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Secrets to understanding other cultures

Updated on January 1, 2012

When you travel, you are a fish out of water. Here's a crash course on the ways different cultures see the world.

Guilt versus Embarrassment Cultures
Western countries are rooted in the Judaic tradition of an all-seeing and inescapable God. Even if you cross the ocean you are still under God's gaze. The most important relationship is between God and man rather than man and his community.

Eastern cultures are embarrassment cultures. If your neighbour doesn't see it, it didn't happen. There is no all-seeing God to sin against. Being different from the group is what's shameful and wrong. The most important relationship is between man and community. Travel then is a chance to escape the community, explore radical behavior and break taboos. In embarassment cultures, you are much less likely to be invited to someone's home. They prefer to meet outside their neighbourhood where they are free from their neighbour's gaze.

Craftman versus Business Cultures
Japan, France, Spain and Italy are examples of craftsman cultures. Craftman cultures value art, literacy over money and power. great attention is paid to food, fashion and packaging.

America and China are examples of buisness cultures. This type of culture values money and power. While the craftsman tries to turn out one sword with the perfect balance of strength lightness and beauty, the businessman builds a factory to churn out swords for the masses at the best price-point. Efficiency rates higher than quality.

High Context versus Low Context Cultures

In a high context culture people spend a great deal of time explaining the context of a situation. Stories can be long-winded. While low context cultures just give you the point of the story as quickly as possible.


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