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WEST versus EAST


1. What is culture? What do people understand by this word'.' Give your own definition,

Culture is our way of life. It includes our values, beliefs, customs, languages and traditions. Culture is reflected in our history, in our heritage and in how we express ideas and creativity.

Our culture measures our quality of life, our vitality and the health of our society. Through our culture we develop a sense of belonging, personal and cognitive growth and the ability to empathize and relate to each other. Direct benefits of a strong and vibrant culture include health and wellness, self esteem, skills development, social capital and economic return.


2. What is meant by `cultural universals`?Give your own examples?

A cultural universal is an element, pattern, trait, or institution that is common to all human cultures worldwide

The telling of stories is a cultural universal, common to traditional and modern societies alike.

3. What do Weslern and Asian cultures differ in?

4. Why do Westerners clash with Asians in communication?

Text 1


Throughout history, human beings have made dramatic cultural advances. Despite their differences, all societies have attempted to meet basic human needs by developing cuitural universals. Cultural universals are general ðractices, found in every culture. Anthropologist George Murdock compiled a list îf cultural universals. Some of the examples identified by Murdock include:

Athletic sports Dream interpretation
Bodily adornment Family
Calendars Folklore
Cooking Food habits
Courtship Food taboos
Dancing Funeral ceremonies
Decorative art Myths
Games Numerals
Gestures Personal names
Gift giving Property rights
Hairstyles Religion
Housing Sexual restrictions
Language Surgery
Laws Toolmaking
Marriage Trade
Madicine Visiting


Many cultural universals are in in fact, adaptations to meet essential human needs as people's need jbr food, shelter, and clothing. Yet although the culturaI practices listed by Murdock may be universal, the manner in which they are expressedd will vary from culture to culture. For example, one society may attempt to influence its weather by seeding clouds with dry ice particles to bring about rain. Another culture: may offer sacrfices to the gods in order to end a long period a of drought.

While all cultures share certain general practices — such as cooking, gift giving and dancing — the expression of any cultural universal in a society may change dramatically over time. Thus, the most popular styles of dancing in the United States during the 1990s are sure to be different from the styles that were dominant in the 1950s or the 1970s. Each generation, and each year, most human cultures change and expand through the processes of innovation and diffusion.

Sociologisl William F. Ogburn maid a useful distinction between elements of material and nonmaterial culture. Material culture refers to the physical or technological aspects of our dayly lives, including food items, houses, factories, and raw materials. Nonmaterial culture refers to ways of using material objects and to customs, beliefs, philosophies, governments, and patterns of communication. Generally, the nonmeterialnculture is more resistant change than the materiaon culture is. Therefore foreignn ideas are viewed as more threatening tî à culture than foreign products are. We are more willing tonuse technological innovations that make our lives easier than the ideologies that change our way of seeing the world. Countries selectively absorb certain practices and belifes from other cultures and use them ij their everyday life. Thus while Japan has only 800,000 practicing Christians in its population of 120 million people, Kurisumasu (the Japanese term of "Christmas" ) is nevertheless a major holiday. Although Kurisumasu is not a religious observance, it is a highly commercial îññasion, retlecting obvious influences from the United States. The Japanese are encouraged to buy gifts as they pass through stores filled with tinseled Ctiristmas trees and the sweet sounds of «White Christmas».

Each culture considers its own distinctive waiys of handling basic societal tasks as «natural.» Methods of educalion, marital ceremonies, religious doctrins, and other aspects of culture and learned and trtransmitted through human interactions within specific societies. Clearly, the citizens of each country have been shaped by the culture in which they live.

Language tells us a great deal about a culture. In the old west, words such as gelding, stallion, mare, piebald and sorrel were all used to describe one animal—the horse. Even If we knew little of this period of history, we could conclude from the list of terms that horses were quite important in this culture. As a result, they received an unusual degree of linguistic attention. In the contemporary culture of the United States» the terms convertible, dune buggy, van, four-wheel drive, sedan, and station vagon cofivcrtiblc are employed to describe the same mechanical form of transportation. Perhaps the car is as important to us the horse was to the residents of the old west. Similarly, the Samal people of the southern Philippines—from whom fish is a main source of both food and income – have terms for more than 70 types of fishing and more than 250 different kinds of fish. The Slave lndians of northen Canada, who iive in a rather frigid climate, have 14 terms to describe ice including eight for differeru kinds of <solid ice» and others for «seamed ice,» «cracked ice,» and «floating ice.» Clearly, the priorities of a cultureare reflected in its language.

Language is the foundation of every culture, though particular languages differ in striking ways. Language is an abstract system of word meanings and symbols for all aspects of culture. Language includes speech, written characters, numerals, symbols, and gestures of non- verbal communication.

In contrast to some other elements of culture, language permeates all parts of society. Certaincultural skills, such as cooking or ñàrpentry, can be learned without the use of language through the process of imitation. However, it is impossible to transmit complex legal and religious systems to the next generation by watching to see how they are performed. You could bang a gavel as a judge does, but you would never be able to understand legal reasoning without language. Therefore, people invariably depend upon language fîã the use and transmission of the rest of a culture.

While language is à ñultural universal, differences in the use of language are evident around the world. This is the case even whem two countries use the same language. For example, an English-speaking person from the United States who is visiting London may be puzzled the first time an English friend says she will “ring you up”; she means she will call you on the telephone. Simiilarly, the meanings of nonverbal gestures vary from one culture to another, Whereas residents of the United States commonly use and attach positive meaning to the «thumbs up» gesture, this gesture has only vulgar connotations in Greece.

Language does more than simply describe reality; it also to serves to shape the reality of a culture. For example, people in the United States cannot easily make the verbal distinction about ice that are possible in the Slave Indian culture. As a rcsult, we may be somewhat less likely to notice such differences. The role of language in interpreting the world for us has advanced in the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which is named for two linguists. According to Sapir and Whorf, since people can conceptualize the world only through language, language precedes thought. Thus, the word symbols and grammar of a language organize the world for us. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis also holds that language is not a “given”. Rather, it is culturally determined and leads to different interpretation of reality by focusing our attention on certain ðhenomena.

This hypothesis is considered so important that it has been reprinted by the State Department in its training ðrograms to sensitize foreign service officers to the subtle uses of language. Huwever, many social scientists challenge the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and argue that language does not determine human thought and behavior patterns. As a result, the hypothesis has been moderated somowhat to suggest that language may influence (rather thab determine) behaviour and interpretations of social reality.

Berlin and Êaó have noted that human possess the physical ability to make millions of color distinctions, yet languages differ in the number of colors that are recognized. The English language distinguishes between yellow and orange, but some other languages do not. In the Dugum Dani language of New Guinea's West Highlands, there are only two basic color terms— madia for “white” and mill for “black”. By ñontrast, there are 11 basic terms in English. Russian and Hungarian, though, have 12 color terms. Russians have terms for light blue and dark blue, while Hungarigians have terms for two different shades of red. Thus, in a literal sense, language may color how we see the world.

Gender-related language ñan reflect— although in itself it will not determine - the traditional acceptance of men and wormen in certain occupations. Each time we use a term likemailman, policeman, or fireman, . we are implying (especially to young children) that these occupations can be filled only by males. Yet many women work as letter comers, police officer, and firefighters – a fact that is being increasingly recognized and legitimized through the use of nonsexist language.

Just as language may encourage gender-related stereotypes, it can also transmit stereotypes related to race. Dictionaries published in the United States list, among the meanings of the adjective black: “dismal, gloomy or forbidding”, “destitute of moral light or goodness”, “atrocious”, “evil”, “threatening”, “clouded with anger”. Dictionaries also list «pure» and “innocent” among the meanings of the adjective white. Through such patterns of language, our culture reinforces positive associations with the term (and skin color) white and a negative association with black. Therefore, it is nol surprising that a list which prevents people from working in a profession is called a blacklist, while a lie that we think of as somewhat acceptable is called a white lie.

Language can shape how we see, taste, smell, feel, and hear. It also influences the way we think about the people, ideas, and objects around us. A culture's most important norms, values, and sanctions are commumcated to people through language. It is for these reasons that the introduction of new languages into a society is such a sensitive issue in many parts of the world.

All societies have ways of encouraging and enforcing what they view as appropriate behavior while discouraging and punishing what they consider to be improper conduct. «Put on some clean clothers for dinner» and “Thou shalt not kill” are examples of norms found in many cultures. Norms are established standarts of behavior maintained by a society.

Sociologists distinguish between norms in two ways. First, norms are classified as either formal or informal. Formal norms have generally been written down and involve strict rules for punishent of violators. People often formalize norms into laws, which must be very precise in defining proper and improper behavior. In a political sense, lawis the “body of rules, made by government for society, interpreted by the courts, and backed by the power of the state”. Laws are an example of formal norms although not the only type. The requirements for a college major and the rules of a card game are also considered formal norms.

By contrast, informal norms are generally understood but are not precisely recorded. Standarts of proper dress are common examole of inromal norms. Our society has no specific punishment or sanction for a person who comes to school or to college dressed quite differently from everyone else. Making fun of nonconforming students for their unsual choice of clothing is the most likely response. Norms are also classified by their relative importance to society. When classified in this way, they are known as mores and folkways.

Mores (pronounced “MOR-ays”) are norms deemed highly necessary to the welfare of a society, often because they embody the most cherished principles of a people. Each society demands obedience to its mores; violation can lead to severe penalties. Thus, the United States has strong mores against murder, treason, and child abuse that have been institutionalized into formal norms. Folkways are norms governing everyday behavior whose violation raises comparatively little concern. For example, walking up a “down” escalator in a department store challenges our standarts of appropriate behavior, bur it wiil not result in a fine or a gail sentence. Society is more likely to formalize mores than it is folkways. Nevertheless, folkways play an important role in shaping the daily behavior of members of a culture.

Like mores, folkways represent culturaly learned patterns îf behavior and can vary from one society to another. Even folkways concerning time are not universally shared. As an example, some cultures do not share the western concern with keeping appointments precisely. King Hassan II of Morocco is notorious for arriving late at meeting. In 1980, when Britain's Queen Elizabeth II paid a call, the king her waiting for 15 minutes. The queen was not amused, but the Moroccans could not understand why she and the British public were so upset. “The king could never have kept the queen or anybody else waiting”, a Moroccan later remarked “because the king cannot be late”.

In many societies around the world, folkways exist to reinforce patterns of male dominance. Men’s hierarchical posoton above women within the traditional Buddhist areas of Southeast Asia is revealed in various folkways. In the sleeping cars of trains, women do notsleep in upper berth above men. In hospitals in which men are housed on the first floor, women patients will not be placed on the second floor. Even on clotheslines, folkways dictate male dominance: women's attired is hung lower than that of men.

Each individual develops his or her own personal goals ans ambitions, yet each culture provides a general set of objectives for its members. Values are these collective conceptions of what is considered good, desireble, and proper - or bad, undesirable, and improper – in a culture. They indicate that people in a given culture prefer as well as what they find important and morally right (or wrong). Values may be specific, such as honoring one’s parents and owning a home, or they may be more general, such as health, love, and democracy.

Values influence people's behavior and serve as criteria for evaluating the actions of others. There is often a direct relationship between the values, norms, and sanctions of a culture. The values of a culture may change, but most remain relatively stable during any one person’s lifetime. Socially shared, intensely felt values are a fundamental part of people’s lives in a country.

When immersed in an unfamiliar culture, a person may feel strangely disorient, uncertain, out of place, even fearful. These are all indications that he or she may be experiencing what sociologists call culture shock. For example, a resident of the United States who visits certain areas in China and wants local meat for dinner may be stunned to learn that the specialty is dog meat. Similarly, someone from a strict Islamic culture may be shocked upon first seeing the comparatively provocative dress styles and open displays of affection that are common in the United States and various European cultures.

Interestingly, members of certain cultures might experience culture shock simply by seeing people kiss. In many parts of the world, kissing is completely absent. Until recently, the Japanese viewed kissing as acceptable only between mother and child. Japanese poets wrote for centuries about the allure of the back of the neck, but were silent about the mouth. In fact, the Japanese had no word for kissing until they borrowed from to create the term kissu. Similarly, until the arrival of westerners (and their motion pictures), kissing was unknown among some peoples of Oceania, Eurasia, and Africa. Among these peoples, the mouth-to-mouth kiss was considered dangerous, unhealthy, or disgusting. When the Thonga first saw Europeans kissing, they laughed and remarked: “Look ar them! They eat other’s saliva and dirt!”

Culture shock over conflicting value systems is not limited to contracts between traditional and modern societies. We can experience culture shock in our own society. A conservative, church-going older person might feel bewildered or horrified at a punk rock concert. Similarly, given traditional notions about gender roles in our culture, many men might be shocked by a women’s martial arts class with a female instructor.

1. What do you understand by “cultural universals”?

2. What do material and non-material cultures differ in?

3. In what way can language shape how see, taste, smell, feel, and hear?

4. What kind of relationship is there between the values, norms, and sanctions of a culture?

5. What is “culture shock”? have you ever experienced it? When and where?


Difference 2:
Asking Questions

Westerners - underlings are expected to ask questions that are explicit and even challenging of their superior’s instructions and purposes.

Asians - subordinates often feel intimidated about posing clarifying questions because they might be seen to be challenging an authority figure’s command of a situation and risks loss-of-face.

Difference 3:
Dealing with Challenges

Westerners - think it is best to solve problems directly and quickly with as little emotional fuss as possible even if it means disrupting the feelings of others.

Asians - understand that the emotional states of others are of great importance and spend a lot of time seeming to talk in circles about problems while working to find a consensual solution that does not offend anyone.

Difference 4:

Westerners managers - often consider themselves part of the team but just happen to be the ones in charge because of specialized skills and greater experience. (Note: Management styles can vary tremendously among individuals.)

Traditional Asian managers - consider themselves a secondary father figures to their employees. They give guidance and personal support to employees and expect strong loyalty and obedience in return.

Difference 5:
Office Relationships

Westerners - believe that professional relationships with colleagues at work should not become overly personal.

Asians - desire to form close relationships with people they work with and often feel offended if others do not reciprocate.

Difference 6:

Westerners - try to arrive at the designated time and start meetings without much delay.

Asians - commonly arrive 5 minutes after a meeting is to begin and then desire to spend another 5 to 10 minutes warming up to the others in the meeting through non-business related conversation.


Date: 2015-01-12; view: 308

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