Peeling Away Cultural Constructs


Overall, we each think, feel, and act within our own cultural expectations. This framework of thinking is where we build our ideas about the world, social behaviors, manners, respect, and interests just to name a few components. We shape our understanding of ourselves and others based on expectations, and these expectations change depending on the culture of the individual in question.

Relationships and expectations within them, for example, change between cultures and times. The modern western culture usually holds an expectation that the relationship usually consists of a couple close in age, of opposite sex, both parties consenting to be part of the relationship, like each other (at least) and usually with equal status in the relationship. Although the standards are changing in our culture, especially with regards to gender, these expectations are not universal. For instance, in arranged marriages, both partners usually do not know each other before the relationship starts and is usually concerning the difference of status between the individuals. In some parts of the United States, especially Utah, polygamy is practiced and the expectation within a marriage is changed from a couple to a man and his sister wives.

Our cultural constructs shape the lenses we see the world through. When you hear about the men in Utah with many sister wives, this practice may surprise, or even disturb, you. This emotional response is evidence of your own cultural constructs. Beside expectations in our social and behavioral world, these expectations spread to our perception of reality. This can be defined as the classifications of reality. These are the ways that members of a culture separate the natural world and the social world. This division is usually done through the use of language.

The Hanunoo people of the Philippines identify the plants in their region differently than a botanist would. Using different techniques through language, they know of 400 more types of forest plants than a botanist would. Their method for identification does not rely on the separation of species as the formal scientific means would, however, they also classify the plants by age and locations. This is an example of looking at the world differently, and not that one method of classification is right or wrong.

Another difference in cultural reality that is common is what some consider food and what others consider not food. Millions of people consider the dog a delicacy and would relish the chance to have the meat for dinner. The West usually considers dogs to be ‘man’s best friend’, it’s hard to imagine eating them as we do beef steaks and beef burgers. Similarly, there are hundreds of millions of people who would not touch beef as a food because of their beliefs, such as we do with dogs.

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