So, you’re thinking of moving to Asia? That’s great! That’s what XploreAsia is here for. We facilitate and support your adventures teaching English abroad. However, it helps to embark on your journey with some of the facts already in hand so you are well-prepared to settle into your new home. In this blog post, we run down some information we wish we’d known before moving to Asia from the west.
Why Can Moving to Asia be Challenging?
If you come from an English speaking country, there’s a high chance you’ve been accustomed to an individualist culture. To name a few, the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia are all countries that have an individualistic culture. Collectivism is vastly different than individualism, and adjusting to the differences can be a challenge. Culture touches every part of life. It can determine how you perceive relationships, how you evaluate yourself, and what you may prioritize. Knowing the differences between the two cultures helps avoid the surprise.
What is Individualism?
Individualistic cultures favour independence and self-reliance. The right of an individual precedes that of the group. There’s an emphasis on being unique and standing out. As independence is highly revered in individualistic cultures, many people believe that you should be able to solve your own problems. It can be seen as embarrassing if you need to ask others for help rather than “just getting on with it” on your own.
What is Collectivism?
In collectivist societies, the needs of the group are favoured over that of the individual. It is seen as a no-brainer to sacrifice your comfort for the greater good. As collectivistic cultures place importance on their community, it’s common to find people reaching out to family and friends for support, and relying on each other during difficult times. Social-cooperation is also very important. People prioritize harmonious relationships and avoid confrontation. Conversely to individualism, people from collectivist cultures hold self-concepts that are centered around interdependence and their roles in groups.
What Can You Expect?
Upon moving to Asia, you will come to interact with the locals. At first, you might not notice it, but you will gradually come to understand what it means to hold collectivistic views. This can be an eye-opening change for someone who has only had experience with an individualistic culture. In many Asian countries, people are more attentive to other people’s needs and opinions. They are focused on maintaining a good image of themselves and fulfilling a social role within their community. Therefore, you might meet people who value social gatherings to a great degree.
Social gatherings are known to strengthen bonds between colleagues or friends, as they are seen as important events that can help build a stronger community. Community plays a big part in collectivist cultures and people feel obligated to fulfill social roles in their community. Whether it is to be a good daughter to your parents, or a loyal friend. After moving to Asia, you may find yourself getting involved in these social events and becoming attached to your new community in your new home.
You can see the clash between individualism and collectivism clearly play out in a work setting. In an individualistic work setting, creativity and individual achievements are valued, and a lot of times, people are awarded bonuses based on their performance. However, in a collectivistic work setting, teamwork is valued. It is frowned upon if someone disrupts the group harmony. More importantly, hierarchy is very prominent in a collectivist work setting. A lot of people try and read the atmosphere to avoid upsetting anyone, especially their superiors. So when you get placed in a new work setting in Asia, you may find it hard to understand the significance placed on group work and might think it’s odd how a lot of people may tiptoe around their employers. However, being armed with this prior knowledge of how collectivism operates will hopefully make it easier to assimilate after moving to Asia.
Enjoy Your Adventure in Asia!
Moving to Asia will surely be quite the adventure! Understanding the collectivistic values in many Asian countries will save you some of the confusion you might experience during your time abroad. Don’t get too caught up on thinking like a collectivist, though! This post is just meant to help you become aware of the differences between each culture. Keep in mind to respect the social etiquette in the country you are staying in and enjoy your adventure in Asia!