Volume 11: Cultural perspective

Cultural perspective
Cultural perspective refers to the way that individuals are shaped by their environments as well as social and cultural factors. Such factors include a person's nationality, race and gender.

Cultural perspective is two words combined. The first word is defined roughly as the beliefs, practices, artifacts of a cohesive group. The second word is about your angle of viewing. So cultural perspective can be about how a group perceives information coming or leaving their boundary. Some examples:

It is typical for large multinational corporations to close operations in a country in the event of war, many times rescuing employees who are foreign to the countries. This perspective differs from the country who prefers economic activity to continue.

When I visited Panama, some lots had traditional houses and modern cement block houses, but quite a few were still preferring to use the traditional house to sleep with a hammock that could move to any two of eight posts to maximize the breeze at night.

Cultural perspectives are how our culture influences the way in which we learn and think. According to the sociocultural approach, cultural factors such as language, art, social norms and social structures can play a significant role in the creation of the individual’s perception, behavior, and personality.
Some small examples:
Chinese people often smile when embarrassed, while some Americans think they aren’t being taken seriously.
Americans have larger arm movements and louder voices than those in Thailand, so are at times considered rude there.
Italians yell at each other as a way of expressing themselves in elevated emotional situations, while some people would consider these actions to make a situation worse. Many will yell to express feelings of anger while others sublimate them and deal with their anger physically as that is what they are taught, control in anger, redirect emotions elsewhere.

Some people revere pets like dogs and cats, allowing them in the home and as part of the family. Others think they are nuisance and should live outside the house, only allowed inside if weather becomes intolerable. Even other cultures allow the cooking and eating of animals that others feel are pets. Horse meat in America is frowned upon but in other countries, they aren’t so able to choose.

In America there are many different cultures that converge in large cities e.g. New York City, NY. It is here when you find the most interesting differences in cultural perspective. Not only are you dealing with people from all over the USA and their personal customs and oddities of upbringing in their home towns and states, but you have people from other countries bringing their experiences and beliefs which creates for some funny misunderstandings.

Culture is one of the dominant determinants of individual and collective behavior. It takes most or all of a lifetime to master all the nuances and complexities of behavior relative to its cultural influences.

An extremely vivid example of how cultural perspectives can differ occurred when I was assisting with a Bible translation project in northeastern India. We were using an innovative crowd-sourcing approach online to engage the language community in the process of checking and revising translation drafts. As Westerners conducting the first workshops, we planned on providing the technology - notebook computers with the appropriate software and an ad hoc wireless LAN connected to the internet and web. We brought enough notebooks to conduct workshops for up to 10-12 users, with one for each user.

The workshop participants from the local Indian community don't think that way. They immediately and naturally gathered into groups of 4-6 individuals, with each group working through its own single notebook connected to the 'net/'web. In their culture, in other words, the 'natural' way to work is together and collectively. In our Western culture, by contrast, the tendency is to work alone first, then when needed, forming collaborative teams.

Different cultural perspectives emerged, in other words, on how to best achieve an outcome. The workshops were quite successful, mainly because we quickly realized the differences in our perspectives and adjusted the workshop approach and agenda to accommodate their preferences.

Cultures may clash violently, in fact, often leading to the destruction of one under the oppression of the other. The cultural perspective of the Europeans who settled North and South America from the 15th-19th centuries literally destroyed those of the native people groups, for example. Cultural perspectives rooted in religion, politics, and economics wiped out those indigenous cultures for all practical purposes. And this continues today in the least developed countries (LDCs) as natural resources grow increasingly scarce and the greed and corruption of the ruling powers in the most developed countries (MDCs) grow increasingly ruthless and determined.

Cultural perspective refers to the way in which individuals are shaped from their surroundings. Whenever I think about this word "culture", a lot of chaos come into mind.
A cultural perspective is also the point of view from which each individual person sees the same situation - when culture is layered on top of point of view it means that someone is seeing a situation based upon their beliefs, values, experiences that are commonly found in their own culture.
Perspectives—the philosophical perspectives, meanings, attitudes, values, beliefs, ideas that underlie the cultural practices and products of a society. They represent a culture’s view of the.

Examples of Perspectives:

  • Youth valued over age or vice versa
  • Importance of individual freedom; independence
  • Importance of family
  • The belief that bigger is better
  • Valuing of sports/entertainment over education
  • Values attached to bilingualism, multilingualism, monolingualism
  • Value of having (ownership)
  • Belief that humans are part of the natural world and must respect and care for it
  • Value associated with personal privacy
Individuals are born into a specific culture and cultural values, which are as diverse as they are powerful. These are obviously important and relevant, culture is not static, but constantly changing, and not monolithic, but pluralistic. This means we need to carefully evaluate each situation that has implications for human rights and consider this on its own merits.


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