Having an understanding of one's personal culture is the foundation of building an understanding of another culture. It is a person's culture that affects their personal values. These values then affect their attitude toward everything. This attitude then affects the individual's behaviors, which further supports the culture. This cyclical relationship has an individual's culture and actions inextricably intertwined. To further understand my personal culture, I locate my Malaysian culture on various dimensions and describe its characteristics. Included are identification of the culture's key values, accompanied by meaningful behavioral examples. The cultural dimensions are discussed, which seem to be most taken for granted, as well as those which seem to be most contested and/or disputed. Lastly, I identify the United States as the country that appears to be most different from my own culture and discuss how I might frame the contrasting culture, in a way that would improve the likelihood of getting along.
The Malaysian Culture on Various Dimensions and Characteristics:
Geert Hofstede notes, "Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster" (cited in "Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions," 2009). Hofstede's cultural dimensions were developed as a result of his research into cultural differences, utilizing the subsidiaries of the IBM Corporation, in 64 countries. Subsequent studies regarding these dimensions included students in 23 countries, commercial airline pilots in 23 countries, and several other studies. As a result, five dimensions of cultural differences emerged. These include: power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation ("Making sense," 2009).
Malaysia scored very high on the power distance index, scoring approximately 95 out of a scale of 100. Power distance "is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. This represents inequality (…), but defined from below, not from above. It suggests that a society's level of inequality is endorsed by the followers as much as by the leaders" ("Malaysian Geert Hofstede," 2009).
On the individualism dimension, Malasia scored low, with a score of approximately 20 out of 100. Individualism's opposite concept is collectivism and it refers to the degree in which an individual is integrated into a group. On high scoring individualism countries, individual members are expected to look after themselves and their immediate family. However, as is the case with Malaysia, cultural members, from birth, are integrated into strong, cohesive groups, such as extended families, that offer continuing protection in exchange for unfailing loyalty ("Malaysian Geert Hofstede," 2009).
Along the masculinity dimension, Malaysia scored approximately 55 out of 100, showing a moderate connection with this dimension. This dimension "refers to the distribution of roles between the genders which is another fundamental issue for any society to which a range of solutions are found" ("Malaysian Geert Hofstede," 2009). Malaysian culture demonstrates a slight tendency for men to be more assertive and competitive.
The uncertainty avoidance index for Malaysian culture was approximately 30 out of 100. This dimension points out that Malaysian culture has a low tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Malaysian culture is moderately uncomfortable with unstructured situations. As such, members of Malaysian culture often try to minimize unknown or surprising situations ("Malaysian Geert Hofstede," 2009).
Long-term orientation "can be said to deal with Virtue regardless of Truth" ("Malaysian Geert Hofstede," 2009). Cultures that are long-term oriented are those that are concerned with thrift and perseverance. Those what have a short-term orientation are concerned with tradition, protecting one's 'face' and fulfilling social obligations. In Malaysia, it is important to maintain traditions, maintain one's dignity and fulfill social obligations; therefore, the Malaysian culture is more short-term oriented.
Key Malaysian Values and Examples:
According to Kennedy (2002) two key Malaysian values are collective well-being and passive, non-confrontational behavior. Malaysian people often take actions that benefit for the group, as a whole, rather than those that would simply benefit themselves or their immediate family members. As an example, Malaysian workers will often defer to the autocratic managerial style that is common in the culture, trusting that the manager will do what is best for the company.
Business practices in Malaysia also serve as an example of the cultural value of non-confrontational behavior. As in personal relationship, Malaysian people will go out of their way in business to avoid confrontation. Workers again defer…