Cultural Variability

Culture is the composition of people’s beliefs, laws, norms, religion, and arts that are passed from one generation to the next. Every society has its own way of doing things. Some of them are similar while others are different. All cultures of the world are equal, and no culture should be considered either superior or inferior to others. To be able to appreciate the fact that cultures can be similar or different, an interview was conducted to investigate the culture of one African Christian.

From this interview, it was found out that Hindu and African families differ a great deal. First, while women are highly regarded in the Hindu culture, it was found out that in the African culture women are treated as support figures of their husbands. Additionally, wives in African culture are more liberal than wives in Hindu community. For instance, women in Hindu community are not allowed to invite any man in their house if the husband is not present. African wives can invite men into their houses at their will. Another example is when taking a walk, a Hindu wife is supposed to walk behind her husband, while in the African culture the manner in which the couple is walking is not a matter of concern. Polygamy is found to be a common practice in both cultures, although a trend towards monogamy is observed to be increasing in both of them. In Africa, this trend has been influenced by Christianity, which strongly opposes polygamy. In this culture, polygamy has been practiced for thousands of years until 1955, when it was made illegal (Gardiner et al 15).

Looking at marriage practices in two cultures, a major feature of comparison is seen in arranged marriages. Arranged marriage is the practice of preparation of marriage for young kids. In African culture, spouses are determined when children are young. This even goes to the extent of involving priests. In Africa negotiations about arranged marriage involve parents of young children. In African culture, the determination of a life partner for a child is done with a help of various non-traditional methods, which include the use of different specialists and sometimes through astrology. A major discrepancy regarding marriage is found in the process of the wedding ceremony. Hindu wedding ceremony is accompanied by specific colors: red and golden. This feature is obviously missing in the African culture (Gardiner and Corinne 13).

Religion is another major aspect that significantly shapes the culture of a community. There are several important similarities between African and Hindu religions. However, many Africans have nowadays converted to Christianity. This is not what is happening to followers of the Hindu religion. One vivid similarity between the two cultures is the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. However, in Hinduism, there are some sub-segments or various manifestations of this Supreme Being. In African culture there is only one Supreme Being which people believe in. Reflecting back on sub-segments of religions, it was found that both religions consist of some sub-segments. Hindu religion is divided into six sub-categories known as darsanas. The interviewee reported that there are denominations in his culture that differ in the way things are done and in their beliefs. Some people believe in their traditional religions while others practice a mixture of Christianity with traditional religion. However, one feature that was found to be significant is that despite being different, these denominations believe in and worship one Supreme Being (Gardiner et al 16).

Food is an essential aspect of almost all cultures. Foods differ from culture to culture, although some cultures may have similarities in this important aspect of culture. Our culture strongly advocates vegetarianism. This was found to be different from African culture. In fact, in African culture they believe that the best food comes from animals. This is contrary to Hindu culture, which encourages respect for all life forms. However, there are significant similarities that were found in the practices related to food and eating. For example, it is a norm in both cultures to give leftovers of food to somebody. It is also not allowed to taste or touch the food while it is cooking.

Language is a very important element of any culture. Language in our culture is uniform compared to that of my interviewee. In their culture, there are many people who use different languages depending on their location. It was discovered during the interview that this person was able to comprehend four different languages in addition to English and his national language. Development of language is more evidenced in African culture than in Hindu culture. In Africa, language evolves faster because of the interaction of different groups speaking different languages. It is true because language evolves from time to time as individuals speaking different languages interact with one another and with different environments. For example, a certain word can have one meaning today, but later change its meaning to another.

Education opportunities among Africans were found to be relatively unequal. For example, women who get education are not common among Africans. More specifically, it was learnt that African men prefer marrying women who have not attend school in fear of being perceived inferior to their wives. This is different from Hindu culture, where it is a requirement for women to get education. Sometimes in our culture a woman must possess master’s degree if she is to be married to an educated man.

Rites of passage in African culture are highly emphasized. All Christians regardless of their denominations emphasize universally accepted rites of passage such as marriage or circumcision. While in Hinduism celibacy may be allowed for some people, it was found to be completely intolerable in African culture. In fact, Christianity, which is the religion of the interviewee, strongly advocates marriage, but it is practiced in some sections (particularly in those mixing traditional religion and Christianity).

A similarity was found in the way a person progresses through stages of life. In Hinduism, life is divided into four phases. The first phase is that of a student in which one is guided by a certain Guru. The second phase is dedicated to marriage and professional life. After these stages one is expected to retire and delegate most of the duties to children while shifting to religious practices. The same trend was found in the culture of the African interviewee where one begins his life by being guided by the elderly. He gets to a more responsible phase of life and finally becomes a functioning member of the community. Particularly, it was found that most of religious practitioners such as prophets are the elderly (Gardiner and Corinne 13).

From the examination of African and Hindu cultures, the conclusion ca be made that these cultures are relatively similar i.e. there is cultural universality. However, there is also relativism among the cultures. This implies that different cultures have essentially similar elements, either material or immaterial. What differs is the way these elements of cultures are expressed or practiced. For example, almost all cultures across the globe practice some religion or believe in some Supreme Being. Different cultural groups, however, believe in different supreme beings or have different religious practices. Language is a clearer example. All communities have a language that they use for communication. It can also be concluded that certain cultural practice can be acceptable in one culture and be unacceptable in another, commonly referred to as relativity of culture and deviance (Gardiner et al 14).

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