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Thread: How individualistic are you ?

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    How individualistic are you ?



    EDIT : I have been reading about in psychological and cultural studies for many years. One of the most interesting trait I have come across for comparing countries is the opposition between individualism and collectivism. I first wrote about it in 2003 when I was living in Japan. In this thread I will analyse a few national cultures with which I am particularly familiar and explain what makes them individualistic or collectivist.

    There are many ways of being an individualist. I will look here at the relation of individualism to 6 major contexts of life :

    • Style & Opinions : Individualists prefer to be seen as unique, don't want to be like everybody else, have strong opinions which they are ready to defend, are independent-minded, like arguing and are not easily influenced by others. Collectivists are conventional, conformist, follow trends and fashions, want to fit within the group, adapt their style and their opinions to those of the group they belong to.
    • Motivation & Interests : Individualists are more interested in things and ideas than in people and relationships. They are motivated by self-improvement and personal goals. They feel rewarded by the sense of having accomplished something by themselves, without anybody's help (personal challenge, for the sake of it). Collectivists care about belonging to a group or community, and feel rewarded by being liked and respected by other members of the group.
    • Family & Accommodation : Individualists leave home as soon as they can. they like their freedom and prefer living all by themselves (or possibly with a flat mate for weaker individualists). They don't meet their relatives very often, and don't let their family decide anything for them. They get divorced more easily. Collectivists move out of the parental home late, usually only when they get married. They are more likely to seek the acceptance of the family before choosing a spouse. Strong collectivists even live with their parents (and grandparents) after getting married and may let their family (help them) choose a spouse for them. Divorce is usually taboo or strongly discouraged.
    • Travel : Individualists need the freedom to go and see wherever they want whenever they want. They can't stand following a group/guide or having to adjust their pace to others. They travel to see the world, observe other people, meet other travellers, but without ever having to lose their flexibility and freedom. They like having to plan their trips, find their way, surmount difficulties all by themselves. Collectivist can only enjoy travel in the company of others (family, friends, organised tour) with whom they can share their experience, socialise and have fun.
    • At work : Individualists like to be able to make their own decisions, even if it means having to argue a point with others until they win, or go against the boss or team's decision. Collectivists respect more easily the authority coming from their group leader, and accept more readily majority ruling.
    • Behaviour in international group : Individualists mingle easily with other nationalities because they don't feel a particular attachment to their own group (country, region, ethnicity, language). Collectivists like by and for their own group, and therefore will stick with people of their own nationality or language whenever they can.


    The Italian case

    Italians seem to be very individualistic :

    - at work (many small businesses, because they don't like to have a boss)
    - in society (they usually don't feel as much Italian as from their own region)
    - in their way of thinking (they have quite arrested opinions and don't mind defending them against others)

    But they can also be very collectivist when it comes to :

    - family (children living with their parents till their 30's or till they get married, then move close to their mama's house )
    - travelling outside Italy (the fact that they stick together when they go abroad or meet in an international community)


    The Germans

    Germans, who are typically individualistic in most respects, also tend to stick together inside an international group or when travelling abroad. This is not not usually the case of other Europeans, who usually mix more easily with people from other cultures. I wonder if this is because Germany and Italy were only recently unified as a nation, and that people still have a strong sense of regional belonging. The country as a whole is seen as an quasi-international community of its own, a (con)federation of states. It's telling that the Americans and the Japanese behave just like the Germans and the Italians in this regard. Americans are obviously also a young country and a federation of states. Japan was a feudal country with strong regional identities until 1867. If your country is your region/state and your international community is your federation, then you end up seeing the rest of the world as just too foreign and distant.


    The British

    British people are famous for their exacerbated individualism. It could even be said that they are the most individualistic nation on earth. Young people usually leave their parental home when they turn 16 or 18. People in their twenties that still live with their parents (30ties in just unimaginable !) are considered incapable of taking care of themselves, over-protected or just good-for-nothing. That is why parents also tend to force their children out early so that they have to cope with life. Many of these young people take a gap year (a year off) to travel around the world or start working and get some money before university. They will of course travel on their own and with often no fixed itinerary (contrarily to the Japanese, who always plan everything in the slightest details).

    Brits are individualistic to an unequalled extend in their hobbies. As they do not care what other people do (Japanese do almost exclusively what other people do, following the mass trends), and enjoying themselves in their own private little ways. That also means that some have weird or for the least original hobbies, like train-spotting. They are also very individualistic at work, having and caring little about hierarchy as long as people have brilliant and original ideas.

    The Americans

    Like the British, Americans are famous individualists. However, that does not apply so generally, probably because American society is much more ethically and culturally diverse (only 71% of Caucasians, vs 94% in Britain).

    Americans also notoriously travel in group, rather than alone. This is the most obvious difference with British people.

    The French

    French people are quite individualistic on average. They are especially so at work (don't want to be seen as part of the group or, when Americans ask for it, vehemently refuse to wear company t-shirts or sing the company's anthem), in their behaviour (each person wants to be different from other people just to prove their uniqueness), opinions (love arguing and be righter than others) and way of thinking (almost no influence from other people, and just taking the opposite stance for the sake of the argument).

    But they tend to be more collectivist (than the Brits, though not the Italians) when it comes to family, hobbies, activities and even travel, as after all, they do not like very much doing things on their own (there need to be someone to discuss and argue with !)

    The Japanese

    They usually considered themselves as perfectly collectivist, but they can show signs of unrelenting individualism when they don't have the choice. Who more than the younger generation of Japanese are ready to go and study abroad by themselves for a whole year (or longer) without knowing anybody and without seeing their friends and family during that time ? How many young Japanese backpackers haven't I seen that were travelling alone - even though they often meet other Japanese on the way.

    The same is true of their hobbies. Many Japanese do not hesitate to take private English lessons on their own or join some clubs or activities where they do not know anybody first. Maybe is it their sociability, as I know many Europeans (especially in Latin countries) that wouldn't join a new activity (sport, arts...) without a friend.

    When it comes to accommodation, Japanese are the most and least individualistic at the same time. It actually depends on the people or period of their lives. On the individualistic side, Millions of Japanese live alone, and sharing a flat/apartment with some friends or even with their boy/girlfriend is extremely unusual in Japan. Striking individualism, beating even the British, for whom sharing a house with 4 or 5 friends (not family) is the most common thing to do among young Londoners. On the other hand, the rest of the Japanese, those that do not live by themselves, typically live with their family. Like in Italy, it is normal for children in Japan to "squat" their parent's house until their thirties or until they get married. It used to be common in Japan (and still regularly happens) that 3, 4 or even 5 generations live under the same roof, sometimes with the uncles, aunts and cousins. This is unheard of in Western countries. Let us say that Japanese society is divided and changing regard "the living place" and family.

    The most collectivist attitudes of the Japanese can be found at work and in the society as a whole (Japanese vs foreigners mentality). Japanese tend to be very harmonious in their behaviour and opinions (at least "tatemae") compared to any Western country.

    All in all, I'd say that Japanese are individualistic for their hobbies, travelling and their living place, but very collectivist for the rest.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 30-10-11 at 17:11.

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    I think when you grow older you are more willing to do things alone...when you are young you feel like you should stay with your family because you are used to it.In Belgium, and Europe you are used to hang around with friends and go out a lot.In Japan they go out also but they tend to stay at the outside, they are shy .Because of that I think most Japanese ppl want to go alone to a club or sportclub.They are more mature and also more independant then ppl from other countries.That's what I think of it!

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    nice piece!. cant do anything but agree.. all seems very well thought out ^_^

    on the question (how individualistic i am)

    Family - very, my family is not all that important to me and i can do without them for the most part..

    Living place - same as above

    Work - not very, i like surrounding myself with people to talk to when i do dull things. I also like not having to make too many decisions myself, i'm perfectly ok with having a boss.

    Hobbies - not very, again, i think most things are more fun the more people you are

    Travel - not at all, traveling alone is dull as hell

    In an international group - so-so, i like being around many people, but i can stand out of the crowd at times, like most people.

    Society - very, i tend to work to stick out like a soar thumb.. Just because i like having an ocean of people around me, i still don't want to drown in it.

    Way of thinking - Very, people tend to dissagree with me.. and sometimes i take an opposing point of view just to be different.

    in closing i'd like to flater myself by thinking im a pretty damn special person.. i like me, but i can get annoying at times

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Brits are individualistic to an unequaled extend in their hobbies. As they do not care what other people do (Japanese do almost exclusively what other people do, following the mass trends), and enjoying themselves in their own private little ways. That also means that some have weird or for the least original hobbies, like trainspotting.
    You don't say !

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    http://animation.filmtv.ucla.edu/stu.../coneindex.htm

    http://www.bifrost.com.au/hosting/gnomes/

    http://www.chavscum.co.uk/index.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo

    The British

    People in their 20ties that still live with their parents (30ties in just unimaginable !) are considered uncapable of taking care of themselves, over-protected or just good-for-nothing.
    Yup that's me.

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    Nice thoughts, but I think it fits more for older people.
    The younger generations are very indiviualistic and - especially in Europe - aren't so fixed on their own country and old traditions/behaviours.
    That's why I wouldn't totaly agree.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pray
    Nice thoughts, but I think it fits more for older people.
    The younger generations are very indiviualistic and - especially in Europe - aren't so fixed on their own country and old traditions/behaviours.
    That's why I wouldn't totaly agree.
    Sorry, but which country are you referring to ? And where are you from ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Like the British, Americans are famous individualists. However, that does not apply so generally, probably because American society is much more ethically and culturally diverse (only 71% of Caucasians, vs 94% in Britain).
    So, Maciamo, does this mean that the Americans are a combination of the others mentioned...and some?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hachiko
    So, Maciamo, does this mean that the Americans are a combination of the others mentioned...and some?
    Yes, but only partly, as there are people from many more countries (even among those of European descent, I haven't mentioned the Benelux, Swizterland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc...)
    Americans are closer to the british in terms of individualism, because language influence the way of thinking. But as a high proportion (not sure whether it's 10 or 30% or whatever) of the American citizens were actually born outside the US and keep something from their original culture. No wonder that Chinese in some China town still stick together (I have heard that some who were born in New York cannot even speak English because they stay only with Chinese-speaking people), as Chinese are very collectivist among themselves. Just an example.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    No wonder that Chinese in some China town still stick together (I have heard that some who were born in New York cannot even speak English because they stay only with Chinese-speaking people), as Chinese are very collectivist among themselves. Just an example.
    That kind of thing really frustrates me sometimes, because where I live, it's pretty rural. Everybody speaks to everybody and everybody knows everybody, helps everybody, etc. etc., and when the Chinese or the Japanese(which are only my husband and his co-workers) stick to themselves so much, it makes everyone wonder what is wrong with them. My husband has adapted to this more since he is part of an American family now, but the others tend to alienate themselves completely. They are completely different from the Egyptians who live here, who seem to try their best to blend in with everyone else and go out of their way to be friendly and associate themselves with the townspeople.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kirei_na_me
    the Japanese(which are only my husband and his co-workers) stick to themselves so much, it makes everyone wonder what is wrong with them.
    It's all part of the "uchi" and "soto" reasoning. Even when in another country and they are the foreigners (outsiders/ soto) they consider their group of fellow Japanese to be Uchi and anyone that is not Japanese is Soto. This also explains apparently why Japanese tour groups are so noisy!!

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    HAHA nzueda, thats weird how Japanese people do that, anyways I would consider myself to fall in right under the American's category.. I am an "American" and the research from Maciamo's post hits it 100%.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kirei_na_me
    My husband has adapted to this more since he is part of an American family now, but the others tend to alienate themselves completely. They are completely different from the Egyptians who live here, who seem to try their best to blend in with everyone else and go out of their way to be friendly and associate themselves with the townspeople.
    Isn't it just because these Japanese have not decided to settle forever in the States and are just there for their job, while the Egyptians would have come to the US for good (and taken up American citizenship) ?

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    Maybe so, but still, the Japanese that are here are here for long term. Their company will be here forever(hopefully), so I believe it's good for them if they form a good relationship with the people that reside here. Their company is the only company of any size around this area. They employ a good number of the people. Every major business around here contributes to the community in some way except for them. I just don't think it's very nice, frankly. Plus, it alienates them from everyone. In a small community, that can lead to negative feelings. I guess they just don't care, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo
    Yes, but only partly, as there are people from many more countries (even among those of European descent, I haven't mentioned the Benelux, Swizterland, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, etc...)
    Americans are closer to the british in terms of individualism, because language influence the way of thinking. But as a high proportion (not sure whether it's 10 or 30% or whatever) of the American citizens were actually born outside the US and keep something from their original culture. No wonder that Chinese in some China town still stick together (I have heard that some who were born in New York cannot even speak English because they stay only with Chinese-speaking people), as Chinese are very collectivist among themselves. Just an example.
    I see. Thanks, Maciamo.

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    maciamo, you amaze me, that must've taken a lot of research and work! <i'm too lazy to do such a thing>

    Family- um, i try to be an individual, but my mom's the kind of parent who lives for her kids and so is extraordinarily , um, clingy. but i still tend to have my own opinions, unlike my younger siblings who have inherited almost everything they know about the world so far from her.

    Living place - refer to above.

    Work- school for me. at school, i'm extremely individualistic in that i pretty much do what i want socially and don't really care what anyone else thinks. i'm considered weird by some for my love of japanese culture, and i get weird looks sometimes, but those just let me know that i'm not following the herd <mooooo!>. but with my friends who share similar interests, we tend to all hang out but each of us are so different that even then its still pretty individualistic <lord, i hate spelling that word>

    Hobbies- my hobbies are playing video games, posting of forums, anime manga- all of these are considered 'not normal' for young black girls where i live, or anywhere else i've been for that matter.

    Travel- i dunno. i'd rather have someone from my country with me- not necessarily a large group, but i won't something famaliar near by...

    Society- i say, 'screw society'. society tells me everything i think and do is not proper for me to be doing, so i pay it no mind except when i need something from it.

    Way of thinking- strange. even i think i'm a bit touched sometimes...i tend to defend my opinions, but i do it in a rational way, and i'm open to others arguments as long as they're backed up.

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    When my family and I went to England and France together we made all arrangements without a travel agent.
    The first day in a city we booked a bus tour to get an idea where to go and used public transportation after that.
    We tried to eat off the main streets and enjoyed being with everyday natives of the town. We also took a couple
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    soon as it became evident that we were from the USA most spoke to us in English. It would be pleasant to go again.

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    I am quite individualistic. At school, I never liked group activities and team work. I thought it was more efficient to complete the assigned task alone than with the group. It avoids conflicts about who should do what and how. I believe that group decisions are the cause of a lot of conflicts in life. In collectivist societies it is the boss or the person with the highest status who has the last word. This can easily cause resentment among those who have been unfairly assigned the least desirable tasks or the heaviest workload. In egalitarian societies group member will bicker at length before reaching a consensus. The individualist bypasses all these problems, setting himself straight to work, and completing the task before everybody else and without conflict. I think that is why individualistic countries like Switzerland, Scandinavia or Canada are more peaceful than collectivist ones. The USA are an exception, but that's because the socioeconomic system (little social welfare) and the laws (right to have guns) incite to violence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolan View Post
    I think that is why individualistic countries like Switzerland, Scandinavia or Canada are more peaceful than collectivist ones.
    I really like Scandinavia, but many common beliefs are wrong. For instance Sweden and Denmark share the world record in having the most wars against each other in history. Team work and egalitarianism are also far from uncommon in Scandinavia. Sweden is the world leader in arms trade when measured relative to population size...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolan View Post
    I think that is why individualistic countries like Switzerland, Scandinavia or Canada are more peaceful than collectivist ones. The USA are an exception, but that's because the socioeconomic system (little social welfare) and the laws (right to have guns) incite to violence.
    I don't know about Scandinavia, but society in North America is very focused on aggressivity, social hierarchy and obedience to authority, more so in eastern big cities than in the west or rural areas.
    There was a study measuring how likely were people to inflict torture (they were made to believe) on a stranger upon given order from an authority figure. It turned out that most people were very likely. The ones that refused were highly educated ones and a couple of german immigrants who had worked in the nazi administration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolan View Post
    I am quite individualistic. At school, I never liked group activities and team work. I thought it was more efficient to complete the assigned task alone than with the group. It avoids conflicts about who should do what and how. I believe that group decisions are the cause of a lot of conflicts in life. In collectivist societies it is the boss or the person with the highest status who has the last word. This can easily cause resentment among those who have been unfairly assigned the least desirable tasks or the heaviest workload. In egalitarian societies group member will bicker at length before reaching a consensus. The individualist bypasses all these problems, setting himself straight to work, and completing the task before everybody else and without conflict. I think that is why individualistic countries like Switzerland, Scandinavia or Canada are more peaceful than collectivist ones. The USA are an exception, but that's because the socioeconomic system (little social welfare) and the laws (right to have guns) incite to violence.
    Interesting, but can you explain why these individualistic countries are well organized and prosperous, which would imply that citizens are highly cooperative and work well together for common good?

    It would put Greece, Spain and Italy in less individualistic countries camp. Although they are the once with most political parties, more tax evasion, and they are more likely to display personal wealth and follow group fashion than Scandinavians.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kamani View Post
    I don't know about Scandinavia, but society in North America is very focused on aggressivity, social hierarchy and obedience to authority, more so in eastern big cities than in the west or rural areas.
    As a U.S. citizen, I would have to disagree that everyone is focused on hierarchy and obedience to authority. Or guns for that matter. While I'm of the opinion we are going to experience severe economic unrest in the near future, I've destroyed all my lethal force weapons. I'm not going to get violent over a bowl of rice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nordicfoyer View Post
    As a U.S. citizen, I would have to disagree that everyone is focused on hierarchy and obedience to authority. Or guns for that matter. While I'm of the opinion we are going to experience severe economic unrest in the near future, I've destroyed all my lethal force weapons. I'm not going to get violent over a bowl of rice.
    Americans are some of the nicest people I have met, and I have met quite a few nationalities. The question is how likely are people to question authority. In Canada they're not very likely from what I have seen.

  24. #24
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    Well thank you Kamani, we have some nice and some that are not so nice I guess. Plenty here do question authority (at least on a State and Federal level), and a growing number are just ignoring authority based on current political situation. It's a developing artform to configure your life in such a way so that Big Brother has difficulty interacting with you. Parking fines, speeding tickets, unauthorized "security stops" (both in airports and highways), outrageous property taxes are all becoming intrusive pathways to our population base. I won't get started on our new healthcare plan and it's almost hilarious violation of privacy rights.

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    i am one of a kind

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