Saturday, March 14, 2009

Betty Kim Strikes Again

Betty Kim Strikes Again

Dear Betty Kim,

For whatever reason I don't want to argue over your breaking your appointment with me. I am a student of international business which includes expertise in cross-cultural management behaviour. During my studies I was introduced to concepts of cultural differences which have been widely accepted as useful in understanding individual motivations or choices of members of one culture to members of another culture.

From my experience the Hofstede model is useful in respect to differences in dating culture, as Geert Hofstede, a leading researcher of cross-cultural management, has adapted five variables and used them to compare and contrast cultural values from country to country.

These five variables are:

PDI Power Distance Index - differences in respect to communication with authority ("the boss")
IDV Individualism - tendancy to make decisions alone or due to influence of group
MAS Masculinity - level of womens freedoms or equality to men
UAI Uncertainty Avoidance Index - comfort with new or unknown circumstances
LTO Long-Term Orientation - state of being present or future thinking

Canadian and Korean culture can be examined however it must be emphasized that other cross-cultural researchers such as Fons Trompennars and Charles Hampden Turner suggest cultural orientations are "hard-wired" during the early childhood years and despite future cultural exchanges after that point cultural values are believed impossible to be changed by living in or experiencing other cultures. Ha Choong Chang a Korean economist resident in the UK however notes that one hundred years ago nations such as Japan and Germany were perceived as lazy and indolent (as well as Korean) but that over the following decades changes occurred which made these cultures produce exactly the opposite current stereotypes and perhaps differences in cultural orientations. Ha however dismisses cross-cultural research as being irrelevant.

I continue to find it relevant as I believe all of my Canadian cultural traits remain alive and well no matter how long I live and work in Korea or Asia in general. So the following table illustrates Canadian-Korean cultural differences.


According to the table these general tendancies can be concluded, which do not equal stereotypes as they are based on statistical research. Canadians are 20% more friendly with the boss than Koreans. Canadians are 60% more individual-minded than Koreans. Women have 10% greater equity with men in Canada. Koreans have about 35% higher fear of uncertainty than Canadians. Canadians are 50% less likely to be thinking of the future results of their actions than Koreans.

The results can be further interpreted to express a Canadian man's perspective on date setting, terms of dating, and possible results of breaking a date with a Canadian man at the last minute without reasonable notice or explanation in relationship to a Korean woman. The following interpretation is made on a general anecdotal experience.

If the Korean woman is the "authority figure" and the Canadian man is the "employee" or "subservient or inferior cultural element" then even from initial contact a Canadian man is perhaps perceived as 20% more friendly than expected or required. According to the Peter Principle (whereby excellence of character may itself be a negative determinant) his friendliness is categorized as unacceptable and not in harmony with Korean culture thus highly suspect and suggests increased likelihood of being dismissed or fired by a Korean female authority figure out of friendliness factor alone. A Canadian male through extention of offer of friendship is then rewarded with a 20% lower level of friendliness than expected as a tenet of basic concepts of reciprocity in Canadian cultural terms.

A Canadian man is then 60% more individualistic than a Korean woman. So out of ten Korean women a Canadian man might perhaps meet as few as four who display anything other than repetitive traits displayed by other members of the cultural group perhaps observable as culturally identical (though individual Korean women) who might display thoughts and actions similar only to each other and not individualistic in any observable way. So perhaps out of a sample of ten dates made with ten Korean women, perhaps as many as six will break the date with regularity and predictable frequency.

Conversely in relationship with a Canadian man, a Korean woman might experience 10% higher freedom of choice or equity with a Canadian man than a Korean one. However this benefit would be highly effected by a negative correlation of 35% higher level of uncertainty avoidance for a Korean woman than a Canadian man. For example, a Korean woman might be expected to display a 35% higher likelihood of breaking dates than a Canadian man would be culturally expected to anticipate of, for example, Canadian women in his own original habitat. Unless he had already made dates with the last five, for then he might expect a higher likelihood that the next four would all keep their dates. Which would then be followed by a future six date breakers to follow such a pattern if dates were made with absolute regular frequency over a specific time.

As a final focus of orientation to time, a Canadian man is perhaps 50% less likely to be thinking of any future relationship beyond the first broken date than a Korean woman after a date has been broken by her. While she may be expecting a Canadian man to easily understand such date-breaking behaviour he may simply prefer to consider it bad manners or an example of cultural communitarianism (as displayed in the last six similar date breakers) and move on to the next woman in the sequential series over time and the next possible broken or unbroken date. The likelihood in that case that any date he makes with a Korean woman would be kept is then set and maintained at 40% chance of success. But only for the four next dates following the previous six when the pattern would be repeated into perhaps infinity.

This also implies cultural differences in relation to context. In low context cultures, such as Korea, the reasons for breaking a date are less likely to require explanation, as in, in such cultures more is left unexplained because more is generally understood implicitly without being said. So the less one says the more is actually understood. By contrast, in high context cultures, such as Canada, where agreed date making is not commensurate to breaking dates without actual reasonable or understandable explanations, which are generally required to ensure the relationship is maintained on a mutually respectful level, lack of explanation implies lack of interest in developing or maintaining any form of relationship. In such a case, the less is more concept is not amenable to high contextiality or future date setting. Especially if it was to be the first date.

Which explains my reasons for not wanting to argue and perhaps not wanting to date any more Korean women. It appears being a Canadian male attempting to date a Korean female is a statistically consistent and constant significant handicap. Despite these cultural differences, rest assured Miss Betty Kim, out of ten Korean women you are statistically one of six who breaks dates and not one of four who keeps them due to statistical and culturally-based fear of uncertainty. As I prefer a woman to successfully face her fears and display uncharacteristic fearlessness in terms of Korean culture and in terms of making and keeping dates with me, I hope you understand if I do not write or call again?

I'll wait for you to make a date with me without further communication following the intrinsic low context model that less is more. Then perhaps I'll break that date in the interest of extending your understanding and experience of cultural differences. However due to my higher level of friendliness to your possible higher authority in such matters I would probably not break it. However due to your higher level of cultural uncertainty I wouldn't expect it.

Daniel Costello

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