ELL230 Final Project: 8 Differences between Asian College and Western College.

 

The above video is a combination of 8 differences between Asian College and Western College. As a Vietnamese student who has spent three years studying in Australia, I have noticed many differences between two college environments. Therefore, I have decided to use this research project as an opportunity to present some of those differences based on my personal experience and observation. In this short piece of writing, I will explain what I think are the causes of these cultural differences, using Hofstede (1984)’s cultural dimensions, as well as their negative and positive influences and how to overcome them.

First of all, the differences in learning styles between Asian and Western college can be explained by ‘Confucianism’, which is a system of philosophical and ethical teachings founded by Confucius (Liu and Xie 2016), a famous Chinese philosopher. According to Jackson (2014), some East Asian countries such as China, Japan, South Korea or Vietnam are significantly affected by Confucianism, which emphasizes “persistence, personal stability, traditions, frugality, respect for elders, status-oriented relationships, a long-term orientation to time, hard work, a sense of shame and collective face-saving”. Therefore, it is very common for students in an Asian classroom to stand up or bow in order to greet the teacher in a respectful manner. Moreover, because Confucianism highly values hard work, Asian students carry a high expectation in academic achievements, which is the main measurement of success in Asian cultures (Schwartz 1994). On the other hand, a pass grade might be considered acceptable by Western students, which explains why Western students and Asian students perceive their marks in different ways, which can be seen in the video.

‘Power distance’ is another cultural element that can be used to explain these differences, which describes how individuals of a particular culture perceive power relationships – superior/subordinate relationships – between people, including the degree that people not in power accept that power is spread unequally (Hofstede 1984). In particular, the relationship between teachers and students in Asian college is more formal than that in Western university, which defines the way students behave in class (Hofstede 1984). Eating and using smartphones in class, and sitting more freely are more likely to be accepted in Western college while considered unacceptable in most Asian schools. Moreover, these differences can be viewed under the idea of ‘Individualism-collectivism’, which investigates the degree to which individuals in a society are associated into groups (Jackson 2014). In highly individualistic Western countries like Australia, personal autonomy and individual identities, rights and responsibilities tend to be emphasized (Hofstede 1984). Therefore, students in Western college are more self-oriented and make decisions based on individual needs, which makes behaviours like eating and using smartphone in class, going to class late and leaving class early more acceptable (Hofstede 1984).

The difference between the foreign language (English in this case) taught in Asian College and the language that is actually used in Western countries or host countries can be identified as ‘language shock’, one element of ‘transition shock’ (Jackson 2014). ‘Language shock’ is a common problem among international students, referring to the challenge of understanding and communicating in a second language in an unfamiliar environment (Jackson 2014). Even if the student speaks the same first language as local students, there are still differences in terms of accent, dialects, humour, vocabulary, slang and communication styles that can hinder communication (Hile 1979). In this case, due to ‘Inadequate preparation’, Asian students were not equipped with the awareness about the variation of English used in Australia and how different it is to the standard version they are taught in school, which leads to the difficulty in communicating.

Secondly, I will explain the effects that these differences might bring about. Students going abroad for education might experience several negative consequences of cultural differences, or transition shock (Jackson 2014). The differences in behaviour expectation can result in conflict between the students and teachers as well as their host national classmates (Jackson 2014). Students coming from Western college who are not aware of the formal sets of behaviour in class might unintentionally offend their teachers. For example, an Asian teacher might find it unacceptable that a student does not stand up to greet him/her, eats or uses mobile phone in class. The classmates of that student who are host nationals might consider him/her as lacking the common sense and respect towards their culture as well (Hile 1979). Moreover, the conflict in values might affect students’ performance. Due to the fact that Asian students tend to appreciate high marks while Western students consider a pass grade acceptable, conflict might arise when the two parties work together on the amount of effort should be spent on accomplishing tasks. As a result, Western students might think that their Asian peers are overly aggressive and serious, while on the other hand Asian students might form an impression that Western students are not hard working. According to Jackson (2014), a potential consequence is that students might feel isolated in a new environment. In particular, due to the differences in manners and values, a student can form frequent perceptions of being singled out, overlooked or discriminated against by their local friends (Hile 1979). Not being treated with the same degree of respect as locals can lead to homesickness, feeling of inadequacy (loss of self-confidence due to the inability to express self clearly in the host language and perform basic tasks), and the fear of trying new things and exploring the local culture (Jackson 2014). In overall, these negative effects result in the students’ low academic performance and a negative attitude towards the host country.

On the other hand, these cultural differences might bring about positive effects. According to Jackson (2014), encountering these cultural differences allow students to develop their intercultural competence as they can challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zone, and become more aware of their identity and of the world around them. Interacting with classmates with cultural differences is an opportunity for students to acquire new communication skills, build confidence as well as develop new relationships (Hile 1979). Studying in a new educational environment, although very challenging, can be beneficial as students gain more understanding about a particular country and its culture as well as people, which lead to the development of ‘cultural-relativism’, which can be defined as an attitude perceiving all cultures are of equal value and cannot be judged based on any standard (Hile 1979). In general, differences between Asian college and Western college can positively influence students by equipping them with understanding about a different culture, intercultural communication skills and the necessary mindset to be a global citizen.

Finally, this essay aims to provide readers with possible ways to avoid the negative consequences in encountering cultural differences between Asian and Western College, as well as to optimise this intercultural transition. According to Jackson (2014), it is essential for students to take actions prior to their sojourn to study in another country. Doing some research about the destination and its culture can be useful as it provides students with knowledge about the expected manners as well as unacceptable behaviours so they can avoid conflicts in communication due to misunderstanding. For example, Western students can be prepared to greet the teachers properly by standing up, or staying in the class until the end to avoid being offensive. Setting realistic goals and expectations is also a good tip for students (Hile 1979). For example, Asian students should understand that not all Western students want to achieve high marks so they will not be disappointed if their Western peers do not spend enough effort as they expect in group assignments. Practicing the language spoken in the host country is also important so students can be confident in communicating with their local teachers and friends as well as to avoid misunderstanding (Jackson 2014). Moreover, there are steps that students can take during their journey to better adapt to differences. Being patient is extremely important in these contexts because adaptation and adjustment takes time to process and patience prevents students from judging and forming a negative attitude towards the local culture (Hile 1979). Additionally, participating in extracurricular activities arranged by the host university is a great way to make friends, practice the language and explore the host culture (Jackson 2014). A cultural mentor that can provide help when needed is a great idea. This could be a local student, an international student or even a co-national as long as that person is experienced and understands the host culture thoroughly (Jackson 2014).

In conclusion, this essay has indicated several causes of the differences between Asian college and Western college depicted in the video, using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. All the situations in the video are based on my personal experience and observation, so they might not be considered true in all cases. Furthermore, these scenarios are also exaggerated in order to entertain audience with no offense, because I consider that humour is a useful way to encounter and understand cultural differences. Additionally, the essay has discussed the negative and positive effects of these cultural differences, as well as how to overcome them. I hope that my video and essay will be useful to entertain as well as to support Asian students in particular and international students and travellers in general, to adapt in their intercultural journeys.

References:

Hile, P 1979, Language Shock, Culture Shock and How to Cope, Abilene Christian University Mission Strategy Bulletin 7.2.

Hofstede, G 1984, ‘Cultural dimensions in management and planning’, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, vol. 1, no. 2, p. 81-99.

Jackson, J 2014, Introducing language and intercultural communication / Jane Jackson, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon New York, New York Routledge, 2014.

Liu, A, & Xie, Y 2016, ‘Why do Asian Americans academically outperform Whites? – The cultural explanation revisited’, Social Science Research, 58, p. 210.

Schwartz, S H 1994, Beyond Individualism-Collectivism: New Cultural Dimensions of Values, Sage, 1994.

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Media piracy: on the bright side.

It is obvious that in order to create high quality media content, the producers have to spend a lot of time and effort on the work. Therefore, they are deserved to receive in return what is respective with their dedication, in terms of both materiality and mentality (Karaganis 2011).

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Credit: The American Assembly.

Currently, media producers are struggling with a phenomenon when their products are being distributed in a massive amount, at a low cost and most importantly, without their awareness and permission. This is what is defined by Karaganis 2011 as ‘media piracy’. ‘Media piracy’ is more likely to happen in developing countries where policies against copyright infringement are not as effective as that in developed nations. Furthermore, even in developed countries, media piracy still exists in the form of consumer goods in grocery stores, especially those of immigrants. For example, in Australia, it is totally possible to buy un-authorized DVDs with a relatively low price in, for example, Asian or Indian grocery stores (Athique 2006).This notion is serious in the way that media content is made available at a much lower price than what the producers want and the money earned is not going into their accounts.

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Credit: WordPress.

However, this situation can also have a bright side. According to Karaganis 2011, ‘high prices for media goods, low incomes and cheap digital technologies’ are the main reasons leading to media piracy. As mentioned before, media piracy is more popular in developing countries, where have lower living standard so people have to spend their little earnings on many expenses, which makes official, copyrighted media products something too luxurious.  Therefore, the question is: “Do people have unequal right of consuming media content because of their different circumstances? “. In this way, media piracy brings about the ‘mentality’ return (mentioned above) to producers as it promotes media circulation and distribution by giving chances to more audiences to consume (Jenkins 2004). This argument is reasonable in the way that without exposure, or audiences, media content is just worthless regardless of the quality because no one realizes or even knows about it. Therefore, media piracy can be considered a trade-off for media producers.

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Credit: MakeUseOf.com.

On a whole, if media producers want to create high quality, not just ‘high grossing’ products, this is what they want to achieve. With a larger amount of audiences, media producers and their products are more likely to be known and recognized. This explains why nowadays more and more artists are choosing to distribute their products publicly on digital platforms for free. Latest hits or music videos with high quality are released online requiring no fees for audiences. In this way, media producers promote their reputation both in number and scale, which can earn them money in return from advertising activities or concert.

References:

Athique, Adrian Mabbott 2006, ‘Bollywood and ‘grocery store’ video piracy in Australia’, Media international Australia, no. 121, pp. 41-51.

Karaganis, J 2011, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies, Social Science Research Council, United States of America.

Jenkins, H 2004, When Piracy Becomes Promotion, MIT Technology Review, viewed October 24th 2016, <https://www.technologyreview.com/s/402969/when-piracy-becomes-promotion/&gt;.

 

 

 

Reality TV: extraordinarily ordinary.

In the short video clip we just watched in BCM288 tutorial, the presenter of TED show, Andy Dehnart, cited Mr Roger’s quote which stated that reality TV is where everyone can feel special. This helps explain his mentioning of the fact that reality TV is thought to be one of the lowest forms of culture but it is beneficial and able to change the world.

reality-tv

According to Moran 2009, a ‘reality show’ is a television programme in which ordinary people are continuously filmed, designed to be entertaining rather than informative. Hypothetically, there is no script in reality shows and every event happens naturally. Therefore, this kind of TV show attracts audiences with unexpected events where participants simply act based on their personal feelings and ideas rather than following guidance from the producer.

First of all, reality TV still matters although it is claimed to be a low form of culture. Stated by Deery 2015, reality shows are not expensive to be made because it requires no writers or actors which are one of the most costly production elements. Because there is no script, reality shows are easier to be produced simply by letting event happens naturally, capturing then editing them (Swain 2014). Two reasons above are on the producers’ perspective only, but one more thing that producer shares with audiences about reality TV is that producer does not require much of the audiences, or in other words, a diverse audiences can enjoy reality TV.

Moran 2009 stated that reality show is a kind of ‘peak realism’ with focuses on extraordinary events of ordinary people. In this way, audiences can easily relate to the characters because those characters are ordinary people just like them so they can find similarities in between. Moreover, the unusual circumstances that the characters experience interest the audiences which makes them to watch more and even want to be a part of. Therefore, viewers have the feeling that they can be in the position of the character and undergo the same situations. Eventually, they might find themselves (or their characteristics) presented in the show performing extraordinary actions, being noticed by the crowd and so, being special.

Another advantage of reality TV is that it notices people with good characteristics required to participate. They have to have trust, which is essential because they will play, live and perform tasks with total strangers. They must have skills, not only to accomplish missions but also to be appealing in front of the camera (Wikihow 2016) which promotes their image in order to stay with the show. Whether or not reality shows are scripted, they create the aspiration of viewers to participate and therefore, push them to acquire the required attributes. In this way, reality TV turns ordinary people into extraordinarily ordinary ones.

References:

Deery, A 2015, Reality TV, Polity Key Concepts in Media and Cultural Studies, Wiley, Cambridge.

Moran, A 2009. TV formats worldwide: localizing global programs.

WikiHow 2016, ‘8 steps to get on reality TV show’, <http://www.wikihow.com/Get-on-a-Reality-TV-Show&gt;.

Swain, C 2014, Why Reality TV Still Exists (and Why it Matters to your Student Ministry), LifeWayStudents, viewed October 25th 2016, <http://www.lifeway.com/studentministry/2014/10/07/why-reality-tv-still-exists-and-why-it-matters-to-your-student-ministry/&gt;.

Korean Hallyu in Vietnam: a threat of cultural invasion

Photo: Young Vietnamese males bursted into tears after seeing their Korean idols at the airport in 2012. Credit: Yan News.

“Idolization is a good cultural feature, but doing it unconsciously is a disaster”.

Above is the content of a discussing question in Vietnam University Entrance Exam in 2012 mainly aiming the effect of the South Korean’s music and movies on Vietnamese young people, which created controversies throughout the country at that moment.

The Korean Hallyu (or Korean Wave) refers to the escalating spread of South Korean culture since the 1990s (Ryoo, 2009). Its effects are recognized throughout the world, but mostly in East Asia countries including Vietnam. It has been nearly 20 years since the Korean Hallyu reached Vietnam (Pham, 2015) but this phenomena is still being questioned: Whether it is merely cultural exchange, or an implicit cultural invasion ?

The rapid approach of Korean Hallyu into Vietnam roots in the fact that the two countries share the same Confucianism ideology and values which are reinforced in Korean cultural products (Ryoo, 2009). Moreover, close geographical distance and the reasonable price compared to that of Japan or Hongkong attracts Vietnamese media managers to import dramas or artists’ shows.

Korean K-pop boyband EXO performing a Vietnamese song in a concert in Hanoi, 2015. Credit: Youtube.

The Korean Wave introduced to Vietnamese audiences a new trend of entertainment which is a hybridity between modern features and traditional values. Most of the dramas and movies refer to love, family issues and traditional values but in “an age of changing technology” which are more easily to relate than Western products (Ryoo, 2009). Furthermore, Korean popular music (or K-pop) with beautiful singers delivering songs with soft, ear-catching melodies also draw great attention. Its positive effects are obvious. Teenagers are directed away from social evils as they spend time updating news about their idols or enjoying their products. Young people develop new trends of fashion and interest in Korean cuisines, which diverse their taste of enjoyment. Even middle-aged audiences can refresh their mind watching TV dramas which closely relate to their daily issues.

However, those surface benefits have inner threats as young Vietnamese can strip away their self and traditional identity (Dang, 2009). Fans’ admiration to their idols are expressed not just through buying albums, posters or watching music videos but spending millions VND in order to buy tickets or travel across the country or even overseas to be at concerts. Some cases proved that the support are becoming over-excessive. After a show in 2012, many girls kissed the chair on which a famous actor have seated. Some fans were not hesitant to insult or threatened to murder their parents because they were not allowed and provided money to chase their idols. Others were willing to give up their future as they decided to quit the University Entrance Exam claiming that the question humiliated their idols and favour. Moreover, Korean culture are taking over young people’s awareness of their country’s image. K-pop performances such as dance or songs covers take place at traditional events such as school ceremony or celebration of important dates such as Teachers’ day.

So what is the actions to take ? And who is responsible to take those ?

Back to 2010 when I was standing outside of a Korean concert in Vietnam waiting for a friend, I had a short chat with a middle-aged man whose daughter was a K-pop fan. After listening to him expressing concern about the effects of this trend on his daughter who was still 15, I asked him what would be possible to prevent it. “They keep showing films, selling tickets, and the kids have internet and other kinds of access. What can I do ?”, he said.

References:

Globalization: Outsourcing

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Photo: 9GAG

It is obvious that globalization has impact on our lives in many aspects in terms of culture, politics and economy. Outsourcing is a significant development in the economy globalization process. We take great advantage of it, but is it always beneficial ?

We cannot deny the profit outsourcing brings about. First of all, it enables enterprises to reduce production costs. A number of companies all over the world are empowering third parties in developing countries in order to exploit cheap labor prices. Such areas namely Vietnam, Egypt or India are attracting many investments into manufacturing field. According to The Richest, Indian workers are paid $0.48 USD per hour, which is only 3.2% compared to that in Australia ($15 USD). Therefore, if a corporation is able to find a market where they can transfer their production technology, it can be a great competitive advantage because manufacturing costs the most of the total input. Secondly, outsourcing improves specialization. Enterprises can focus on their core tasks while the remains are taken care of by other companies. For example, although assembled in the US, 30% of the Boeing Aircraft’s parts are manufactured overseas. Certain duties are in charged by various parties, rather than one control the whole process, which guarantees high output quality. Finally, outsourcing contributes to sharing management costs. Companies do not have to concern about managing their human resource because they are able to hire local staff to take care of this. Moreover, native managers can understand the culture and characteristic of the workers as well as the markets, which results in effective administration.

Despite of the advantages mentioned above, outsourcing has several drawbacks. First to be mentioned, although cheap, the sources of labor may lack of necessary abilities. A large percentage of workers are lack of English ability, which affects communication between them and supervisors and directors. Moreover, they are not equipped with enough ‘industry-ready’, ‘industry-relevant’ skills (Kuruvilla and Ranganathan, 2010) in order to perform appropriately in various fields. Therefore, the output may not meet the demand in high-requirement markets. Another disadvantage of outsourcing is that the local industries where it takes place are affected. Local enterprises face the difficulties in human resource recruitment because the labor force is attracted by higher wages from bigger global corporations, which results in decrease in production. Furthermore, the local countries do not benefit from the products which are brought back to where the host companies base. According to Nike Manufacturing Map, 41% of Nike footwear are produced in Vietnam, its biggest manufacturer, but Vietnamese customers still have to pay original price plus importing tax, which is much higher than that in the US, for a pair of Nike shoes. Consequently, outsourcing does not really stimulate economy development, it is mainly on the host countries.

Those arguments above, although brief, have indicated several pros and cons of outsourcing. There are some drawbacks, but everything is a two-slide sword and the strengths may compensate. However, in near future, when barriers are terminated, we can expect of a more comprehensive process of outsourcing which promotes our global economy significantly.

Reference:

  1. Kuruvilla, S and Ranganathan, A. 2010, “Globalisation and outsourcing: confronting new human resource challenges in India’s business process outsourcing industry”, viewed 12th August 2015.
  2. The Richest. 2013, “Countries with the Cheapest Labor”, available at http://www.therichest.com/rich-list/poorest-list/countries-with-the-cheapest-labor/, viewed 11th August 2015.
  3. Nike Manufacturing Map, available at http://manufacturingmap.nikeinc.com/, viewed 13th August 2015.
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