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The Cultural Differences Between the Japanese and Western Cultures

By Edited Jul 25, 2016 1 1

To most Westerners, the far east is a very exotic with an air of mystery. Most of this misunderstandings come from the fact that the Eastern and Western cultures are at opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to communication and interactions. Having been raised in a Western culture and having the opportunity to live in Japan after college has opened up my eyes to the beauties of both cultures.

Direct and Indirect Communications - In Western cultures, we communicate in a very direct way. Most communications are black and white with little room for interpretation. On the other hand, in Japan, you'll hear 'maybe' used a lot more often in their conversations when literary translated. But this does not mean that all communications are murky in Japanese. It just means that the Japanese language cannot literary translated into English, but also requires a bit more finesse in crafting the true meaning conveyed by your conversation partner.

Humility and Respect - Don't you ever wonder why people in East Asian countries bow to each other so often? Although humility and respect is a character virtue in any culture, the people of Japan hold it in higher regard than the mainstream Western culture. Elders are to be respected and need to be approached with humility, while in the Western culture, this humility and respect toward elders are subdued and a junior is able to stand and communicate on the same plane as their elders.

Filial Piety - A word rarely used in Western cultures, but a very important cultural norm in most Asian countries. Filial piety is based on Confucian ideals and is one of the most important virtues in Asian cultures. Although filial piety can be branched out into many different segments, the primary message is to respect and care for ones own parents. In Japan, this is called 'Oya-ko-ko-' which roughly translates into 'caring for parents.' This is not to say that Western parent and child relationships exhibit care for ones parents, but the extent to which care for ones parents is exhibited in Japan and other Asian countries is much higher and thorough than the norm seen in Western cultures.

As with any cultural observations, every single point made here will depend on the individual. Some individuals may exhibit more of these qualities than others, while some individuals may not exhibit any of these qualities at all, both in Eastern and Western cultures. It's easy to misunderstand cultures, but if we make an honest effort to learn and understand others with an open mind and leave ones ethnocentric view, we will see the beauty in all cultures.

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Comments

Mar 8, 2011 3:34pm
kdogg556
The Japanese culture has been one that i have always wanted to dive into and study. Your article has helped. thanks
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