What is a cultural norm? Norm means standard or rule. A norm is an acceptable and expected way of behaving in social situations, but in some special circumstances, it represents a specific rule that stipulates our behaviors. From the whole point of view, a cultural norm is a cultural regulation, moral, or guideline, which designates an approved and proper action within the framework of a particular society type.
Cultural norms contain a lot of trivial daily activities, such as talking with other people in a polite way, wearing appropriate clothing when you are outside, walking on the right side of the road, and “lady first” and so forth. However, in our community, there are plenty of cultural norm examples. But I think most important one is Confucianism. Confucianism stands for respecting the elder and cherishing the young. This concept has become deeply ingrained in our mind from the ancient time to the present and it is reflected in all aspects of our life. For example, when you take the bus, you will discover some seats write “love seat” and you will hear the radio “please offer your seat to the passengers who in needed”. As a matter of course, you would do a favor to those disabilities, elders, pregnant women and little kids. From my point of view, I believe that it is really courteous and helpful to offer seats to those in needed and it is rational when you give a hand to others. Think about that you will be old one day, what do you want most? Being respected? I will surely want to be treated with respect and care. By helping the elders, we will be helping ourselves in the future.
Every culture has its regulation. When different cultural norms contradict with each other, the problems arise. Comparing the American cultural norm with the Chinese norm, the American cultural norm shows that offering seats to the elders is regarded as an act of discrimination. In American, it is seldom seen in the bus or subway. In this democratic country, first of all, the concept of rights is rooted in Americans mind just as Confucianism deeply ingrained in our mind. Americans believe that seat belongs to all passengers, first come first served, and no person shall be deprived of the rights for any reason. Therefore, when the elders came into the bus and saw young men siting, they won’t sprout the idea of requesting the young to offer the seat. Secondly, Americans follow the principle of voluntary. Giving your seat to the elderly is a voluntary transfer of rights. In addition, forcing other people offer a seat is deemed to illegal and immoral.
From my perspective, I think that in traditional culture offering seat to elder is a moral and norm. But in modern society, young people have their own rights to refuse, because nowadays people burden more than elder and they also need their own space to have a rest. In other words, actually, young people are stronger than elder, so if necessary, young people are supposed to offer their seat to elder rather than overlook or even quarrel with elder. Eventually, I think both young people and elder should understand and respect each other and have their own judges.
What’s more, there is a special and interesting cultural norm I want to state. In United Stated, tipping is a habit, and if you don’t give a tip, it is considered an inappropriate behavior. While in Singapore, by the way, tipping is prohibited, and if it is paid, it will be considered poor quality of service. However, in Chinese, people do not have the habit of leaving a tip for the waiters or waitresses. Tipping is not an established practice in China. You are not expected to tip anyone, including taxi drivers, waiters or waitresses, or hair stylists, because Chinese people usually think that the service industry has taken the money we paid them indirectly. On the other sides, due to the large population in Chinese, it is difficult to popularize the tipping concept. Even the poor take the vast majority part of Chinese population. Moreover, thrift is the traditional virtue of the Chinese nation. Perhaps Chinese don’t want to waste a little tip on paying the waiters or waitresses.
In conclusion, cultural differences make different cultural norms and make the whole world diversified. Every country’s cultural norm is applicable to their own national conditions so that people can be standardized and restrained in a specific cultural environment. We do not have to concern about different cultural norms contradict with each other. I believe that the world will become one world in the future, because we start to learn other country’s cultural norms. Culture, unlike science, should have rules but should accommodate exceptions as well.
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