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Individualism vs colectivism

Saudi Arabia

It is said that culture is to society what memory it to individuals. As anthropologist Redfield


stated Culture is shared understandings made manifest and artifact. In other words , culture is
shared behavior and shared aspects of society.

We will begin by defining one of the most studied dimension when it comes to compare and
contrast culture , individualism vs. collectivism.

Individualism vs. Collectivism refers to the degree to which people in a country prefer to act as
individuals rather than as members of groups.

Individualism, as the name indeed suggests, describes the human characteristic in a way where
the individual self is prioritized rather than a social institution such as a family, workplace or
society.
It is typical for a person who is relatively individualistic to prioritize individual ambitions to a
higher degree and strive to fulfill them.

The self is promoted because each person is viewed as unique


and possessing distinctive talent and potential. Individuals are encouraged to pursue and develop
their abilities and aptitudes. In many individualistic cultures, people are taught to be creative,
self-reliant, and assertive.

In contrast, collectivistic individuals, are likely to value highly what is best for the social
institutions that he or she belongs to over personal ambitions . A collectivists values and beliefs
are consistent with those of the in-group.

Moreover, a collectivists association with his or her in-groups may last a lifetime. In many
collectivistic cultures, the primary value is harmony with the others.

Ones behavior is very important, and deviations from the rules are discouraged and often
negatively sanctioned. A collectivist who stands out from the group disrupts the harmony and
may be punished. Most collectivistic cultures value social reciprocity, obligation, dependence,
and obedience.

When it comes to Saudi Arabia it is a fact that the collectivistic characterictic is dominating .

Life in Saudi Arabia is much more relaxed than the fast-paced culture of Western society. In
Saudi, people prefer to establish trust and confidence with each other before proceeding with
family, work, or other matters. Saudi Arabias collectivistic culture is expressed in long-term
commitments to in-groups, like family members.

It is known that in the Saudi culture, loyalty is the dominant value and often times over rules
other social laws.

From birth, children in Saudi Arabia are instilled lessons of loyalty and obedience. They are
taught to emphasize sharing and to maintain a harmonious group atmosphere.

Besides this, the father is the head of the household and has the final word in regards to the
family, the parenting style being authoritarian.

It has always been a highly controversial issue that the avoidance of shame is a primary factor
for motivation, as they are very conscious of personal honor and family honor. As a tradition-
based culture, the harm of shaming ones family not only affects the present group members, but
also family members in the past and future.

Family members watch out for each other as well as making sure no one does anything to
dishonor the family . They have little tolerance for family members who step out of line since so
much rides on a familys reputation .

As a fact, it is well known that this practice of preventing shame from happening to your
family, your in-group leads even to honor killings.

It is expected in the collectivistic Arab culture that people will overlook their own desires for the
sake of the community . Also even small tasks such as meals and recreational activities are
always commonlly shared.
Therefore ,these families work hard to support everyone and keep unity at the forefront of the
family. Along with that, extended family is very important because it is added to the support and
protection of each individual. In Saudi Arabia, it is expected that relatives live in close-proximity
to each another, whether that is in the same neighborhood, same building, or the same town.

It is common belief that the family name is vital to the identity of the person and it comes with
connections and benefits . Saudi Arabian families are about the we not the I; they take into
account the varying opinions that the family has and follow those values.

In addition , marriage is not a light matter and requires everyone in the familys oppinion.In
constrast, in other countries such as US, consulting your family may be common but ultimately
they are not the ones with the final say.

Another feature of the collectivistic culture is represented by educational institutions.


In a school , speaking free in class is not emphasized. A student who grew up in a collectivist
environment and views himself as part of a group will hesitate to speak up in class unless a
teacher addresses him or her directly.

Regarding the business world ,collectivist cultures like Saudi Arabia are characterized by
obedient people who support conformity and personal relationships over confrontation and
individuality. They do not break existing associations and are cautious about entering new ones
because the cost of social or organizational deviant behavior is very high in these cultures.

In this collectivist society, a high quality job has to permit an individual to fulfill obligations to
his family. People see satisfaction in a job if it is well recognized by others, rather than in
being well done by ones own standard

The notion that an employees primary obligation is often their family and friends impacts
business in several aspects. For instance ,employment practices such as recruitment and
promotions are sometimes influenced by the desire to please family and friends versus aiming for
the best-qualified employee.
Collectivist thinking suggests that pay-for-performance systems ,and recognizing individual
performance are contrary to the cultural values of group work .In the Arab culture, it is common
to give feedback through an intermediary to avoid conflict and sending the wrong message.

We can say that in a culture of this nature that organizations opt to assess the overall
organizational outcomes and equally reward all employees.

Taking all this facts into account, you may ask yourself if it is better to belong to an
individualistic culture or to a collectivistic one? Can this concepts be either wrong or correct?
And if so, which one is the correct one?

In our oppinion, although individualism and collectivism may sound as theyre opposite
dimensions they can coexist whithin a person of any culture and they cannot be nor wrong
neither correct because there are situations when you have to use features form both.

To sum up, in arabian culture people think of themselves as we, rather than I. , everyone is
classified as belonging to the in-group or out-group and the way an individual is treated is
related to their group membership.

Related to this we can quote a chinese proverb that says No need to know the person only the
family.