Between linear-active and multi-active cultures we see the reactive culture type. We consider it falling in the middle, displaying features that are characteristic of both linear- and multi-active worlds.
Richard D. Lewis defines reactive cultures through a strong emphasis on relationships and community. Most notably, there is the need to be publicly regarded in a certain positive way. “Losing face” is one of the worst things that can happen to the reactive person. Therefore, life for people of reactive culture backgrounds often means observing strict traditions and avoiding confrontation. This cultural type also highly values honesty, subtlety and caring towards others.
Still another overarching trait of reactive culture representatives is their ability to see the big picture and adopt a holistic approach to work. The planning stage may take a while, as it includes both research and trying to find a compromise. However, once there is a decision to proceed, changes in the predefined course of action are unlikely to happen.
Japan managed to become one of the world’s leading economies just a couple of decades after World War II. Since the early 90s, growth slowed down until the devastating tsunami of 2011. That disaster changed the face of the country and further disrupted the economy for years to come.
Since 2012, ambitious economic and security reforms have taken place in the country. They seek to address the country-wide humanitarian crisis and the overall well being of the Japanese people.
With the majority of the population being over 25, Japan is facing a demographic decline that brings about several important issues. One is how to take care of the elderly population. Another is how to protect the economy from crumbling due to the imminent lack of young workers to replace the older generation. Possible solutions include inviting more immigrants to Japan. This idea includes creating attractive conditions and opportunities for inbound international students.
What are the main traits of Japanese culture?
- Conformity and being part of the group: Japan is a very homogenous country, both because of its past policy of isolationism and its peculiar geographical situation. Due to the general lack of foreign influences, society rests on century-old traditions and values. The strong bonds within the group and a pronounced need not to stand out are very prominent. Together with a strong sense of national pride and respect for the local culture, this has created a community where being accepted by the rest is a top priority.
- Being the best: While balance and harmony in any social group are not to be disrupted, there are alternative ways to stand out. Educational and professional performance are the obvious examples here. The Japanese are famous for sending their children abroad to get better education. They also work very long hours in pursuit of a stellar career.
- Observation of beauty: Japan is well-known for its traditions of aesthetics and design. In every detail, they strive to strike a balance between nature and culture. A long tradition of observation and appreciation is at work here, based on the main religion of Shintoism. In all these aspects, the reactive nature of the Japanese is particularly obvious: first observe thoroughly, and only then proceed to action.
The implementation of a restructuration policy in 1986 let the Vietnamese work towards economic liberalization and helped them strenghten their economy through much needed reforms regarding export. Results followed quickly and Vietnam became one the fastest-growing economies in the world, boasting some 8% annual growth of GDP in 7 consecutive years after 1990.
While there is still lots of room for improvement, better conditions and policies regarding human rights are in place and the level of poverty is significantly lower across the country.
Today, Vietnam’s dense population is undergoing a process of slow decline. As a result, the country is working hard towards improving healthcare and education in the years to come.
What are the most prominent features of Vietnamese culture?
- Central role of the family: Heavily influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism, the Vietnamese put strong emphasis on their close and extended families. Following a typical patriarchal structure, family members should not voice their opinions unless explicitly asked. The father, the eldest son or another senior member of the family are usually those who take decisions.
- Respectful and formal verbal communication: Traditionally, it is very important for most Vietnamese not to appear as disrespectful or disagreeable. In order to avoid possible clashes in public, they often use indirect answers or even plain silence. Non-verbal subtle gestures and signs, on the other hand, convey respect.
- Harmony: Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism have played an important role in the country, resulting in an essential need to reach balance among individual, family, society and nature. The only way to achieve this is through avoiding extremities and striving for moderation in every action.
- Honor and respect: From a very early age, the Vietnamese child learns how to show loyalty, work hard and bring pride to the family. This is not a one way street – everyone in the family has to be responsible and bring value to the other members. For instance, it is the parents’ duty to educate their children. This way of living is yet another demonstration of the high respect for teachers, parents and all other significant senior figures in the Vietnamese society.
What is your experience with reactive cultures? Do you encounter any particular challenges when addressing the needs of reactive international students? Check out our tips for communicating with such students in tomorrow’s post!