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Debunking the View of Self

By Jonathan Nesvig – HCC ReEntry Coordinator

Liu Yang’s book, East Meets West (中文名是:东西相遇), contains simple pictographs which show the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. While there are many similarities among humans from different cultures, there are also many differences: some obvious and some not so obvious. The feature picture is from Liu Yang’s book, which expresses how the west and east view “self.”

Western culture is very individualistic. From a young age, people in the west are encouraged to think for themselves, make their own decisions, and form their own opinions. In contrast, Eastern cultures put greater emphasis on the group. People don’t see themselves as individuals but as members of a larger group. It’s important to contribute and play your part within the particular group whether your family, work, or country. The self is much less important.

One way this plays out is in decision making. When a Westerner is making a decision, he or she doesn’t have to take into consideration too many other relationships and factors; he or she can just choose what they want to do. He or she is an individual and he or she can make his or her own decision. In Eastern cultures, it’s not so simple. When making a decision, there are many factors and people that must be taken into consideration because the individual is part of a group. There’s a greater concern to maintain harmony and “face” in relationships than to do what one wants to do.

Individualism is also evident in how Westerners and Easterners relate to money. Francis Hsu, a Chinese anthropoligist, said that the two greatest fears Americans have are to be dependent on others and to be without money (Hiebert, 123). And if Westerners are without money, they are less likely to ask family or friends to help them out; rather, they will go to the bank to get a loan. This is foreign in Eastern cultures. Because Eastern cultures are less individualistic, they tend to be more dependent upon one another. So when one needs money, they will likely reach out to family and friends for help; they will not go to the bank for help.

Please leave your feedback in how you’ve experienced this aspect of culture in America or in China.

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