culture and personality difference – USA vs Japan

Posted: November 27th, 2013





Culture and Personality differences-USA vs. Japan

Culture is the way in which a certain group of people or a society lives. These include their way of thinking, their beliefs, behaviors, feelings, norms, dressing styles, and language. Generally, culture is shared values and norms within a given group. Every society raises its people with sets of values, beliefs, and attitudes (Arne, 1992, p. 6). On the other hand, personality is the mental organization of an individual at any level of growth and development. It involves all aspects of a person’s behavior, skill, morality and attitude that have been developed during one’s lifetime. Therefore, personality and culture are connected in ways that cannot be easily understood. It should be noted that a society’s culture of a person does not show every details concerning his personality. Thus, this can be well demonstrated by the concepts of individualism and collectivism. Personality application theories can in this issue can assist in determining the applications of cultural personality in this respect.

Individualism and collectivism are traits that explain the common cultural attitude toward the individual as compared to the society. The best example to this comparison of individualism and collectivism on the scale of culture include the United States of America, which is considered to be in the high rank of individualist society, whereas Japan is considered to be a highly collectivist society. According to research carried out by different researchers, United States of America and Japan are culturally different in many ways. For instance, the cultural tradition of United States is based on the successes and the income levels of its people as per individual, it promotes small families or people of low status. United States also focuses on praising and encouraging the freedom of thinking and personal self-expression. It likes to promote and develop the choices of its people to enable them view the human experiences as different from the natural world, placing human above the natural world most of the time.

In contrast to the United States culture and personality, Japanese community values the achievement of the group but not individual achievements. According to Japanese culture, there is no freedom of thinking and individual expression, it discourages free-form artistic techniques all rather, it depends more on ritualized forms and structures (Arne, 1992, p. 120). Japanese culture does not place much value on individual choices or the freedom of choice. Above all, these, Japanese culture being an animistic religion it views the natural world to be the same with humanity but not as a separate entity from human beings. According to these culture, particularly in Shinto places human beings to be part of the natural world and therefore, they are not put different from the natural all rather they are one thing and they are not separated by having  a soul. Therefore, this contrast highly with the views of Christianity, which is the major religion in the United States, which believes that only human creatures were created with souls and this, makes them different and unique in the natural world.

The framework of individualism and collectivism also illustrates the personality characteristics, behaviors or habits and traits that are developed because of culture in which some individualist or collectivists’ traits are created. Nevertheless, it is true to say that, these traits are highly attributed to the context of culture since they are not encountered to exclusion within the cultures. For instance, in Japan parents in their old age will be taken care of by their children, whereas in the United States of America, it is culturally believed that parents have to take care of themselves in their old age as a common belief and norm. Even more surprisingly is the belief that, parents in the United States have to employ someone who can help in homes. Even though, in the United States community, there are still a good number of old parents who are being taken care of by being taken to a hired health care facility (Ewen, 2003, p. 90). Some Japanese elders who enjoy taking care of themselves despite the fact that it is their children’s duty to protect them during their old age.

According to studies, cultural and personality differences in different societies have to do with the way food is prepared, music, and what is considered by each culture as politeness. Preparation of food can be very different, for instance, the process of preparing food in the untoed states of American is very different from the Japanese way of cooking (Hofstede 10). In Japanese community, an outsider is just treated like an outsider no matter how good and nice the person may be. They are always viewed as very sensitive to what other people will think about them or what they will say behind their back. Japan is a very reluctant society especially in doing something new or embracing change or even developing the habit of being independent. Whereas in United States of America, every person is treated equally and the country is highly independent and ready to embrace, any change whether in physical terms or social terms.

Various studies have already been done concerning the way the Japanese and Americans differ particularly in expression and perception of facial expression of emotions. These types of cultural differences can be related to differences in cultural display and decoding regulations. Availability of these types of rules shows that individuals of different culture may have different assumptions concerning social personality characteristics focusing on facial expression particularly in form or a smile. Through this experiment, it is realized that Americans have associated extra positive qualities to smiling faces more than the Japanese has. Therefore, it is true to say that, Japanese and American are different in the way they make judgments although not in all dimension (Jung, 1996, p. 12).

Various models have tried to explain the issues of personality and culture. For instance, the relation between Erickson’s model and the individualism –collectivism is not obvious especially when considering a person or a society, which has been within the same culture for a very long time (Kim, 1994, p. 36). Nevertheless, the relation is seen to be obvious when a society takes into consideration of a person that has changed their culture in terms of birth for some time or for a long time or permanently through migration. For instance, when a person moves to a new society during early adulthood will be exposed to some new culture and experiences thus with time, the cultural influences will be integrated into the persons personality as it continues to develop.

In Japanese society, group prosperity is encouraged more than individual achievement. Therefore, when an individual tries to protect his or privacy, going after their goals, and things their own way, they are forced to follow each rule and ensure that others are doing the same. It is always unfortunate for those living in big cities because there is no personal space and therefore the small space given requires group connection (McCrae, 2002, p. 45). This thus shows how Japanese culture tries to take away or deny people the right or freedom of expression. Therefore, to overcome the stress and tension resulting from such environment, the Japanese youths enjoy making friendship with people from western so that they can have the freedom of expressing their views freely to them without worrying about being discriminated (Robbins, 2009, p. 23). On the other hand, this is completely opposite with the Americans.

In the United states of America, individual development is promoted an d everyone has a chance to express his or her views freely without worrying or considering what may happen to them. Individuals are encouraged to work hard and make their dreams come true. There is no much privacy in America as it is with the Japanese culture. It is noted that Japan’s culture views privacy as a very vital good particularly in cultural terms than demographic purposes and people are not allowed to follow up other people’s lives. Individuals are encouraged to mind their own businesses and life (Roxworthy 56). Many things in Japan are done indirectly especially through gossiping and meddling. Therefore, Japanese culture and personality is unique and much different from that of the United States of America. For instance, in Japan, people spend a lot of time mastering their language than the Americans and Japanese pay close attention to the type of food they eat than the Americans.

Japanese and American countries are very different in their culture and personalities just as discussed above. The cultural tradition of United States is based on the successes and promotion of income levels of its people as per individual, it promotes small families or people of low status. United States also focuses on encouraging the freedom of thinking and self-expression. Although the Japanese culture does not place much value on individual choices or the freedom of choice rather, it promotes more group prosperity than individual achievement.

According to Japanese culture, there is no freedom of thinking and individual expression, it discourages free-form artistic techniques all rather, it depends more on ritualized forms and structures. Japanese culture does not place much value on individual choices or the freedom of choice. Therefore, there is great different between Japan’s culture, personality, and the United States of America starting from the way they relate to each other to the way they think.



Works Cited

Arne, James. Culture, control, and commitment: a study of work organization and work attitudes in the United States and Japan. New York, NY: CUP Archive, 1992. Print.

Ewen, Robin. An introduction to theories of personality. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 2003. Print.

Hofstede, George. Culture’s consequences. Berkeley, CA: SAGE Publications, 2001. Print.

Jung, Cing. The portable Jung. (J. Campbell, Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1996. Print.

Kim, Hakkoe. Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method and applications. Berkeley, CA: SAGE Publications, 1994. Print.

McCrae, Allik. The five-factor model of personality across cultures. New York,
NY: Springer, 2002. Print.

Robbins, Stephen. Organizational behavior: global and Southern African perspectives. South Africa: Pearson South Africa, 2009. Print.

Roxworthy, Emily. The spectacle of Japanese American trauma: racial performativity and World War II. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2008. Print.

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