I’ve officially been in quarantine for over a month. Never in my life did I think something like this would happen. Obviously, I was aware that a pandemic could occur but my naive self never thought it would affect me or my everyday life. By now, it’s pretty safe to say this pandemic has impacted everyone in some shape or form. In a way, I think it’s bringing the world together and reminding us that we are stronger when we work together.
I recently read an article about how Americans view and handle the Coronavirus differently than other countries like China or Japan because we are an individualistic culture rather than a collectivist culture. Individualistic cultures emphasize the individual over the group and stresses individual rights and identity whereas collectivist cultures emphasize the group over the individual and stresses unity and selflessness.
After thinking about this, it made me realize we as Americans are having a hard time with this whole quarantine thing. We are used to thinking about ourselves and what defines us. I’ve seen many Americans struggle to think in this “group mentality” until they themselves or someone close to them has been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus. It needs to affect them before they decide to realize it’s importance. A lot of Americans are struggling with this simply because our cultural values protect the individual rather than the group.
In other countries with collectivist cultures, they seem to be having an easier time putting their own individual rights on a temporary pause in order to protect the greater community. It’s easier for them because their culture focuses on putting individual needs and desires below the needs of their families and communities. Things don’t need to affect them individually before they realize its importance to the group.
No culture is better or worse than another but it’s important to take into consideration people’s cultural values when trying to understand and empathize with their decisions and point of views. While I don’t agree with everything I see on social media, I do try to empathize and understand where people may be coming from and how their cultural values shape their opinions and beliefs. I encourage you to think about such things next time you see a post that seems “idiotic” or “rude” because its values differ from yours. I’m not asking you to change your values, but simply be open to understanding. Once we can understand each other, we can work together. And once we work together, we can create real and impactful change.