Are you selfish? – The big difference between Eastern and Western culture

As I study Humanities at university we had lesson where we compared the difference between Eastern and Western culture. To me the biggest difference between the two culture is that Easterns live in community and the interest of a commune is the first while Westerns take individual more important. In Eastern the hierarchy in a family (respecting elders) is more emphasized, which mean the younger one have to do what the elder says. Whereas it is more liberal in Western, everyone can make their own decisions and it is respected. I think this is one of the main factor that the two culture can’t adjust to each other easily. But the worst comes for those who are stuck between the two culture. We are living in a globally developed world, where many people from Asia move to Europe or America and their child grows up with two culture. While they are young it’s easy for them as the family gives a full support, they can adjust well in school but what happen when they grow up and have to choose their own path?

I’m one of that type of child who was born in Hungary but was brought up by Vietnamese family. Now I’m 23 and I’m facing probably one of the biggest challenge that life can give me. As I mentioned above Europe support individual interest more and since I went to school here, I agree and like to live that way. That means I think for myself first before I think of the others most of the time, as I am convinced if I’m not okay, I can’t help any other person. Unlike my family they think of others first before themselves. And they do require me to do so (fortunately not radically).

How did I realize it?

After I went on my solo travel I asked my mum how she found it that her daughter dared to travel alone. I thought she would praise me, but instead she told me she was worried everyday wondering how I was.It’s understandable that a mum worry about her solo traveller daughter, but that conversation also gave me a feeling, she wanted to tell me carefully that I didn’t think of her feeling. Coming my sister-in-law who put others first and tried to lead me living that way. I started to question myself whether I was selfish. And then I remembered one of the evening last year, I was in the US and we sat outside our building at the hotel and we talked about this topic. An Asian guy moved to the USA with his family, even though he didn’t want to. He shared his feelings adjusting to a new country.

Filipino guy: “Because of my family I had to move to the US. I didn’t have a choice. In Asian culture as an oldest son of family you have a responsibility to follow and take care of your parents. You can’t be selfish and just do what you feel like to do.”

Czech guy: “Then isn’t it the parents who are selfish as they require the child to give up on their own interest, wish, plan to follow the family?”

I was really surprised by his question. I suddenly felt like everything I believed before just crashed into pieces in front of me.

But I realized none of us were selfish. Asian is family-centered culture so they value and put others first. Of course if they see someone wants to go on their own, they don’t agree with that attitude. European and Western in general are self-centered culture where they value their own privacy more than the interest of a community, so they think if someone have to give up their freedom for the others then it’s not the individual who is selfish but the community who require so.

Selfishness gained a new meaning

In my opinion selfish are those who cannot put themselves in other person’s shoes and respect the others. Therefore it makes all of us to be equally selfish as we mostly only look at other person and situation from our point of view. We judge without any solid reason only based on our own personal opinion. Sometimes we don’t even know who the other person is, but we judge them from the gossips we hear. That’s called prejudice, which destroy a whole humanity.

Have you ever got into situation when you didn’t want to talk to someone, because you heard this and that about them? Then when you started a conversation with the same person you find out, he/she is so cool. “Why didn’t I talk to her/him before?”- you ask yourself so. That’s why we shouldn’t judge the book by its cover.

If we can mind our own business more instead of butting in other person’s life, meeting new people with a clean glass of eye, then respect them and become their friend without any expectation, we can create better human relationship between us.

So for that we all should respect each other and accept everyone the way they are. Doing so, doesn’t matter how different two culture is (or even within one culture), all of us can adjust to each other more easily and have better connection.

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