Last week, my primary work goal was to send out thank you cards to our supporters who graciously donate, which allows us to be able to work and live here. I don’t get to send them out nearly enough as I want to, nor as many times as I actually do give thanks to God for them.
I wrote out the addresses and saved the return address for last. We do not yet have a stamp with our address on it, so that meant I’d be doing it all by hand.
Actually, writing my address in Japanese is so much faster than writing it out in Romaji (using the alphabet). So, I opted for this option.
As I was writing it for the umpteenth time, with our name listed last, I noticed something very interesting.
When we write our addresses in English, or in most western countries, you begin with the recipient. Then you move on to their number, street, city, state and zip. You move from small to big.
In Japanese, and actually- in a lot of Asian cultures, particularly when you are writing in that language, you address it in reverse. In this case, I noted that we were in Japan, moved on to the zip, prefecture, city, area and then the numbers therein (block number, building number).
Having been thinking about personalities, communication and cultural differences recently, this simple format seems to exemplify a key difference in thinking– between individual cultures and group cultures.
In Individual cultures, where the individual is the above the group and is free and independent to do as he or she wishes.
In group cultures, the interests of the group are paramount and individuals are subject to the expectations and values of the group.
It seems to me that this has even subconsciously been illustrated for us in the way that we address letters or packages–
In the West, you begin with the individual and proceed from there.
In the East, you begin with the group and keep narrowing it down to the individual.
Granted, it is acceptable to address packages or cards the Western style, depending.
But still.. I don’t think this is a point people make here, I think it’s just the way it is– it’s a subconscious expression of a way of thinking.