Japan and the United States: Different but Alike!

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Japan and the United States:Different but Alike!

The culture of a place is an integral part of its society whether that place is a remote Indian village in Brazil or a highly industrialized city in Western Europe. The culture of Japan fascinates people in the United States because, at first glance, it seems so different. Everything that characterizes the United States--newness, racial heterogeneity, vast territory, informality, and an ethic of individualism-- is absent in Japan. There, one finds an ancient and homogeneous society, an ethic that emphasizes the importance of groups, and a tradition of formal behavior governing every aspect of daily living, from drinking tea to saying hello. On the surface at least, U.S. and Japanese societies seem totally opposite.

One obvious difference is the people. Japan is a homogenous society of one nationality and a few underrepresented minority groups, such as the ethnic Chinese and Koreans. All areas of government and society are controlled by the Japanese majority. In contrast, although the United States is a country with originally European roots, its liberal immigration policies have resulted in its becoming a heterogeneous society of many ethnicities--Europeans, Africans, Asians, and Latinos. All are represented in all areas of U.S. society, including business, education, and politics.

Other areas of difference between Japan and the United States involve issues of group interaction and sense of space. Whereas people in the United States pride themselves on individualism and informality, Japanese value groups and formality. People in the United States admire and reward a person who rises above the crowd; in contrast, a Japanese proverb says, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” In addition, while North Americans’ sense of size and scale developed out of the vastness of the continent, Japanese genius lies in the diminutive and miniature. For example, the United States builds airplanes, while Japan...
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