Distinguish Between
Individualistic Cultures
and Collectivist Cultures when
Dealing with Foreign Nationals

Translation Services for Legal Clients
from Collectivist and Individualistic Cultures

Translation Services for Attorneys Who Represent Foreign Clients from Collectivist Cultures

Which culture would you rather be born into: individualistic, or collectivist?

Can you predict, how your foreign clients will answer this question?

Did you know that English is the only major language in which the pronoun “I” is capitalized? No wonder our mainstream individualistic culture values the “I” mentality, and puts the emphasis on the individual over the group. It is acceptable and appropriate in our culture to blow one’s own horn. We even say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease“.

By contrast, in collectivist cultures (e.g., many countries of Latin America, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam), a person’s identity is deeply rooted in the “we“, or the group mentality. It is inappropriate to call attention to oneself. “The Nail That Sticks Up, Gets Hammered Down,” teaches an old Japanese proverb.

More likely than not, your foreign-born clients were be born into a collectivist culture.

So, start out by viewing every contact with culturally different individuals as you would approach a situation with many unknowns. Work on developing cross-cultural awareness and skills. Learn as much as possible about the language and the legal system, customs and history of your foreign client’s country of origin. And get ready to uncover your foreign clients’ cultural baggage.

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