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Submitted By jasonbarry2
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Reciprocity

Being an open minded individual, when I look at someone from another culture I try to judge them with the realization that their values and actions are screened by a different filter than my own. I realize that some things they do may seem odd to me, yet are perfectly normal for their own culture. Just because an action may seem out of place or even offensive to me does not necessarily mean that was the intention of the person performing the action. Not looking at others through this lens would put me at a disadvantage, for those that could take culture into account would be better managers of cross-cultural groups in both social and work environments. That being said, I need to do a better job of identifying culturally influenced actions as they occur. In the heat of the moment if I am offended or made uncomfortable, I must analyze the situation first, and act after consideration of the situation and cultures at play as opposed to acting off of impulse. There are also still a few cultural norms that I find genuinely intriguing, and would love to widen the scope of my acceptance to include those as well so that I could behave more normally when cultural conflicts arise. One cultural norm that I find intriguing is reciprocity, and how in come cultures simply giving a gift to someone has strings attached. Reciprocity comes in many forms in North America. There is generalized reciprocity, which is a truly altruistic gift to another person with no expectation of receiving anything in return. There is symmetrical reciprocity which is the exchange of goods with the expected return of a good containing equal or lesser value. There is also negative reciprocity which is the giving of a gift or good with the expectation of something greater in return. It is the practice of negative reciprocity in particular that I find abnormal, as when I am giving someone something I do not expect anything in return unless clearly stated. The expected reaction when a gift is offered varies greatly from culture to culture, and this is particularly important in a business environment as proper etiquette when either giving or receiving a gift can make or break entire relationships. For example, in countries such as Malaysia or Paraguay giving a gift during a business trip will often be viewed as a bribe, and these cultures are very wary of accepting anything of value. However in other cultures, such as Japanese culture, gift giving is deeply rooted in their culture. Being wary of the cultural differences in gift giving etiquette is essential to international success in the business world. Reciprocity is so important in some countries that their leaders are selected by seeing who can give the greatest gift to opposing high ranking members of society, as shown with Moka exchanges in Papau New Guinea. Giving or receiving of a gift with an expectation of return is one of the things I feel I need to be more wary of when analyzing interactions through a culturally accepting lens. Although hard to test in California as most gifts are purely general with no expectation of reciprocity unless offered by the receiver of the gift, for example a favor offered in return for a favor, I went out of my way to make a neighbor feel uncomfortable accepting a gift from me just to see their reaction. When a good friend asked me to jumpstart their car this weekend I gladly agreed as I know they would do the same for me, however upon completing the favor I asked for $20 dollars for time and effort. This unexpected negative reciprocity made my friend upset very quickly and I had to diffuse the situation by claiming my remark was only a joke. This is an example of the many ways in which violating a cultural standard of reciprocity can be abrasive in an interaction, and also how being wary of the cultural differences between yourself and others can aid you in cross cultural interactions.…...

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