Savvy Saturday – Thinking Across Cultures (3)

The story of Kiwa and Tika continues, giving examples of how collectivists and individualists can be written in different situations. Today’s relevant collectivist/individualist difference: group goal/duty oriented versus personal goal/happiness oriented.

To remind yourself of what’s going on, you can check out the list and explanation of traits of collectivist and individualist cultures in Part 1 of my Thinking Across Cultures series, and read the beginning of Kiwa and Tika’s stories in Part 2.


Kiwa entered the wooden house of Commander Dasho, was shown to his private study by his young son, and bowed before the great warrior. He nodded back, dark eyes keen beneath bushy gray eyebrows, and gave her a rolled-up scroll. “You are the youngest of your cohort?” he asked after they exchanged a traditional greeting.

It wasn’t a question, but she nodded.

“You have been offered a chance at great honor,” he said. “The Emperor has grown weary of reports of raider attacks on Trader Clan’s caravans. He has tasked me with the duty of forming a new cohort, a sixteenth cohort, that will search out and destroy the mountain nest of the raider vermin. I need young warriors who are well-disciplined and not burdened with husband or children to ride into the mountains and fulfill the Emperor’s command. I have chosen you as one of six who will serve under the command of Shoto, son of Shoko. If you accept this honor, you will leave at dawn. What say you?”

Kiwa kept her face blank, but her mind reeled. Assigned to a new cohort? To leave Commander Tomo and the brothers and sisters she had fought with for three years, to be sent away from her parents, to be forced to ride into unknown territory where the raiders lurked in the snow with their curved blades and their unholy blood-rituals… She wanted to say no. She wasn’t like Nima, the loudmouthed girl who served in the fifth cohort and chattered away like a bird with talk of adventure and glory and proving herself.

And yet, this would not just be an honor for her, it would be an honor for her family. Kiwa could only imagine her parents’ pride as they watched her ride into the mountains under the command of the son of the most honorable and well-respected family in the village, willing to sacrifice her life in service to the Emperor. And when she came back – ah, that would be sweeter yet. The entire sixth warrior cohort would share in her success and be esteemed by every clan. Jolo and his family would bow in respect before her father in the marketplace. And the Rider Clan as a whole would be lifted up in the sight of the People of the Wind.

“I am unworthy to be chosen for such an honor,” Kiwa murmured, as formula required. “But if all other worthy candidates have turned aside, I am willing to do my duty.”

Commander Dasho nodded. “Very well,” he said, approval in his eyes and in his tone. “You are so assigned. May you bring honor to your family and the sixteenth cohort.”


“Lieutenant Tika,” Doshin said by means of greeting.

Tika snapped to attention. “Sir.”

“Your record was brought to my attention today,” the commander said, tapping a thick file on his desk. “Please, have a seat.”

Tika sat, still unsure of why she was here. The commander looked troubled, but that didn’t necessarily indicate that she had reason for concern. There was a war on; the commander always looked troubled.

“Commander Tohmo tells me that you’re the best sharp-shooter he’s seen in fifteen years,” Doshin said. “And from him, that’s saying something.”

Tika sat up straighter, and couldn’t keep a grin from coming to her face. “Thank you, sir.”

“He also says that you’ve been to the infirmary ten times in the past month for injuries not sustained under training procedures.”

Tika’s grin faded.

Doshin shook his head and tapped the folder. “I can’t have loose cannons running around my station, Tika. Not even with scores like yours.” He opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a single sheet of paper. He pushed it toward her. “This is a mission I’d like you to volunteer for,” he said. “Classified, I’m afraid, but I can guarantee your ranged weapon skills will be put to good use. It shouldn’t last more than six months.”

Tika’s breath caught in her throat. “Six months?” she blurted out. “Can Noto come?”

“I’m sorry,” Doshin said, shaking his head. “Just you.”

“Then no. Not interested.”

Doshin pursed his lips. “If you don’t volunteer,” he said, “I’ll be forced to transfer you off-station.”

Tika’s mind reeled. This couldn’t be happening. She was supposed to be here for another three years at least, and Noto’s service time wouldn’t be up for another five. She couldn’t be transferred off-station! It wasn’t fair!

“If it’s any consolation,” Doshin said, “if you succeed on this mission, I’m sure you’ll have your pick of next post – and enough clout to ask for your own team.”

Tika’s eyebrows shot up. “What kind of assignment are we talking about?”

Doshin just smiled and pushed the paper further toward her. “Dangerous. But worth it. I promise.”

Tika gritted her teeth. Six months of dangerous was better than permanently transferred. And then she’d be back with Noto, and nothing would keep them apart. “All right. I’ll do it. Sir.”

“Excellent.” Commander Doshin’s smile grew wider. “Thank you for your cooperation, Lieutenant. And good luck.”

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