The analysis of cultures allows an individual to gather important information concerning a particular culture. In this analysis, different cultures can be compared and contrasted to enhance the understanding of the levels of diversity between them. The information gathered in cross-cultural analysis is applicable in international business practices, tourism, international mediations, and other universal issues. India has good diplomatic relations with the U.S.A despite the cultural differences that exist between the two nations. These countries have similarities in political democracy, business, and official language. In the cultural interaction of these two nations, it is important to have a scientific perspective of their cultures. Also, it is significant to distinguish between American and African American cultures, although they are similar in some aspects and the second one is the part of the first. The Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s model of seven cultural dimensions is a model used in the study of cultures in order to demonstrate differences between them and their partly polar natures. According to the model, the African American culture is neutral, communal, and rather universal according to the parameters of the theory. The culture of the Indians is slightly diffuse, full of emotions, focused on the community, and particular in nature. In the practice of issues of international relations, it is important that their cultural practices be carefully examined.
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The existence of many nations with people belonging to different races provides a great pool of resources for research and study. These diverse people have different cultural backgrounds. They can be analyzed through comparisons. Cultural diversities exist within nations and, therefore, among nations the diversity is great. The differences between cultures in the world are a source of excitement, and the understanding of these cultural differences is not only theoretical but has a practical application in international issues, business, and even tourism. The understanding of a particular culture allows a diplomat, for example, to solve a local problem with sincerity and ease. In cross-cultural analysis, the cultural comparisons and contrast are elucidated while scientific analysis allows the cultures to be generalized into abstract groups to eliminate biases. This paper carries out a cross-cultural comparison between the Indian culture and the African American culture with a scientific analysis.
The people of the west view the nation of India as one full of mysteries and magic. These views have always remained in the prolonged years of cultural studies. However, the views about India vary from one researcher to the other depending on their personal perspectives. Tourists have a different view of India as compared to the views given by a writer about the nation. Every view point of India generates great interest and uniqueness. As an individual, I have desired to understand this culture though without much success; thus, necessitating the use of a structural approach to understand the culture of Indians.
India is a nation in the eastern region of the world, exhibiting eastern characteristics similar to the surrounding nations. Its culture is described as hot-climate (Lanier, 2010) and is known to be of high-context (Nishimura, Nevgi, & Tella, 2008). This culture is also described as collectivistic to other cultures and moderately individualistic according to the Hofstede’s scale of individualism (LeFebvre, 2011).
In order to understand the culture of the Indians, it is important to be acquainted with some historical background of their social and religious practices. The Indian culture is estimated to have begun approximately 4,500 ago hence one of the oldest cultures. The country is large with a population of about 1.2 billion, divided into seven territories further divided into 28 sub-territories (Zimmermann, 2015). The states have different cultures. The nation has 22 recognized languages with Hindi being the native language. Most of the people are of the Hinduism religion but some are Muslims. Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism religions are also practiced in India (Zimmermann, 2015). India is also a democratic nation with an elected parliament headed by a prime minister. The Indians were colonized by the British who influenced their way of life. They adopted some of the British practices such as government and business (Overgaard, 2010). The nation is now developing rapidly with the other global markets. With the current development in the global markets, the Indian culture has been influenced by other cultures resulting in an increased cultural gap.
The Indian society is categorized into caste system. That classification was used for the first time about 1200 BC and, consequently, most parts of India were divided into castes. This social categorization is based on the social status of the individuals. In India, there exist about 3,000 castes with 25,000 sub-castes (Overgaard, 2010). The castes are further grouped into four varnas: Kshatryas, Vaishyas, Brahmins, and Shudras. The Brahmins varnas are majorly priests and scientists while the Kshatryas varnas are rulers and warriors. The Vaishyas varnas are business people whereas the Shudras are artisans and peasants. Individuals of different varnas are believed to be of different social status and are given different privileges.
Dalis is the lowest social group in India. They are the majority in the Indian population. They carry out the most of the odd jobs such as maintenance of sewer lines in the country. They have the lowest social class and receive the least respect from the community. As it is clear from their name, even their presence is considered impure for the higher castes (Overgaard, 2015). The caste system originated from the Hindu religion. The system does not allow the members to upgrade from one social class to the next. People from the lower social classes are considered sinners or cursed. Members of the lower classes are not allowed to mingle with the elite members of the society. For instance, marriages between members of different classes are not allowed.
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Indians are renowned for their culture that is associated with festivals, music, food, dances, Indian movies and many Gods. The native wear of women is known as Sari while that of men is sherwani. However, Indian youth prefer international standards because of cultural diversification. The Indian foods are characterized with a lot of spices and vegetable meals. Some of the international food brands are now being produced and consumed in India (Bhagat, 2011).
India is a generally diverse nation in all dimensions of life ranging from religious to social aspects. The gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and rural regions, the fortunate and the unfortunate individuals is so big that generalization is difficult.
African American Culture
Generally, the USA is culturally described as a young nation. Although it has a large geographical territory, occupied by many and diverse people, their cultures have been unified in the American culture. The nation of America appeared and developed in the course of the European civilization. This majorly happened during the American Revolution, when other states united to form America as a nation. After the formation of the nation, many people from other continents migrated into the USA in search of better livelihood and later made it their home. However, some of the people who lived in the U.S were slaves who had been acquired during the slavery period. Within the development of the American civilization, most of the people in the United States were given equal opportunities for life including the Africans. During the integration of the diverse African cultures to form the African American culture, some cultural practices were maintained (Zimmermann, 2015).
Specifically, the African American culture can be defined as “people having origins in any of the black race groups of Africa” (U.S Census Bureau, 2013). The Africans who survived the Middle Passage have the African American culture as their indigenous culture. This culture rose up in the 17th century during slavery and suffered great resistance to its practice during slavery but survived and has been incorporated into the American culture. When slaves were acquired in the U.S, the slave owners sought for ways of control over them. They used strategies like limiting the African cultural practices. However, this move did not work since the slaves were isolated and marginalized facilitating the retention of their cultures. In the 19th century, the slaves rebelled from slave rule forming movements for their civil rights, which resulted in the formation and transformation of the African American Culture. This culture can be observed in their familial, economic, and political behavior.
African Americans accounted for approximately 13.3% of Americans by 2014 (U.S Bureau of the Census, 2013). Most of them lived in the central city of metropolitan regions with some having been distributed in the South and North America. Most of the African Americans are into the middle class economic status. They have also had advancement in acquisition of employment opportunities and their education, increased home ownership, and participation in voting (McGoldrick, Giordano and Garcia-Preto, 2005). The life expectancy of African Americans is lower than that of the Whites, with most deaths resulting from AIDS and homicide.
However, African Americans have been observed to have adaptive strengths in their families. They express strong kinship bonds, flexibility in familial roles, and have a high regard on religion, education, and work (Witt, 1997). The African American families have also shown an increase in single parenthood. They are known to have the highest number of single women in the U.S., and in most cases, most African American gays are victims of single parenthood.
With a strong economy and prime position, the U.S has influenced most of the cultures in the world. Americans are known for their food preferences, entertainment, music, and lifestyle. The U.S.A consists of several cultural traditions, which have their origin from African ethnic groups. The African American culture is a part of the American culture but is also distinct from it. In fact, some practices of the American culture were adopted from the African American culture. These include the Hip Hop culture, which is characterized with half singing and half-talking that originated from the street way of communication. Equally, the hip-hop genre incorporated various aspects of the African American dance. The American literature has also accepted works from African Americans such as The Color Purple by Alice Walker. In addition, the maintenance of facial hair in Jazz music has its origin in the African American hairstyle. The African Americans have assimilated some of the American cultural practices over time, leaving minimal differences between the two cultures.
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As a nation, the United States of America practices democracy. Most of its people focus on accumulating wealth and enhancement of their lifestyle. Evidently, most of the people, who move to the U.S, always end up being part of this “American dream.” It is believed that majority of the Americans seek and pursue freedom. The official language of the U.S is English but other languages are also represented. Approximately 300 languages are represented in the U.S and have speakers (Zimmermann, 2015a). The African Americans have their English dialect known as the African American Vernacular English, which is a variety of the American English language. It has a close association of speech with the African American but is not exclusively related to them because not all African Americans use the language. It is academically known to be a legitimate dialect but to some Americans it is slang.
In the United States of America, people have a freedom for worship. There exists no particular religion referred to as an official creed. The people are free to believe in any faith according to their choices. However, most of the Americans are associated with Christianity, but Muslims and Judaists are also represented (Zimmermann, 2015). The African Americans also have a strong spiritual orientation, which is associated with their oppression during slavery. Most African Americans are Christians and have embraced the Christ’s gift of salvation. The African Americans are mostly affiliated with the Baptist Church (McGoldrick, Giordano and Garcia-Preto, 2005).
Personal Background as an African American Woman
My cultural background categorizes me as an African American Woman, born in the south and residing in a rural area though with a major university. Even though I was raised in a single parent home, I managed to be educated. I am career driven and I am following the values I has been taught by my maternal grandparents, who have had a great influence over my life. The fact that they were married over 50 years also had a great impact on my beliefs. After their death I became a single parent, raising not only my children, but my nephew too. The reason for it is the fact that my youngest sister is living in a nursing home due to diabetes, dialysis, and complete blindness, and I have to take care of her as well. My youngest son, who is 6 months old, was born with an extremely rare muscle disorder and was hospitalized for 5 months. Currently he is living on a ventilator. With all these responsibilities, life has never been easy since I do not earn much from my job. I work as a transitional case manager in an all-male prison after my immediate initial job as an investigator with Department of Family and Children Services. I am sure that my Christian belief always has been a source of strength to me. I also consider the United States of America as the nation which molded my lifestyle and way of thinking.
Differences and Similarities Between the two Cultures
The analysis and comparison of Indians and African Americans at a cultural perspective has several contrasting points. A country like the U.S has many people from diverse cultural backgrounds who share common objectives as a nation. In such case, the culture is highly integrated. Thus, African American culture is tightly bound to American one and cannot be separated from it in some aspects. In India, however, the cultures existing have a common local background. Most of the foreigners are not incorporated into the local cultures. This section will compare and contrast the two cultures based on the aspects of communication, time orientation, health, perceptions and measures, intelligence, psychological development, and emotional expressions.
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Speech is believed to be one of the factors that bring people together. The people of America and those of India both recognize English as their official language. However, the English of Indians differs from that of Americans based on accent and expressions. Culturally, the purpose of communication varies. For African Americans, communication is the basis of information transfer, while in the Indian culture it is a factor of unity. Nishimura, Nevgi & Tella note, “Indian English is formal and poetic, including elegant and imposing forms of speech. It is very polite with expressions of humility, honorifics and respect terminology,” (Nishimura, Nevgi, & Tella, 2008). The communication format in India is very formal and is expressed with great respect while the African American communication style is very informal and often uses the elements of a street-styled talk. Considering a business scenario, Americans express their interests openly and directly while Indians would develop their communication through a period of prolonged but respectful greetings. In short, Indians communicate with many words and many expressions.
Time orientation is also different for the two cultures. The American culture has an economic value for time. Their business transactions are always scheduled within a particular period. The individuals have adopted this understanding and are excellent timekeepers. In the Indian culture, time is viewed in a relative perspective without economic emphasis. They do not perceive their economic transactions based on time but rather on trustworthiness and fine relationships.
Physical and Mental Health
Cognitive and psychomotor body states cannot be separated. According to the Indians, the body health is a factor of spiritual wellness while exercise and appropriate lifestyle have value to the physical body. African Americans have had an increased need for mental health services in the recent years but most of them ignore medical interventions. The mental therapy of African Americans whether men or women, is inclusive of religious challenges and needs elimination of myths. Most African Americans lack trust in medical interventions and it is believed to be the reason for their low life expectancy.
Perceptions and Measures
The American culture encourages personal interests over the others. In this way, most Americans are taught to depend on themselves rather than the government or guardian. However, particularly for African Americans family bounds are very important due to their traditions, morals, and beliefs. The Indian culture encourages familial lifestyles where individuals concentrate on families guarding and valuing them.
The African Americans view cleverness based on academic excellence. They emphasize on education to their people. In India, intelligence is viewed in the perspective of personal achievements. These achievements are not necessarily academic. The African American women are offered equal education platforms as their male counterparts and have shown competitiveness (Sadker and Zittleman, 2005). The Americans also consider success as a measure of cleverness; however, they are also known for their hard work. The Indians also “pursue material wellbeing, appreciate success in business, and admire creativity, especially in technology” just as the Americans do (Nishimura, Nevgi, & Tella, 2008).
Development of Aggression, Morality, and Gender
There exists a common thought about the African Americans as being violent considering their involvement in the slave revolts and colonial warfare as slaves. However, it is not the case. Despite their involvement in the communal violence, they rarely had violence amongst themselves. They had alternative ways of revenge excluding violence and one of them was ridiculing. This might be due to their religious belief as Christians. The African American women had a highly reserved personality and had the rights to correct their children. They had economic independence, although they maintained submissiveness to their husbands. The African American women worked hard just as their male counterparts did. The women would raise their communal status even above that of the men. The African Americans had a high moral standard, which insisted on respect for the elders, honor for peers, and acknowledgement of dignity. This is the core reason for allowing African American women to nurse the children of the whites.
In the Indian culture, the male gender was ascribed authority over their female counterparts. The males would maintain the decision making powers in the family, having the older male as the overall head of the family. The women were given into marriage by their parents. The moral standards of the Indian culture were based on the respect of authority in the familial set up. The Indians have been observed to be aggressive based on their religious beliefs.
The African Americans have a strong sense of pride, which prevents them from expressing their emotions easily. They would maintain rigidness in all situations regardless of their needs even when helpless. The Indian culture has a high sense of emotional expressions from their festivals to family activities.
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Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s Model of Seven Cultural Dimensions
Many theories have been proposed to understand and scientifically analyze cultures in general. These theories are Hall’s theory of high- and low-context cultures, Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimension, Lewis’s theory of cultural categories of communication, or Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s model of seven cultural dimensions. In the analysis of the Indian and the American cultures, the theory of choice is the Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s model. This is one of the most detailed theories in cultural analysis (Matsumoto, 2001). Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s theory carries out a cultural analysis based on seven aspects of cultures (Reis, Ferreira & Santos 2011). These aspects are “universalism versus particularism, individualism vs. communitarism, specificity vs. diffuseness, affective vs. neutral, achievement vs. ascription, sequential vs. synchronic time, and inner vs. outer directed culture”.
Comparison of Indian and African American cultures according to the Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s Theory
The Indian and the African American cultures can be scientifically analyzed using this theory as follows:
Universalism vs. Particularism
A universal culture is one governed by strict and rigid laws and practices. They believe in justice without favoritism guided by fairness. They have courts of law and are faithful to their judicial requirements. The African American culture is part of the U.S.A nation governed by law. Their culture is, therefore, is rather universalistic, however it depends greatly on the particular origin of African American and the way he/she was educated and raised. The Indian culture is particularistic. This means the governance is based on relations and handles situations differently based on the occasion. They mostly resolve issues based on relationships (Overgaard, 2010). The universalists do not trust the particularists since they lack rigidity of the law while the particularists consider universalists as enemies even to their own families and friends (Overgaard 2010). In America friends convict their fellow colleagues when they commit a crime, but at the same time this is rare in India.
Individualism vs. Communitarism
When people concentrate their interests and focus on themselves only without considering the community, they are individualistic. Such individuals strive to satisfy their desires and have weak communal bonds. They highly encourage competition and traits which make them special. When people consider the needs of a community above their personal desires, they are said to be communitarian. These individuals have communal welfares and support systems encouraging cooperation (Tools Team, n.d). The African Americans and the Indians are both communitarian. The African Americans have strong family bonds similar to the Indians.
Specificity vs. Diffuseness
This aspect compares the manner in which an individual is involved in something, considering both action and thought. It is the way person highlights something, which can be done through categories or as a unit. A specific culture handles an issue one at a time with an analytical approach, while a diffuse culture handles all circumstances as a unit. The African Americans are described as specific, while the Indians are diffuse. According to the people of USA, the professional life is separated from personal, however Indians consider them as one. Indians can extend their personal life to their professional life without consideration, but the Americans cannot.
Achievement vs. Ascription
This is the basis of social position. When a social position is attained through effort and work, it is said to be achieved. When a social position is entitled based on a given factor, then it is said to be ascribed. For African Americans everything is based on merit through complex processes. In India, however, some social positions were ascribed to individuals based on their sex, race, and even caste. On the other hand, the African American women have an equal opportunity to strive for social positions as their male counterparts do. In India, the women are discriminated and considered to be inferior due to the ascribed social positions. The distribution of occupational opportunities is also ascribed in India.
Neutral vs. Emotional
In this category, the main component is expression of emotions and feelings in a cultural dimension. In a neutral culture, emotions and feelings are not expressed openly in the public. An emotional culture is one where the feelings can be freely and publicly expressed among individuals. The African American culture is driven by reason rather than emotions. It is described as a neutral culture where the feelings are not publicly expressed but prefer reason as a solution. In India, people are allowed to express their feelings directly with transparency. They are also allowed to express their emotions when needed. Evidently African Americans can consider Indians to be exaggerating some emotions while the Indians consider Americans to be lacking sincerity.
Inner direction vs. Outer Direction
This dimension is based on how individuals consider their external surroundings or situational surroundings. It is the approach of the control over a situation. Cultures that bend nature towards their needs and situation are known to be inner directed while those, which remain under the control of a situation or nature, are known as outer directed. The African Americans are described as hardworking and purpose driven individuals who will strive to achieve the highest goals out of determination. It is this kind of struggle that leads to success and describes them as inner directed. The Indians are known for their situational submissiveness. They only work on the things that can be done. They are, therefore, outer directed. In difficult situations, the Indians have shown the ability to evoke the skills of inner-directed individuals to manage the stresses they were involved in. Individuals who are inner directed require rigid answers for them to reach a consensus.
The perception of Time
Depending on different cultures, time is either sequential or synchronous. In a sequential setup, events are planned according to protocols. In synchronous setups time is considered to consist of cycles with events repeating over and over again. The African Americans have a sequential view of time where time involves schedules and plans. This is also applicable to the African American women too. However, the Indians view time synchronously, spending much time without rush. According to them, one can attend an event thirty minutes late or spend much time discussing personal affairs during work hours. This character differs completely from the African American perception of time.
Influences of Culture on Human, Identity, and Personality Development
The African American culture results in the development of individuals with the ability to make decisions based on their personal interests and goals in life. They have a great sense of family and care about their families. The Indian culture results in the development of individuals who are reluctant to persuade their life challenges but rather live with them. They lack the motivation and effort to work hard to eliminate problems but rather end up mixed in their environment. This is because of their diffuse way of life with a communitarian lifestyle. They are also outer directed and consider time in a synchronous manner.
Influence of Culture on the People’s Emotions
The African American culture influences the individuals to be emotionally reserved and maintain a neutral nature of emotions. This is because of their ability to consider emotional as personal. The Indian culture, on the other hand, has individuals who are very emotional with a spontaneous expression of emotions.
Influence of Culture on Morality and Gender
The moral outline of the cultures like that of African Americans displays high moral standards that are predetermined by the law. The moral standards of African Americans are more defined and the priority of the people is to abide to them. In cultures that are particularistic, the basis of morality is not clearly defined since the applicability is situational. The distinction between right and wrong varies with varying situations. This results in poorly established moral standards.
Gender development in a culture is dependent on the social classification of the males and the females. According to the theory, in the U.S all the males and females, including those of African origin, are given equal opportunities to achieve their goals in life. American democracy expresses equality of gender with its social standards being established on merit and achievement. In India, the social standards are ascribed based on the social classifications. They express gender imbalances with the females being ascribed a lower social standard (Raghuvir, 1993).
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Biases that Influence Cultural Analysis
The Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s model has limitations just as any other theory. It does not consider the individual sub-cultures that make up the general African American culture and the Indian culture. The African American culture comprises of individuals from different regions of Africa with diverse cultures. In addition, this model does not consider personal preferences within a culture. This limits its use as a universal theory for cultural analysis. On the other hand, it is useful in categorization, allowing it to provide a general view about particular culture.
In order to avoid biases that exist between cultures, the use of scientific approach is appropriate. The use of human approaches, on the other hand, displays many biases. The African American culture is a simplified culture with an ordered way of life. The Indian culture cannot be precisely defined due to the gaps between traditions and modernity, the youth and the elderly, the rural and the urban people.
The scientific analysis of cultures allows some biases embraced by individuals to be eliminated. These include the wrong opinion about Indians as lazy and unreliable based on their perception of time, majorly as lovers of vegetables, and as mostly spiritual people. Such views are wrong since not all the Indians have such practices. On the other side, the Indians also view African Americans as unruly and not caring about others, though such views are not conclusive and cannot be proved as there is no scientific evidence of it.
The scientific analysis of cultures allows the individuals to have a clear view on a culture, to eliminate personal biases, and enhance practical applicability. When it comes to understanding of a culture, it is important to set aside personal perceptions and scientifically approach the analysis with respect. In order to understand the cultural differences and similarities between Indians and African Americans, the Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner’s model of seven cultural dimensions was used. In this analysis, every cultural practice is considered as a cultural dimension. According to the analysis, the African American culture was found to be a little less universal than the American culture in general, with a sequential view of time, focused on individuals, highly specific, and encouraging hard working and achievements. The Indian culture, on the other hand, was found to be harmonious, full of emotions, particular in nature, caring about the community, having a synchronous view of time, and outer-directed. The knowledge about these two cultures when compared allows individuals to have a renewed perception of the international relations. These cultures are now undergoing transformations with the current effects of globalization. The western culture is slowly infiltrating the Indian culture as the African American culture disappears in the American culture.