Cultural differences in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia

 

In tutorial, we discuss the understanding of cultures and the cultural difference between people. Personally, I am born in Australia but parents are from two different cultural backgrounds Vietnam and China. Thus, because of the differences in family cultural background and the Australian culture, there is a difficulty from the culture conflict. In the Australian family structure, children speaking openly about their personal thoughts is consider acceptable, and the communication between parents and children is of mutual understanding and communicated in a way similar to conversation between friends. In the contrast, the Asian family structure is very different, the children’s thoughts are insignificant and the parents are more stubborn and controlling over the children.

 

The Malaysian culture is very similar to the Chinese culture, where in family the husband is dominant and the wife is only a subordinate. The general culture is sexist and discriminative towards women. This family structure can also represent the workplace, where it is an advantage to be a male over a female when it comes to higher pay positions and other business jobs. However, in business, a big difference in the western culture and the Australian culture is trust issues. Trust gain in the Malaysian culture from long-term friendship or family relations, it is something that can only be developed over time. However, the Australian culture people are easier going and trust can be gain from simple good conversation skills and having similar interests. Understanding this concept, sometime we might feel that there is a lack of trust between the two people. However, a key problem is, there can still be friendly and close conversation even with the trust issues, creating confusion for people with an Australian culture. In Asian culture, the workplace is similar to their family, because the culture is family orientated after a few years of working with the business and eventually developing trust, then treating of the employee is similar to a family member. However, like all other nations, we are rapidly becoming a global culture and these traditional cultures are slowly changing or disappearing. One important aspect about the Australian culture that is much better than Asian is discrimination in social classes. In the Australian society, everyone is equal; unfortunately, in the Asian culture there is a lot of discrimination, where upper class members can highly arrogant and snobbish.

 

The difference in culture also determines the expectations of business transactions where proposals and business agreements are signed between the two parties. In the Asian culture, the direction of the agreement depends upon the public relation office or person in charge of handling the proposal. The client has the expectation that this male member is required to pay for an expensive dinner and/or the late night adult entertainment after the dinner. These incentives can swing from a successful proposal to complete failure. However, in the Australian culture are much more professional and a simple lunch from someone with good communication skills can conclude a successful proposal. This may be a major difference in dealing with business but it can be also beneficial to employee dealing with the client. This benefit is the fact that all these additional expenditures are under company expenditure rather than personal. (The information about client handling is from my uncle who is a tire sales businessperson in China; and a close friend of mine whose father who owns a denim jeans franchise in Malaysia.)

 

The link below has lots of information about Singapore and its workplace culture. It outlines various information including family and personality of its people.

 

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/singapore.html

 

 

Group Discussions

Fortunately, we have a group that multicultural with people coming from all different backgrounds, allowing us to have a more rich understanding of other cultures in the world.

 

Bec explained how she was use to the Australian culture and still finds the aboriginal culture strange or unusual, telling us when speaking with elders we should not look at them in the eyes because to the elders it a sign of disrespect.

 

Fred explained how women in Sweden are less torrent of the dominant male culture in Australia. Creating understanding there is more gender equality in Sweden, where the male and the female are as equals, therefore sharing of housework is have to even. If, male’s do not do there share of the housework, generally the female would leave.

 

Kris explained how she was uncomfortable with her Dutch relatives, where she felt uncomfortable because the relatives would invade her personal space because of the chummy culture in the Netherlands. In the European culture, generally the personal spaces does not exist, where hugs and kisses between men or women are considered friendly and greeting gestures.

 

For international students who want to understand more about the Australian culture the links below is a good website.

 

http://www.latrobe.edu.au/careers/students/jobs/work-culture.html

 

http://www.liveinvictoria.vic.gov.au/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=1596&languageId=1&contentId=-1

 

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  1. Gan Poh Heng Kelvin’s avatar

    Culture, like so many facets of change in the globalised world, begets the real question of what causes change? The assimilation of culture, is it a phenomenem that is brought about by migrants and the numbers of the majority people of the land.

    Is culture, a constant shift due to the convenience and strength of a certain set of tradition? Is it the convergence of technology or the pursuit of capitalism that turns our heads to culture and to seek what makes us comfortable? Does culture spread through the indoctrination of western ideology and education that results in claims of western imperialism.

    Where culture is split through eastern and western concepts, it is rather compelling that culture is most possibly the result of governance or government that results in the predominance of a certain culture. Where democracy wrestles with the multi-racial environment and well-connected world today. How can a certain culture stick, unless it is widely supported by a government which promotes a culture to flourish.

    Simply put, in the example of Singapore, would there be calls for gender equality if this was not at all acceptable to the government. In Australia, would the dominant culture be of “white” descent if not for the oppression of the aboriginals of the land in the early years of Australia’s nationhood. In Malaysia, would the Malay community flourish in the economic front if not for the culture of a Malay government protecting the Malay people.

    In totality, it can be arguable that it is barely evident to lay claim that culture is a by product of political will. Though it would prove ignorant to deny the link between culture of the land and the political leanings of its leader.

  2. Stella Seet’s avatar

    I do agree with some of the key points made by the blogger in this entry.

    The cultures in Singapore and Malaysia are generally much more uptight as compared to the culture in countries like Australia. I think this has got to do more with Asian ideologies versus the more Westernized culture.

    The Asians do tend to have sexist views when it comes to capabilities and achievements. Men are often viewed as much more competent and efficient as compared to women. However, I believe these are old-fashioned views, and I do believe that the Asian culture has changed.

    As the Western culture gets more and more influential and cultural imperialism becomes unavoidable, the Asians have adopted some westernized viewpoints. In today’s Asian culture, I do believe that women are given an equal standing in society, especially in the workplace. Though it may be true that men were given advantage over women when it comes to higher pay positions and other business jobs, I think everyone is given equal opportunities now. Employer looks at capabilities and potential, rather than gender differences. A woman has an equal chance at any position or job in the workplace.

    The some goes for social class discrimination. While this may be accurate in the past, I believe Asians these days are much better educated and mindful when it comes to discriminating against social classes. While traces of that discrimination may still exist, it is not as prominent anymore.

    As Asia becomes more and more developed and advanced, so does its perspectives and viewpoints. It would be unfair to continue to refer to it as it was ten or twenty years ago.

  3. Noor Hidzir Junaini’s avatar

    Although a lot has been made about how much globalization and mass media has homogenized most of the world into a “global village”, cultural differences are still very prevalent. Although I lack perspective in this in a professional context as I’ve not worked overseas, such culture clashes are fairly evident in other areas. This can be seen just by conversing with friends of diverse backgrounds or by simply observing the different social structure and practices during my travels abroad.

    I do agree with the post that such nuances in culture can be jarring when one is forced to adapt quickly. This can be case when one is forced deals with international clients at work or when one decides to pursue one’s studies in a foreign country. In an increasingly borderless society, one eventually has to deal with counterparts from different cultural backgrounds even at home most of the time.

    The only stance I take issue with is the claim by the author that Australian society is superior to Asian culture when it comes to discrimination. Perhaps it is true that there is ingrained sexism present in Asian work cultures, more so than in Australian society. However one could easily argue that a country like multi-racial and meritocratic country Singapore is far less discriminatory in terms of racism than Australia. I’ve been to Australia and I have friends who have lived there for a significant amount time. You cannot tell me with a straight face that there isn’t discrimination displayed towards Asians or Aborigines.

    No culture is perfect. Values and virtues are obviously sociologically subjective. One culture’s meat is another culture’s poison, to paraphrase that old idiom. It seems the author has made a fair bit of generalization based off hearsay or anecdotal evidence. I’m not saying there isn’t some truth in the author’s claims. There probably is. My point is that it’s far more important to understand and be respectful rather than to arrogantly claim cultural superiority.

  4. Danielle Anastasia Lugue Menon’s avatar

    I agree with most of the points mentioned by the author.

    For example, the author stated that “In the Australian family structure, children speaking openly about their personal thoughts is consider acceptable, and the communication between parents and children is of mutual understanding and communicated in a way similar to conversation between friends. In the contrast, the Asian family structure is very different, the children’s thoughts are insignificant and the parents are more stubborn and controlling over the children.”

    I believe the author’s comments and I agree with them as this plays a huge role in workplace culture, family culture and culture in general. As whatever that is thought to you from young and from your family culture becomes part of your upbringing and from that, people would usually carry what they learn from home to where they work and incorporate it with whom they work with.

    With that, I think that the Asian culture is at a great disadvantage because we would not like to feel as if our thoughts are insignificant and we would also not like to be controlled too much as that does not allow creativity and originality as an individual. On the other hand, the Australian culture allows an individual to grow into their own person on their own terms and with the understanding that personal thoughts is accepted and it is ok to dream big and be creative as a person.

    This is very significant because as an individual, upbringing is crucial in terms of family and workplace culture. If you were brought up in a fashion where everyone is open to new ideas and the freedom of speech, expression and thought is allowed, you would be able to grow into your own person. I personally believe everybody should be allowed that and it starts with the culture in which you were brought up in.

  5. Chua Pei Qi’s avatar

    “In the Asian culture, the direction of the agreement depends upon the public relation office or person in charge of handling the proposal.”

    I do agree that Asian organizations are starting to see the need and significance of public relations as the management function for effective communications. As mentioned by many, ‘guan xi’ is the building of good rapport and relationship. Hence, the public relations practitioners seek to establish ‘guan xi’ in order to obtain a win-win situation for the organization and client, in the presence of cultural differences.

    With globalization, this brought about the rise of equality between men and women in the workplace society. Having met many public relations practitioners previously, it is noteworthy to highlight the high ratio of women is to men in the public relations industry. After all, I do believe to a large extent that women are more ‘advantageous’ when it comes to closing deals.

    Western culture is more broad-minded as compared to the conservative Asian culture and ideologies. The gap between Western and Asian cultures will draw closer in the long run as globalization instilled cultural differences knowledge in us. Hence, I agree that the rapid changes caused by globalization and technology advancements will eventually diminish these cultures as we adopt a global culture that is accepted by everyone worldwide.

  6. Jamie-lee Frankland’s avatar

    The author stated that “The difference in culture also determines the expectations of business transactions where proposals and business agreements are signed between the two parties.”

    I agree with him that Asians go to a meeting expecting the company to foot the bill for the meeting. That they also have to meet at a place where the client would enjoy himself in. For example, the Japanese are known to have business meetings around night fall. Where they may meet up for drinks and “parties”. I feel that more Caucasian people are open to the whereabouts and timings of a meeting and do not expect anything but to talk about work.

    About working culture and the issue of trust. I don’t think it really matters on the culture they are brought up in but the willingness to adapt to another culture and to create their own that works. After all more companies are going global and more people have the option to work abroad. Trust also depends on the individual, some people may give you the trust and see whether you would betray it, others may want you to earn it.

    My mother for example is Singaporean Chinese, she was brought up in an Asian culture. When my mother started her business in Scotland, she did not follow what she was taught from “back home”. She was open and willing to learn and adapt to the needs of the foreign place. People were hired according to their skills, willingness to learn and work.

    The staff were allowed to contribute ideas to the weekly planning such as birthday parties, karaoke night etc. They had to respect one another and not in a top-down angle. We don’t say that uneducated people clean up after us, we respect the fact that they are the ones giving us a clean environment. This is something that is obviously missing in Singapore. Till today, even after retiring my mother still hires her manager to work with our family as he’s extremely trustworthy and hardworking. We follow the Asian way and call him our “Uncle” giving him the respect we need to give to the elders. My European cousins find it funny how we call him our Uncle, as well as the Taxi drivers in Singapore. To us it’s a form of respect and truthfully, I think they enjoy the fact that there is respect when addressing them. Thus there would be a higher level of satisfaction.

    I think the best way for a company to work is to accept cultures people are used to but also to include positive cultures of their own. This allows others to understand and appreciate our culture.

    I also agree that we may get a bit of a culture shock in a place that we are not used to. I do feel more comfortable with my European and Australian family as everyone gives one another a hug or a kiss when needed, it does make you feel a lot closer. Whereas I feel that some of my Chinese Aunts love comparing who’s child is working where and who’s child is doing what.

    Both cultures are very interesting and both have good points. I believe that if someone is able to pick out the more positive stuff and to implement it as their own, they would be able to enjoy the both of best worlds.

  7. Nu Thazin Abel’s avatar

    I agree with the blogger’s statement that there every cultural background has different expectations in relation to business. Asians in general tend to be very formal when it comes to business, especial when communicating with clients and such.
    Caucasians on the other hand, appear to be more relaxed and at the end of the day are able to settle things over drinks and dinner.
    Moreover, Asians do not really practice the open and direct approach. I feel that whenever we are not fully satisfied with something we would much rather keep it all inside, keep smiling and then go back home to complain to everyone willing to listen to our woes. However, Caucasians prefer to settle issues there and then. Personally, I prefer this approach because I feel it is better to deal with everything immediately rather than let it simmer till it boils over. Also, this ensures that there will not be any gossip going about.
    The above behaviour is not only applicable to business interactions but also for normal day-to-day relationships. For instance with friends and family, us Asians tend to swallow our emotions especially when it concerns people who are much older than we are. While I do agree that we have to respect the elderly or seniors I think there are many different ways in which these types of situations can be dealt with.
    Nevertheless, however much different our cultures may be we complement each other perfectly.

  8. Samson Weng Xian Sheng’s avatar

    Man vs Woman. Uptight vs open mindedness. Whenever we talk about the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, these points are often mentioned.

    From the way the blog post is written, it seems to me that the author prefers the Australian or Western culture. I can understand why, since the author was born in Australia and probably grew up there too.

    I’m going to compare the author’s views of Asian cultures against Singapore’s culture, presumably an Asian culture. I assume that the author knows that Singapore is a multi-racial country. Perhaps if the author took some time to live and/or work in Singapore, he might find out that racism or sexism isn’t present in most places.

    Singapore takes pride in the multi-racial culture and understanding it has. Take for example, I went over to my friend’s place for dinner just the day before and saw a Malay wedding being held under a void deck. Right at the opposite block was a Chinese wake. The Malay wedding was very lively, with some music being played, just right beside a Chinese wake. Under normal circumstances, I don’t think any Chinese family would be very pleased with the music and all, but I guess the family mentioned understood that it was a special day for the Malay couple.

    Having some friends in Australia, they have told me countless stories where there are cases of discrimination against the Aborigines. Maybe the people over in Australia can learn a thing or two about racial harmony from Singapore.

    As for sexism in workplace culture, there is no denying that there’s discrimination against women in Singapore in the past. But in present times, where more women are also coming out to work, discrimination isn’t that prominent anymore. But I personally believe that there are some jobs where a certain sex is more suited to do.

    The author also pointed out the differences between the way business transactions are made between the two cultures. From my interpretation, the author feels that the Australian culture is more professional as all it takes to seal a deal is just a simple lunch and good communication skills. Does it mean that the Asian way of going out for a dinner and entertainment is anyway less professional? After all, for all we know, after all the constant dinner and entertainment treats, the client may feel that the company is sincere in securing the deal. It might further develop into a long-term relationship where there is no need of dinner and entertainment anymore, just a simple basis of trust. If having just one simple good conversation skills is all it needs to secure a deal, con-artists will be the richest people in the world.

    We need to be able to learn and adapt quickly to different cultures in this ‘global village’ that we live in. As I have mentioned earlier, the author prefers the Australian or Western culture over Asian cultures. There might be some limitations that I don’t know of, but he has actually generalised Asian culture. Perhaps if he has the chance, he can try living in an Asian country or maybe Singapore, where there’s a very nice blend of different racial cultures and learn more about Asian culture.

    Having said all the above, I would say that no culture is perfect, only which does one prefer and believes in. There is no significance in claiming which culture is superior. It’s more important to learn and accept.

  9. HAZEL SEAH SIEW HWA’s avatar

    Having read the article, I do agree that there are indeed culture differences between Australian, Singaporean and Malaysian. However I feel that the writer’s take on the Asian culture not totally true to the current situation. As such, I would like to highlight some points for discussion.

    From the article” the Asian family structure is very different, the children’s thoughts are insignificant and the parents are more stubborn and controlling over the children.”

    Personally as a child born in Singapore to Chinese Singaporean parents, I feel that this is a stereotype view cast on Asian family. Today with higher level of education and globalization that brings along Westernization, parents’ methods of bringing up their kids are unlike the past. Parents today are actually much more open and liberate on their kids and often value what a child have to say.

    From the article “… general culture is sexist and discriminative towards women. This family structure can also represent the workplace, where it is an advantage to be a male over a female when it comes to higher pay positions and other business jobs.”

    I beg to differ with the above statement on the culture being sexist and discriminative towards women. In today’s society, gender discrimination is no longer a standing threat for women. Level of education and capabilities are the measuring factors. As we can see in Singapore, that there are many successful women holding high paying on top of men. One of such successful women story would be Madam HO CHING, chief executive of Singapore government investment company Temasek. This proves that there is longer an advantage to be a male over a female when it comes to higher pay positions and other business jobs.

    Though it’s undeniable that parts of the writer description on Asian culture might still exist, today, a new form of culture has evolved with higher level of education and globalization.

  10. Amanda Wong Jie Ying’s avatar

    I agree with the characteristics the blogger have stated, especially with regards to the differences in the Australian and Asian culture. Just like the Americans, children are able to express themselves openly and they are able to communicate with their parents in such a way that they are friends and not parents. In Singapore and Malaysia, we were taught to be filial to our parents and sometimes, taught to choose money over friends. And because of that, we Asians are often misunderstood as money-minded and stingy. For countries with volatile and fast working pace such as Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, everyone is competing to see who climbs to the “top” first. Some would say you can never find a true friend in the corporate world and it takes a longer time for trust among friends and colleagues to take place.

    And yes, the mentality of bringing clients out for expensive dinners and late night entertainments still exists for some, however, these are for the older generation. Similar to the Australian culture, clients in Singapore are now looking for business partners with good communication skills and professionalism, just like what the author mentioned.

    All these differences are caused by the different lifestyles. From my point of observation, it does seem that Australians are contented as long as they are able to make a decent living and provide comfortably for their families. However, in Singapore, I would say the aggressive business culture; competitive nature of the economy and “kiasu” (fear of losing out) mentality of Singaporeans has moulded the people here to hope more and work more.

  11. Elly Hasfidah bte Mohd Shariff’s avatar

    Overall, I feel that the writer provided a comprehensive viewpoint regarding cultural differences in the three countries mentioned. Although we are moving towards the 21st century, and globalization makes assimilation and integration of cultures easier, it is still something of a challenge in terms of understanding one’s culture despite being more exposed to it. This may be due to the fact that cultures are stemmed from hundreds of years of practice and are rooted within one self. It is difficult to explain to others without the close observation and practice of a third party. That being said, the writer is lucky to have a multicultural family and hence able to understand the differences in culture much better than others.

    The writer notes that Asian “general culture is sexist and discriminative towards women” and there is an “advantage to be a male over a female when it comes to higher pay positions and other business jobs”. This may be true and could still be true in some areas of on organization. Though so, overall, we have evolved and females are now able to hold key positions within a corporation without as much backlash as it could have been 20 years ago.

    I agree with the writer that “trust gain in the Malaysian culture from long-term friendship or family relations, it is something that can only be developed over time.” This comes from the fact that trust between two people, particularly in Asian context is considered sacred. It may stem from the ideology that trust is difficult to obtain, but even harder to gain back when lost.

    The fact that the writer wrote that “in the Asian culture there is a lot of discrimination, where upper class members can highly arrogant and snobbish” is something that cannot be generalized. This is more based on an individual’s characteristics rather than his or her own culture. One’s culture normally does not denote that he or she has the right to be “arrogant and snobbish” despite being in the upper class; but rather on how they were brought up.

    A last point to note is that I find it an eye-opener to know that in Aboriginal culture, we should not look at the elders in the eyes because it is a sign of disrespect. Though I am from an Asian background, and respecting of elders place a very important role in my culture, not looking at them in the eyes while talking is actually a sign of disrespect and also reflects that I may not be honest in whatever I have to say to them.

  12. Leo Shu Yan’s avatar

    This blog post is an interesting one as it highlights cultural diversity as well as the tolerance individuals have for another culture. For years, the Western and Asian culture debate have been continually going on. Today, the discussion continues though circumstances have changed.

    In many Asian societies, hierarchies are visible in most social situations, within families, in school, at work and sometimes, even in public. Unlike most Western cultures, Asians tend to place emphasis on their elders and those who are superior to them, be it their boss or even someone who happens to be in a leadership position, tending to draw a clear line in their relationship. This line cannot be crossed for it might mean disrespect to the person with the higher position.

    However, in today’s work front, this line is increasingly blurred. Organizations now prefer to work with horizontal communication lines instead of vertical ones. Also, with the influx of international business into Singapore, it is essential that multinational organizations and small-medium enterprise alike must adapt and keep up with the world, if not they will lag behind. With that being said, the culture of respect for the elders is still widely observed in Singapore, albeit mostly within the family setting.

    Sexism is omnipresent. It is near impossible to find any culture that does not discriminate or view the female gender as being less capable than their male counterparts, more so, we should think about the degree of discrimination that exists. In Singapore, modern, educated women are not just aspiring to be good mothers who stay at home. More and more women are getting out of the house to join the workforce, many of them holding top positions even. This trend is constantly replaying itself in rapidly growing Asian economies. However, even with education and globalization and women are making a growing portion of the workforce, in Asian and Western countries alike, sexism is never going to disappear. Just imagine, a father saying that he’d rather take care of his kids, with his wife bringing home the bread. How would people react to this?

    Culture in different in every country and community. What is frowned upon in one is encouraged in another. In this dynamic world, there is no one set of rules for people all over to follow. Rather, the way a society functions is rooted to the believe of its people. Business traditions and methods maybe different all over the world, but with respect and tolerance that the individual have for the culture foreign to his, one can still assimilate themselves and thrive anywhere.

  13. Soh Li Ting Amanda’s avatar

    Reading this blog post, from an Asian’s prerogative, I think that the poster’s point of view is slightly out-dated. Perhaps this point of view might have been true 10 years back, but I think that there have been drastic improvements made in recent years.

    The issues of sexual discrimination, family values, and even the comparison between business transactions made in Australia versus Asia, hold grains of truth – that’s undeniable. While these situations still occur occasionally today, I have to say that they do not hold true across the board any longer.

    On the issue of family values, while I can’t speak for Australian families, I think that in Malaysia/Singapore, most parents are increasingly mindful of their children’s opinions, and take those into careful consideration. As the society changes, the Asian culture is also changing along with it – parents are becoming more liberal, children are given more authority to make their own decisions. I think mutual respect has become prevalent in the modern Asian family.

    For the issue of sexual discrimination, while this still holds true in patriarchal societies like Japan or Korea, in Singapore and Malaysia, more women are climbing to the top, and it is no longer uncommon for a female to lead a team consisting of men. In Singapore especially, laws have been laid in place to ensure the rights of women, to the extent that it can be said that a woman’s right is better looked after than a man’s, in the eyes of Singapore law.

    As for the issue of doing business in Malaysia and Singapore, versus Australia, I think it is rather demeaning for the Asian countries, to make a sweeping statement that “in the Australian culture are much more professional and a simple lunch from someone with good communication skills can conclude a successful proposal”. I cannot agree with this statement at all. As a person who is currently working, I have to say that this statement applies to Singapore and Malaysia as well. Everyday, deals are made over lunches, and they are all clean, fair games.

    Of course, the shady side of the business exists as well, but it isn’t unique to the Asian culture. The shady aspects of business exist throughout all cultures, and I think that is an important thing to recognise.

    Overall, I think the blog post raised important issues to consider. However, I felt that the opinions were too slanted and seems rather backdated.

  14. Joseph yeo’s avatar

    Well I definitely agree with the author about the culture difference. I’m Singaporean Chinese but I spent two years with an Aussie homestay and the relationship aspect mentioned is certainly true. The relationship between my then guardians and their kids was more of a ‘friend’ relationship, whereby the kids were willing to confide in their parents, something I feel is rather rare amongst Asian families. In the Singaporean context, it is normal for parents to be controlling over their kids, whereas in Australia the kids are independent at a very young age; running paper routes and such whilst still in middle school. Also, in Singapore it is not uncommon to see individuals well past 20 still living with their parents, but in Australia most of my classmates were more then happy to move out as soon as possible.

    One aspect that the author raised is the difference in the discrimination between social classes. I do agree with that to an extent. Females are less marginalized in australian society and, from what I’ve heard, their boss/employee relationship is indeed more close knit then their Singaporean counterparts. However, I do not agree that Australian culture is better in that aspect. Each country has their own share of social discriminations and I must say that I have endured my share of racism whilst living there. It would be an unfair statement to say that in Australia everone is equal and in Asian culture there exists a lot of social discrimination.

    I am not really well informed about how the trust issue transcends into the business world but I do see how culture plays a part in the Singaporean workforce. As other singaporeans can attest to, there is a famous ‘kiasu’ culture in Singapore, whereby individuals are afraid to lose out to one another. I’ve heard far too many stories about individuals backstabbing one another just to get ahead. If I can’t get ahead by stepping on your shoulders, I’ll step on your dead body to get there. That may be a bit melodramatic, but like I said, I don’t really know much about Singapore working life and this may just be one individual’s misinformed opinion.

  15. Koh Soon Chu Fiona’s avatar

    From an Asian’s perspective, I believe the current situation in Asia is different from what Thomas described.

    For one, Asian parents are increasingly taking the opinions of their children into consideration. While some Asian parents can still be considered stubborn and controlling, I don’t think it is to the extent that they think of their children’s thoughts as “insignificant”.

    While I cannot speak for the situation in Malaysia, I believe that sexism is not an issue in Singapore. Males and females compete equally for the same jobs, and are of equal footing both in terms of position and salary. Furthermore, the government in Singapore has created many policies to ensure that women are not discriminated against in the work environment, and is recognising the importance of women in the workforce. Also, securing a new business these days may not necessarily require heavy expenses. While maintaining a relationship with a client may require wining and dining, clinching new businesses can sometimes be done with just a simple presentation (no lunch or coffee needed!).

    In addition, as a working professional in Singapore, there are many ways to build trust in a working relationship – and not all of them are over long-term friendship of family relations. For example, having worked together with another agency for a short three months can build trust between the two agencies in being able to deliver work effectively. Moreover, the employer-employee relationship may not seem like that of a family member, especially when one is working in a big company.

    While I cant speak about Malaysia, when put into context about Asians, this blog post seems rather outdated in its opinions.

  16. Shalini Selliah’s avatar

    I agree there are cultural differences between the groups which the author have discussed about. But my observation of my surroundings tell me that these cultural differences are slowly dying off, especially the culture in Singapore. The husbands in the family need not necessarily be the dominant ones. And in the modern world today, more parents are becoming less stringent with their children.
    My father is Chinese mixed and my mother is Indian. The way they run the family and lead their lives is like any other family of the modern world. I’m sure there are some families in Singapore which can be compared to families in Australia and there would not be much differences in the way they treat their children and run the family. Nevertheless, I have to agree that Asian families seem to be more close-knitted than Australian families. In the Asian culture, it is not a norm for the children to leave the house and move out elsewhere just because they are old enough to be taking care of themselves. It is generally understood that some Australian parents expect that of their children.
    Discrimination in social classes is an issue in most societies. I have to point out that when I visited Australia, I witnessed some obvious discrimination of the Aborigines. Discrimination is sometimes inevitable and is present in most societies. Discrimination of females has got nothing to do with culture. I feel that discrimination of females can be very general and it is still present today because of our stereotypical ancestors or the old fashioned people present in our society.

  17. See Wei Jie’s avatar

    I feel that every culture (Australia, Malaysian, and Singapore) has its own unique ways of functioning based on the different cultural background.

    As time goes by, I believe the Asian’s perceptive has also change over the time as parents are more educated and are more “open” to their children views on certain issues. Although I do agree that there are still some limitations on certain issues where parents still prefer their children to listen to, that is how Asian claims this kind of limitation as “obeying”.
    As mentioned by Thomas, “The general culture is sexist and discriminative” which I strongly disagree with this statement. I feel that Asian country (Maybe like Singapore) has been moving forward by providing equal opportunity to both males and females employees. Everyone here will go through the same process and promotion and increment will base on individual performance.

    However when it comes to expectations of business transactions, although I do agree with Thomas that Asian country are using more on “Guan Xi” or relationship to get their business done, this may be mainly reflect to those “older” generation employer as their mentality place more on getting long working relationship through this kind of entertainment. But I believe as time goes by, we can see that Singapore has becoming to approach more to a Professional and good communication requirement when sorting for their business transactions due to the fact that Singapore is a multi cultural countries and such improvement and mindset must be adopted.

  18. Harpreet Kaur’s avatar

    Although I have always done my best to not generalise and be so certain that widespread actions can be termed under ‘culture’, what is mentioned here is very similar to my impression of what has been going on in the western and Asian countries. It is a common sight of Asians being less open and westerners being more approachable. It is also observed that Asians are very serious and hardworking, while the westerners are more laid-back and interpersonal.

    We grow up picking up tidbits of behaviour from our parents, and while every individual has a unique view point, the differences pointed out are common, general attitudes that have been passed down through the generations. It is hard to change opinions, let alone behaviours. Therefore, while I don’t think these differences will remain solid through the next few generations (as a lot has changed in the past few ones, like Singapore loosening its slack), they will be here to stay as a societal norm to the citizens. These norms, integrated in a person, very often result in that person viewing the other cultures as abnormal or weird. So it is not surprising that your group discussion revealed the amount of uneasiness when two cultural norms are conflicting. Although easier said than done, detaching oneself from his/her cultural norms can help with understanding and appreciating the diversity of cultures better.

  19. Za'id Khan’s avatar

    Hey Mate! I come from a Malay Singaporean family but my parents don’t think my thoughts are insignificant. I think we have more respect for the elderly and authority here in Asia and hence we not have ‘open’ conversations with parents and bosses. This however does not mean we are unable to share meaningful insights or give constructive opinions into conversations and discussion with them. We simply put it across in a more respectful way, and the message often gets across just as effectively. I do not see why we should speak to parents like we would do with friends, just as you would not speak to your wife the way you joke with your buddies! This is simply “strategic communication, crafted for the right target audience” that we do in our daily lives.

    However at the work place, we do have something we could learn from the Aussies. An open conversation with your direct superiors would be nice. I think unless you’re speaking to the CEO, there should not be a need to restrict yourselves too much. This hinders creativity and effective idea flow that is essential in producing good work. Especially in policy making government organizations, instead of effectively using the inputs of 250 educated professionals available, one department head makes the decision and everyone simply agrees with him/her! Why bother!

  20. william zhang gengtao’s avatar

    Regarding to the posts on cultural differences in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia by Thomas Lee and Joshua Ang, I’m not agreeing with his point, since his statement has mentioned something about“ The Malaysian culture is very similar to the Chinese culture, where in family the husband is dominant and the wife is only a subordinate”, from my personal perspective, Since I m foreigner student from china, if you ask me something about Chinese culture then I will had the whole answer at my fingertips, This family structure can not represent at the workplace. The Chinese culture has been changed by culture revolution. Actually I m saying that the husband is dominant and the wife is a subordinate is the ancient Chinese culture. Only the ancient china not allows Women to participate in government or community institutions. Except this point, I agree with his opinion. I always believe that work culture in different countries is a reflection of culture differences.

  21. A Wong’s avatar

    This is a very old post, but I feel the need to say that I was born in Malaysia and grew up there and never once have I seen a family in which the husband is dominant over his wife.

    Your statement makes a generalisation about Chinese culture and shows ignorance that the majority of Malaysians are not even Chinese but Malay and neglects the indigenous ethnic groups as well as Indians.

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