Looking through some guidebooks for international businessmen who have to be hypersensitive to cultural differences in non-verbal communication, it seems like there's a single general factor, that some cultures are closer and others distant. This includes lots of separate things like touching others more, standing closer to others, making more prolonged eye contact, showing more facial expressions (especially smiling), and making more dramatic gestures, which, like facial expressions, "tip your hand" or reveal how you're feeling, instead of keeping your guard up by locking your arms at your sides.
At the closer end are cultures from the Mediterranean, Middle East, India / Pakistan, Latin America (whose international businessmen are Mediterranean), and Eastern Europe. At the distant end are China, Korea, and Japan. Northwestern Europeans and their off-shoots like America are in between.
So it looks like the main difference in how close or distant people are is the subsistence mode they're adapted to -- the intensive agriculturalists of East Asia are distant, the pastoralists of the Mediterranean through milk-drinking South Asia are close, and the mixed agro-pastoralists of Europe are in between.
If that's right, then we should see differences even within a continent. So most of the high-touch "Eastern Europeans" are probably from the Balkans or other hilly places like the Carpathian mountains, where herding but not farming pays off, and probably not so much from the stricter farming areas in the Ukraine. Also, among Northwestern Europeans, the Irish and Scottish should be closer than the English or Dutch. I've been to lots of clan reunions for the Scotch-Irish hillbilly side of my family, and they are very close and boisterous, just as much as Italian or Persian families would be. But I haven't had enough experience among, say, New England descendants of Puritans, who were mostly farmers, to compare first-hand.
There could be all kinds of gradients that are lowest in East Asia, highest in the Middle East, and intermediate in Europe. Why pastoralism? Well again because it seems to scale down to explain differences even within a continent, like Spain vs. Holland, and smaller regions still, like Ireland vs. England.
But also because pastoralism is what drives the culture of honor and the culture of hospitality, for reasons I might review later. When your honor and reputation are always at stake, you don't want to hide how you feel -- you let them know right away that they should back off. In a large, sedentary agricultural state, where a culture of law prevails, you should keep your feelings to yourself and let some bureaucracy or council or maybe just your elder kin determine who's right or wrong.
In a culture of hospitality, you try to cultivate an image of someone who hosts any guest, and more lavishly than you would treat yourself, as well as re-paying the hospitality that someone else has shown you. This obsession with benevolent reciprocity is just as strong in Italy, Lebanon, and Appalachia as is the machismo and vendetta mindset. This shows up in their body language too: they smile more and laugh harder in a friendly context, but in a confrontational context they contort their faces and gesticulate more wildly.
So assuming you're going to get anywhere near another person in the first place, in a pastoralist culture you'll go off into guest-host mode and strive to establish a tight social bond. Hence closer distances, more touching, and more eye contact. Where guest-host relations are less sacred, even weak, as among farmers, you'll keep all strangers at arm's length, and not give away what you're feeling or thinking.
Our immigration policy is idiotic beyond belief, so there are all sorts of things we should be screening potential immigrants for. But these kinds of differences don't show up much in the discussion. I'd rather live next door to proud Persians who would show some sign of real affection between neighbors, even inviting me over for dinner, and not inscrutable Oriental drones who only wanted to be left alone to plug into the hive.
Overall I'd much rather stay here than in Spain, but one thing I miss about living in Barcelona was how much closer their culture is. Maybe it's the hillbilly genes, but I'm more touchy-feely and kinesthetic than the average American, and my only outlet these days is socializing at dance clubs -- especially at '80s night, when the music puts everybody in that mood. I'm truly grateful for that, but still wish there were more everyday chances to enjoy it.
Relationships among guys over there did seem more buddy-buddy, not that we're aloof over here either. What really stood out was the between-sex physical closeness. Every babe I met gave me the cheek-to-cheek "kisses," stood close, often reached out to rub my shoulder when she asked how I was doing (always with a bright smile), and tracked every slight movement of my eyes with her own. Little things like that, accumulated over the day and across the years, go a long way toward making people feel more tightly integrated into a cohesive community.
I thought the Chinese were quite into Guanxi and corruption and all had all the the mateyness that the corrupt cultures you describe (Eastern European, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, South Asian) have in this context at least? My mental image of Southern Chinese tends to be of highly touchy feely, highly corrupt types. The Japs seem to fit the inscrutable mold better (dunno about the Koreans and other South East Asians).ReplyDelete
I'd have guessed that Individualism and Introversion would better track personal space (both being positively correlated)
Apparently, the Mongolians are quite suffocating with regard to personal space, which supports your theory:
"Personal space in Mongolia is pretty much non-existent. In America we have a good 2-3 foot bubble that we count on as personal space. There is no ‘bubble’ here. Americans just have to get over the Bubble. "
"After several years of study abroad, I long for my personal space and quality time. In western culture, you are allowed to have that, but here at home, I am suffocating. I am nauseating from intrusion of my family members, friends, relatives, and even strangers into my life, my space, and my time."
"we accepted the common experience of making a trip into a shop and having people rub their hands up and down over our back protectors while making “ooh” sounds."
What do you mean by "corrupt"? Especially when it comes to Chinese, Japanese etc. it is in their culture to use deception as a tool of communication (Bing-fa texts such as "The Art of War" are a typical source to get acquainted with those values). Many cultures fall into the category of low-context communication where the listener is supposed to encode the message and not the speaker to say everything in a direct way (US Americans, Germans, Australians, many Western cultures which fall into the category of high-context cultures). It is a totally different kind of communication and just because it is something different from your way it doesn't give you the right to call someone corrupt or whatever! The mere fact that you use the word "Japs" tells me how uneducated you are.Delete
Any idea how things like Southern hospitality come about in this scheme?ReplyDelete
I'm for importing more orientals to pay taxes and not cause problems. Hillbillies can stay in their own countries and continue to cause them to be dysfunctional.ReplyDelete
"Apparently, the Mongolians are quite suffocating with regard to personal space, which supports your theory"ReplyDelete
Great catch there. Another example of pastoralism explaining these diffs even within a continent.
"I thought the Chinese were quite into Guanxi and corruption and all had all the the mateyness that the corrupt cultures you describe"
Corruption is more like a transactional social "bond," where personal distance is more about how truly close you feel like being.
"Any idea how things like Southern hospitality come about in this scheme?"
The Scotch-Irish South is another example of a culture of honor plus a culture of hospitality. Check out Nisbett and Cohen's book Culture of Honor. It's mostly about the harm re-paying harm in the South, but they do mention the kindness re-paying kindness as well. Plus the role that pastoralism played in creating the South's culture of honor.
"I'm for importing more orientals to pay taxes and not cause problems."
But then you're anti-social and don't value community togetherness.
Hillbillies created rock n roll, whereas Asians don't create music. And think of some of your favorite shaking-things-up social scientists. I'll bet there are zero Asians (Kanazawa having turned out to be an embarrassment), but plenty of Scotch-Irish like Charles Murray and Greg Cochran.
I'll take them plus their rambunctious kinfolk rather than grafting the static Asiatic mode of production onto our own.
Med culture is very friendly and people will talk to you ,go out for drinks ,invite you for dinner etc but they will also take advantage of you in business dealings without blinking an eye.You also wont be around when they say what they really think about you ie ''shovel time''.ReplyDelete
It's kind of funny because stereotypically orientals value community togetherness more than individualistic westerners.ReplyDelete
As Sailer pointed out once reviewing Sowell, hillbillies/crackers are normal. "Yankees" are unusual. I want the U.S to stay an unusual Yankee country, not another third-world crapsack. Those who want to live with hillbillies have plenty of options, and I'm sure their American money will go far in such poor places. I don't dismiss the Asiatic mode of production, China was the wealthiest and most technologically advanced civilization for most of recorded history. It had a problem of political centralization leaving it vulnerable to periods of very bad rule, it's rise today is a recovery from an aberrant situation.
"Asians don't create music"
Do you mean asian americans here, because asians are known for their distinct styles of music (although Japan now has a large industry of westernized music).
During the Reagan years, our school had several exiles from Nicaragua, and all the teachers were having the same experience as I. When one of these kids came up to me to ask a question, we engaged in a backwards dance.ReplyDelete
They got in your face--I mean, no exaggeration here, three or four inches from your face to talk. You could back up all you wanted, yet they simply followed your lead, as if dancing, step by step, until once again they were breathing on you.
Finally, I had to take them aside and explain the American notion of personal space. It helped, a little, but two years later when I had one of the kids again, the proclivity was still there.
"It's kind of funny because stereotypically orientals value community togetherness more than individualistic westerners."ReplyDelete
They don't value togetherness but safety and deference to authority. East Asians don't participate in trick-or-treating or sleepovers, don't form block parties or in any other way try to bring the neighborhood / community together except for a few of their holidays.
It's a commentary on how autistic the culture is becoming that we only measure community-mindedness by how much someone values physical security, which is a negative, passive form of community bond. No one talks anymore about the positive, engaging forms based on neighborliness and hospitality.
"I want the U.S to stay an unusual Yankee country, not another third-world crapsack."ReplyDelete
That just means import more Anglos, the obvious first choice. If forced to choose between East Asians and Levantines or Persians, controlling for IQ (which is a given in any debate on immigration), a Yankee-lover will choose the former.
There's a simple test to see which population the Puritans are more like -- which one can drink milk? Europeans are not the pure agriculturalists that East Asians are, not close. Even the Puritans were filled with wanderlust and crossed an entire ocean to disperse into sparser population densities.
East Asians are the opposite -- no curiosity or wanderlust, and they pack into crowded hives. Lebanese and Persians are not right where we are, but not as far off as are Chinese or even Japanese.
A quick reality check shows how much Yankees have been fascinated by and drawn from Near Eastern vs. Far Eastern culture -- a lot vs. nothing whatsoever.
"Do you mean asian americans here, because asians are known for their distinct styles of music (although Japan now has a large industry of westernized music)."ReplyDelete
I mean any music that people listen to outside the group that created it. Hardly anyone listens to Asian music outside the country of origin, and foreigners don't even draw from it much to inspire their own music.
Middle Eastern and South Asian music may not be taking over the world, but far more people outside those regions listen to it or mix it with their own. Same with African / African-American.
At my subway station the other day, a Chinese lady was singing Chinese songs, and a man was playing a mandolin. Horrendous. Sounded like a cat meowing (though the mandolin was okay). People were giving them bewildered looks.ReplyDelete
A quick reality check shows how much Yankees have been fascinated by and drawn from Near Eastern vs. Far Eastern culture -- a lot vs. nothing whatsoever.ReplyDelete
Yankees don't like Chinese music, sure. But I thought they were impressed by Chinese culture (art, philosophy).
If forced to choose between East Asians and Levantines or Persians, controlling for IQ (which is a given in any debate on immigration), a Yankee-lover will choose the former.ReplyDelete
"controlling for IQ (which is a given in any debate on immigration)"ReplyDelete
We aren't controlling for IQ. We're bringing in massive numbers of latin americans, turning portions of the country into latin america.
If I were to name a factor other than IQ I want to screen immigrants for, it's conscientiousness.
I was talking about us online, you moron. Obviously in the mainstream they aren't assuming selection based on IQ, so I would never say so.ReplyDelete
"But I thought they were impressed by Chinese culture (art, philosophy)."ReplyDelete
I don't know about Yankees, but my impression is that there is not a big passion in West by chinese culture:
- About art: Chinese art is the kind of art that is more a "museum art" than anything
- Philosophy: I think the philosophy that is important in the West is Indian philosophy; even Zen budhhism, althoug far estearn (japanese) have Indian roots. And the kind of "Chinese philosophy" that Westerns "know" is usually imaginary "Chinese philosophy", someting that someone (usually a Western) invents and presents as "an old Chinese saying" (a classical exemple - "May you live in interesting times"")
Corruption is more like a transactional social "bond," where personal distance is more about how truly close you feel like being.ReplyDelete
Well, respectfully, I don't really buy this separation. I don't buy the idea that an enrichment in personal distance, extraversion and closeness is purely due to an enrichment in sincerity, expression and genuine agreeableness (liking other people) though, rather than schmoozing to make strong and secure connections in societies that lack open and legalistic access.
Agreeableness and extroversion are completely separated out in the Big 5 model, which I think is valid. My model is to see Middle Eastern people as disputateous and disagreeable (i.e. don't really like people) but extraverted (are always intimately interested in what others are doing, like to gather people around them and are expressive) while East Asians are more agreeable (they like other people and trust them in a general sense) but are introverted (are quiet rather than expressive and can't really handle the stimulation of having lots of people around).
Close personal distance may give rise to more sincere touching, but also is associated with... *touches arm* *pulls face in close* "Yes, yes, you my buddy, my friend yah? We doin' a deal and gon shake 'ands, like, men, men who dun a deal!" type behaviour, which we immediately associate with the Southern European to Indian zone, which is anything but sincere and anything but soul enriching.
Ingratiating, insidious, oily and unctuous are all words which we immediately associate with West Asians, South Asians and Mediterraneans.
Maybe this is an "aspy" bias, as I'm probably a bit more in that direction than what the average person is - seeing ulterior motives behind socialisation and seeing socialisation as fraught with risk of exploitation and manuevering.
a big passion in West by chinese culture
Europeans have always admired Chinese culture on the basis of sensory refinement and the ability to produce high quality objets d'art, but do not seem to have comparatively found less interest in the ideas of the artists behind particular objects or found Chinese culture romantic in the sense of being sexy (China was a bureaucrat dominated, food production focused culture and the East Asian ethnicities are not particularly that sexy in the sense of being expressive and vivacious).
Did you hear? Pizza is a vegetable.ReplyDelete
Actually the Northeast Asian countries all score really low on trust in the World Values Survey, the OECD social capital surveys, etc.ReplyDelete
Personality data is limited, but I do know that Japan scores very high on Eysenck's Psychoticism, a compound of low Agreeableness and low Conscientiousness in Big Five terms. I'm sure China is that way too, Korea probably in that direction but not as bad as the other two.
We only think they're more trusting because they aren't very violent and so rarely get put to a test of "who can you trust?" Or introduce something new that really tests how conscientious a person is -- like video games. All of the sudden Northeast Asians are devastated like fags by AIDS, even more than European video game players.
Extraversion doesn't just measure how outgoing a person is, but how warm they feel toward others. There's no paradox in Middle Easterners showing greater disagreeableness but also greater warmth, friendliness, and hospitality. They're just two sides of the same coin -- a concern over their reputation and repaying others how they have treated them, whether for better or worse.
I'm sure they're more ingratiating in business contexts, but you don't pick that up in normal life. I think you're confusing proximate and ultimate causes. In the absence of legalistic "insurance" they'll have to ingratiate themselves with others face-to-face. But over time they'll be selected to just really like being hospitable and party-throwing.
"Personality data is limited, but I do know that Japan scores very high on Eysenck's Psychoticism, a compound of low Agreeableness and low Conscientiousness in Big Five terms. I'm sure China is that way too, Korea probably in that direction but not as bad as the other two."ReplyDelete
According to page 18, we can compare, for example, South Korea with Portugal - according to the studie Koreans are less extrovert, agreeble, conscious (!) and open than Portugueses but more neurotic
Have you ever been to East Asia? One of the things I remember is that certain peoples' personal space boxes were noticeably smaller, such that they didn't have a problem standing very close to you and touching your shoulder or arm while talking.ReplyDelete
Also, for Asian music, yes there has been plenty of Asian music made that's listened to by people not of their nation of origin. The Korean wave pop culture phenomenon was widespread throughout Asia. There's plenty of crossover where artists from greater China/Korea/Japan collaborate and/or release albums in languages other than their primary one. Of course, I'm sure you'll just say that if it doesn't make it in the west, it doesn't count.
So how much non-English European music gets heard outside Europe? I seem to remember Ace of Base (and even that was in English), and that's about it. How much Middle Eastern? African? South Asian? Zero that I recall, but I don't claim to be any kind of big music buff. I'm sure there have been European DJs that made electronica I've listened to, but I don't know who.
It's not just that Chinese, Korean, or Japanese music fails in the West, it fails everywhere else too -- Africa, Mid-East, Latin America, probably even Mongolia.ReplyDelete
African music is of course famous all over the world, not always for the better (like with gangsta rap). Jazz, while not the most popular genre in any country, has taken root just about everywhere. So have Afro-Brazilian genres like samba or bossa nova. And "Latin" music, which almost all comes from the black Caribbean countries (salsa, merengue, bachata, etc.).
Western Classical music is well received everywhere, unlike East Asian Classical music.
Other Middle Eastern and South Asian styles do well outside their region too. Europeans have been interested in Indian music for awhile, Classical composers incorporated Turkish music into their own, etc.
Perhaps the monosilabical nature of many East Asian languages makes their sound unnattractive?ReplyDelete
I don't know what the current pop culture trend is in Mongolia, but it was not exempt from the Korean wave a few years ago. They were listening to all the top Korean artists and watching their tv shows such that younger kids were all trying to learn Korean.ReplyDelete
Is "western" classical music really western when the famous performers are Asian? Yes the composers were white, but apparently they can't play their own music anymore. I can already hear you attributing "Asian autism" and that's fine. You still can't separate current classical music from Asian performers.
The same appears true for jazz and blacks. They don't play the music they created anymore, but in this case for lack of interest rather than ability. But anyways, my point is that these things change. What's true today about the absence of Asian genre music in world culture might not be true in 20-30 years. If China doesn't implode during this time, who knows what people will be listening to around the world.
Sorry for the post lag, posted this a few days ago. I must've made some mistake as it seems like it was swallowed:ReplyDelete
Actually the Northeast Asian countries all score really low on trust in the World Values Survey, the OECD social capital surveys, etc.
Not much data on trust, WVS data, like you say, but they seem middling, less so that Scandos but similar to the Anglosphere. Asian Americans are about average for Americans in their professed trust.
http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2011/03/cold-war-relatively-warm-feelings_05.html - for some European data
The patterns in West and South Asia are interesting, with Iran having a relatively high trust report. South Asians have low trust everywhere (both in the USA and So maybe that's something you're picking up with the Persians, who were the example you chose.
Asians seem decent enough in terms of trust. Of course, they are very low in terms of criminal and treacherous behaviour (judging from all crime rates, not just violent crime), so this is what we would rationally expect, i.e. if most people are trustworthy, then we would expect people to be trusting.
Their personal disclosure may lag their trust, if they are introverted.
Or introduce something new that really tests how conscientious a person is -- like video games. All of the sudden Northeast Asians are devastated like fags by AIDS, even more than European video game players.
Chinese are big time gamblers as well, I believe!
But I think videogames may not be the best comparison though of course because videogames in general and the kind of videogames that Asians are into in particular - grindy RPGs - tend to favour long term accumulation over short term payoffs. They may be crack for the conscientious...
Another reason videogames are also an odd choice, though, is because Asians have to something with their time if they're less social - they also master musical instruments at a higher rate. And I believe the same is true for calligraphy and other handicraft type skills. They may not play much more in the way of videogames than Europeans with their level of introversion would.
That personality data is interesting. East Asians in East Asia seem to rate themselves low across the board (with respect to the desirable pole of each aspect of personality), rather than particularly on psychoticism related facets. This may relate to their cultures' tendencies to promote polite humility, rather than actually having personality problems in every facet.
They do not have a much lower acquiesence bias that other cultures in the sample though - the difference seems larger with stereotypically arrogant South American persons - but I expect that is caused by some non-linear pattern in their responses.
I moved to the American Southwest in 1987, having grown up in a little town in New England, Roxbury Connecticut. In the 50s, when I was a child, our small town culture was very hospitable. Kids went to each others' houses all the time, we never locked our doors, dinner invites were always reciprocated. But there was not a lot of physical touching outside of families unless alcohol was being consumed (which in the 50s and 60s was a LOT).ReplyDelete
My experience in the American Southwest has been very different. I lived in Santa Fe for 24 years in a mixed Anglo-Latino neighborhood. The first thing I did when I moved in to my rental house was to take a gift of food to one of my Latino neighbors, an old man who lived alone. He was polite, and took it, but looked at me with an expression of embarrassed bewilderment. He did not invite me in.
There was no reciprocation. I thought it was just because I was Anglo and there has been a lot of local resentment about Anglos moving in to Santa Fe and "taking over." But in fact, all the years I lived in Santa Fe I never saw much contact among the neighbors on my street.
Finally a local, a Latino family man, explained. "No neighbor has ever invited me over, either. We never invite other families to our houses," he said. "We see our neighbors in church a couple of times a year. When we socialize, we socialize within extended family groups."
My guess is that this cultural difference could be explained by the heavy competition historically in the area for land and spouses (Santa Fe has been continuously occupied for over 400 years).
Could you please highlight why pastoralism is linked to this culture of honor and hospitality? It is not quite clear to me.ReplyDelete