Research Paper On Cross - Cultural Analysis
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Our world is full of different cultures, and each of these cultures have its unique features, its beliefs and values. Communities that share common ideas and goals can represent a certain culture, because culture goes far beyond nationality or the country of origin. In the work “Communication between cultures”, Hofstede defined culture as “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another” (1984, p.51). We can say that culture is a way of living for groups of people, in which they follow certain traditions and have certain views on different aspects of life.
One of the cultures that interests me the most is Brazilian culture, because to me it seems so bright, colorful and positive. High levels of diversity can precisely describe the Brazilian culture, because the history has set a strong foundation for the variety of people on the territory of Brazil. The thing is that European countries have been dominating over Brazil and that African migrants had to come to the territory of the country due to slavery in previous centuries. Brazilian culture represents a mixture of various communities. Thus, all of those nationalities, European, African, and others, have brought their piece to the formation of Brazilian culture, and in a modern world, this culture represents a complex and unique organism with many aspects and controversies (Brazil.org.za).
The population of Brazil is approximately 190 million people, among whom about 40% are representatives of mixed black and white races, about 50% are white, and around 10% are representatives of black races. The major part of population share Roman Catholic religion, because of European domination in throughout the history of the country. In addition, Portuguese language is the official in Brazil, because centuries ago there was a high number of Portuguese settlements on the territory of the country. There are still minor languages that continue to exist in Brazilian culture, but they are minority languages and are spread among not more than 20% of the country’s population (Brazil.org.za).
Brazilian culture is the one that has characteristics of strong family connections. The families in Brazil are usually large, and even not close relatives constantly keep in touch and in most of the time have warm relationships with each other. The fact that Brazil is a representative of collectivistic culture can explain strong family ties. Therefore, from childhood individuals in Brazil engage into cohesive groups that have close relationships. High family protection, continuous support and high level of loyalty among family members, even towards cousins, uncles, and grandparents are the major characteristics of Brazilian culture (Brazil.org.za). In addition, family connections and approach towards collectivism play a role in the working environment. Those who are older in a family and who have jobs in some companies tend to help other family members to get a job in this company. The language of communication is mostly about knowing each other better and creating closer working communities. For example, during hiring process the parties engaged begin from informal conversation in order to learn something about each other and only then move towards business (Geert-hofstede.com).
In terms of power distance, Brazilian culture is a representative of a culture that sticks to high levels of hierarchy and allows inequalities among the society. In most of cases, people make distinctions in terms of income level and in terms of skin color. Those who belong to darker races usually have less benefits and advantages. There is high level of income inequality in Brazil, and it lead to the situation where there are extremely wide gaps between salaries of different classes of population. Therefore, those who earn more interact quite rarely with those who have low incomes, and rich layers of society have more benefits and powers. Furthermore, since childhood, Brazilians are taught to show high respect to older people and kids have to take care of elder family members if needed. In the working environment people have to have a clear distinction who is in charge and who are the subordinates, showing respectful attitude towards the status of individuals (Brazil.org.za, Geert-hofstede.com).
What is more, according to Hofstede’s dimensions, we can associate Brazilian culture with low levels of masculinity, which implies that this culture puts an emphasis on caring about each other and on the quality of life. Brazilian culture does not have high competition or achievement-drives, but rather people tend to do what they like (Geert-hofstede.com). Brazilian culture is the culture that has many unknown aspects and that has a bigger room for further exploration. Overall, high diversity, collectivistic approach towards relationships and other life aspects, respect for hierarchy and care about life quality are the major features of Brazilian culture.
Another culture that is also very interesting to explore and that, according to my point of view, has many commonalities with my personal worldview is Haitian culture. In comparison to Brazil with very high population, the population of Haiti is only 10 million people, which can imply that the culture in this region is not that diverse as the Brazilian one. Despite the fact that birth rates are quite high in Haiti, high unemployment rates and poor health care services encourage many people to migrate to other countries in search for better life (Bricefoundation.org).
We can describe representatives of Haitian culture as generous and open people. One of the main characteristics of Haitian culture is celebrating life. People from this region tend to overcome difficulties with smiles on their faces, no matter how hard it is sometimes to do. Haitians are extremely proud of their past and many of them believes that historical heroes represent hope for the future generations. Haitian culture even celebrates National Heroes Day every year on 2 January. Taking into consideration the fat that there is high unemployment on the territory of Haiti, many people are struggling with high costs for public services, such as education and health care. However, parents are doing their best to send their children to school, so that they can get educational background and get jobs that are more qualified in future. Moreover, people in Haiti are very friendly. For instance, greetings play a crucial role in day-to-day life of Haitian culture representatives. When a person starts communication with anyone or with a group of people, he has to make personal greetings to everyone with some physical gestures, such as hand shaking. It is extremely important for this culture, because it shows the attitude to the community in general (Bricefoundation.org).
Moreover, it is worth to concentrate on the language, which Haitian culture encourages. According to the country’s constitution of the year 1987, there are two official languages in Haiti region, which are Haitian Creole and French. Creole if the major language in populations’ life and French is the language of officials and government. In fact, Haitian people consider that usually people who have high education levels speak French. Despite the fact that Creole originally was an oral language, there is still a written form of the language, which started to spread in the middle of XX century. In addition, in a modern Haitian society people started to use English language quite often, because of historical background with United States and because of the fact that many Haitians have relatives on the territory of the U.S. However, we can see that Haitian culture has its own language, which plays a significant role because it provides deeper and stronger cultural identity and makes it unique in its way (Bricefoundation.org).
Haitian culture is characterized as a collectivistic culture. Strong bound to art, music, bright life celebration, and sharing religious views – all of that explains collectivistic nature of Haitian culture. Despite the fact that Haiti is a poor country in economic terms, it is very rich in its traditions, beliefs, and spirituality. Music and dances are integral elements of people’s life in this region. Haitian culture is the one that embraces life through arts, and expressing all the feelings through dancing in bright outfits is extremely important for these people. Haitian have an ability to find nice things there, where other people will see only negative sides. Showing respect to nature and to the beauty of external world, Haitians find their way to generosity and inner warmness. Majority of country’s populations practices Catholicism (approximately 80%) and 20% are Protestants, which implies that religion related customs and tradition play a significant role for this culture (Bricefoundation.org). People in Haiti take care of each other and tend to have strong family bounds, just like in Brazilian culture. Showing respect to older family members, and putting many efforts into helping each other within the community are important traits of Haitians (Potomitan.net).
It is essential to concentrate a little bit more on the religious aspect of Haitian culture, because it plays a crucial role in everyday life of the country’s population. Religion communities are important for the representatives of Haitian culture, and in those communities, people support and take care of each other. Haitians have Vodou (voodoo) ceremonies that show their commitment to their faith. During those ceremonies families come together, and together they try to find solutions for future life and to evaluate the morality and behavioral intentions. In fact, they even have their informal justice system, which implies that those who show inappropriate immoral behavior will have to pay for it. During voodoo ceremonies people sing and one more time celebrate their lives. Some scholars have even called a Vodou temple “a sanctuary, clubhouse, dance hall, hospital, theater, chemist’s shop, music hall, court and council chamber in one” (Inmotionaame.org).
Furthermore, it was already mentioned that Haiti is one of the economically poorest countries. Income inequality and food insecurity are hot issues for Haitian culture. As far as there is a huge gap between rich and poor according to the income level, it is challenging for a significant part of population to support their families’ living. Agriculture plays an important role for Haitian culture, and more than a half of Haitian population lives in rural areas. However, it does not lead to higher earnings of those who live and work in agricultural sectors. The overall poverty in Haiti reaches 77%, while in rural areas poverty level reaches approximately 88%, which is an extreme indicator for the country’s needs and abilities (Ruralpovertyportal.org).
Overall, we can see that Haitian culture is the collectivistic culture with strong family ties and intense joy for life. Haitians are friendly and have unique traditions and ceremonies. Despite hard economic situation in the country and high levels of income inequality and poverty, people strive to find good things in the surroundings, and we can describe Haitian culture as the one that has an energy for future life and who want to live their lives to the fullest.
After a brief description of Brazilian culture that I am very interested in and of Haitian culture, towards which I identify myself most, it becomes clear that those cultures have things in common. Both of those cultures are collectivistic, which is very important, because it sets general attitudes and lifestyle attributes within the country. Both cultures have high levels of income inequality, which also provides characteristics of social classes within those two societies and implies significant gaps between high-income and low-income groups of people. In terms of communication, we can also observe similarities between Haitian and Brazilian cultures. Representatives of those cultures are friendly and open. The fact that both of them are collectivistic implies that they share common views on communication within families and with close people.
In terms of time orientation, we can say that Brazilian and Haitian cultures are also similar. According to the Hofstede’s dimensions analysis, Brazilian culture is the one that lies in the middle between long-term and short-term orientation. It means that representatives of Brazilian culture tend to think more of the present time, and look into future only if necessary. People in Brazil look with suspicion towards significant social changes in future, because they put an emphasis on the current situation. However, if the situation requires a long-term approach, Brazilians will be ready to do this (Greet-hofstede.com). Haitian culture, in turn, is also present-oriented. Thus, people in Haiti also think about now and today, which can be observed through their life celebrations and dances and art importance even in difficult times (Salisbury.edu).
In order to conduct a closer examination of Brazilian and Haitian culture and to perform a cross-cultural analysis, it will be useful to turn to one of the theoretical sociological frameworks. The one that I would like to concentrate on is social conflict theory. Social conflict approach in culture implies that all members of the society strive to maximize their profits and benefits and that in every culture groups of people can be in conflict due to existing inequalities in different aspects, such as income, social status, or education level. The essence of the social conflict theory in cultural analysis is that every culture represents the bubble, where the there is a strong foundation for inner conflicts. In addition, according to this theory, those inequality conflicts and disputes bring some of the groups on the tops, while leaving others in the bottom. In such a way, in every culture there are groups of people who benefit from the existing situation and those who have to struggle for decent life, as inequality significantly limits them (Hannan).
Different cultures often differ in human development and identity and personal development. From the perspective of social conflict approach, we can judge that inequality conflicts had a significant influence on the development of culture’s representatives. To observe human development more precisely we have to look at the Human Development Index, which the United Nations Development Program has designed in order to look at the combined statistics of education, health and income indicators within a certain society (Atlasbrazil.org.br). Brazil has experienced a significant increase in this index measure, having 0.744 in the year 2013 in comparison to 0.545 in the year 2014. Haiti, in turn, has quite lower human development index, which was 0.352 in 1980, and as of the latest data from 2013 is 0.471. While Brazil take 79th place in the UNDP Human Development Index in the list of all countries, Haiti is only 168th place, which represents a huge difference in the human development of those two cultures (Hdr.undp.org).
In fact, we can closely connect human development to personality and identity development in any culture. As far as human development implies improvements in the social spheres of life, such as, for instance, education, identity and personality development grow from those life aspects and directly take its roots from there. We have already observed that both countries have high levels of income inequality, and consequently, those inequalities lead to people’s perception of the culture in general. Despite the fact that Brazilian culture has higher rank in the list in terms of Human Development Index, there are still ongoing conflicts between different social classes, particularly due to the inequality in earnings and high poverty levels. Ranking of Haiti closer represents social inequalities within the culture. Still, despite the difference in rankings for those two cultures, we can say that conflicts within cultures have direct influence on the human and personality development of the culture members. The fact that conflicts emerge from inequalities, which, in turn, have a direct relation to the formation of one’s identity, one’s beliefs and values, and priorities, explains the current cultural foundations in both Haitian and Brazilian cultures.
Another important aspect of every culture are psychological processes, such as morality principles formulation, conflict resolution techniques, expression of emotions, and aggression management. The perspective of social conflict approach implies that silent conflicts among unequal groups of people within one culture have a strong influence on these psychological processes, because conflict itself infers intensive psychological experiences. In addition, as far as conflict social theory underlines the importance of inequality conflicts for cultural development, these psychological processes have a role in the development of the cultural identity.
Furthermore, it is essential to mention that Brazilian and Haitian cultures are both the representatives of collectivistic cultures, which means that in a way it shapes the morality development among these societies. Moral development is important to set in early childhood. Based on the social conflict theory, different classes in both cultures have different opportunities in providing education levels to their children. However, even people with low incomes strive to give education to their children. Education, in turn, often serves as a strong foundation for the morality development among children, which they transfer to their future. In addition, we have to remember that both cultures represent religious communities (most of people practice Catholicism). Religion in its way also provides the development of moral principles and values, which is accessible for all the classes within culture, despite inequality conflicts (Serpa, 2013).
It is important to mention that as far as both of those cultures are very interesting and close to me, my judgments of cultural perspective may be a little bit subjective. Moreover, Brazilian and Haitian cultures are collectivistic cultures that are extremely bright, unique and diverse. Therefore, collective nature of those cultures extremely influences the perception about them. Brazilian and Haitian cultures are quite similar in terms of many dimensions. Income inequality arises social conflicts and contributes to the shaping of these cultures. Open emotions expression and strive to develop in future serves as a background for the unity of people in one culture. Strong family ties and important emphasis on religion also take significant part in the life of the representatives of both Brazilian and Haitian cultures.
In conclusion, I think it is worth saying that those two cultures can be explored much further, because there are so many unique traditions and customs that each of the culture has. Brazilian and Haitian cultures represent strong communities with their own values, principles, worldviews and ambitions for the future. Those two cultures have been developing throughout the time, and in future they will acquire more and more of outstanding characteristics and traditions.
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