreed upon prior to forminga personal relationship. A personalrelationship usually occurs following theagreement to do business and the relationshipis classed as a business relationship.1. Personal relationships are usually formed priorto commencing business. Business usuallyfollows on from the development of apersonal relationship and is regarded as thebasis for business.2. Business is a key aspect of life, but still aseparate compartment to our personal life.The fairly strong dividing lines between workand play mean that family is usually notdirectly included in business.2. Business is a life skill and there is no realdividing line between the two. Family andfriends are an integral part of business life andare directly included in decision-making andbusiness activities.3. Showing initiative and being decisive areprimary indicators of business acumen andaggressive promotion of your firms capabilitiesis the key to coming across well. People aretaken at face value.3. Appearing to be humble, self-effacing andnon-confrontational are key business skills,with an in-depth knowledge of your opponentsand their business. People are judged by theirstatus in the firm.4. Developing business intelligence is the keyissue and finding out the financial status of thefirm, its track record, management system andproposed business is the best way to assessrisks and opportunities.4. Developing strong interpersonal intelligence isvital and finding out who key leaders are inthe organisation, their beliefs, principles andmanagement style is the best way to assess aventures potential.Business development is based on the principles used to seek business opportunities.The methods Westerners and Easterners use to develop business can also be very different,though the aim and eventual outcome is often quite similar.Here are some issues to consider:Business Development MethodsWEST EAST1. The key objective is to win the business andthis means putting forward a competitive,detailed and accurate tender, by:1. The key objective is to bring about a victoryfor all parties by discussing the issues whichwill ensure mutual cooperation, by:(a) Preparing proposal letters and directlycontacting clients based on the potentialbusiness and defining how the job will be done.(b) Negotiating directly or indirectly with clients on(a) Preparing personal letters and direct personalcontact by using the relationship to seekconsensus on how work and business is shared.(b) Meeting directly with clients to discuss the
  27. 27. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 27issues proposed and seeking to establish anagreement.(c) Basing an agreement on a contractualarrangement which details how the job will bedone and who is responsible for what.(d) Writing contracts based on agreements andnegotiations and ensuring all elements of theproject are considered within the contract.(e) Beginning work based on a contractualagreement with terms and conditions for eachactivity.(f) Ensuring issues are dealt with based oncontracts and the law.nature and scope of the proposed businessrelationship.(c) Using an agreement to develop a memorandumof understanding stating the responsibilities andrelationship of the parties.(d) Commencing activities based on broadguidelines with specific contracts for activitiesdirectly relating to a particular project.(e) Beginning work based on broad guidelines andnegotiating terms and conditions as a projectunfolds.(f) Ensuring issues are dealt with internally viapersonal relationships.Critical pointsThere are certain critical points of contention when attempting to develop businessopportunities that need to be factored into the equation. Primarily these points will be wherethere are significant differences in the way we do things. The balance will not always bewith the one who has the power, but primarily with the one who wants the business most.Cross-culturally this may be quite difficult to assess and you will need to base yourassumptions on the other parties expectations. Here are some situations:1. Negotiations - are usually the starting point of a business or personal exchange andoften determine the relationship thereafter. Western businesspersons see thesemeetings as an opportunity to put forward their proposed model for the venture, a fairlycut-and-dried program that forms the basis for discussions. Westerners assume that thejob at hand will define the relationship. They are often surprised that the Easternersappear to have no formal proposal on the table and instead wish to discuss issuesoutside the scope of the job. Easterners define the job at hand by the relationshipsbeing developed. Westerners need to ask more questions to get a feel for the situation.Easterners need to be more willing to put forward their point of view. Neither side willunderstand the other unless they have a close personal rapport.2. Status - is the basis for strong business relationships and is vital to the decision-makingprocess. Thus the person chosen to represent the organisation should be as senior aspossible and represent the overall interests of the organisation. In the East anindividuals business skills and bargaining power is initially the key to respect rather thantechnical or professional capacity. In the West we tend to regard personal ability andproven technical skills as being superior. Sending the right person for the job is acommon business practice in the West. In the East sending the person with the rightstatus for the relationship is the general rule of thumb. Easterners prefer ascribedstatus, where a person is appointed to a position because of their influence in a group.In the West we favour achieved status, where ones position is determined by theirpersonal effort. It is important to respect people both for their position and personalabilities.3. Agreements - are usually in the form of contracts or memorandums of understandingbetween groups that have agreed to work together. In the West it is generally regardedthat an agreement has been reached once the job at hand has been discussed andcontracts have been signed. Contracts should cover all aspects of the project to ensurethere are no grey areas. Until then, nothing is concrete. In the East agreements
  28. 28. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 28usually begin and end with a handshake. Wordy, legalistic contracts are regarded withsuspicion (Townshend, 1995:14). What contracts dont say are part of the businessrelationship and are dealt with in due course. Every single contingency cannot be metand is dealt with as it comes. The over-emphasis of the written word in Westernbusiness concerns those who believe that it diminishes the strength of personalrelationships. The under-emphasis of the written word in Eastern business causesuncertainty in those who are not comfortable with relying on personal relationships inbusiness matters.4. Time - is relative to our expectations of it, and in the West we expect individuals to beorganised and punctual. In the East time is more cyclical and subject to outside forcesbeyond individual control. Where Westerners seek to manipulate time, Easterners seekto work within its constraints. Life generally appears less hurried in the East, withleaders, because of their status, excused from being punctual. In the West life appearsmore hurried, because work is activity and leaders should be the most active of all.Westerners are expected to be punctual and Easterners are expected to be less pedanticabout time.5. Transfer - is the process and delivery of on-going business where ideas, technology andskills are applied to new business environments. Traditionally, the West has beenregarded as the provider of technical skills, while the East has regarded its way ofmanaging human relationships as being superior. Because both areas are the keys toachieving measurable business outcomes and benefits, it is vitally important that eachside is comfortable with the role of the other. Whether it be in the East or West,understanding each other enough to transfer knowledge comes down to strong personalrelationships and a well managed process—our complementary strengths.6. Conflicts - inevitably arise and are the most sensitive of all areas to deal with, as theyimpact most strongly on our cultural values. Because of the importance of harmony andpersonal relationships to Easterners, interpersonal skills in managing and resolvingconflicts are regarded as being definitive of a good manager. Personal skills andknowledge without the ability to perceive and defuse conflicts are not highly regarded byEasterners. Western managers are more often judged on performance, sometimes tothe detriment of their ability to resolve conflicts, as they prefer to solve them when theybecome a problem. This usually involves confronting the problem head-on, andpersonally dealing with the individuals involved. These very different ways of dealingwith conflict makes it a most sensitive area for cross-cultural managers, as decisionswhich are seen to cut across cultural boundaries can spell the untimely end of a businessventure.When East meets WestTo succeed in business where there is a significant cross-cultural element, we need tounderstand what motivates us to do what we do and why others react in certain ways. Ofequal importance is the recognition of our own cultural values and those of others. Are wewilling to live and work in an environment which is significantly different to our own? Do therisks involved outweigh the benefits? Only you can answer that, but it helps to know thecultural dynamics that influence the ‘other’ person. In the next section we will beendeavouring to look at Eastern and Western outworkings of culture in management. Thefive key characteristics of a competent cross-cultural manager, according to Fish and Wood(1996:40), is their ability to:1. Build strategic networks and form long term business alliances2. Develop strong interpersonal skills apart from technical competence
  29. 29. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 293. Know and be comfortable with their role in a new market and culture4. Understand the new business culture, language and work environment5. Competently transfer skills and technology in-market and manage them3. IN MANAGEMENTWestern ApproachManagement—the successful handling, control and direction of an organisation—is avery Western concept, implying strategies, processes, objectives and outcomes. We aspireto be good managers of our households, businesses and lives. For the purpose of thisexercise I have confined management to its outworking in business. Management isfundamentally a cultural process of finding ways to reach objectives within an existing socio-cultural system (Hofstede, 1983:7). Eastern and Western business and managementpractices make up the sum total of the issues we have studied in the previous sections ofthis book.Personal initiative and enterprise form the basis of Western management, with thesuccessful business tycoon, professional or sportsperson admired for their ability to succeedand make it. It is said that anything is forgiven in our culture except failure and this is verymuch the case with management. The pressure to successfully complete or progress aprogram to its realisation is at the core of Western business. If you dont succeed, thensomeone is always waiting to take your place. This highly competitive environment leads toa strong desire to "get on with things" and only talk about what is relevant to the job athand.We are prepared to negotiate, but only to gauge where we stand. Clear definitions,written contracts and signed agreements are what make us feel comfortable. It must be inwriting. Planning ahead and goal setting can then follow, based on a written proposal.Logical thinking makes us look at cause and effect—how to bring about the cause that willlead to the result we want. This reliance on a system to achieve outcomes assumes thatmost spheres of business (and life) can be controlled by a similar process. It also leads to aninnate confidence in our ability to solve problems—even if we expend all our currentresources, science will come up with new ones to exploit.In the West, management is active, determined primarily by the business relationshipbetween employer and employee, and is based on mutual advantage. Either party canterminate the relationship if it can be exchanged for a more beneficial deal elsewhere. Theclassic rule of supply and demand is also strongly adhered to in Western management. Assuch, lifetime employment in most organisations in the West has become a thing of the past.Being adaptable and showing initiative is the key.Therefore, we tend to view equality as being based on merit. If you are a highachiever and make a lot of money for the company, or if you are able to manage people welland motivate them as individuals in a group to work together and be productive, you are asuccessful manager and will be accorded status based on that merit.While the concept of merit is not always practiced in the West, it is a principle westrongly adhere to, believing that individuals should have the right to equal opportunities.Thus a strongly competitive vein runs through most business activities, especiallymanagement, as our individual expertise, skills and knowledge determine seniority. "To bejudged on our personal merits", is an important philosophy, even though ‘who you know andnot what you know’ often still determines the final outcome.
  30. 30. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 30Eastern ApproachIn the East management is essentially about relationships between people—theirsuccessful combination makes for good business. We aspire to have good relationships witheach other, because we know that these ties are more important than just being good atdoing our job. Group initiatives and cohesion are the hallmarks of Eastern management,while strong leaders able to represent their groups interests are most admired. The abilityto manage group interests lies at the core of Eastern business practices and filial duty formsthe basis of these relationships.Family ties, which may be direct, tribal, religious or based on an agreed statusbetween an individual and a group all form the basis for this type of business culture. Theserelationships are vital if you want to get ahead and patronage extends to all areas ofmanagement. What it means is that we dont necessarily judge people on their individualskills and knowledge, but on their status within the group. We often use terms of respect forpeople such as father or mother, ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, when in fact, they are not bloodrelations. This parent-child relationship defines Eastern management practices, and duty toeach other and the group rates above personal merit.Interpersonal trust is such an integral aspect of management, that we place humanrelationships at the pinnacle of the organisation, far above systems and processes, preferringin many instances to modify a process or system for a person, in order to not jeopardisegood work relations. A good manager is one who is able to maintain harmoniousrelationships internally and develop good business networks externally. This may notnecessarily mean being the highest achiever in financial terms, or the most technicallyqualified, but rather the most respected representative of the firm—one who knows how todo business in the widest possible sense.Competition is far less marked or obvious in the East and this means that knowinghow the organisation works is far more important in many cases than actually beingproductive. This does not mean that being productive is not regarded as being important orthat there isnt much competition in business, but how good your personal relationship iswith key decision-makers will often determine how far you can go in an organisation.Ultimately, management in the East is about developing trust with all those who matter tothe organisation.This means that external contacts and friendships are as vital to managing a businessas internal ones, since these political, social and cultural factors often determine the longterm success or failure of a venture. Developing mutual trust by fostering close relationshipswith patrons of senior status and rank within and without our organisation, and throughthem enhancing our own status, rank and face, are key characteristics of Easternmanagement. To be respected and trusted by our peers and seniors in fulfilling our duties isthe underlying aim of this management philosophy.When East meets WestAs East and West is brought closer together by global trade, management techniquesbecome extremely important. We are interacting with each other more and more, yet inmany ways do not understand the fundamentals of that exchange. As one of my businesscolleagues said to me recently, "We may speak the same language, but we are saying verydifferent things." In Eastern cultures people think in terms of we (our family, ourorganisation) and they (others). In business, relatives and friends are given preferabletreatment to strangers and this is the norm. It is expected. This sort of managementculture is termed particularist.
  31. 31. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 31An individualist culture on the other hand looks at me and you, with the norm beingthat everyone should be treated equally (even though in practice this is not always the case).This sort of management culture is termed universalist. These two distinct managementcultures influence all manner of business. Outlined below is a summary of the keydifferences:Management PrinciplesWESTERN EASTERN1. Relationship based on equality, meritand individual ability1. Relationship based on mutual benefit,duty and group dynamics2. Personal and professional contacts areput in different categories2. Contacts are regarded as being friendsonce accepted in group3. Be firm, stick to principles and dealwith problems immediately3. Save face, seek harmony and avoidconflicts at all costs4. Opinions determined by debate,individual thinking and input4. Opinions predetermined by leadersrepresenting individuals in groups5. Individual skills and knowledge definestatus with personal rewards5. Status and patronage where benefitsare shared with groupAs more and more Easterners and Westerners work together, the negatives andpositives of each others management approach comes to the fore. In the West there is atendency to place systems and processes before people, and apply rules and regulationswithout fear or favour. Easterners on the other hand, often mould systems and processes tosuit certain individuals and view rules and regulations in a similar light. Neither is right orwrong, for both have inherent weaknesses. The key is to know how these issues effectmanagement and use them to your advantage.4. IN POLITICSThis section attempts to avoid political models and ideologies and insteadconcentrates on politics as they are in East and West. We will mainly be looking at peoplesattitudes and how and why certain political systems seem to suit particular worldviews. Thecontention will be that the outworking of politics is primarily socio-cultural, since ideologiesand philosophies stem from similar roots.Western ApproachIndividual belief and persuasion characterises Western politics, with the freedom ofthe individual to vote for whomever they believe best represents their view. Western politicsare by-and-large about debate under a tight constitutional rule of law. This means thatdecision-making is based on constitutional guidelines. Where agreement cannot be reached,law-making bodies, such as the Supreme Court, decide the constitutionality of a decision.Some friction exists between these bodies and this is regarded as an appropriate system ofchecks and balances. Government is viewed as directly representing the people and publicservants and the bureaucracy as administrators of government policy, are servants of the
  32. 32. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 32people. While there is much cynicism in the West about this relationship, public servants andgovernment members are usually held accountable for their actions and receive noextraordinary privileges from the judicial system.In the West, the media is heralded as the champion of the people, bringing waywardpoliticians and bureaucrats to account through investigative journalism. Journalists, like allof us, hold to certain views and beliefs and media owners often seek government patronageto gain more influence, so like all watchdog organisations, have their own agendas.The key issue dictating the practice of Western politics is the freedom of theindividual to say almost anything they want to—whether positive or negative—and get awaywith it. Attempts by governments to impose regulations on freedom of speech via politicalcorrectness campaigns have mainly been ineffective. We believe that freedom of speechhelps guarantee other individual rights.While inequality exists, we are provided avenues and opportunities to pursue justicevia legal aid, lawyers, government representatives and advocacy groups. The aim ofgovernment in the West is that it be for the people and by the people, and even though thisis not always how it works in reality, individual rights, equality and the rule of law arehallmarks of the Western political system. Even though we would class ourselves as havingmore freedom than societies in the East, we are governed by far more rules, regulations andguidelines that maintain our so-called freedom. However, the tradition of separationbetween church and state has continued to be a buffer against the inclusion of class,religious and racial issues as dominant factors in the political process.Eastern ApproachGroup interests dominate Eastern politics, as do religious, racial, cultural andhistorical views. Cohesion defines Eastern politics and functional groups representing peoplegroups in society often determine the way individuals vote. Decision-making is characterisedby negotiating outcomes that are seen to be the best way forward in a particular situation,within a broad interpretation of a nations constitution. The final decision is made by theleader of the day, with little recourse to the courts or religious bodies. Friction and conflict isavoided and the system of checks and balances lies in the leaders skill of interpreting whatis best for the group.We view government as leaders of the people and accept that bureaucrats andgovernment members have positional privileges that individuals outside of this process donot have. They are not servants of the people, but rather respected members of the elite,and gaining favour with them is a good thing. Politics are determined by power, status, rankand class in society, thus political leaders and their minions are given much leeway in theiractions. Respect, trust and loyalty underpin this system, and when abused, leaders can beremoved, as they are seen to lack honour.The issue of face and honour influences the practice of politics in the East and thereporting of it by the media. Freedom of the press is recognised within certain boundaries.Namely, the good name of senior leaders and officials in society is not to be dishonoured byinvestigative journalists, who are after all of inferior status to government leaders. Reportingcan be critical, provided it does not focus on individuals who are highly respected in society.Avoiding overt criticism of those with status in society is the key factor in Easternpolitics. Negotiating change requires the right timing, forum and people to express ourviews. Student demonstrators may force change, but it is the senior representatives insociety who have earned honour and respect that will decide the changes. The maintenance
  33. 33. © Paul Rattray Eastern and Western Worldviews in focusBridging cultural divides 27.1.05 Page 33of harmony underpins Eastern politics. Therefore, individual freedoms which threaten groupcohesion are avoided, since we believe that these freedoms often promote disharmony,resulting in a loss of freedom for all.When East meets WestThese differing views of freedom in the political process mean that our interpretationof each other’s political systems is often quite mistaken. On the one hand many Easternersview Western politics as being crass, churlish and divisive, with all views being acceptable inthe political arena, even if they are not within the national interest.Westerners often view Eastern politics as being a facade of democracy underpinnedby absolute rulers, corrupt practices and suppression of individual rights—all under thebanner of maintaining national security and harmony.While there is a certain truth to these mutually shared views (we all think themsometimes), it is important to remember that democracy, politics and ideologies are all socialphenomena, defining what is common and what is alien to a society (Macridis, 1980:6-7). Ifwe can accept that worldviews and personal experiences define politics, it will help us tounderstand why some societies accept certain political models. This factor does not detractfrom the need to guard against the abuse of human rights, for that is a fundamental andGod-given responsibility of us all. Understanding why Easterners and Westerns view rightsfrom a different angle—the former from a group perspective, the latter from an individualperspective—will help alleviate misunderstandings and the hubris so often associated withpolitics.