Cultural Values: A Primer
April 30, 2022
Alan He (he/him/his), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer
A culture’s values are its conceptions of what is good, right, fair and just.
For example, 80% of India’s population believe that cows are sacred and should not be slaughtered. Allowing cows to die naturally is one of their values. From the outside, a group’s cultural values are often difficult to understand. Sometimes these values can be invisible, but for members inside the group, cultural values are the core principles and ideals upon which the entire community exists. They are the organizational backbone of the cultures to which they belong.
The Importance of Cultural Values
Cultural values unite people, making them stronger together. People learn tolerance, make economic improvements, and pave the way for social peace within and between communities. They offer people culturally-specific instruction, resulting in positive performance and behavior. They have an impact on people’s attitudes regarding life and how they allocate resources, and improve their life skills.
The Negative Side of Cultural Values
There are some harmful traditional practices. For example, child marriage is still an issue accross many countries due to cultural values. There are different reasons behind these marriages, but the negative effects produced by such cultural values cannot be ignored. They can lead to exploitative practices that can damage people’s mental health.
Cultural Change and Culture Shock
In daily life, we are surrounded by change, and cultural change can have a dramatic impact on our lives. There is no avoiding change, as it will find you, challenge you and force you to reconsider how to live your life. People always need to adapt to the environment, because the environment will not adapt to them.
Culture shock and being homesick is normal — students, for instance, often experience a period of adjustment during their first weeks and months of school. Be patient with yourself and understand that it is a process. You will be excited and intrigued about cultural differences, but there will also be times where you are frustrated or confused.
You might find it easy to focus on what is “missing,” like familiar foods and customs from back home. However, comparisons will not help you settle in when encountering culture shock abroad. Instead, focus on the good things around you. Remember the excitement of discovering and learning new things. Exploring new hobbies or joining a social group can help you overcome culture shock.
It is very important that you do not compare yourself to others when learning how to deal with culture shock. Everyone is different. While you do not want to overwhelm yourself, do things that make you a little nervous, like sampling unfamiliar food or practicing the local language with a native speaker. You only grow when you reach outside your comfort zone.
Respectfully Learning from Other Cultures
As you get older, you’ll meet a wider range of people from diverse cultures. One of the best ways to understand other people’s cultures is to first examine your own. Most of us take our backgrounds for granted, and don’t even realize that our customs and beliefs might seem strange to someone else. If you think of your own way of life as the default and everyone else’s as a strange variation, it’s hard to approach those differences with respect.
My name is Alan, and I am from Canada. I love playing badminton and basketball, and I am hoping to share more interesting things with you!
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