Having the opportunity to live in both America and Asia for large chunks of my life I’ve really noticed the difference in mentalities between the two cultures. In the United States it is a ‘me’ mentality. We are promoted to do what we want and pursue the things that interest us the most. The American ideal is based on the philosophy that everyone is equal. If we take care of ourselves, then everyone has a fair chance at being happy.
The Asian mentality is very different and approaches the group and individual in the opposite manner. The idea is to create group harmony while sacrificing personal desires. The idea is if the group is happy than the individuals will find happiness as well.
A good example would be going out to dinner or lunch with a group of friends. Here in the US when I go out everyone takes a look at the menu and orders what they want to eat. In many cases there will be overlaps on what is ordered, but since everyone is eating their own meal it doesn’t matter. Once the meal is finished in some cases we ask for separate checks or calculate what we own based on what we ordered. Some friends will split the costs evenly while others will nitpick about every item (there’s always that person who doesn’t want to pay for the appetizer that they didn’t eat). While this is the fairer method of having a meal with friends as everyone gets to eat what they want and pay fairly for it, I tend to prefer the Asian way.
When I go out to dinner with my Korean friends before we order we all discuss what we want and order as a group so the meal can be shared. Once the food arrives everything is placed in the center and everyone gets a chance to try out different things. Once it’s time to pay the bill usually one person will pick up the tab. The next time out someone else will cover the bill. This method isn’t the fairest as someone will pay for dinner while someone else pays for coffee or drinks, but everyone can have a positive feeling from the bill. The person paying gets to feel good for buying dinner for friends and everyone else feels good because someone bought them dinner.
Again the American or Western way is fairer, but sometimes fair doesn’t feel good. So next time you’re out with your friends take a moment to stop thinking of ‘me’ and start thinking of ‘we’.
Originally posted 2016-12-21 08:33:08.