The Beauty of Different Cultures
The world is a mixture of cultures
Most of us live in multinational surroundings these days. It is not uncommon to marry somebody from another country, whether very far away or a bit closer. Culture is something that binds people together. But it can also be a reason for division. How does our own culture affect the way we view others? How can we benefit from all these different cultures? Many funny things happen when people of different culture meet!
International picture from Allposters.
- particular society at a particular time and place
- the tastes in art and manners that are favored by a social group
- acculturation: all the knowledge and values shared by a society
- the attitudes and behavior that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization
Look at me!
I remember my mother always telling me to look at her when she was talking to me, especially if it was something important. It was (and still is for many of us) a way of showing that we are paying attention in a respectful way. Now, my friend from Nigeria told me that she never allows her children to look at her when she's talking! "I want them to respect me",she says.Who is right? Both.
That's the beauty of culture, there is no such thing as right and wrong, good or bad culture (as long as it doesn't violate human rights). Each person is entitled to an opinion, a culture, a way of life that is good for him/her.
"No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive." M.Gandhi
When sharing a neighbourhood
Of course, one has to take into consideration people living in the vicinity. We all have to be flexible. A person has to adjust to the country where he chooses to live, even if he had to leave his country involuntarily, like refugees
On the other hand, when people move into our country, we can make an effort to get to know their culture. Ask them about their country, ask them why they do certain things or wear different clothes. It can be quite interesting, actually!
This doesn't mean we have to like it, or live our lives their way. Knowing and doing something are two different things! But it can definitely lead to less friction and more understanding between people.
Holding hands/Eating ice-cream
Different cultures are so interesting!
One time I was out walking with my friend from Ethiopia. When we had to cross a busy street,she took my hand. I really felt uneasy about this, no woman has held my hand since I was a little child. Later I asked somebody, and they explained that in Ethiopia, men hold hands with men and women with women! Never do husband and wife hold hands!
This happened 25 years ago. I can truthfully say that I still don't like a woman holding my hand...But at least I know that nothing bad is intended, and that this is their culture. They think some things we do are strange. For example, they never eat in the street. Not even ice-cream. Wonder what they think of our take-away sandwiches, lattes, etc. that we consume on our way to work!!
Picture by heyhey48
Beautiful necklace with African gems
“People can only live fully by helping others to live. When you give life to friends you truly live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist.”
It's not always easy.
When culture is developing
Sometimes, culture can be a burden. If you don't really believe in what you are doing, for example.
Or perhaps, as in many countries today, the old way of life is changing. In the most remote, poorest parts of the earth we can find satellite dishes. This makes other cultures come closer, and affects the way people view their own lives. They start thinking about how others are doing things.
All of this creates a younger generation with new values, a not fully developed "new" culture. A culture in development. This often leads to problems with the older generation, who think that what was good for them is good for their children. Understanding and compromise are important in these situations.
Old Man with Young Child at Blackpool from Allposters
People of different culture.
A friend of mine (of Greek origin) was sent to Sweden by the head-office in the US, to introduce a new computer program to their branch in Sweden. This newly created program would greatly improve production and profit. After presenting this program, he waited for the feed-back from the managers. At first it was quiet. Then the general manager said:-"Hm, this looks good."in a low, flat voice."Hm, I agree" said another. My friend couldn't believe his ears, he was in shock. Later on when he recounted this to me he said: "My mother uses expression such as Marvellous! Divine! just to describe her break-fast! These people were presented with a multi-billion dollar program, and all they can say is Hm, Very good. I don't understand it!"
What was the problem? CULTURE. What is an acceptable way of expressing elation and joy in one country, is not the same in another. Those Swedes were thrilled, they thought it was a fantastic computer program. They just had a different way of showing it. If they had heard his mother expressing herself in that way over her break-fast, they would not have liked it. To them, it would have been exaggerated!
Now, Greeks and Swedes might be on the opposite ends when it comes to expressing feelings, the two extremes of Europe. But it does highlight the point that we are different.
Reading about cultures
Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.
The best way to use culture
When culture is understood and used in an appropriate way, it can give to a person a feeling of belonging and security. You know what to do in different situations, for example at the time of birth and death. Everybody does the same, more or less, and this can be a comfort. You know how other people perceive you, and how they understand your actions.
So let's give place to culture. Try to know and understand other people's culture, and also try to analyze our own. Think about why we do certain things and how. Let's choose our own way of life, perhaps borrowing a bit from others, but above all else- let's live in peace with all men!
Each country is unique!
The UN has declared May 21st as Diversity Day- a day to promote understanding and knowledge of other cultures. Many schools and offices will be having special programs in connection with this.
Here you can get more information on how to organize Diversity Day at the office
Some interesting links
- World Culture and Heritage
Here you can find yet other links to different cultures in the world.
- Culture of Italy
About the history as well as the culture of Italy.
- Family resource
Describing family life as a kind of culture
- Social Studies for Kids
The world is made of a great many cultures. What's a culture? These sites show you and tell you.
- Wedding Traditions From Different Cultures
Wedding traditions from different cultures in the world.
- What is Culture?
An interesting analysis of culture and its impact on society.
- A to Z World Culture
Read about the culture in all the world. (you need to register and log in to get the complete list)