Asian culture

Hey Tiger Mom– It’s Location, Location, Location

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, family life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Tiger Mom is all over the place trash talking us moms in the West.  Although I find her righteousness annoying, I do admire her business savvy. She clearly knows that in America, inflammatory insults are the fastest way to get tons of publicity.

I’m sure if she wrote a book that said, “Here’s one possible way to raise your kids, and parts of it worked for me and parts didn’t,” she probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.  But say you’re better than American culture, and there is bound to be blow back.

Tiger Mom’s techniques may work well (or not) if you live in Tigerland. If you raise your tiger using Tiger Mom techniques, and you live in, say Dolphinville, your kid probably won’t fit in too well and won’t develop necessary dolphin skills.

Every culture has great moms. They are great because they are lovingly raising their children to be successful in their own culture, by their own cultural standards. Parenting and culture are not one-size-fits-all.

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Pets: love them, pamper them or eat them for dinner?

Posted on May 7, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural conflict, cuisine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The other night I was watching The Dog Whisperer (I have no idea why), which is a TV show about a man who has some preternatural ability to understand and communicate with dogs. He helps families whose pets are having emotional or behavioral problems. In this episode, Cesar, the Dog Whisperer, was explaining to a woman “your dog is jealous of your husband.” She nodded knowingly.

I have never understood people who are crazy for their pets, and think of them as their children. Americans spend about 10 billion dollars a year on their pets. There are pet therapists, pet cemeteries, and pet spas.  A friend of mine cancelled her vacation, losing her non-refundable plane tickets, because she couldn’t find her cat pre-departure.

Years ago, when I was a new ESL teacher, I did an exercise with students where they had to match a list of items with the store in which they belong —the hammer goes in the hardware store, the lettuce goes in the green grocer, the rolling papers go in the bodega, etc. When we reviewed the answers together as a class, I was amused to find that all the Chinese students had put the pets in the butcher shop.

Fish, rabbits and reptiles are often pets, but no one really complains about eating them. It is often seen as a personal preference.  Even horses, beloved in the US,  are eaten in some European countries.

The biggest battle lines seem to be drawn for dogs and cats.  It also seems to be an East/West divide.  It is not uncommon for these animals to be on the menu in China, Korea or parts of South East Asia.  Westerners, on the other hand, not only refuse to eat them, but find it horrifying that others do.

Why, of all the animals that are kept as pets–fish, birds, cats, dogs, horses, reptiles, etc–are there such strong emotions in this cultural divide? What is it about cats and dogs that sets them apart?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

American medicine and accupuncture

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, cross cultural, healthcare | Tags: , , , , , , , |

My elbow is killing me. It hurts to drive, write, and basically do anything. Next week, I am having surgery to correct the problem. I originally wanted to try acupuncture, but it was not covered by health insurance. I have had great success with acupuncture for other things.  

The insurance company wouldn’t cover accupuncture, but it would cover surgery. Comparing the two, acupuncture is cheaper, less invasive, has no side effects or recovery time, and best of all, is less painful. So why isn’t it covered by insurance?

When I was diagnosed with a torn tendon, I asked the doctor if acupuncture could help repair it. He said without a pause, “Voodoo. That’s all acupuncture is. Voodoo. There is no written literature anywhere on its effectiveness.” (He is no longer my doctor.) The second doctor said he didn’t know much about acupuncture, but “whatever works for you is OK.”

American doctors know little about Eastern medical treatments that have been used by billions of people for thousands of years.  If they bothered to learn about them, they would have a greater understanding of possibilities and options, as well as insights into their Asian patients. 

The insurance company may see covering such unproven and voodoo medical practices as a slippery slope. If they agree to cover the cost of accupuncture as well as surgery, what’s next? Covering dried tiger penis powder as well as Viagra?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The culturally competent healthcare provider

Posted on March 17, 2009. Filed under: American culture, arab culture, Asian culture, cross cultural communication, diversity, Hatian culture, healthcare, hispanic culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Healthcare providers face multiple challenges when working with patients from different cultures. Unlike managers and employees who work with diverse coworkers and customers, healthcare providers interpretations and decisions impact the patient’s life and future.

I enjoy delivering culture training to healthcare workers. They usually “get it” and understand the importance the role culture plays in their interactions, as well as the idea that culture is more than  just ethnicity.

Still, I often hear the frustration healthcare workers encounter when providing services to members of other cultures. Even though they have the best intentions, they often don’t know how to address these differences.

Examples include:

1. Only immediate family were allowed to visit a patient in the hospital. About 12 members of an extended Hispanic family showed up, wanting to see the patient. When the provider said, “only immediate family” the response was, “We are immediate family!”  To them, the idea that a cousin or aunt is any less immediate was ridiculous.

2. A woman from Jordan was in consultation with a physician, her elder brother by her side. Before she would make any decisions or offer any responses, she would look at her brother, have a quick conversation in Arabic, and then the brother would provide the answer. The physician thought she could build a better relationship with the patient without the brother in the room. When she asked him to leave, the patient panicked and started to cry.

3.  An Hispanic patient brought her 3 children with her for her MRI, even though the healthcare provider explained that the testing would take about 1 hour, and the children could not be left unattended in the waiting room.

4. During intake at a psychiatric hospital, an Asian woman refuses to make eye contact with the healthcare provider. The provider isn’t sure if it’s cultural or related to a mental illness.

One workshop participant told a story that showed the importance of active listening, clarifying, summarizing and probing for more information. She said she was offering bereavement counseling for a Haitian woman who had just lost her 3-year-old daughter. In discussion, it came up that the woman did not attend her child’s funeral with the rest of the family. At first, the counselor was shocked at what she initially saw as a horrible thing for a parent to do. Without judging the Haitian woman, she engaged her in further discussion, only to learn that she was pregnant, and didn’t want to risk the life of her new baby by going into a cemetery. She was, by her cultural standard, being a caring and protective mother. A fact that only came out because the provider took the time to learn more.

 What cross cultural issues have you encountered in the healthcare system?

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Are some cultures more gifted than others?

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, cross cultural, education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My son is highly gifted in math. He is very advanced in all his subjects, but he is off the charts gifted in math. I’m not sure where this came from, although I personally believe the hand of God is involved.  I first noticed something was unusual when, as an infant, he started lining up raisins in a pattern. By kindergarten he was adding mixed fractions in his head when everyone else was counting to 10, and by 5th grade he started teaching himself calculus by downloading lessons from the Texas A&M math department website. Our school district supports gifted education and has let him accelerate 3 years in math.

Being gifted in America is a big secret, where “all children are gifted!” If he were a star athlete, or a prodigy musician, that would be fine. But America, the land of equality, really doesn’t like the idea that some people are innately smarter than others.

We attended an award ceremony at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth for the top 400 middle school children nationwide, based on SAT scores. (SATs are college entrance exams).  The children were called up alphabetically in groups to receive their awards, and when the W,X,Y,Z group was called,  an enormous amount of students stood up.  They were the Wangs, Wus, Wongs, Xias, Xies, Xins, Xus, Xues, Yans, Yangs, Yaos, Yes, Yoos, Zhangs, Zhengs, and Zhus. The most highly gifted students were overwhelmingly Asian.

This is my dilemma. I don’t believe one race is smarter than another. And I know that Asian culture highly values education and these students were there because their parents pursued this testing to identify their child’s ability. I know that, unlike in America, it’s fine to be gifted.  I’ve also read that the math systems in China, Japan and Korea are easier than English, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers. But these were Asian-American children. They were learning math in English.

These were not just good students, they were the top students in the nation. You can’t coach a 12-year-old to score a 700+ in math on the SAT. You can barely coach an adult to reach that score. These students weren’t recognized for their hard work, but for an innate ability. So given their small percentage of the general population,  I’ve got to ask–why are so many of our top math students Asian?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )

Chinese teachers and American students

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My company ran a number of beginning Chinese conversation classes for one corporation, with locations in 5 states. While I was at first concerned about coordinating the multi-state program, what turned out to be the biggest challenge was working with Chinese teachers.

The differences in teaching styles, as well as expectations surrounding classroom management, were enormous. The instructors were not very familiar or comfortable with a communicative approach to language instruction (emphasizing interaction and real life communication; not grammar focused).  The Chinese instructors were used to top-down instruction, and were not as skilled acting as facilitators.

The American students (all adults) expected to be active participants in the class. They wanted teachers who were knowledgeable in the subject area, dynamic, creative and energetic. For the Chinese instructors, being dynamic and creative were not as important.

Our beginning level language classes use a great deal of  Total Physical Response (TPR). TPR is a fast-paced activity that helps students develop listening comprehension skills and increase their vocabulary. In TPR, students follow the teacher’s instructions to complete certain actions over and over. (think Simon Says). Commands grow in length and complexity as the course continues. Students can feel immediate success without having to produce utterances.

All of the Chinese instructors were unfamiliar with this technique, which is standard in ESL, and had to be coached. They found it very useful, but I was stunned at the lack of creativity and spontaneity. After a few class sessions, I got calls from some teachers asking if they could purchase flash cards of different pictures to use for the TPR lessons. They said they had “run out” of things to talk about. Run out!  That’s the beauty of TPR–you can’t run out. Even if you use every single noun in the room with every possible verb, you still have pronouns to run through, not to mention all those prepositions. And all of these, in an endless variety of combinations. Run out?

All of the teachers were committed professionals. They were eager to learn new teaching methods, and were willing to try out new techniques. At course completion, they all recieved excellent student evaluations. I wonder if the results would have been the same if they had not been coached in American teaching methods and student expectations?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 10 so far )

Where do you draw the line?

Posted on January 30, 2009. Filed under: Asian culture, cross cultural conflict, education, family, Japanese culture | Tags: , , , , , |

We all know about “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  Culturally sensitive people will try to fit in and not offend members of the culture they are visiting. For me, this included wearing long sleeves and long pants in Malaysia, even when it was hot, hot, hot. I’d rather be too hot than insulting. I wasn’t comfortable, but it was something I would put up with.

But where do you draw the line? When do you say, no, I can’t abide by that part of your culture. It goes against my deepest beliefs, and I just won’t do it.

I was delivering a workshop on Communication Strategies for Asians Doing Busines in the US, and we were discussing the importance of selling yourself in American culture. You need to be comfortable, I pointed out, discussing your strengths without self-deprecation. What’s great about you? Speak up. In US business culture, it’s not bragging if it is an honest assessment of yourself presented in the proper context. (for example, a job interview or request for a raise)  You need to know your strengths and be able to talk about them openly and with conviction.

This trait is so valued, I said, that school children are taught about it in the context of developing self esteem. I then showed them a worksheet my daughter had in school.  It was a fill in the blanks worksheet:

The best thing about me is _________

I’m really good at ___________

I’m proud that I can ____________.

and so on.

One Japanese gentleman in the workshop, who had been sent by his company for a 3-year rotation in the US, said that his daughter had brought home a similar worksheet from her school. He and his wife were so upset, that  soon after they pulled her from the school and put her in a Japanese school instead. His explanation was this: He didn’t want his daughter (who was 6) to develop these types of American values. At first, he thought it would be a great opportunity for her to attend an American school, perfect her English skills and learn about a new culture. But he worried that when they returned to Japan when she was 9 that she would bring these values back with her. She would face all sorts of problems. These were not the values he wanted for his daughter.  Talking about how great you were is where he drew the line.

Learn more about navigating the American school system here.

Have you ever been in an intercultural situation where you said, no, I can’t support that.  This goes too much against my beliefs. What happened to make you draw the line?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...