Sense of responsibility



Having lived in Southern California for over ten years, I am often surprised by local people’s typical handling of almost any situation. For example, I work for a higher education and I used to expect a certain level of integrity and honesty.

Growing up in Japan, my teachers told us to be honest because loyalty and honesty were the most important parts of who we are as Japanese.

This makes sense because when you interact with Japanese extensively, you would soon realize how often they bow and apologize for the things they have nothing to do with. It is common for Japanese boss to apologize to their client when his subordinate makes mistake. It is all about taking responsibility.

I knew that Southern Californian wouldn’t normally apologize for anything even if when they are at fault! Because they are afraid of lawsuits. It is all about documentation and protecting yourself in the U.S. I wouldn’t even say it’s the U.S. but this tendency is definitely more obvious in big cities in the U.S.

I left Japan after high school and literally I have lived half of my life in Southern California. Yet, part of me just can’t let go of my Japaneseness. I feel responsible for other people and often blame myself for everything. I feel responsible when my team member messes up. In America, usually that person would be in trouble but I am not his supervisor and it isn’t my responsibility to train him.

In America, people say, “it is not my problem.” It sounds really cut and dry, right? But that’s their mentality especially in the southern California. It is strange how this issue came up when I was having coffee with my American friend today because she couldn’t understand why I would feel bad for leaving my job because whatever happens after my departure isn’t my problem!!! I am very loyal to my employer and I feel very sad for the students.

That’s who I am and I guess that is the Japanese women inside of me. Some people that I have met in Southern California just amaze me. Someone who has over 600,000 deficits actually has the nerve to volunteer to become the head of the company.He is smiling and doesn’t seem to have any remorse. Maybe he does but he certainly doesn’t show it. Not only that, he has the nerve to blame the previous administrative assistant…wow..that is just not going to happen in Japan.

I know that Japan is the other extreme. It is a little too much that Japanese people feel so guilty to the point of taking his own life.

Do you remember the scandal involving Japanese scientists as they were being accused of fabrication and plagiarism. Young woman scientist tearfully apologized for the errors and she explained that this was due to her lack of skills, experiences and maturity. However, her advisor, supervisor Mr. Sasaki was found dead being hung by the stairs, in which his laboratory was located. It gave me chills. In his letter, he apologized to the public, causing inconvenience by undermining the reputation of scientific community in Japan.

How about his American counterpart? This professor from Harvard was one of the authors of this fabricated publication. He is just on leave and of course did not kill himself..These are very interesting cultural comparisons and it is actually very sad.

I don’t want to be the type of person who blames everybody else but myself but I also think it is important to kind of maintaining the balance. Because you don’t want to be self-criticizing yourself all the time.

But if you grew up in Japan, you probably understand what I mean..you can’t hep but to feel guilty on behalf of the company you work for, on behalf of the group, family…it is the nature of Japanese culture.

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