Do you not think it’s marvellous that the world is full of so many different cultures? It is as if the world is a colourful painting and each colour represents a distinct and unique culture. Each colour is equally as important to the beauty of the canvas that is the world.
Renowned anthropologist, E. B Tylor defined culture as, “Culture is that complex whole that includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, customs and any other capabilities and habits by man as a member of society”. And Dr Leo Parvis in his acclaimed book, “Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today’s Complex World” says that, “given, factors such as beliefs and art are unique sometimes geographically, sometimes societally, the modern world consists of a magnitude of unique cultures.”
We live in a globalized world. Hence, we rarely have monocultures in a modern state. For example, Melissa Lamson of Diversity Journal points out that, “Over the last 70 years, Sweden has become ethnically, religiously and linguistically so very diverse due to immigration. 25% of Swedish citizens have a foreign background and 32.3% of Swedish citizens have at least one parent born abroad.”
So not a single culture is in solitude. Therefore, people of various cultural backgrounds have to naturally interact with other cultures, which results in cultural clashes.
In the simplest sense, a cultural clash arises from the interaction of people with different cultural values. Nonetheless, we must always practise caution when a cultural clash occurs in our lives.
First of all, we must bear in mind that a person’s culture is that person’s identity. And any remark or an unctuous exchange of comment, we would make, based on the mere fact that we find a certain culture alien to our own is horrendously rude! The way an individual culture treats a certain way of life can be far removed from our way, but what is expected from a reasonable and kind citizen is to understand and learn and respect. As P. A. Gibbons says in his article, “A Different Kind of Letter”, “what we must learn is the most appropriate language to use, and the most appropriate ways to get things done”. Gibbons furthers this advice by saying, “What learning a second language means, is learning the different kinds of spoken and written genres to participate in the second language culture.”. This I regard as a magnanimous moral because respecting someone else’s identity is not a defeat, it’s a prodigious victory.
Second of all, when cultural clashes happen, inimical or hostile behaviour towards another culture is not only of deleterious circumstances towards that culture but also, most of the time it ends up being pernicious to one’s own self. For example, there’s the risk of one ending up having an unfavourable label, or perhaps even baleful legal issues. Because after all the Swedish Constitution in Chapter 1, Article 3, declares that, “The public institutions shall combat discrimination of persons on grounds of gender, colour, national or ethnic origin, linguistic or religious affiliation, functional disability, sexual orientation, age or other circumstances”. Once Maya Angelou, the famous American writer, too was mortified because she made presumptions and failed to practice caution or understanding. She misjudged a certain cultural practice and showed a mild hostility towards it, and she describes what she felt after realizing the truth in her famous memoir, “I know why the caged birds sing”. She says, “My face and neck burnt. Fortunately because of my chocolate brown complexion people couldn’t see I was on fire with shame”.
From what she learnt she offered us this piece of advice, “in an unfamiliar culture, it is vice to offer no innovations, no suggestions, and no lessons” In conclusion, cultural clashes are natural to occur given the society we live in. Culture, nonetheless, represents a person’s value, so we must treat cultural identities with utter respect. Behaviour in contradiction to these contentions results in hurting someone’s feelings. And why would we as human beings ever even think of doing that? Furthermore, hostile behaviour at a cultural clash would end up hurting your feelings too. It may result in embarrassment or even an expensive lawsuit. Therefore, let’s not hurt, instead let’s love, accept, learn and understand.