Below is one of the many listed generalizations that Nisbett finds applies to most Westerners, most Americans (as opposed to Easterners, East Asians):
"People are oriented toward personal goals of success and achievement; they find that relationships and group memberships sometimes get in the way of attaining these goals."
This relates to my multi-cultural (East+West) background of being Chinese and relating to Chinese culture, but growing up (especially my definitive years) in the US.
Here's where this quote currently fits for me on two levels: 1) I've begun my internship at this Chinese design and planning firm/institute; 2) I'm having doubts about having children when I'm married.
I've been at the firm for a week now and so far, three major observations have emerged:
1) Everyone has their place, their team, their job to do. People's duties are at times clearly defined and at other times, sheepishly unclear. For example, when I asked my team leader for a tour of the office (nobody gave me one on the first day), he said it's HR's responsibility and he doesn't want to offend HR by doing what they're suppose to do. I went up to HR. They weren't there, but the finance admins told me they'll tell HR about me. It's been two days. Nothing. Good thing I'm ok wandering around by myself.
When the front desk admin girl was sick, someone came and told a young design intern (long-term) whose is part of our Schematic Design team to go sit up front. She whined, but she went upstairs and answered phones all afternoon instead of working on a project.
I'm still trying to figure out how they weigh what's important.
2) The principals are really busy all the time, whereas the design staff is frequently idle. There are no clear mid-level managers but there are team leaders who are held responsible for a majority of the project tasks. However, project managing is actually part of the principals' realm of... power. I'm on the Schematic Design team- my team leader is actually a bit younger than me; we both have three years of work experience. He's shy and has a hard time looking me in the eye.
3) People on my team are hesitant to give me work to do. I managed to get dealt a plan to render two days ago, but otherwise, I don't do anything. I sat in on the team's design review with a principal yesterday. It was a long meeting and the conclusion was the team has five days (including this weekend) to produce a lot of work. The principal asked me to help out for a few days, to which I gladly agreed. The team leader said I could help out on a part of the waterfront park, but he's yet to send me any files to work on. I asked today if he needed help and he mumbled that it's more work to delegate than to do it himself. I've asked the other two people and they've both said "oh right..." but done nothing.
I feel odd asking daily because it feels as if I'm pestering; I don't think they're used to this level of assertiveness from colleagues. I wonder if I'm getting special treatment (perhaps temporary?) because I'm from the US. They're really busy! I see them working hard and I want to help! I don't want to push more buttons but I don't like being passive. I finally got photos and a drawing in the afternoon (a few hours before time to leave work) after I asked a second time. It's frustrating that I had to stay late to finish the sketches.
As I further understand how Chinese design firms operate, I think I'll find more cultural differences. I'm still considering working in China long term after graduation or perhaps a bit later on in life. But I can't help but wonder how I'll adjust to working in China. How would living in China pan out if I were to marry to a non-Chinese guy?
I'm trying to not let the pressure of getting married get to me lately, which is hard since a male cousin was married last year and another male cousin just got engaged. The only people of "appropriate marrying age" left on both sides of my family are the two females: me and Jia Jia, who is still single. She can't wait to get married and start a family, whereas I cringe at the thought of staying home to take care of a baby.
Also, having a career is important to me and I know child-rearing tends to slow down one's career development. When I spoke to my aunt about not wanting to give up my work to have a baby, she responded with "Family is more important than work. When the time is right, you'll find that you'll want a family of your own after all."
I agree and disagree with her. I value family immensely, but how could she know what I would want later on in life? Also, could her statement actually pressure me to want to start a family? How do I figure out independently if I want to have children or not? Or is independently not possible since raising a child will be a family-affair?
I also tried to convince another aunt, who thinks that I ought to bear a child before I'm 30, that I'm not ready to have a child given that the thought of having a baby scares me. She insisted that it's too early to tell, but suggested that I start thinking about when to marry so as to time it correctly with school and work.
I can't help but feel that this whole relationship and marriage thing serve as constrictions. Although reading the book so far makes me realize that I've been taking a Western approach of weighing what's important, it still doesn't solve the constant struggle I have with accepting and balancing the Eastern way of thought in which I'm currently surrounded.
That's not to say that I don't also think from an Eastern perspective- I can't tell which is which sometimes or which is right sometimes. I know I'm not the only multi-cultural person out there who has cultural identity issues at times. I wonder if making career and marital decisions will be easier if I'm in the US because there will be less family pressure (less Eastern thought pressure?). Perhaps a truly Eastern way of thinking about this is would be to let it unfold naturally? But giving up control feels hard...