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How do Eastern and Western Cultures Differ?

There’s nothing more exciting and educational than getting to know people who are different than you. Learning from other cultures can be quite a shock, and it can get you in trouble if you don’t know the way they do things. If you want to know the main differences between Eastern and Western cultures, keep reading!

1. Goal Achievements

People from Western cultures grow accustomed to taking care of themselves and their closest relatives or partner. It’s pretty common for them to try to achieve personal goals and exclusively look for the well-being of their kind. In contrast, Eastern cultures are said to be community- based, since they tend to care more about the community that surrounds them, even involving them in the task of raising children. On a similar note, Western people tend to travel alone or with a small group of family or friends, while Eastern people like to travel in big groups of people.

2. Family Relations/Role

Family plays an enormous role in Eastern people’s lives. They are considered traditional cultures that border on the inflexible, and they respect ideologies and beliefs above all. One big ideology is the fact that the elderly are the leaders of their homes, their wisdom and experience makes them the rulers and makers of big decisions. Children and younger people tend to seek for advice from them and later on they’ll take care of them personally until they pass. In Western cultures, while they do respect the elderly they tend to “pamper” them like kids more than give them authority. In fact, it’s not uncommon to remove responsibilities and big decisions from elders, and they’re often sent to live at retirement homes where professionals will take care of them until they pass.

3. Education

In Eastern cultures, education is based on an individual’s practice, hard work and even a bit of struggle. It is believed that if kids don’t buckle up and make an effort they’ll inevitably fall behind without consideration. Kids are expected to be obedient to their superior’s orders and not much interactivity is encouraged. In comparison, Western civilization’s education system is seen as a more lax one. Western kids are encouraged to be creative, and participate and communicate more; and if they have special needs they are included and considered. These differences are probably the main cause why, when an Eastern student goes to a Western school, they are perceived as overachievers.

Related: 9 Ways Workplace Culture Differs Around the World

4. How both Act as Tourists

You have probably heard something about this at some time in your life. It’s common to see Eastern tourists in many places running around with their cameras or phones taking pictures of everything they see or visit. Westerners, on the other hand, travel for the experience. And while they do take pictures (mainly to post them on social media), just a couple of them in front of a popular landmark will do.

5. Beauty Standards

This is one of the most noticeable differences between Eastern and Western cultures, and it doesn’t have to do with genetics. Eastern people with fair skin, even from since ancient times, are considered to be more beautiful with some of the best skincare products being invented in Asia. Women also like to go with very little makeup or, at least one that makes them look natural. As for body aesthetics, slim women are more common and being thin is a cherished body standard. In Western culture, on the other hand, voluptuous women with tanned skin and elaborate makeup are the beauty standard to follow from early teenage years, besides the growing trend of body acceptance that involves fashion campaigns featuring “real bodies”.

6. Fashion Choices

Because of a strong superstition regarding death, black and dark colors are avoided by Eastern people, who tend to go for brighter colors, patterned clothes which they consider as “good luck” and even turn to Kawaii clothing (a Japanese cuteness trend): bright garments with “adorable” and childish details. In spite of opting for bolder colors, they are considered to be much more conservative in terms of showing skin, so don’t expect to see deep cleavages and short skirts. For the Western cultures, fashion runs on a different track. The most basic colors used to create almost any outfit are black, gray, navy and white. People wear different colors but at least one of the basic ones can’t be missing. And of course, on Westerners you’ll see A LOT of skin all the time.

7. Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is a very interesting topic among both cultures. The relationship of Eastern cultures with the sun is barely existent; they don’t sunbathe and they carry an umbrella everywhere because the minute the sun comes out they must protect themselves from it. Eastern people have some of the most effective skincare products and they’re known for not suffering from cancer skin as much as  Westerners do…. wonder why?

For Western cultures, the sun is anything from life to fertility to happiness, that’s why people love to be under the sun and they seek it for their relaxing times. In addition to this, let’s not forget Western beauty standards dictate that tanned people are pretty, so you’ll find that most people like to lay under the sun for hours.

8. Workplace Manners

Working environments in Eastern cultures are pretty strict, some of the strictest in the world actually. Since Eastern cultures are based on pretty firm and absolute hierarchies, the boss is not to be questioned or debated with when he/she gives and order. All employees must act on it and do their work with no questions asked. For Western cultures, there’s actually been a big change in the last few years where an inclusive and communicative environment has been implemented. Employees are encouraged to ask as many questions as they want, and to contribute with ideas to strengthen teamwork.

Related: How to Prepare for a Job Relocation

9. Overall Lifestyle

There are some very noticeable differences when it comes to the everyday lifestyle Easterners and Westerners pursue. People from Western cultures are raised to be much more independent, often grow up to believe they can take care of everything on their own. With this belief in mind, it’s not uncommon for the Westerner to have a daily routine that consists of them being completely on their own and not interacting with anybody. Easterners, on the other hand, have a deep sense of companionship and from a very young age move around in large groups of friends that go everywhere and do everything together.

10. Punctuality

You’d think that because they have such strict standards and schedules Eastern people are always right on time? Think again. For Eastern cultures time is a little more relative than for other cultures, and it is completely ok to be flexible with meetings and deadlines. In Western cultures, punctuality is seen as good manners and a way of respecting the people you’re meeting with. And while punctuality is not practiced by everyone, it is frowned upon to be late.

They might not seem like a lot, but these differences are what makes interacting with both cultures a wild ride. Whether you’re from the West or from an Eastern culture, now you know a lot more about the ways of certain people and you’ll be more prepared whenever you travel to other culture’s countries.

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