The interview takes place in a restaurant; between James and I. as one of my co-workers, I have known for quite long, James is a male adult aged 30. He is a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sales and marketing. He works as a sales adviser in the department of sales at Wonderful General Supplies- a retail Shop in Long Beach California. Since James is friendly and outgoing, I have always interacted with him during tea and lunch breaks, as well as when off from work despite being in different departments. James culturally identifies himself as an American- Jew, having blended his Jewish origin, and the socialization with the Americans at both work and hisother friends. According to James, the dominant culture of the United States is more of individualistic compared to his lifestyle, which is collectivistic. James’ parents immigrated into the United States, and the experience was a big challenge to them since the majority of the whites considered them inferior, and acting out of tolerance towards other religions especially Christians.
Jews have experienced oppression in the past. James notes that his ethnic members faced several societal problems, and became the center of stereotypes, which disadvantage them in faces of others. They are perceived as miserly and violent. James has experienced discrimination in the workplace. While working as a sales agent, a Christian client refused to be attended to by him upon realizing that James was of Jewish origin. James felt unhappy and wondered why the generalization of the Jews being hostile to Christians.While young, James had wanted to go back to his country of origin, and reunite with his people after that embrace Christians to change the perception. Sometimes James feels his way of thinking vary significantly from mainstream Americans because he has both the Jewish and the American viewpoints of life. In such instances, James acts neutrally with a focus of maintaining rapport with both Americans and the Jews.
Regarding friends’ selection, dates, mates, finding housing; job, obtaining Medicare and credit, James feels he had minimal choices for the fact that he is of Jews origin. He was treated with reservation. James believes that his expectation and hopes for the future were not met. He has not gone back to reunite with his people and work in his country of origin. Besides, he feels that he no longer belong to his cultural group because he has internalized the dominant American culture, which has overshadowed his traditional cultural upbringing of socialism. If possible, James would like the stereotypes about the Jews changed and treated with respect and dignity just like other cultures. James asserts that people outside his culture can learn the aspect of collectivism that has seen the Jews survive the hostilities and torture meted against them throughout histories. In particular, James believes his culture has helped him remain a committed and respectful person, thus making more friends and rising the ladder at the workplace. Finally, James points out that blending the Jews and the American culture is essential in understanding the beliefs and value systems of each group.
B.) summary of the interview.
The interview involving James, a 30-year-old sales adviser and I contributed a lot to the body of knowledge about cross-cultural differences. Interestingly, James is of a Jewish origin. Thus, we are of different cultural backgrounds. There are aspects of James’ culture that I learned. From the onset, it was necessary to look at culture based on the definition provided by Muller (2005, p.2). “Culture implies the customs, manifestation of human cognitive achievements, social institutions, and arts of a social group or a people.” From the interview, it was apparent that people are born into a specific culture, each with exceptional predispositions and characteristics. The cultures produce trends, differences in people, and tendencies besides exertion of influence on members (Matsumoto Juang). James’ cultural orientation, in this case, arises from an ethic of community, in which the Jews emphasize the communal as well as interpersonal relationships.This contributes to the collectivist nature of James’ people that have enabled them to survive the historical injustices and propaganda meted out to them. Besides, James’ culture veers towards the ethics of divinity, in which they take their religious identity seriously. This has led to them being accused of discriminating against Christians, and even acting violently when dealing with people from other religion.
Arguing from Kohlberg’s point of view, culture determines the ethical principles of conscience (Shaffer, 2008). One’s self-based determines an Individual’s action on cultural upbringing. James for instance, having been raised from two different cultures consider the perspectives of every individual from the two cultures to make an informed decision. Faced with dilemmas, people from different cultures reason differently (Matsumoto Juang). James is different from the typical Jews in the manner in which he handles discrimination and negative perceptions. He believes that what people think about him is not true since he has self- identifiedwho he is, unlike the general Jewish population considered inferior. Different cultures emphasize different tenets of morality. While others emphasize pre-conventional morality, others focus on conventional morality. However, most modern cultures emphasize post-conventional morality; moral reasoning premised on conscience and personal principles (Triandis, 2018).People either comply with the rules to gain rewards and avoid sanctions or conform to the regulations as approved by the society in general and members of the community in specific. The perception varies from culture to culture. Personal morals as for the case of James can change based on preferences unlike conventional morals, which applies, to a group and changing them would require agreed-upon norms by the concerned group.
Culture influence morality and commitment both at the group and individual level. Both subjective and implicit culture determines the extent of morality with which a person behaves. James stays committed to having learned the virtue of commitment from the Jews. Despite being in a company dominated by the whites, he continues to excel and takes up leadership roles progressively. While different cultures value and reward different behaviors and skills, some of the traits are similarly treated across cultures. The Jews emphasize commitment and hard work, so are the Americans, who promote their employees based on performance regardless of the cultural background (Beilin and Pufall, 2013). However, Piaget notes that differences influence inferences regarding cognitive development across cultures, which impacts on skills and behavior. Another notable observation is the importance of attachment to caregivers in childhood. James interaction with the broader environment in his country of origin elicited feelings of reuniting with his people in adulthood. Matsumoto Juang notes that the optimal mode of attachment in a given culture does not apply across all cultures to the ideal accessories. As Bowlby (2012) puts it, James appears to have had a secure upbringing during his childhood. Familiar with the Jews, they appear distressed while far removed from their fellow Jews, but easily blend with other people at the same time. An attachment according to Bowlby is a special bond developing between an individual and a new culture, and once established provides emotional security.
From the assignment, I learned a lot about myself as well. Just like other individuals, I can engage in cultural learning through communication and interaction with other people from different cultures. Tomasello (2014) notes that communication and social learning provides the basis for cooperation with individuals from other cultures. Through socialization, I have been able to learn and internalize patterns and rules of society. Margaret Mead, for instance, asserts that we learn the essence of culture by observing the parents in society (Mead and Metraux, 2000). Through observation, we learn what is more important about the culture.
Exposure to peer- groups during socialization varies from one culture to the other. Unlike James, who was socialized by multiple- age peers, I realized my childhood socialization was more of with same-aged peers. Also, most of the cultural values and behaviors I learned in school. In regards to how Jewish culture emphasized commitments, I learned that it is directly reflected in the academic performance and productivity at the workplace. For my case, I realize the lack of a culture that accentuates objectivity could be the primary cause of contentment with the average performance.
Finally, I also discovered that individualism is a product of culture.According to Sheena Lyenger individuals has the autonomy to make decisions under the influence of culture. Cultures that emphasize collectivism influence decision based on group agreed on norms, while individualistic cultures do not limit a person’s autonomy in decision-making. Therefore, culture influence thoughts, perceptions, aspirations and behavior.
Beilin, H., and Pufall, P. B. (2013). Piaget’s Theory: Prospects and Possibilities. Psychology Press.
Bowlby, J. (2012). A Secure Base. Routledge.
Juang, M. Cultural Psychology – Psychology with a Cultural Perspective. PowerPoint Presentation.
Mead, M., and Metraux, R. (2000). The Study of Culture at a Distance. Berghahn Books.
Muller, A. (2005). Concepts of Culture: Art, Politics, and Society. University of Calgary Press. P.2.
Shaffer, D. R. (2008). Social and Personality Development. Cengage Learning.
TED-Ed. (2013). The art of choosing – Sheena Iyengar. Available at: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3Tp_nscwjM [Accessed 15 February 2019).
Tomasello, M. (2014). A Natural History of Human Thinking. Harvard University Press.
Triandis, H. C. (2018). Individualism and Collectivism. Routledge.
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