(Chapter 4: Individualism vs. Group Identity)
After reading chapter 4 (pp. 41-53) in Foreign to Familiar, respond to one or more of the following questions based on 1) what you’ve read and 2) your personal observation, experience, and opinions:
- In your experience, do U.S. teachers/professors/managers generally give more or less direction (or the same amount) compared to teachers/professors/managers in your home culture? Do U.S. teachers/professors/managers have different expectations regarding the role/responsibilities of their students/employees than those of authorities in your home culture? If so, what adaptations are likely to best help someone from your culture succeed in the U.S. context as an academic or industry professional?
- If you were the leader of a team at school or work consisting primarily of people from a more group-oriented or more individual-oriented culture than your home culture, what changes (if any) would you need to make to your leadership style?
- The author of Foreign to Familiar writes, “The leaders of international gatherings may need to find ways to give greater weight to the input of a person representing his group culture [vs. the weight assigned to opinions of people from individualistic cultures whose input represents only their own views]” (p. 43). Practically, how might leaders of international academic exchange program negotiations or an international company do this?
- Imagine it’s the second week of the semester. You discovered last week that the new U.S. American postdoc in your lab likes listening to music while she works and because she’s generally the first to arrive each day, begins the day doing so without earphones. You usually arrive an hour later than she does and your professor usually arrives an hour after that. Your U.S. American colleague has just asked if it’s okay with you that she not put her earphones on until your professor arrives. What will you say and why?
- Imagine you have a friend from a culture not emphasizing individual expression of opinions. Your friend is currently working in a lab with a U.S. American professor as well as labmates who are mostly from the U.S. Your friend tells you that when he approached his professor a few days ago about writing him a letter of recommendation for a possible U.S. job, his professor seemed hesitant. Your friend is very upset because, although his professor has occasionally criticized him, he had had no clue that his professor was dissatisfied with him overall. He also has no idea what he should do to improve. Your friend already spends more hours working in the lab each week than any of his labmates. . . . What do you think are his professor’s concerns? How would you advise your friend to improve? (Clue: His U.S. American professor is almost certainly teaching his own children, “You must be able to think independently!”) Finally, why do you think your friend’s professor hasn’t repeatedly mentioned whatever concerns he has until your friend’s performance improved?