- Culture Shock
- What Color Are Your Lenses
- Eight Shades of U.S. Culture
- It’s About Time: American Cultural Attitudes Toward Time
Syed S. Zafar on the subject of cultural diversity doesn’t have to be dry or confrontational.
The material is presented with good and appropriate humor, which enhances the learning experience.
The vast difference between American individualism and the family or group organization of other cultures is well-known.
What is so fascinating is how these two points of reference manifest themselves in so many ways.
Syed Zafar, came to the United States from Pakistan when he was 24 years old.
“I had never been witness to the cult of individualism. After 14 years of living in the U.S., its virtues and mysteries still intrigue me.
He noticed the incredible number of choices he was required to make on a routine basis. Many times, it’s difficult to keep coming up with personal choices to display one’s individualism, especially when choosing one thing over another does not really make any difference.
“Ordering food in an American restaurant can be an ordeal,” says Zafar.
“How do you like your steak?
How do you like your eggs?
What kind of bread do you like?
The killer is the salad dressing. There are so many choices just hearing them makes me dizzy.”
A Pakistani teenager told Zafar about frustration with an American academic advisor. The teenager wanted to study medicine because that was his parents’ desire. But the advisor kept telling him to forget what his parents’ wanted and to make his own decisions.
In the Pakistani environment, the perception of self extends beyond the individual to encompass one’s immediate family at the very least.
In traditional cultures, parents have a vested interest in what their children choose as a career because most parents rely on them for their livelihood in the parents’ old age. They take pride in their reliance because it means the parents have been successful.
To understand other cultures, Americans need to recognize the impact of forces related to family or collective orientation. “If we stay in a frame of mind where we believe every human being would prefer individualism if given the chance, we may be kidding ourselves.”