Culture stereotype

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What is culture stereotype?

It is the way of categorizing people in to the group and assuming that everyone who has the same culture, religion, values and race would act the same way. Stereotypes are generalizations based primarily on membership in that group without exception. Culture stereotyping usually refers to negative assumptions because it is unjust to individuals who vary from others in the same group or culture.

Whenever we talk about people from different culture, we usually categorize people into a group of actions and behaviors we assume that they would act in the same way. Stereotypes are rigid and fixed. Sometimes when the stereotype develops into a rigid attitude and when people’s belief based on wrong assumptions, prejudice occurs.

 Example of culture stereotyping:

  • Mexicans are lazy and came into America illegally  Stereotype-me
  • Africans are black
  • Americans are obese
  • Thailand is known as the sex tourist capital
  • Muslims and Arabs are terrorists.
  • Jews are greedy
  • Thai women are sex slave
  • Asians like Math
  • Africans are poor

stereotyping

Picture credit

This is what I feel needs to change, as people shouldn’t be judged only by the cultural differences!

Related content:

Effects of a Cultural Stereotype in the Workplace

Taranga and stereotypes

Cross-cultural misunderstanding

“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

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Picture credit: BlueStream Marketing

What is a cross-cultural misunderstanding?

Cross-cultural misunderstanding happens when people from different cultures communicate or interact with one another. People from one culture act according to their norms and values, but the other does not understand the message the way it was conveyed and might interpret differently due to the cultural differences. Cultural misunderstanding also occurs when a word, gestures or social context have different meanings in different cultures.

In this case, I will focus on Thai culture in particular. I do believe that people travelling to other countries having a basic understanding of what is acceptable and what is frowned upon can be a big advantage for them. I am not saying or expecting that people have to act like the way the Thai do, it is just good to be mindful of how things in Thailand are.

Here are some tips to help you understand more about Thai culture and avoid cultural misunderstandings.

  • Thai greeting– The Wai- The wai is the common form of greeting and adheres to strict rules of protocol. It consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together. Generally, a younger person wais an elder, who returns it
  • Confrontation– Thai people generally speak softly and avoid confrontation at all costs. Please do not shout or raise your voice. Moreover, losing your temper, or showing strong negative emotions in public is considered a negative behaviorImage
  • Touching other’s head– In Thailand, your head is considered high; it is the most sacred part of the body, so touching someone’s head is considered rude, impolite and disrespectful.
  • Eating– it is inappropriate to lick you fingers while eating
  • No shoes inside– it is essential in Thai culture for people to remove their shoes before entering to someone’s house or a temple.
  • Pointing with your feet– the foot is considered the lowest part of the body.Image Pointing your feet to someone or something or raising your feet higher than someone’s head, using your feet to move anything or touch anyone or simply put your feet on the table is considered extremely rude in Thai culture.
  • Bend your body– As I mentioned above the head is the most scared part of the body. Therefore, Thai people will bend a little if they have to walk and everybody else sits, especially when the ones who sit are older than you. This is the way we show respect to the belief that having your head higher than someone else means that you are in a superior position to others.
  • Don’t step over people– If everyone else is sitting and you need to walk by; do not step over a person or any part of their body. Instead please walk around.
  • Keep your voice down when you are in closed public spaces– Thai people speak quietly when they are in closed public places such as in a train, bus, and elevator.

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Learn more about Thai culture:

Do’s and Don’t’s in Thai culture

Thai culture, customs and etiquette 

10 Thai customs to know before visiting Thailand

Thai Culture vs American Culture!

Understanding Thai culture and American culture

Individualism VS Collectivism

Individualism-Collectivism is a major measurement of cultural variability used to explain cultural differences in communication across cultures. People in individualistic society are more self-centered and emphasize personal achievement rather than the group harmony. They tend to put rights and privacy first. On the other hand, collectivist cultures require people to fit into a group; they value their relationship and group harmony over individual’s goals. They view themselves as a member of a group (family, tribe, work unit). People in collectivist cultures are more willing to cooperate and they tend to avoid conflict. Furthermore, collectivist cultures value social obligation, which make them avoid conflict to maintain a positive social relationship.

Hierarchical vs Egalitarian societies

Hierarchical refers to societies that have a formality. It is organized into various successive layers depending on several factors such as status and power. People’s social status is determined by social power; some people have more power than others and it is widely acceptable from people in the society. People will give more respect to others who are a senior by age and by social status. Conversely, egalitarian society is a community where everyone is treated the same way regardless of their social status. It holds the belief that all people are equal and should have the same rights and opportunities.

Thailand, in particular, is an example of a hierarchical culture. Social relationships are defined in terms of one person’s superiority to another.  Teachers are superior to their students, bosses to their subordinates, parents to their children and elders to the younger generation. Even in language, we use different kinds of words with people depending on their social status. For instance, we use different words when talking to a friend, parent, boss, teacher, or monk or when we speak to the Royal family or have a conversation that refers to them. We even use different names for ourselves depending on whom we have a conversation with.

How Thai and American see the boss!

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Concept of Self between Thai and American

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graphics copyright of Yang Liu

Tightness vs Looseness

In a ‘tight’ society, such as China, Japan or Thailand, parents and teachers emphasis rule abidance. They monitor children’s behavior; a good child or a good student is the one who abides the rules. In Thai culture, people have been taught to follow the rules and the patterns of behavior that their ancestors have passed down to their children. It is something that people have been doing for generations.

On the other hand, parents and teachers in a ‘loose’ society, such as America, tend to encourage children to explore the world more. Parents and teachers in a loose society are more permissive than those in tight society.

 

Thai Culture American Culture
Social system Collectivism  Individualism
Social relationship Hierarchical Egalitarian
Nature of culture Tightness Looseness
Conflict style Indirect/ avoidance Direct/ confrontation
Social status Characteristics such as age, gender, and family determines social status People’s status is based mainly on their own achievements, including education obtained and level of success realized in their line of work.
Emotional expression Emotional control Emotion is openly expressed
Communication Indirect Direct

 

Related content:

Cultural Tightness-Loosness

Negotiating Globally by Jeanne M. Brett

The Journal of Values Based Leadership