Post Editing: Cultural renegades

A few summers ago, as I was chatting late into the night with my Korean-American friend about the non-mainstream ways we grew up, it occurred to me that people raised more traditionally might have an easier time relating to cultures — such as many Asian cultures — that embrace collectivism over individualism, stronger power structures, strong family influence and so on.
I was so taken with this theory that I tried setting up an online poll to test it. I asked questions such as “if I were to consider someone to date or marry, I would (or did) most rely on a. my father’s opinion b. my mother’s opinion c. my own opinion and instincts,” with the possibility of choosing multiple answers. Other questions covered choices about school, for example, and how important various things such as “my parents thinking well of me,” “having time to do what I want,” or being “polite to everyone” ranked on a personal level.
The responses were broken down by background, and although the results were not plentiful enough to be statistically significant, it did appear that people who were raised in a religious homeschooling environment, for example, were fairly similar to Asians in the responses they chose about respecting authority, the influence of their larger community and so on. Interestingly, these attitudes were also shared by the participants who had military backgrounds. These are typically categorized as “traditional” attitudes, and are shared by many communities around the world of various ethnicities and religious persuasions.
The poll strengthened an idea forming in my mind: if companies are having trouble with interpersonal global relationships, perhaps they should consider hiring people from traditional microcultures to help bridge the gap. Plausibility and hiring regulations aside, the fact remains that there are plenty of individuals within any given population who think more like foreigners than they do their own countrymen — even if they look a lot like everyone else. You could even call them cultural bilinguals, in that they grew up dodging between the different worlds of their own microculture and the larger, more mainstream one.
If you don’t have the option of gambling on this hairbrained idea, there are plenty of other things you can do, education being the foremost. Bob Donaldson starts out this issue’s region focus on Asia with a look at some cross-cultural stereotypes, followed by various other articles on Asian markets, Korean, localization in China and how GMX-V deals with word counts in Asian languages. Aki Ito’s Takeaway looks at McDonald’s in Japan, and Joseph Campo’s column relates his beginner’s experience with starting up an offshore documentation team in India. There are also not one, but two, columns on Ukraine and Russia — which is not to say that Ukraine is part of Asia, though its diaspora has high numbers in Asia, given that Russia spans two continents.
The diaspora has always been beneficial to those of us in the localization industry. Perhaps in time, the cultural renegades will also be able to contribute in similar ways.