Top 5 differences between Western and Asian business culture

Communication Breakdown

There’s no denying that Western and Asian cultures are poles apart. However, in the current global business climate understanding the “Asians vs Westerners” cultural differences becomes more crucial than ever. As an international professional in the US market, you might come across cultural tripwires that really catch you off guard. 

To help you prepare for the cultural immersion when working abroad, we’ve put together the key Asians vs Westerners cultural differences. Read on to explore how these differences may impact your experience in the US. 

Asians vs Westerners Cultural Differences

Let’s discuss how these cultures vary in business settings:

Showing Passion

Western perspective: Americans tend to express passion more openly and loudly. Enthusiasm and energy are commonly vocalized in meetings and presentations. Verbalizing excitement and actively commenting on how thrilled you are to engage in “such an awesome project” are seen as positive attributes. In the US, passion is often communicated through enthusiasm in discussions, dynamic, showy presentations, and by maintaining a high level of energy in your speech and body language where possible. Passion is often a topic in job interviews, in one’s LinkedIn About section, and in social media posts.

  • Asian Perspective: In many Asian cultures, passion is demonstrated through dedication and perseverance. You don’t have to state it directly. You show it by working long hours and going the extra mile as much as possible. Passion is generally conveyed through actions and commitment rather than blatant announcements at meetings or on social media. And more than this, managers and other team members are meant to recognize this passion as it takes the form of meticulous work and consistent effort.


Depending on your cultural environment, criticism may vary greatly in how it’s perceived. In some cultures, direct criticism is a great way to spur growth. In others, it may be perceived as confrontational or disrespectful. As an international professional, it’s important to understand these cultural nuances to know exactly how to handle criticism in the US. 

  • Western Perspective: In American business culture, addressing mistakes directly is critical for building a better team. It’s entirely normal to tackle problems head-on. While how it’s done may vary across different countries, the US typically relies on a polite email to address issues.
  • Asian Perspective: In Asia, criticizing a colleague is typically uncommon, especially if it’s regarding sensitive issues. For instance, in China, criticizing an employee in front of others is highly frowned upon and avoided at all costs. Folks prioritize professional harmony over improvement, often giving feedback indirectly or through third parties. 

Taking Initiative 

When exploring Asians vs Westerners cultural differences, taking the initiative is evidently different for both. Knowing these differences is essential for effective collaboration across cultural boundaries. If you’re an international professional in the US, make sure you’re aware of the importance of taking initiative in the West. 

  • Western Perspective: In the Western work culture, taking initiative is more about being assertive. Employees are expected to act independently and solve problems without waiting for explicit instructions. Regardless of where one stands within the organization, it’s possible for everyone to openly communicate with top-level management. 
  • Asian Perspective: On the contrary, taking initiative is a whole different concept in the Asian work environment. Instead of reaching out directly to superiors, employees take initiative by showing respect for the authority and building consensus within the team. They consult with colleagues and seek guidance subtly to maintain workplace harmony. 

Asking Questions 

Researchers believe asking questions at work is a key factor contributing to professional success. Like every other aspect, business and cultural differences exist here, too. While asking questions may seem pretty straightforward, the way it’s perceived in work settings across different cultures varies greatly — especially when digging out Asians vs. Westerners cultural differences. 

  • Western Perspective: In the West, employees are encouraged to ask questions. Employees in the lower hierarchy are especially expected to show their initiative by asking questions. Even if the questions challenge the ideas of top-level management, employees are still expected to inquire wherever possible. 

This isn’t seen as undermining authorities but as a way to grow within the organization. The more one asks, the more they’re valued within the US companies. For instance, if a junior team member doesn’t understand the rationale behind a decision, they’re expected to reach out to the manager directly. 

  • Asian Perspective: In Asian business cultures, things work differently. The idea of asking questions often scares most employees away. They fear that upper management might see this as a way to challenge their stance. Politeness is prioritized, and asking direct questions to leaders is perceived as rude. 

Individualism vs. Collectivism 

In Asians vs Westerners cultural differences, another core concept, i.e., individualism vs collectivism, is worth exploring. This cultural orientation plays a major role in how workplaces operate for international professionals. The better you understand this aspect of Asians vs Westerners cultural differences, the more you can thrive abroad! 

  • Western Perspective: Western culture leans more toward individualism. In US organizations, individual employees are free to have their will, preferences, and values. They can freely express their ideas and opinions and have full authority over their decisions. 

For instance, if an assistant marketer proposes a new campaign idea, that’s a positive sign of individualism. Their initiative is highly valued, and they’re encouraged to own their projects. This is exactly why individualism is an integral part of a successful job search in the US

  • Asian Perspective: Conversely, Asian cultures often prioritize collectivism over individualism. Their organizations are more likely driven by group consensus, and employees are expected to align their tasks with the collective organizational goals. 

For instance, if a marketer comes up with a unique idea, it would be discussed and refined through group discussions. While this promotes teamwork, it hinders workers from taking individual initiative. 

Final Thoughts 

There you have it — the key Asians vs Westerners cultural differences in business settings. As an international professional, it’s important to understand and respect these differences and, of course, act accordingly. Ultimately, mutually adapting to these cultures will facilitate greater collaboration across boundaries!

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