Cultural diffusion: The spread of cultural ideas from their place of origin to other regions, groups or nations.
Third Culture Kids:
After this section, you’ll hopefully be able to
- describe cultural traits in terms of language, customs, beliefs, dress, images, music, food and technology, and
- examine the diffusion of cultural traits resulting from the international movement of workers, tourists and commodities.
Cultural traits – language
It is estimated that there is over 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. Countries with a large number of indigenous groups tend to have the most languages. In Papua New Guinea that only has a population of about 5 million, there are over 800 languages. Other countries like Belgium (French and Flemish) and Canada (English and French) are officially bilingual, while others have one predominant language and some minority languages e.g. in France about 500,000 either speak Corsican or Breton. The most widely spoke language in the world is Mandarin, followed by English and Spanish. The UN has six official languages; Arabic, Mandarin, English, French , Russian and Spanish. However, despite the wide variety of languages, many languages are being lost. English has become an international language. It is the first language used in many international conferences, in business transactions, in media, and in transport. It is also the language most commonly taught as a second language. Despite many languages being lost, there is a fight to preserve others. In Wales in the UK there have been many laws introduced to protect the language, including making it compulsory up to in all Welsh high schools.
newgeography.com – The Decline and Fall of the French Language [25 August 2011]
TIME – France Bids Adieu to the Word ‘Hashtag’ [30 January 2013]
Cultural traits – customs
These are common patterns of behaviour found with particular countries or regions that are then passed down through generations. Examples may include bowing to elders, not tipping, taking of shoes inside houses and celebrating certain days e.g. St. Patrick’s (Paddy’s) Day. Some of these customs may get diluted as young people see different behaviour in the media, while others may grow. St. Patrick’s Day is a classic example. Not only are there now Irish bars around the World, but also the day is celebrated around the World, New York actually has a St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Cultural traits – beliefs
There are five major religions in the World i.e. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and Taoism. Out of these probably only Islam and Christianity can be regarded as truly global. However, even these world religions have many different sects e.g. Islam has Sunni, Shia, Wahhabi, etc., while Christianity has Roman Catholic, Baptist, Church of England, etc. However, despite the growth of some religions e.g. Islam, many are seeing a reduction in the number practicing. Secularism is also on the rise in many countries like France and the UK. Source
This wiki link will take you to a map of world religions:
Cultural traits – clothing
Most countries have traditional dress e.g. the ao dai in Vietnam and the sari in India. However, globalisation has meant that in many countries traditional dress is worn less as global fashions take over e.g. jeans. Some cultures though do follow strict dress codes either by choice or by law in Saudi Arabia women have to wear an abaya and head scarf, in Afghanistan women also had to wear a full burka (although these restrictions have now been slightly relaxed). At the other end of the extreme in 2010 the French government decided that the burkha is a sign of repression and banned its wearing in public. The decision was upheld by the European court in 2014. (Guardian article)
Nike Pro Hijab – The US sports company now produces products specifically for Muslim women seeking to cover their hair.
Dress code rebels [30 April 2007]
Cultural traits – music
Most regions have traditional styles of music, traditional instruments and national or regional songs e.g. Italy is very much associated with opera. However, the growth of the internet, TV and radio mean that people are exposed to different styles of music. The power of TNCs to sell their artists means that certain styles of music e.g. rock, pop, rap, R&B have become dominant. Many countries managed to retain some of their national music style through their national anthems. TV shows like Eurovison may also promote music styles from some countries, not normally exposed to an international audience.
The role of music in human culture [Blogger, requires VPN in China]
Cultural traits – food
Most countries have traditional dishes that they are famous for e.g. Kushari in Egypt. Many countries also have regional dishes e.g. Wigan in England for pies. However, with increased migration global foods have spread around the world and most cities now have Indian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican, Italian and French restaurants. Most cities also have fast food restaurants like Burger King, KFC and McDonald’s. With the globalisation of food there has also been the development of fusion food e.g. the mixing of food from two or more countries and the development of seemingly foreign dishes in surrogate countries e.g. Chicken tikka masala which is seen as a Indian dish was actually invented in Birmingham, UK. As well regional foods there are also foods associated with religions e.g. Hindu’s will not eat beef while Muslims will not eat Pork. Muslim and Jews also specify that their food should follow strict criteria for slaughter, preparation, etc. For Muslims this is known as Halal food for Jews Kosher food. In short globalisation has probably increased the variety of foods available and reduced the consumption of traditional dishes. It has also changed people’s diet, which has caused health problems in some countries e.g. the growth of fast food in Asian countries has increased obesity and heart disease.
One of the earliest examples of globalisation in food – The chicken (Guardian)
The world’s favourite foods: interactive [16 June 2011]
Cultural traits – technology
The development of technology can certainly change culture. The development of agricultural equipment e.g. tractors and combine harvesters has meant that the number of agricultural societies around the world has decreased. The development of contraception and the medical procedure of abortion has brought about debate in the Catholic church. Also the development of computers and phones has possibly reduced face-to-face contact both in social and business settings.
Cultural traits – relationships
There are two main forms of marriage; monogamy (between two people) and polygamy (one man and multiple females). The incidence of polygamy is probably decreasing as women become more independent, but globalisation/development has also brought many other changes in marriage. Some countries have legalised same sex marriages or certainly allow civil partnerships (California ban on gay marriage ruled unconstitutional – BBC article). Also many people are choosing to get married later, in the UK the average age is now over 30 (Average age for women to marry hits 30 for first time – Telegraph Article) and some people are choosing to not get married. Divorce has also increased in most parts of the world. Divorce in China up 41% [December 2013]
Catholic schoolteacher fired for seeking to marry [December 2013]
Task: read this article and summarise the main points in 50 words.
Task: make a case study for Bhutan. Bhutan is a landlocked country found in South Asia, squashed between the two Asian giants of China and India. The capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. The whole of the country is very mountainous and only has a population of about 700,000 people.
Write an essay plan for this title: Examine the international diffusion of three cultural traits. [10 marks]