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Norms of Culture

It is important to start with the definition of culture at first. The word “culture” comes from ancient Rome and covers some customs, ideas and behavior of people in society. Norms of culture presume the expectation of society in respect of how a particular person should behave in this society. Norms of culture include the following basic types of norms: taboos, mores, and folkways. The similarity among these three types of norms is that they do not exist in written form. This way they differ from laws. 

Taboos are very important norms for the whole society. These norms are so crucial that if someone violates them, it will face a great resistance. It is very likely that the individual who violates taboos is supposed to be unfit for the society or country he or she lives in. Moreover, taboos could be so important that the violation of them follows with harsh punishment. It could be criminal liability or even the death penalty.

Mores are norms of culture that control people’s behavior. This type of norms refers to some moral as well as ethical principles. In case of mores, strict explanations of right and wrong are very important. Put simply, it is particularly significant to follow mores, as they are very crucial for the whole society. People just disapprove those individuals who violate these important rules. Furthermore, mores and religion are often connected. Truly, some religious doctrines consist of a number of tough standards of behavior.

Unlike mores, folkways are not so strict rules. Actually, they are more recommendations than rules and could be replaced by the word “customs”. Folkways as well as customs refer to some routine. Folkways are standards of behavior that are approved in a particular society, but an individual is not obliged to follow them. Moreover, if a person breaks such standards, it is hardly possible he or she will meet any resistance or disapprove from society. There will be no serious consequences. Folkways are about how people are used to behaving in everyday life. People follow them, because it is traditional or convenient for them.

If we want to become more familiar with the issue, it is necessary to consider some examples related to every type of norms of culture. Regarding taboos, I may provide one good example based on history. Let us think carefully about cannibalism. Cannibalism is the practice when a person eats the parts of body like flesh, blood and organs of the other people. It was common among people in some areas (mostly in Africa and Oceania) up to the 19th century. Nowadays this is a rare practice in the world. In addition, even when such a thing happens, it is caused rather by some mental disorders of a particular person than by the traditions of his or her culture. The point is that in modern world cannibalism refers to taboos in the vast majority of cultures. It is a disgusting practice throughout the world. Nevertheless, in the laws of most of countries, there is no such a term, so the individual who has eaten the other people is usually charged with a murder. In my opinion, the lack of the term in legislation is because the prospective panic of citizens. If the laws of a country included cannibalism, it would mean that it exists. This in turn will question the norms of morality in country.

Take for example Albert Fish case. He was an American serial killer. He raped children and ate them. He stated that killed more than 100 hundred children. Police proved only several deaths of those, though. Consequently, he was sentenced to capital punishment by means of electric chair.

Mores are quite similar to taboos in some way. However, there still is the difference between them. Now let us look at the perspective of another example. The story I want to provide refers to “Pussy Riot”. This group of Russian girls has become very popular all over the world. The point is that three girls from Russian Federation arranged a protestation in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which is one of the most important churches in Russia. They entered the church, put colorful masks on and started to shout political slogans. The girls from “Pussy Riot” aimed to expose their dissatisfaction with incumbent Russian politicians; especially it refers to Vladimir Putin. In essence, the women from this punk group violated some norms of moral. Truly, religion should have nothing similar to politics and churches exist with the aim of preying in there. For religious people a church is a kind of holly place connected to God. Furthermore, it is unacceptable to shout in such a place. Moreover, it does not matter what you shout since it is just wrong. To be honest, the members of “Pussy Riot” are supposed to be political victims as well, because they were sentenced to two years behind bars, what is in fact undemocratic. They offended feelings of religious people, though.

Unlike mores, which mention what right is to do and what wrong is to do, folkways speak about what okay is and what rude is. The best examples of folkways are greetings and dressing in different societies under different circumstances. To put it differently, various cultures have developed their own cultural forms of dress as well as forms of greeting. Take for example people from Asia who are used to becks while they welcome and people from Western cultures who usually shake hands at meeting. Another good example is the comparison between the ways people welcome at meeting in Western Europe and Eastern Europe. The former are used to kissing interlocutor twice on the cheeks. The latter kiss the other person three times. Regarding clothing, there are different situations to consider. Firstly, traditional clothing in different parts of the world varies. Moreover, the usage of clothing differs too. In some countries, people wear traditional clothing just during some crucial events. In the other countries, like in Japan, people wear traditional clothing more frequently. Moreover, Japanese kimono is also used as clothes for doing business. In addition, the color of dresses is important too. For instance, in Western cultures white color is the color of happiness and is used for sewing wedding dresses. Simultaneously, black color is supposed to be the color of death. It is traditional in the US or Europe to wear dark black clothes on funeral. Conversely, in Muslim countries white color is the color of death and funerals.

In general, understanding the norms of different cultures is a crucial thing in modern society. For an individual it is important because of a number of reasons. In my viewpoint, the awareness of the issue is particularly essential for me. Moreover, the norms of culture form a sufficient element of sociology.

The first and foremost reason why it is so important to be aware of the culture you are going to deal with is travelling. The point is that people nowadays travel a lot. Thus, they interact with various societies and different cultures. Travelers need to study the norms of cultures such as taboos, mores and folkways for their own sake, since the neglect may cause tragic consequences. Take for example taboos. Take for example some Muslim countries. Islam forbids females to contact with males outside their families. Foreigners are especially not welcomed. As a result, it is crucial to avoid contacting with local women if you are going to one of countries where Islam is a dominant religion. Otherwise, you could be punished strongly. Another good example is Singapore. Mostly in every country, you will not be welcomed if you spit on streets. However, not in many countries you will be fined as much as in Singapore. All of this is very topical for me. I like to travel and the knowledge of cultural norms has a profound effect on my trips. Secondly, the awareness of norms of culture in various countries could be helpful for business as well. For instance, Chinese appreciate personal attitude a lot and a small not very expensive gift could be a right thing if you want to sign a contract with your Chinese business partner. Last, but by no means least, norms of culture are very important to sociology as the whole, since they break boundaries between countries and societies. The studies of norms of cultures results in more global, safer for travelers and easier for businesspeople world.