Before we start with this topic, we must first know what culture means. Culture has been defined in a number of ways, but most simply, as the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings. Culture describes what people develop to enable them to adapt to their world, such as language, gestures, tools to enable them to survive and prosper, customs and traditions that define values and organize social interactions, religious beliefs and rituals, and dress, art, and music to make symbolic and aesthetic expressions. Culture determines the practices and beliefs that become associated with an ethnic group and provides its distinctive identity. Every culture is enriched with some good and bad features.
Broadly the world has been classified into the western and the eastern culture. The East-West dichotomy is a sociological concept used to describe perceived differences between Western cultures and the Eastern world. Cultural rather than geographical in division, the boundaries of East and West are not fixed, but vary according to the criteria adopted by individuals using the term.
Aspects of culture
When asked, “what is(or was) that culture like?” one person may respond by telling about the food and the types of sports played, while another may tell about the religion and the types of art works produced. Below is just one way to break the culture of a place down into six individual aspects.
- Government & international relations
- Resources & economics
- Religion & spiritual beliefs
- Learning & technology
- Family life, community & society
- Arts & crafts
Now in this paper we will discuss few aspects that vary widely between the western culture and the Indian culture.
Indian culture and western culture
The culture of India has been shaped by its long history, unique geography, diverse demographics and the absorption of customs, traditions and ideas from some of its neighbors as well as by preserving its ancient heritages, which were formed during the Indus Valley Civilization and evolved further during the Vedic age, rise and decline of Buddhism, Golden age, Muslim conquests and European colonization. India's great diversity of religious practices, languages, customs, and traditions are examples of this unique co-mingling over the past five millennia. The various religions and traditions of India that were created by these amalgamations have influenced other parts of the world too.
On the other side, Western culture is a body of knowledge derived from reason. This foundation of reason has made possible a vast accumulation of understanding related to reality or nature, including human nature. This understanding is represented in several core ideals and values, which include individualism, happiness, rights, capitalism, science and technology. Western culture can also be referred to as advanced culture; this is because its ideas and values promote the development and sustainment of advanced civilization.
Religion & spiritual beliefs
We study different religious faiths in order to understand other people. Many people have strong religious convictions, and it would be impossible to understand them without first understanding their beliefs.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic faiths practiced by about half of the world’s population. Monotheism refers to the belief in one God. The faiths are often called western religions to distinguish them from the eastern religions practiced primarily in Asia. While western religions are centered on the belief in one God, many believers of eastern religions seek to find enlightenment by looking within themselves. Hinduism and Buddhism are popular faiths in India.
The relationship of India with other religions is integration, whereas the relationship of western towards others is opposition. The uniqueness of Indian culture is its composite and pluralistic nature. In no other part of the world has religious and cultural plurality co-existed and cross-fertilized each other so creatively. While Christians fought their denominational wars in the western hemisphere, Indian Christianity remained free from confessional conflicts and sectarian tensions. Togetherness is the essential character of our way of life. It is this spirit of togetherness that welcomes and blends diverse elements that seem disparate outside of that framework. This mytho-spiritual character of the Indian ethos has never failed to mystify western observers. India is a spiritual-cultural unity-in-diversity that can host the different and the contrary. On the other side, the West degraded religion into a theatre of conflict. The great battle between Christianity and Islam and a thousand battles within Christianity were fought either within Europe or on account of Europe. Christianity, in particular, suffered gross distortions on account of its domestication in the western culture.
The main differences in the beliefs of India and western world are that, in India the belief is “The true key is inside. What is valuable – is the inner world of the human being and his natural ability to control and develop it. The way ahead – is through self-development (inside intervention)”, whereas in western world it is “The main values are success and happiness that can be achieved in different ways, but rarely through developing ones inner strength. The majority of the criteria for success and happiness have outer nature (money, faith, popularity, etc.). The way ahead – is through active outside intervention.”
"Happiness lies in virtuous activity, and perfect happiness lies in the best activity, which is contemplative." – Aristotle
Arts & crafts
I’d like to dwell on one aspect of Western culture that tends to be downplayed, but is quite important: Westerners are the only culture in the history of mankind to develop realistic, faithful depictions of beings and matter in our paintings and sculptures, rather than merely stylized depictions. Westerners are also the only culture to invent a way to depict three-dimensional subjects in a two-dimensional format. A similar perspective was lacking in all other types of early art, be that Chinese or Japanese, Indian, Mesoamerican, African or Middle Eastern. This could conceivably be because the Western man has perceived space and spatial relationships in a different way than other men. Westerners are different, from a very long time back.
The story of Indian art is also the story of the oldest and the most resilient culture on earth. It is seen as an amalgamation of indigenous and outside influences, yet having a unique character and distinctiveness of its own. Indian art is also an art of social, political and religious influences. It changed and evolved with the evolution of a civilization which was full of remarkable innovations in all areas of artistic expression. Indian art features spirals and curvaceous lines, vines and tendrils, round-figured goddesses, circular amulets, colored gemstones, arches and domes, haloed deities, crescent moons, and the globe of the sun. Indian sculptures and paintings depict the diversity, color and spontaneity of this country and are representations of the all-encompassing nature of Indian culture.
Family life, community & society
Family and its values is the key part of Indian culture, which doesn’t exists in western culture. Being in a family, giving love to your loved ones and respect to your elders, is the root of INDIAN culture. Sorry to say, but family doesn’t exist in reality except in terminology, in western culture. Either people have live-in relations or they get divorced, if they are not compatible with each other. So, how could a person in their right mind have mental peace in such an environment, where relationships are breaking every other day. Because of the lack of family values and existence of a family life, people end up doing drugs, crimes etc. Even studies and research also proved that western civilization suffers more from depression and emotional misbalance, than their eastern counter parts.
Below are few major differences that we can easily find between the two societies:
- Westerners place a high value on having fun. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about serious issues. If they see someone upset, they will often assume that the person wants to be left alone, unless they are good friends. While, Indians tend to value people being concerned about them when they are upset or depressed, if your questions are not welcome, they will indicate it, but will generally appreciate the concern.
- Westerners can become intimate quite quickly in friendships, but that doesn’t mean that they are committed. Commitment takes longer to happen. In the India, commitment is more closely tied to intimacy. There is an expectation that friendship, after a deep talk, will continue at the same level.
- Westerners can have affectionate guy-girl friendships without any romantic interest. Be cautious in assuming a Westerner is romantically interested, even if their behavior appears intimate. If you’re not kissing or holding hands, you’re probably not dating. Indians tend to have a much lower threshold of what is considered a relationship. What Westerners might consider a normal guy-girl friendship can be read as definite interest in the other person. In particular, spending time alone with someone of the opposite sex is a strong sign of interest.
- Westerners tend to be more honest about their skills, and to value a high self-esteem. They are not necessarily being arrogant if they openly admit that they are good at something. Indians are less likely to volunteer their talents. They will wait for someone to ask them to use their skills, rather than jumping in and volunteering them.
- Equality between men and women is valued in the West. To imply that women are weaker, more emotional or that they need protection can be offensive. Chivalry is still alive and well in the India. Many women expect doors to be opened for them, to be served first at dinner, and for help in carrying heavy things.
- Westerners do not take their work as personally as Indians tend to. It is not that they don’t care about their work. They are more relaxed about their jobs. Indians tend to take their work personally. Tromping across their freshly cleaned floor, or showing up late when you are to be working with them can be seen as disrespectful.
Some of the powerful advantage of Indian culture compared to western
- Indian scientists- "saints” researched in nature and developed technology for the betterment of human life. They researched over their discoveries and invention for years and then only distributed it to humans. Scientists of today have become selfish and are running after fame, and wealth.
- Indian culture of respecting elders and learning spirituality and life science gives us a way to live life and not like western people who live like animals- having sex with anyone including sisters, etc. forgetting parents and elders, doing anything they like.
- We have our own form of exercise and medicine that is flawless compared to other science and has no side-effects.
- Sanskrit is the mother of all languages, which is so complex and huge that many things can be described and learnt from it.
Indian culture has given many things to mankind. And it is worth appreciating and thanking it
- Manners like respecting parents, teachers, etc, evolved from Indian culture.
- The aspect of seeing god in all- statues, stones, human, animals.
- It has been also proved that the Indian ceremonial fire- Yagna, gives many benefits to the surroundings like, clean air, peaceful atmosphere, etc.
- Various sciences like arithmetic, geometry, astrology, and astronomy has been studied by Indian saints.
- Surprisingly- none of the facts written in Vedas has yet been proved wrong or incorrect.
I agree the features like caste system, sati, etc are wrong practices. Westerners have a lot to learn from us and we too have some good things to learn from them.
There are huge differences between Indian and western culture. How there is head and tail for a coin there is both positive and negative impact of western culture and Indian Culture. I think both cultures are unique in their own way and equally good. Western culture and Indian culture both have good qualities and bad qualities. We should not think of which culture is better but should take the good qualities of both cultures and put it into use in our life.