I believe that culture understanding exists

Sheng Bao <http://forrest.bao.googlepages.com>

written after I came back from Greece and Germany on Dec. 2005


I had lived in China for more than 20 years. Before I stepped out the country, I felt that there is no culture understanding. I considered that the culture can be dated back from a long history. Different cultures developed in difference environments. You cann't bridge the gap formed in a long time instantly. That is the so-called culture shock.

But after I came aboard for about one week in Europe, I have to admit that culture understanding exists. I attended an international conference in Greece and I touched an old culture as old as the Chinese one. It evoked me to compare the difference between cultures.

Different cultures have different performance but the same essential, due to all mankind have the same demand. Every nation has myth. No matter ancient Greece, China, Rome, Egypt. Even someone said United States also has myth, the Star Wars. Why? Everyone needs dreams and pursues happiness. Western people use folks and knives to eat. Chinese people use chopsticks. Some other nations even just use hands directly. This distinction results from different ways of cooking. We all need to eat. But the food varies for geological environment and climate. The ancient Greek built stone temples while Chinese buildings were made in wood and bamboo. I saw the city of Athens is surrounded by rocky hills and there is no tall tree on those hills. Additionally, temples are built on high cliff. The possible material they could use is stone. In contrast, Chinese civilization was born near river banks. The plain terrain and fertilized soil allow Chinese people to build in woods-there are lot of trees. We have different materials but the same needs, the housing. So different architectural styles were born.

Based on the same demand, culture understanding is possible. Although we can analyze differences and reasons of different cultures, it is not so easily to make it. Everyone has recognition to his own culture. Or we can say that certain culture is more familiar to someone. We will naturally object other cultures and exclude them. The worth value formed in certain environment becomes a fixed criterion in our conciousness. Maybe we even consider the culture from other nation is ridiculous. We have lost the ability to adjust and to tolerate them if we grow up in an unique culture environment. For example, Chinese people will feel funny seeing a western people using chopsticks.

Indeed, there is no true or false criterion between cultures. The more chances we touch each other, the better we can understand each other. The only key to achieve culture understanding is time, because culture shock is caused by isolation between cultures. If you take more chance to explain to each other, you can understand each other faster.

The trends of culture understanding can’t be stopped. Mankind has a nature that want to communicate with and recognise each other. So culture understanding is a necessary step before that. If two cultures encounted, in some conditions, one culture wants to beat another. But if in case that none of them wants to beat against another, or none of them has the ability to win another, culture understanding will happen. Just remind the book “Robinson Crusoe”. Although Crusoe and his man Friday came from difference culture environment,, they both have the inspiration to understand each other. But very unfortunately, it seems the culture of Crusoe beat the culture of Friday. Or we can say Friday “understands” the culture of Crusoe for he learned English and he also learned how to use guns which didn’t exist in his native community.

Additionally, new culture will also be developed in the place where cultures are hybrided. I consider this is a result of culture understanding but also a failure of culture understanding. The new culture is a compromise of two different cultures. Both these cultures are very “strong”, none of them can be vanished. A common situation for them to coexist is developing a new culture. Have a look at the motto of United States, “E Pluribus Unum” which means “out of many, one”. We have to admit the culture of USA is very strange, compared with cultures of other places of the world. American people both performance they own culture and the American specified factor, the pronunciation of English, the behavior and so on. For example, I met a Korean who I firmly inferred that he is an American Korean at the first glance. The reason is I found that his body language in his presentation is very open and diverse, as acting an opera.

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