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According to the Collins Dictionary of Sociology, culture is defined asattempts by mankind to impart knowledge with symbols and artifacts. In thissense, culture is often referred to as a set of conventions, beliefs andcustoms that characterizes a particular society(“Culture,” 2006). Thereare two forms of culture: Material culture and non-material culture.Material culture is tangible and can be experienced with the human senses,whereas non-material culture is often abstract and is communicated via theuse of symbols. For example, a piece of batik painting is classified undermaterial culture and the use of slang is classified under non-materialculture. Our cultural influences provide the context in whichcommunication takes place.
For example, Singaporean males who had beenthrough National Service are able to better relate his military experiencesto another male who had gone through National Service as well. The commonexperiences of Singapore military culture had facilitated the communicationbetween them.Being raised and brought up in Singapore as a Chinese, I identify myselfwith the Singapore culture as well as the Chinese micro culture. Generally,Singapore is considered to have a collectivist culture. In particular,Singapore is characterized as having a vertical collectivist culture. In astudy conducted by Soh & Leong (2002), a group of American and Singaporeanstudents were asked to rate a set of statements relating to verticalcollectivism, horizontal collectivism vertical individualism and horizontalindividualism. Singaporean youths were rated highly in the verticalcollectivist scale in the survey.
Although the nature of communicationamongst Singaporeans is low-context in nature in general, SingaporeanChinese are generally seen to be making use of high context communicationin their interaction with other people. This is because for the majorityof Singaporean Chinese, the form of communication is predominantlyinfluenced by those found in Mainland China which practices high contextcommunication. In terms of value orientation, the values that Singaporeans,in particular Singaporean Chinese embrace is largely influenced byConfucian values, which emphasize on maintaining harmony as a group andcultivation of filial piety to one’s elders (Chua, 2009).
In terms ofpower distance, Singapore is rated as having high power distance asSingaporeans adhere to some form of hierarchy, be it in society or at home(Johnson, 2005). This is especially so for Singaporean Chinese as stricthierarchy is usually in place for most Singaporean Chinese families.Finally, Singapore is rated as being certainty oriented as order andcertainty is the hallmark of Singapore culture.The culture that had the greatest impact on me is that of Singaporeculture, while the micro culture which had the greatest impact on me isthat of my workplace, the Singapore Prison Service (SPS).
As a Singaporean, we have the privilege of making friends and working withpeople of different races and at the same time sharing a common identity asSingapore citizens. This would not have been the case had we been born intoto a more homogenous culture. As we are exposed to various cultures inSingapore, we tend to be more accommodating and sensitive towards people ofa different culture.Being a member of the SPS, we belong to a culture that is verticallycollectivist. Being a uniformed organization, there are clear differencesin the status accorded to the different ranks within the services, withthose of a lower rank having lower power as compared to those of a higherrank. The value orientation of the Singapore Prison Service is largelysimilar to the Singapore culture as a whole as the majority of those whowork in SPS are native Singaporeans. The SPS inclined towards beingcertainty oriented, partly due to the fact that the organization isresponsible for ensure the safe custody and security of the inmates underits care.
Maintaining stability is a key feature in the culture of the SPS.The Singapore culture is located nearer to the collectivist end in theindividualist and collectivist scale. As in most collectivist cultures, theSingapore culture tends to put group goals above personal goals. This wasreflected in the Singapore shared values. The statement “Nation beforecommunity and society above self” is amongst one of the five statementsfound in the Singapore shared values(Tan, 2001). This example providessupport to the fact that the Singapore culture is largely collectivist innature. The collectivist culture also place much emphasis on maintainingharmony amongst its members. In Singapore, considerable effort has been putin place to maintain harmony amongst its members. For instance, thenational education curriculum in schools place emphasis on the need tomaintain racial harmony. Racial harmony day is also celebrated in schoolsto remind students of the need to maintain harmony amongst the differentraces.In terms of the low and high context communication scale, Singapore cultureas a whole is located nearer to the low context communication in the scale.The reason for this is because in Singapore, the official language used incommunication is English, a language that relies on low contextcommunication. However, it should be noted that for Singaporean Chinesewhose main language of communication is in Chinese, the form ofcommunication may be high context in nature.
In terms of power distance, Singapore culture is located nearer to the highpower distance continuum in the power distance scale. This is because inSingapore culture, there is a clear distinction between people of variouspower statuses and individuals of a higher power status possessessubstantial authority. For instance, there are unequal distribution ofpower between the superior and the subordinate in work settings, and thesubordinate is generally not expected to challenge the superior’s decision.Similarly, in family settings, the father often has the most authority andis often seen as the head of the family; children often respect theirfathers by virtue of their positional power.Conflicts occur when there is a perceived difference in the objective oftwo or more parties. For people belonging to the collectivist culture, theyare likely keep in mind that maintaining harmony of the group is importantduring communication. On the other hand, people belonging to anindividualist culture will value personal opinion and see themselves asbeing unique. People coming from different cultures may adopt differentconflict styles to handle conflict.
People coming from a collectivistculture would often seek common consensus on a particular issue and adoptmutual face saving strategies. As a result, people from the collectivistculture may choose to place more emphasis on the other face in conflictresolution. For example, an individual may choose to give in and make acompromise when negotiating a difficult issue. However, people who belongto an individualistic culture would value confronting the issue directlyrather than seeking common consensus. Hence, the person will focus on theself-face in conflict resolution.
For example, a person using the self-facein conflict resolution would most likely defend his own position and appearaggressive when negotiating a difficult issue.
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