Page 17 - Crossing Cultural Boundaries - Cees den Teuling
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program, including a variety of subjects, e.g. Japanese (spoken) language, Japanese history, economics and politics. This was combined with field trips and company visits both to greater Tokyo area and to other cities and regions of Japan.
We, the advisors from different EU member states, all encountered a culture shock in different gradations. For myself, although I had been assigned to projects in China, Thailand and the Philippines before, the Japanese culture seemed more engrained, very intense and internalised by the population.
The core value, by which the Japanese society is characterised, is named “Ba”, (Nonaka and Konno, 1998) which represents peace, harmony and balance. Harmony is highly valued and seen as avoidance to opposition. It entails a subtle process of understanding, almost by intuition, in contrast to the Western style of analysed conflicting views followed by clear-cut decisions.
For not breaking harmony, the Japanese society tends to favour. The Japanese, in general, have a non-confrontational attitude, high level of acceptance for authority, consciousness for hierarchy and status, reluctance to use negative answers, ambiguity and aversion to show personal emotion. They prefer cooperation to competition, are slow in decision making but fast in acting once decisions are made, prefer conflict solving through conciliation rather than litigation. The language used is descriptive and avoiding harsh conclusions, personal relations and judgements are more relativistic than based on universal principles, ethical behaviour is more situational than related to universal values, good-bad dichotomy is not strict but emphasised as a sense of harmony. There is a flexible demarcation line between right and wrong (Trompenaars & Hampden-Turner 2011; Kato 2002; Steele 2003; Moran, Abramson & Moran 2014). All features mentioned above as the main values, norms and attitudes practised in the Japanese society are in sharp contrast with the Western values, e.g. rationality, rights- consciousness, liberty, due process of law, etc. as conceptualised by the “Enlightment” movement in the 18th century.
My personal immersion in the Japanese society had a great and long lasting impact on my individual thinking and attitudes. It opened the cultural awareness and intensified my curiosity to explore cultural differences. I strongly believed that, especially the Western world has much to learn from the Japanese civilisation. The confrontation, as an individual, coming from North-West Europe taught me that in situations of transferring experience and knowledge between Organisational Cultures an in-depth study of backcloth, fed by a certain curiosity seems to be an irrevocable condition. As a consequence of the Japanese experience, I became highly motivated to

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