Cultural Change

Culture is dynamic in nature; it is a living process. But the fact that cultural change is constant seems paradoxical, because another important attribute of culture is that it is conservative and resists change. The dynamic character of culture is significant in assessing new markets even though changes face resistance. Societies change in a variety of ways. Some have change thrust upon them by war (for example, the changes in Japan after World War II) or by natural disaster. More frequently, change is a result of a society seeking ways to solve the problems created by changes in its environment. One view is that culture is the accumulation of a series of the best solutions to problem faced in common by members of a given society. In other words, culture is the means used in adjusting to the environmental and historical components of human existence.

Accident has provided solutions to some problems; invention has solved many others. Usually, however, societies have found answers by looking to other cultures from which they can borrow ideas. Cultural borrowing is common to all cultures. Although each society has a few unique situation facing it (such as stomach cancer in Japan) most problems confronting all societies are similar in nature.

Cultural Borrowing:

Cultural borrowing is a responsible effort to learn from others’ cultural ways in the quest for better solutions to society’s particular problems. Thus, cultures unique in their own right are the result in part of imitating diversity of others. Consider, for example, American (US) culture and a typical US citizen who begins breakfast with an orange from the eastern Mediterranean, a cantaloupe from Persia, or perhaps a piece of African watermelon. After her fruit and first coffee she goes onto waffles, cakes, made by a Scandinavian technique from Wheat domesticated in Asia Minor. These she pours maple syrup, invented by the Indians of the eastern US woodlands. As side dish she may have the eggs of a species of bird domesticated in Indochina, or thin trip of the flesh of an animal domesticated in eastern Asia that have been salted an smoked by a process developed in northern Europe. While eating she reads the news of the day, imprinted in characters invented by the ancient Semites upon a material invented in china by a process also invented in China. As she absorbs the accounts of foreign troubles, she will, if she is a good conservative citizen thank a Hebrew deity in an Indo-European language that she is 100 per cent American.

Actually, this citizen is correct to assume that she is 100 per cent American because each of the borrowed cultural facets has been adapted to fit her needs, molded into uniquely American habit, foods, and customs. Americans behave as they do because of the dictates of their culture. Regardless of how or where solutions are found, once a particular pattern of action is judged acceptable by society it becomes the approved way and is passed on and taught as a part of the group’s cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is one of the fundamental differences between humans and other animals. Culture is learned; societies pass on to succeeding generation, solutions to problems is possible. The point, that although many behaviors are borrowed from other cultures, they are combined in a unique manner that becomes typical for a particular society. To foreign marketer, his similar but different feature of cultures has important meaning in gaining cultural empathy.

Cultures are just different, not right or wrong, better or worse:

We must not make value judgments as to whether cultural behavior is good or bad, better or worse. There is no cultural right or wrong just difference.

People round the world feel as strongly about their cultures as we do about ours. Every country thinks its culture is the best, and for every foreign peculiarity that amuses us, there is an American peculiarity that amuses others. The Chinese tell American dog jokes, reflecting their amazement that we could feel the way we do about an animal that the Chinese consider better for eating than petting (Actually with growing affluence in China, dogs are surviving as pets more frequently and pet food sales have increased 70 percent over the last five years). And we’re surprised that the French take their dogs to the finest restaurants where the dogs themselves might be served sitting at the table.