Friday, October 14, 2005

Asian culture



There is a constant emphasis on this blog to the effect that everyone else is tribal and we Anglos are the only fools who are not.  I don’t dispute that there is a lot of tribalism about but it is not what rules Asian culture—and Asians are a rather large slice of the earth’s population.  As anybody who really knows Asians will be aware, Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity.  Like everybody else, they do like it best if you come from their own language group but that fades into insignificance if there is an exchange of favours involved.  And they are acutely conscious of any obligation that they incur or may be thought to incur.  And I want to illustrate that with an anecdote.

In my big post about my racial attitudes written last month (See here), I said this:

And the claim that Asian cultures are tribal is a grave misconception. Asian culture is a culture of reciprocity. So if you treat them well or do them a good turn you generate enormous feelings of obligation in return. So when I walk into an Indian shop where I am known and buy three samoosas for my lunch I will occasionally get a fourth one popped into the bag as a gesture of goodwill. What is problematical about a culture like that?

At the bottom of the same post I also mention a bit about the Japanese Sushi Train restaurant that I regularly dine at and I note the typically Japanese impassivity of the chefs there.  Because I am such a frequent customer there, however, reciprocity has now come into play there too and has overcome even Japanese reserve.  Not only does one of the normally silent chefs say a few words to me now and then but I have even been given free sushi on a couple of occasions.

In other words, because I do them the slight favour of being a frequent customer, they feel under an obligation to me and reciprocate with friendliness and the odd dish of free food.  I am not remotely of their tribe.  They do not treat me well because of my tribe.  They treat me as an individual and treat me unusually well because I treat them well (from their perspective).  What was that saying that some old prophet once said?  Something about “Do unto others…”  It works, tribe or no tribe.

No comments:

Post a Comment