Encountering Cross Cultural Differences

Source: Internet

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

We all encounter cultural variances and they result pivotal towards decision making, showing of social etiquette and attaining organisational efficiency in business. Some link it to individual and societies, while other proclaim culture as a solution to universal problems. 

In fact, culture in an ongoing process where language and institutions acquire an essential role.

Hierarchies and integration form the genesis of our cultural institutions, while a language is its important element as it reflects the worldview and social tendencies.  There are also certain material productions in cultures such as intellect, artistry and services. For example, certain moral and religious assumptions on individual and collective behaviours vary across world cultures. The metaphysical question is recognised by scientists as a problem which cannot be derived from scientific knowledge.

Traditional societies, in general, have been seriously involved in scientific thought and behaviour than modern societies. For example, ritual sacrifice in Columbian civilisations was charged with symbolic content. The Spanish colonisers who came after were deeply petrified and horrified by these sacrifices, and in fact, they had held their conquests based on certain myths as well.  In literature, Swiss novelist, Charles Ferdinand Ramuz has often set communities and culture as a backdrop of his novels.

In a historical perspective, war has been assimilated into commerce and as a normal activity. However, conflicts in large countries have often had a strong cultural base – the rivalry between English and the Scots in the United Kingdom, war of succession in the United States, the progressive elimination of local powers in the French state all had distinctive cultural elements at stake such as language, values, religion, concepts of freedom, liberty etc.

Eric Erikson (1950) has developed a theory of ego arising in certain communities based on his empirical and theoretical research that has been published by certain anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists.

When we analyse certain national cultures like the Kurds, Kashmiris, Tamils, they have had little respect for their cultural realities, even if the debate of separation of culture and nationalism goes on. Political decisions based on cultural aspects, in fact, have given emergence of new states which in turn leads to the development of a national character which combines two bases: kin and soil.

There even have been cultural borrowings and change in societies. Negative events such as wars and colonisations have conveyed cultural exchanges. In other cases, cultures do mix. Conflicts between Christians and Muslims have been examples of conflict and cooperation. Cultural encounters have occurred even in wartime. When Viennese in Italy were besieged by the Turks, they were introduced to a new, tasty and stimulating beverage known as coffee. During the times of Crusades (tenth to twelfth) centuries, warriors on both sides enjoyed each other’s food. Templars had grown accustomed to the beliefs and customs of Muslim practices.

Sometimes, culture has been viewed as the accumulation of the best possible solutions to the common problems faced by the members of a particular society.  For instance, Jeans, as informal trousers for casual wear, have made their way through all cultures. The fabric originally came from France (de Nîmes – denim) and the name from Italy – short for Jean Fustian from Genes (Genoa). Afterwards, this ‘American’ invention made its way back to Italy and most other countries of the world.

There have always been different kinds of travellers (explorers, warriors, merchants, colonials, etc.) who have brought back foreign innovations to their native country.

Racism also is often confused with cultural hostility, but in fact, it precedes cultural hostility. Cultural hostility does not necessarily imply racism: one may be hostile to some people of other cultures, without being a racist. Not only territorial conflicts but economic competition also cause cultural hostilities.

Numerous studies have been dedicated to the immigrant population, but little research has been conducted on the relations between the natives and the immigrant communities.

Contrarily, despite convergences in culture, there still has been evidence of differences. According to International Journal of Research in Marketing edited by Leeflang and Van Raaij (1995), the percentages spent by households in various EU countries on food in general, on vegetables, chocolate or cheese still widely differ. 

Ethical conflicts based on cross-cultural differences also halt organisational efficiency, especially in multinationals.Although cultural opportunism is understandable, it is often hidden by the need to maintain cultural identity. 

Few societies are prepared to accept that a large part of their culture is really foreign: cultural borrowing is therefore somewhat hypocritical or at least disguised. Thus, cultural borrowings are disguised and they finally disappear.


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