8 Cultural Differences between Native Speakers and English Learners

8 Cultural Differences between Native Speakers and English Learners

December 2, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


Hmm. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. Hi. James from engVid. I’ve often said that
learning language, a foreign language is great. In this case,
you’re learning English, so congratulations. But a lot of students, they learn the language,
and they kind of forget about the culture, like it doesn’t really matter. Being an English
speaker, I was born in England, and the culture from England is very different from the culture
from Canada, even though they are closely related. So if you can imagine the cultural
difference between someone from, say, China and Canada, that would be
fantastically different. Well, as they say, as much as we’re different,
we’re the same. But in this case, I want to do a lesson on eight
differences in culture that if you’re learning the
language, which would be important. Now, what I’ve done is shown the
difference between the East and the West, because frankly, you may be
from the Middle East or Asia, and you want to do business with Canadians
or Americans or British people, and you should see what
we think are important. And as well, this helps out English-speaking
people about how we should communicate with you when we’re trying to teach you English.
You like that? Let’s go to the board. We have Mr. E, here. He wants to eat his…
Let’s see. What should he eat? I’m going to suggest that he has a pizza, because that’s
easy to draw, and anybody who knows me knows I’m a terrible drawer. There you go. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo. He’s having a piz-…
Pepperoni pizza. What would you suggest he eat with?
A knife or a fork, or chopsticks? Well, it seems obvious: Use your hands. See, when you understand, you
can manipulate or use things to your advantage. Let’s go to the board. We’ll start out with the West, which is where
we are. All right? In the West, we say “respect is earned”. That means I cannot give you
respect or look up to you until you have done something to show me that you deserve my respect or
I should give it to you. Just because you say: “Hello, my name is” doesn’t
mean anything. You have to say: “Hello, my name is, and I
have done these things.” Because of that and if you do something
that helps me, I will give you my respect. Okay? In the East, it’s a little different.
In the East, what we say is: “respect is due to hierarchy”. Hierarchy?
Well, just like the word says, think “high”, okay? The higher you are-okay?-the higher
position you have. So if I come in and say: “I am Generalissimo Kareer.” You go: “Oh, I
must give you great respect”, in the East, just because I am the General. I don’t have
to be a good General; I just have to be a General. You must give me respect. Well, in
the West, you’d have to be a good General that’s done a lot
of good things. Okay, number two: open debate is encouraged. If you’re
going: “What is open debate?” Open debate is conversation, but it’s more conversation where two
ideas are conflicting or they don’t go together. You think A, they think B. So
you don’t both agree necessarily. Maybe you think: “I don’t agree with this person,
or I don’t like everything they say”, so you have a debate, which is a conversation
to try and change each other’s mind. Okay? Open debate in the West is encouraged. If you
don’t like my idea, I’ll say: “Why? What’s wrong with it? Why don’t you come up with something?
Tell me what you think, or tell me what’s wrong with my ideas.” The challenge, we think,
brings a greater result. In other words, if you talk to me and we have a really good open
debate, things should be better at the end of the debate. Let’s look at the East. In
the East, open debate and confrontation is avoided. Partly, this is because in the East…
Remember we talked about hierarchy? There’s a level or layers? Well, if you question someone
and they are on a higher level, you are not showing them the respect they deserve, so it
is almost better to do your debate… Or, not even debate, but questions in a less public
area. So it is not open debate; more of a private thing with you and that person, and
even then, you shouldn’t really question them, but ask questions of them.
Okay? That’s number two. Number three, let’s look at individual success
and material success. In the West, they matter, it’s important. Yes, who I am is
important, but it’s who I am, just myself. Have I done well in school? Have I made a lot
of money? Have I bought a lot of things? If so, I am good and I’m very
successful, and this is great. Okay? It sounds normal,
until we consider in the West, success is group success. That
means: Yes, I’ve done well, but: How is my brother? How are my parents? How is
my sister? Is my family doing well? If your family is not doing well, you cannot claim to be
successful in the East. So they look at not even just the family, but your society. Is your country
doing well? Is your city doing well? If your whole country is doing well, you are successful.
If they are not, things are not good. While in the West, it doesn’t matter.
Look at Donald Trump. Okay. [Laughs]. If you don’t know who he is, please watch The Apprentice
and My Failure to be President, if you watch those two movies or programs, you’ll see what
I’m talking about. Anyway. Where are we? Next, let’s go back here. Vocal leadership.
In the West, we like our leaders to talk, talk, talk, and tell you: “I’m the leader,
listen to me because I’m the one who knows what’s going on. I am the important one. You
should know this. I’m the leader. I make the most, I talk the most.
And look at me.” In the East, leadership is silent.
It’s not that the leaders won’t speak, they speak, but remember
it’s about group success? They will talk more about: “We have done this, we are doing this. We,
as a society or a group, are coming forward. I am proud of my people.” Versus:
“I did it, and I’m the one.” Okay? So the leadership is
a little bit more silent. They say: “We lead from behind”, which is we lead, but we let the people
take the credit or get the… Get praised. While in the West, I stand in the front and I
should get the praise, because I’ve done it. Okay? Where are we now? Let’s go down to five, which is
strange: law more important than the relations. In the West, we have what’s called “the letter
of the law”. If the law says do this, you must do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re my
mother, my father, my brother, a good uncle or a good friend. What does the law say I have
to do? That is more important, that comes first. In business relationships, let’s say.
Not necessarily family, but especially in business relationships, we love contracts.
We love to have the piece of paper, we like to have the writing, because that tells us what
I’m supposed to do and what you’re supposed to do, and everything’s organized
so there’s no questions. In the East, we
notice relationships are more important than
the letter of the law. This is true and not true.
In the West, we used to be more like this, but in the East
it’s still so, which is: When we shake hands, that is the bond. The contract shouldn’t be
necessary. We… They do it because it is the modern world, but they look at you as a
person. If they don’t trust you, they don’t care about the paper. What is the relationship
like? Is it a good relationship? Then they will sign the paper because they trust you,
and they know that what you say they believe will happen, not what the paper says. While
in the West, we point to the paper and say: “You have to do it because the paper said
it. I don’t need a relationship with you.” So in the East, they will try and actually
make relationships, go out for dinner, meet you in maybe your home just to get to know you
so that they know when you say something, they can believe it or trust it. In the West, recent
accomplishments matter. An “accomplishment” is
a deed or a goal. You have done this, and you can show people: “Look
what I have done. I have made a million dollars. I have built a house. I have
finished school and graduated.” They care or we care about recent.
What have you done today? Or Janet would say: “What
have you done for my lately?” We want to know what you’ve done today. We don’t
care about 20 years ago, that was 20 years ago. Maybe you were a great
movie star 20 years ago. Tom Cruise, what have you done recently?
Mission Impossible, what? Okay. You know what I’m saying.
Right? When you look at that, we’re looking at
today. What matters is today. And it’s true. The sun comes up today. If you died 10
years ago, you don’t matter anymore. But today, what are you doing? Talk to me about that. In the East, it’s a
little different. They like to look at you might say character. Remember we talked about
relationships? They look at what you’ve done in the past because they believe what you
did before-okay?-is what you’re going to do in the future. They think: “Okay, if you’ve always been a good
person, even if you make a mistake today, you’ve been a good person, you’ll probably
be a good person again in the future.” Or if you’re a bad person, you’ve always
been bad: Just because you’re good today doesn’t mean you’re going to be good
forever. And between those two differences, you might say: “Wow, that’s a really big world
difference”, because one seems to be based on just the here and now with no thought to
the future and no caring about the past. But in some ways, in the West, we’re more
apt to… We’re more able to say: “Hey, look, if you change and
want to be a better person, we’ll support that
because we look at what you’re doing now. Maybe you were bad before,
but you’re good now. We give you a chance.” Well, in the West… The Eastern way of looking
at it, if you were bad before, you’re probably still bad and shouldn’t be trusted.
Which is better? I don’t know. Okay. Now let’s go to number 7: results matter. In the
West, it’s not what you were thinking about. I wanted to help my
friend who was on drugs, and he was really, really, really, really needing
them, so I bought the drugs so he would feel better. That’s my intention. In the West, if that person dies, you
can go to jail because: “Hey, he died.” But you would say: “I was
trying to help them.” And we would say: “We don’t care. What you did, what
happened, the result was, that’s what matters.” Okay? If you look at the
East, it’s difference. They talk about: “What
were you trying to do? What was in your head at the time?
We know the person maybe died because they took too many
drugs, but you were trying to kill them? No. You were
trying to make them feel better, to relax them, to make
their life easier. Oh, okay, well, that makes
everything different.” And this goes back to
the relationship thing. If you have a relationship, there’s a trust
built in, so they look for your intention and they go on that. Well, in the West because
we’re looking at what’s happening now, the result matters. What happened in the end?
That’s all that matters. One last, one way to look at is here:
exact time. What does that mean? In the West, 12 o’clock means 12 o’clock. In the East, 12 o’clock means 12 o’clock or 12:10, around that.
Okay? It’s approximate. That’s an important
one, because if you have to meet somebody from the West, especially if they’re from
Germany, meet at 12 o’clock. If they’re from maybe China or maybe, I don’t know,
Laos, 12:05, you’ll be okay. All right? Now, I want to do a test to see if you
understand the cultural differences. Actually, just before that, let’s
just go over really quickly. What I want you to understand
is there is really no better one. I’m not saying West is better
than East, it’s just something to keep in mind because we have a lot of relations, and
our big world is becoming smaller, and in order to understand each other, we have to
understand how we think. And then we use our language, we can use the right language
at the right time with the right people. Does that make sense? Good. I’m going to help
you, because we’re going to go do a test now to test how well you understand the difference
between here, which is relationship-based, and here, where we base things on facts
and exact matters. Or you could say: the individual versus the society
or the collective. All right. Are you ready? Let’s
go to the board. [Snaps]. Okay, test time. Now, just once again, I
mentioned it, remember this is a generalization. Countries such as Japan and Korea are, when I
talked about the time thing, they’re very much on exact time, but in general… General thought,
when we’re saying that East has more of a, we say, circular dynamic, they approach things
a little bit holistically, while we are more direct. Is one better than the other? Do you
remember about the pizza? Is it better to eat pizza with a knife and fork, or
chopsticks? It’s better with your hands. So I would say a synthesis or bringing them together
would be best, but let’s do our test and take a look. Here we go. Cowboy mentality. Cowboy mentality
is the Western mentality. Right? We are like… We are strong, we are individuals, we do everything
by ourselves, even though the roads, and the ships, and the airplanes are built by lots
of other people, that doesn’t matter. If I’m a pilot, I fly the plane. I didn’t make
it, I didn’t design it, I didn’t invent it. But that is our Western mentality, but it’s kind
of cool, because we think we can do anything if we put our minds to it as an individual.
Samurai mentality is this…You go: “Samurais are individual soldiers.” Not really.
The Samurai, which is the Eastern mentality, they serve, they serve a master,
and they serve the greater good. So even though they are powerful like a cowboy,
they say: “I use my power for my master”, and in that way, we serve
everybody; everybody is served. As the individual,
you would say: “By my great accomplishments,
I bring up society.” And in the East, they say: “By working
together, we bring up society.” Yin and Yang. [Laughs].
Anyway. Moving on. Quiz time. All right? Are you ready? We
have top four questions on the board. I’m going to ask the first one, and I want you to
try to think carefully about all the information I gave you: What would be the appropriate
way to interact? Because that’s what this lesson is about. Yes, you speak English, but
what kind of English should you be using? A more direct line, talking to a Westerner, or
coming at it from a side or a little softer, on an angle for an Easterner?
Let’s go to the board. When having an interview with an Asian
manager, would he or she care more about your past history, your
performance over time, or your recent accomplishments, what have you done lately?
Remember Janet Jackson? Miss Jackson if you’re nasty. Okay. Think about it.
Take a second. That’s right. They would care more about
your past history. They’re going to… Even in the West, don’t get me wrong, we do look
back at your history to see what you’ve done, but we’re more looking at, you know,
accomplishment, accomplishment, and then we want to know: What are you doing now? What’s
important now? In the East, they’re more looking back at your character: What decisions have you
made and what kind of character have you developed? Similar but different. Right? Keep that
in mind. So they’re going to be looking more for your past history, because they say
that will show us what you’ll do in the future. Well, in the West, we’d be looking at: “Hey,
what you’re doing now is important, because then we’ll see what you’re going.” Right? So,
answer to this one is: past history of performance. Let’s do number two. If you are having a conversation
with a Western friend and you disagree with them, which is your best approach?
Have an open debate, or say nothing and let
them figure it out? That’s right. I was too quiet. As a Western person, I would have said:
You need to have an open debate. Right? In the East, it’s not that
they don’t talk, but they might suggest something.
Like if I said: “Do I look fat in this coat?” In the West, I’d go: “Yeah, you look fat.
Change it.” In the East, they would say: “Hmm. Does a worm look
big in a thimble?” You go: “What!?” They’re like: “Think about it, then
you’ll figure it out, then you will change the coat, but I’m not going to say you look
fat, but you’ll know.” Okay? So it’s a silly joke, but it’s just saying they
would give you some way to think about it; while in the West, we just tell you yes or
no. Okay? Once again, which one’s better? It’s really not about being better. It’s about
understanding the culture. Okay? But in the West, if you’re having a conversation, you
disagree with someone, we want to hear about it. We don’t want you to be silent. We want
you to tell us what your disagreements are, because we might think we can make something
better by you saying something or bring up something we never thought about. Okay? While
in the East, they’d probably want to do it in a different time
in a different way. Number three: If you are on a date
with your new Western girlfriend [clicks tongue] “wonw, wonw”, or boyfriend, “roof, roof, roof”.
Okay? And you want to impress
them, which would you…? Which would they care more about?
Okay? Your success, your personal success, or your family’s success? Now, remember we’re
talking about your Western girlfriend or boyfriend. That’s right, you can hear the audience all clamoring
around just now: “Yay!” in the background. Well, they’re going to care about your Ferrari,
your new position, your new raise, and your new house. They’re going to care more about
your success, because in the West, we think: “Look, a person does what they do. It
doesn’t matter what you come from.” And that’s part of our personal, we call it, ethos
or our story. Or we like to think that anyone can be anything, so a poor person can become
President of the United States of America, or the Prime Minister of Canada. We think that is
true, and because of that, we think your success is important. What are you doing? It’s not
where you came from. It’s what you’re doing now and your successes; not your family’s
successes. So for your Western partner, tell them about what you’re doing,
show them the keys. Okay? Number four and our final one: If you want to
convince an Eastern friend to do something, which is your best approach? Sorry, I forgot a
little… There. What’s your best approach? Do you talk about the results, how much money
you’re going to make, or the intention, the reason why you should do it? Now, think about it,
it’s an Eastern friend. That’s right. In the East, what’s important are your intentions
and your effort. How much work did you put in, what were you trying to do? They are aware
that things happen in life, not always great. But if you were trying to do the right thing,
you should be treated accordingly or treated correctly because you were trying to do the
right thing. You won’t always get the results. Maybe in the future, it’ll happen, but maybe it
didn’t happen now. So if you want to convince them to start a business with you or do something,
talk about your intentions, what you’re trying to do, and really talk about society,
how it will benefit the society. They’re going to be much more reasonable or much more
willing to help or work with you. Then in the West, we would talk about results, like: What am I
going to get? What’s going to happen? Cool? Well, the result of this video is you
should have a better understanding of the East and the West. And please remember
the East is not just China, Korea, and Japan. There’s Vietnam, there’s Laos, other countries,
there’s… India is considered part of the East. So when we talk about these generalizations, and they
are generalizations, remember we’re talking about a planet and a globe, and these are
general ideas that if we approach these people with an open mind and these ideas are in your mind,
you will probably have a much more successful relationship. And the
West is the same. America and Germany are Western, but they’re
not exactly the same, but the ideas of being on time, and being
results-driven are important. But Germans also care
about the environment that they’re in. See? A generalization will get
you in trouble if you take it too seriously. But on that note, in order to help
you learn more and learn faster, maybe go back and look at other videos on
cultural differences we have on engVid, I would like you to go to www, eng as in
English, vid as in video.com (www.engvid.com) where there’ll be a test that you can take on
this, and you’ll learn more about our language. Anyway, have a good one. E, you look good as a Samurai. Chow.