A practical dive into the sea of cultural values and social behavior
The way you sit, behave and exhibit yourself in society reveals a lot about you and your cultural background. You would be able to recall how as a child, you always used to get scolded about your ethical behavior in school, society, and even at home. There have always been fixed norms for behaving, performing, and carrying out certain acts at respective places. Moreover, when you exercise these norms or practices for long periods of time, they start representing the culture of a place or a society. They become a part of your cultural identity. Most importantly, you, your friends, and peers collectively agree to rules and, with time, become habitual of the basic system.
These basic practices may include the simple handshake or covering your head in front of elders, or touching their feet when you greet them in the morning. These can vary depending on a particular culture you fail from. It is significant that you should remember the cultural values may differ from religious values, as the culture is generally predominated by the society dwell in. To explain in detail, you can have a culture of touching the feet of your teachers in Indian colleges, whereas, in the UK or Australia, you pay the same respect by bending down and greeting them for the day.
Thus, culture in simple words can be defined as the behavior and the social manifestation of emotions and values. It is the righteous execution of the norms set up by a particular organization or community. It may include the beliefs, values, customs, knowledge, rules, and habits in particular. It is interesting to note that in this era of globalization, cultures are transcending borders, and the world is turning into a global village with the unification of cultures.
Elements of a culture
A symbol is a mark, character, or sign which is used to represent something. Every culture has some symbols associated with it. Although different cultures may have some symbols in common, their meaning may or may not be similar to each other. For example, in America nodding your head up and down is a sign of agreement, and shaking your head from side to side implies disagreement. But, in Bulgaria, it is the exact opposite. Nodding your head up and down symbolises disagreement and shaking it side to side implies your agreement. This highlights how different symbols may mean different things in distinct cultures. Now, let’s discuss one symbol which represents nearly the same thing in different cultures. It is the ‘Eagle’, which generally represents strength and power. In Rome, the eagle is believed to roost on the Roman king of Gods- Jupiter’s scepter, which tells humans about his will. Similarly, in Mexico, an eagle represents the God of vegetation. So, this is how the same symbol may mean similar things in different cultures.
Language is an important element of a culture. People of a particular culture utilize a particular language to communicate with each other. Further, there are different types of languages prevalent among different cultures. It is fascinating to learn that there are more than 7000 words that are spoken in the world today. So, people of different cultures often utilize different words to represent the same thing. For example, an apple is known as a ‘Pomme’ in French.
Values are crucial elements of a culture. They are used to characterize different things as good and bad in nature and the people of different cultures are expected to act according to them. For example, in Japan ‘group harmony’ is one of the most important values people have to follow. They always avoid interpersonal conflicts or encouraging any kind of discrimination. Even if some trouble arises, the Japanese people try their best to resolve things peacefully. This is important because if they engage in conflict, they’ll be seen as ‘bad’ human beings. Thus, Japan is a country that experiences minimum conflicts.
Norms are defined as the rules or standards of behavior shared by people of a particular culture. These are formed on the basis of what is considered ethical, unethical, important, or unimportant by the majority of people belonging to a culture. As a part of a particular culture, we have to follow all the norms established by it. Further, different cultures have different norms established for their followers. For example, homosexuality or gay marriages are accepted in Sweden and Netherlands, whereas it is not widely accepted in Nigeria and Kenya.
Rituals are defined as ceremonies consisting of a series of actions performed in a prescribed order. Different cultures across the globe have their own rituals which the people are supposed to perform. For example, King’s Day is a ritual performed by the people of the Netherlands. It marks the celebration of the King’s birthday and it is observed as a national holiday in the Netherlands.
How elements collectively shape a culture?
Now, when you are aware of the elements that primarily form a culture. You must be wondering how we can say these elements represent the culture of a particular place in a discussion. Here is a brief explanation of the same.
When we talk about culture and society, the basic thing that comes to our minds is the behavior, way of talking, enactment, and traditions possessed by its people. We generally evaluate the culture in accordance with the mentioned parameters. It is when we visit a place, we analyze whether it is influentially good or bad, based on the cultural values exhibited by the individuals we meet. These values include, how we get treated there, the way they greet us and our peers, their rituals, dressing sense, their eating habits, the decorum of the place, along many other things. These values when put together in a flow and a format, represent the culture of the place or society in concern.
If you consolidate each pearl or element of the thread in a true, factual, and legitimate manner, then the cultural depiction of your values holds positive attention in the eyes of the beholder. It entirely depends on the demonstration of these values and practices in the rightful manner that gives the other person the perfect picture to frame in his mind. Further, it is your duty to uphold the values of your culture, so that you are able to illustrate its true form to your audience.
Characteristics of culture
1. Culture is learned
This characteristic of culture emphasizes the important thing that culture is not something we inherit biologically. Instead, it is something we learn from our parents, peers, and the traditions of the place we live in. For example, in India, young children inherit the value of touching the elders’ feet from their parents and peers. Had they been born at a place, with a different culture, they would have not learned it. Thus, culture is learned. Further, if we migrate from our native place to a foreign country, we slowly learn and adapt to the culture of the new place. This also elucidates the fact that culture is subject to learning and getting used to certain customs over a period of time.
2. Culture is shared
Culture is a concept that people share with each other and this sharing has increased manifold in these times of globalization. We don't have our individual culture of the self. We share our culture with the people who live with us in the same place. It is on the basis of our shared culture that we understand and behave in a manner that keeps us in good relationships with our fellow beings. If we didn’t have a shared culture, we would not have been able to exist together in a peaceful and harmonious manner. Further, different places have different cultures but it is always shared between the people of the respective places.
3. Culture is based on symbols
Symbols are essential components of a culture. They are used to represent different things related to culture. Moreover, some symbols even represent an entire culture through them. For example, a cross is a symbol of Christianity. Further, the symbols associated with different cultures can be both similar as well as distinct. But, even if the symbols are similar, they may not necessarily have a similar meaning. For example, the Hook ‘Em Horns symbol is used by students to symbolize the University of Texas pride. But, in several parts of Europe, it is seen as the symbol of Satanism.
4. Culture is integrated
A culture consists of different elements and one cannot comprehend a culture properly without understanding each and every element. This is because every element of a culture is related to the other, which makes it an integrated system. So, to learn a culture, one has to learn about all its elements in an integrated manner.
5. Culture is dynamic
Cultures are not completely rigid in nature. They change and evolve with the changing times and under the influence of other cultures with which they come in contact. For instance, the popular social idea of the American Dream has evolved to assume a new essence with changing times. The basic reason behind the change in cultures is the exchange of ideas and views between them. For example, The Inca Indians were the first ones to cultivate potatoes around 8000 B.C. to 5000 B.C. But, it was later in 1536 that the Spanish conquerors discovered the potatoes and took them to Europe, which transformed their food culture.
Examples of culture
Given below are some examples of the different elements which form the part of the culture of different places: The cultures of various places differ from each other. For instance, Gay marriage is accepted as a part of their culture in the US, whereas in many other countries, it is not given the nod of approval.
In America, you have to stand while you are being introduced to someone. But, the old and sick can sit while being introduced as an exception. Along with this, you have to keep your handshake brief and firm.
In the United Kingdom, you’ll find females giving or receiving a little kiss on the cheek while greeting someone near and dear, including their friends. Along with this, British people also give a lot of respect to the elderly and disabled. So, if you are traveling on a tram, and someone elderly or disabled enters and there is no seat, you are expected to get up and offer your seat to them.
If you are in Dubai, you cannot eat anything in public during the day, i.e., from sunrise to sunset. So, if you wish to eat something, you have to eat it only in the privacy of your place.
Why is culture important?
Having a culture is crucial for any society or community, as it helps to define the norms for a particular set of people. It is regarded as the foundation of a vibrant, harmonious, and civilized society. Along with this, it also brings the people together and binds them in a thread of unity. Now, let us have a detailed look at the importance of culture as described below:
Culture offers a proper direction to society. Imagine if we live in a society where there is no culture at all! Everyone will have his own system of beliefs and act accordingly. As a result, conflicts will arise, we will feel lost and there would be a lot of confusion and chaos. Such can be the impacts of belonging to a society with no culture. Thus, we get to know that culture offers us a proper direction or a way of living. It provides us a value system, which describes the right and the wrong. This gives us a proper direction to take. This way, culture offers a purpose and meaning to civil societies.
Further, it enhances our well-being. We share our culture with other people who live along with us in the same place. As a result, we have similar beliefs, perceptions about things, and viewpoints. This enables us to live with the people of our society in a harmonious manner and beautiful friendships get cultivated. Thus, we live happily with the people around us, without any conflicts, which enhances our emotional and mental well-being.
Moving further, culture safeguards our interests. Culture clearly defines the significant difference between right and wrong. It prohibits us from engaging in things that are not good for our loved ones and our community. This way, it restricts people from engaging in unlawful, harmful, and criminal practices. Thus, culture plays a vital role in safeguarding us from threats.
Besides, culture gives us a sense of belonging. Won’t you feel alienated if left alone to live with people who are very different from you. Imagine you're a vegetarian and you are left to live with people who only eat non-vegetarian diets. No doubt, you’ll manage somehow but you’ll feel alienated. This is because you don’t feel a sense of belonging in a social structure that is not suited to your beliefs or preferences. Whereas, if you live with people who operate in similar ways as you do, eat a similar type of food, and follow the same rituals, you feel like being at home. Thus, culture gives us a sense of belonging.
Lastly, culture contributes to fostering an environment of learned and skilled individuals. We start learning about our culture right from our childhood days. We listen to cultural stories, learn moral lessons, and inculcate our respective values even before we start going to school. For example, in different cultures of the world, children are taught to respect the elders right from the beginning. These lessons remain with them throughout their life. Not only this but also we also learn different skills from our cultures. For example, if you belong to a farming culture, you’ll somehow learn some farming skills by default. Thus, culture contributes to the formation of learned and skilled individuals.
Sample Essay on culture
After having understood the concept, elements, characteristics, and importance of culture, here is a brief sample of an essay. This essay is based on the notion of culture and will help you write your college assignment along with the conclusion of the essay. Moreover, we have chosen the topic ‘How culture defines the social behaviour of an individual?’. A detailed essay on this topic will aid you sufficiently in writing your college essay. Moreover, you can learn the tone and style of writing an academic essay through our essay writing service.
An exclusive essay on the relation between cultural values and social behavior
Society and culture from ages are believed to have been dependent on each other. The people are said to gain the attributes of behaving and socialization from their cultural backgrounds only. The differences in the social behavior of different regions and countries are owing to the cultural variations of the places. However, many contradict the statement and say that social behavior is dependent on the place of action. They say a person acts and responds as per the norms and decorum of the place. This essay is an effort to evaluate the two statements and check which view holds more value.
Thesis statement: Behavioural differences are very common to witness. They are the result of the cultural variations that each community, region, or place possesses. This essay evaluates the fact whether cultural values impact the social behavior of a person. This essay also highlights the points about the following discussions.
What is social behavior?
What factors define the cultural values of an individual?
How do these factors influence social behavior?
First of all, the language or the actions a person exhibit is much influenced by his cultural background. The softness, warmth, or even the gestures he uses to express his feelings is highly affected by the culture he belongs to. For example, if a person belongs to Indian culture, he prefers to fold his hands when he greets others, or he loves to talk in his regional language. However, in the case of an English person, they like to shake hands or greet with a peck on the cheek. So, it largely depends on his cultural background, the way a person expresses his gratitude.
Secondly, the acceptance of modern changes is one big factor that is attributed to the cultural values of a person. It is because some communities are set to have a modern approach while some are still following the old practices. Now, the orthodox or broad-minded behavior is largely dictated by the community or the cultural background one belongs to. In the same manner, the acceptance of the swapping of gender roles is not readily accepted in every culture or community. For example, in many developing and underdeveloped countries, women are not considered equal to men even today. The same can be witnessed in their social behavior. In countries like Pakistan and rural areas of India, men are the sole earning member of the family. Women are not even allowed to move out of the home. Also, huge gender disparities have been noticed in Pakistan. According to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it is shocking that 75% of women in Pakistan have never attended school in comparison to the 40% of men. Now, this kind of data is sure to reflect on the social behavior of the people in such communities.
However, contrary to the above two views, the opponents hold the view that social behavior is largely dedicated to the place, time and situation, a person falls into. For example, in the present times of COVID, when everyone has been locked in the four walls of their homes. In the homes where men and women both are working, these two are not only earning the bread of the family together but in most modern homes, these are the ones who have distributed roles for house chores as well. In such homes, one can commonly see a man cooking for the family or guests while women handle the dishes or vice versa. This proves the fact that one needs to have a very positive and open-minded view to accept the change.
Thus, there can be different views that people hold in the portrayal of the social behaviour and the respective reasons behind it. Though, some people might think, it is the change in time or the situation that influences the social behaviour of a person. But, majorly, it is affected by the cultural values a person holds in his mind and heart. However, there is a dire need for the people to understand that change is a part of life, and the change is never going to let the cultural values go down the dig. With this assurity in mind, they can positively take a step towards accepting the changes in the social behaviour and contribute largely with an even brighter heart to keep the cultural values intact.
The culture of a society is undoubtedly important, and so it is to accept the change. The need today is that we as a society should understand both the requirements and work in the direction of reducing the generation and thinking gap, which reflects greatly on our social behavior.