understanding culture and emotions

Cambridge Dictionary defines culture as a way of life for a particular group of people, specifically the customs, values, and beliefs at a specific time. Culture is an umbrella term that comprises several things. It is an amalgamation of human behavior, ideologies, faith, social norms, habits, and the like that is garnered through interaction or inheritance of knowledge.

Emotion is defined as a conscious experience, a subjective mental reaction towards a specific object or situation. It is usually accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in an individual’s body. Some common emotions include fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, etc.

Culture provides an individual with a set of social guidelines and expectations on how they interact, understand, and experience the world around them. An individual’s experience of emotion is highly dependent on their cultural values and upbringing. As an individual grows older, they learn through their parents, relatives, teachers and peer groups. Aspects of society such as religion, customs, food habits, social etiquette, etc., help evolve us as social beings.

What is the Impact of Culture on Emotions?

People learn through observation and experiences from their surroundings. In some way or the other, culture provides a road map to many aspects of life. Multiple theories and researches support that culture significantly influences a person’s emotional development.  

The world is full of diverse cultures, each with its unique characteristics. A culture teaches an individual how to experience an emotion, positively or negatively. As cultural contexts influence social cues hence, how an individual interprets various emotions differs culturally.

More importantly, cultural teachings impact how an individual will express or display them. For instance, Asian cultures give more importance to togetherness and social harmony; whereas, western cultures are individualistic. As they guide how to regulate an individual’s emotions, they also influence their emotional experience throughout life. 

It is important to note that culture can be partial when it comes to gender or social strata. For instance, some societies may socially shun men from showing emotions or crying publicly in some cultures. On the other hand, women expressing emotions outwardly is acceptable. Hence, behavioral differences and habits result from cultural, gender norms, and expectations, adding to the emotional complexities in people.

What is the Commonality in Emotions Globally?

Even though emotional understanding differs in every culture, the way we recognize and display facial expressions to show a particular emotion is similar universally. Our body language adds to this aspect, helping us communicate our emotions across cultures. This expression is independent of countries, religions, races, genders, hence, enhancing an individual’s communication with another.

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