Cultures and traditions have a huge impact on our psyche whether we accept it or not. We pick up a huge amount of values and behaviors from those around us , especially those who make an impact on us sometimes even without our knowledge.
Being born and brought up in a rather traditional and old style world brought about so many restrictions on me as a girl. However the cross cultural effects came from our religious belief system. Being born in a Christian family broke so many of those traditional and cultural restrains and gave me a good amount of freedom. This widened our perspective and lifted us out of the well called cultural restraint.
Not all things cultural are bad, but the strangulating traditions and narrow minded beliefs imposed in the form of irrational superstitions and rituals are what annoy me. Forcing people to follow a certain path directly or indirectly never works, however, when people do the same things by choice it works brilliantly for the individual.
Let me tell you what I love about the Indian culture where I come from. I love to start with the positives. We are a nation of people with various beliefs, religions, traditions, cultures and languages. Yet we live in harmony most of the time, as we are a secular nation. However from time to time we have racist or religious fundamentalist who come into politics and try to destroy the social fabric of the country. Yet, we have stood the ravages of time and races which have come and gone leaving just a mild impact or sometimes none at all.
We are a colorful nation of festivities fun and frolic. There are festivals being celebrated every month or perhaps even every week of the month here. When it is festival time it also mean it is time for food. The Indian cuisine is popular throughout the world, known for its blend of spices, flavors, sweet and savories, vegetarian delights, chutneys and samosas to talk of a few.
I love the simplicity here which is our way of life. Most Indians are simple following a way of life when puts focus on the spirit, mind and body in that order. We are a spiritual and peace loving people. You would know this from the number of foreigners who come here in search of peace. While that is true we do find a sea change happening in the last two generations when people have extended their territories beyond and the seas, oceans and continents. Life gets more complicated as our needs, wants and ambitions rise.
Respect for elders is another one of those things I love about our culture. Parents and elders are given their due place in the society. However this too is eroding and more and more elders find their place in old age homes.
Respect for one another is another very normal thing you find here. There is sufficient respect for everyone to live and let live. Perhaps this kind of respect and openness is what made this land open for plunders to steal our land of its wealth. In fact we have a saying here that the guest is God, so when you have a guest at home he or she is given the best of facilities and treated like a God.
One thing about Indian culture is that people are very hard working. Everyone does their bit to keep the household/community running. However, being a male dominated society men hardly do anything inside the home. Regardless, that was never the norm in my family, mom was a respected math teacher in high school and dad and the boys would always helped her in every way possible. I also find the same change happening around me, although it may be happening thirty years later. Well, things are changing for the better and women have their say today.
As a society our focus has always been on education. This has helped put some of the Indians on the top of the charts in the world Sundar Pitchai CEO of Google and now Alphabet. Indira Noori Ex Ceo Peosi co, Sathya Nadella CEO Microsoft, Kalpana Chavla the astronaut who died in the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003. I could name a few hundred others but that is not the point here.
Education is and will always be the focus of our society which puts mind over matter. Families here would sell all their possessions to educate their children. Parents would slave at jobs so their children could be educated and lead better lives. While I love this focus on education, to be honest I think the education system in this country requires a complete revamp and refocusing at all levels. College grads should be prepared for the future not the past.
Social and personal values have always been very important to our culture. We have the likes of Mahatma (the revered soul) Gandhi the torch bearer of non-violence in our struggle for independence and a beacon of light to the nation. Are these values disintegrating now as times change, I think so, but that is a generic trend in all cultures around the world.
Changes in the way we dress and behave today is the area where we see the biggest cross cultural effect. From once an orthodox and modestly dressed people we have now become a nation that is becoming very free in its way of dressing. Personally, I don't care much about how others dress, I see it as their personal choice. I myself, like to and have always dressed comfortably but modestly, but that is my choice.
In an orthodox culture you would never find people accepting same sex marriages or proclaiming that they are gay. India today is seeing this trend, a culture shock or sorts is happening here. Organizations are opening their arms wider in the name of inclusiveness to give everyone an equal opportunity and we can see more change happening in the future.
Marriages are a huge thing here. This is one area I am not so comfortable with my own culture. We still believe in arranged marriage and match matchmakers both online and offline thrive. My parents were married not because they were in love but because their parents thought that they would do well together. They did for 30 years until cancer stole my dad away. They didn't do too bad I guess, so with all my uncles and aunts. Personally I have never believed in this system, I rebelled against it. In my own firm but quite way, I've chose whom I wanted to marry and I live my life on my terms.
I hate the fact that families spend 'all' their resources on getting their daughter/s married off. They pay a sum of money to the groom called 'dowry' in cash or kind a trousseau (with lot more than clothes even a house or vehicle sometimes) if you can call it that. Most families fall into serious debt due to this practice and girls are considered a liability than an asset here.
Funnily (not really) at times some families would get a son married, take the money from his bride to get their daughter married. Like a barter of sorts. Sad but the ugly truth, thank God this is also slowly going out of acceptance as girls are well educated and the government has become strict against this dowry system.
This practice often made me wonder - Are girls so cheap that you would have to pay someone to marry her ? Or are men so dumb that they have to be sold for a sum? In fact the girls in my country do much better when it comes to academics. They do very well in the work place if given half half a chance. However, they slowly fade out due to marriage, pregnancy and family pressures.
While this system of arranged marriages is slowly going out marriages aren't doing well as an institution, this can be said to be a generic malady worldwide.
Legislation has ensured that girls below 18 and boys below 21 cannot get married, but there are always loopholes in any system.
Child marriages were the norm say about 50 years ago, it could still be in existence in rural areas. However, the government has been cracking down on all these practices and has effectively almost erased these from the society today.
Early marriages were common, perhaps to prevent the girl or a man from making their own choices or being rebellious. A friend of mine and a few of my classmates was married to partners chosen by parents while they were still at the university .
Over all the world is changing. The concept of the global village has had its impact. For example groups of people in Japan have not only accepted South Indian cultures but have also become huge fans of our cultural traditions and movie actors.
How has all this affected me?
Not much really, I live by my rules, do my own thing. I think and so I exist. Nothing really bothers me, I accept what is rational and within my my core belief system and live peacefully with what I cannot change or accept.
While cultural influences have had their impact on our lives so too have cross cultural influences. I believe without cross cultural influences we would become a stagnant society. All cultures have something of value to offer and it is up to us to take the best and make the finest of them. I believe one of the best cross cultural things to have happened in my ancestry centuries ago is my religious belief system that has shaped and molded my life.
These cross cultural influences has traveled both ways just as the West has been able to affect us so have we been able to get into the nooks and crannies of the Western world.
I believe life is the same all over the world, the value of life is the same everywhere, its just our traditions, cultures and demogrphics that has separated us. We have the same creator and father how different can we be?
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