Culture of Pakistan and America
The word “culture” holds different meanings for different people. Generally, culture refers to the traditions, values, lifestyles, customs and the heritage of a group. Culture basically enlightens us about a person’s way of life. Most people follow the culture of their ancestors as it is difficult to grow up without assimilating certain norms and values or deciding, suddenly, that you do not want to be a part of a certain culture anymore. Culture plays a vital role in the development of personality. An individual, during the primary socialization process, grows up in the cultural environment provided by their family, they will internalize things quickly when they’re young. For example, children watch cartoons and grasp whatever they can from those cartoon characters since young people are eager to learn and curious to know about their surroundings.
However, not everyone likes to stick to their cultural values given their situation. For instance, an individual might come from a harsh culture that does not take into account female autonomy. These types of norms in a culture might be the cause as to why people drift away from such cultures. The idea that many people drift away from their parent’s culture is not offbeat. In this essay, we will discuss two cultures; the American culture and the Pakistani culture (Shamama-tus-Sabah and Gilani). Both cultures seem to be poles apart. Pakistani culture is often referred to as the Eastern culture while American culture is known as a Western culture in many parts of the world.
In Pakistani culture, families traditionally tend to stay together. The family structure most common in Pakistan is the extended family structure, most households comprise of two or more generations. This means that grandparents, cousins, uncles, and aunts live under the same roof. There are many reasons as to why the extended family structure is widespread throughout Pakistani culture. Many families tend to stay together due to financial issues. There is a lack of employment opportunities for the working class in Pakistan, there is usually one person who earns and supports the family. There tends to be a tremendous amount of pressure on that one earning individual as there are a lot of people dependent on his earnings (women are often not allowed to work). Therefore, kin in Pakistani culture are strongly integrated and stay close for most of the time.
Typically, fathers hold the stronger position in the family as they are the earning individuals who run the family. They are more likely to make important decisions on account of the family. Pakistan is known for its patriarchal culture, it is not bizarre that male members usually hold a dominant status in the family. In the modern world, education has notched up a step and people are encouraging education for women. In the past, females were mostly discouraged from education as the patriarchal society believed that if women were given education rights, they would knock down the patriarchy and break all the traditional norms and values (Fazal). However, women are still bound to their country and not many of them are allowed to go abroad or away from their families for higher education. There are some exceptions, liberal families that do not put limitations on their children and let them do what they are passionate about.
Another stereotype within Pakistani culture is that any profession other than becoming a doctor or an engineer is frowned upon. Artists, musicians, actors, poets, authors and other such professions are not encouraged at all. If an individual tells their family that they want to become an artist, for instance, their family’s response would most probably be, “you are a disgrace to the family”. Pakistani culture is not as liberal as American culture but it has come a long way from its traditional form and has a long way to go until every individual feels liberated and has a sense of free will.
Pakistan is an Islamic state thus; religion plays a significant role in Pakistani culture. Religious occasions such as Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha, the 9th and 10th of Muharram are announced as public holidays in Pakistan. Other public holidays include Independence Day, the defense day, the birthday of the founder of Pakistan (Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah) and many more. Eid ul Fitr is one of the most celebrated holidays in Pakistan as it is the celebration of Ramadan coming to an end. Eid is a joyous holiday as the whole country celebrates it exuberantly and with much enthusiasm. People go an extra mile to help the poor and hand out as much Zakat as they can in the way of Allah. Eid and Ramadan are truly two occasions that bring the whole country together.
Families in American culture tend to live apart. Even if a family lives under the same roof, they do not share a bond such as is prevalent throughout Pakistani culture. The high rate of divorce and second marriages is proof that families in American culture tend to break down or fall apart due to many reasons. One reason why families do not stick together in the American culture is that individuals are given freedom at a young age (Spindler and Spindler). For example, children over the age of 13 have the right to call the child services if they feel like their family is being oppressive. Teenagers usually do not have a clue about what is right and what is wrong for them. However, they still tend to claim that they know it all. This confines their parents, therefore, parents do not get to hold onto their young ones for long. On the other hand, if not the children, one of the parents leaves the other due to an affair, psychological problems etc. Single parent families usually end up leaving the parent alone or at worse with a child in a foster home or on their own. In Pakistani culture, family breakdown, single parents families etc still hold much stigma.
Extended families are not conventional in the American culture as grandparents usually retire to foster homes and families pay them a visit on holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween are holidays that are celebrated with zeal and zest in American culture. Halloween is a public holiday where people dress up in costumes, go out and mingle with their loved ones and friends. Trick or treat is one of the things that children are most enthusiastic about since it is a tradition to knock on doors around the neighbourhood and ask for as much candy as you can get. Holidays like these bring the community together. Many different religions are followed by people who live in America (Brauer). For example, Muslims, Jews and Christians and many other people from different religious backgrounds live in the same country and follow their religious values freely. As a lot of people from different religious backgrounds live in America, they are free to do whatever they want to.
Public display of affection is something that is not at all tolerated in Pakistani culture due to religious custom. However, in American culture, physical contact between two people, whether they are in a marital relationship or not, is not frowned upon. Parents of some young people might not encourage it but it is not entirely bizarre. Compared to the Pakistani culture, the youth is given more liberty in the American culture. Teenagers are given multiple opportunities to explore themselves and reach their maximum potential no matter what steps they might have to take in order to get there. Parents are more supportive of their children in American culture and provide them with all the care they might need.
Bullying is one of the main issues in American culture. A lot of students at schools believe that they can get their way through bullying other students. Targets of bullying are usually fat, different or students from another race. Bullying has been a major reason behind students changing schools, developing mental illnesses such as depression, complexes, anxiety etc. Racism is also witnessed in the American culture and is not unfamiliar at all. The worst part about living in the USA has to be the stereotypes set up against the minorities by bullies. However, the best part about living in the USA is that there is always an opportunity to stop the bullying and racism and step out of whatever bothers you or stops you from moving forward as it is a free country, full of new doors that lead to greater things.
It is clear as crystal that the Pakistani and American culture differ in so many ways. While families in the Pakistani culture are closely knit, families in the American culture draw apart as they grow older. However, Pakistani culture is not as liberal the American culture. Pakistani culture places boundaries on the youth to a certain extent while the American culture provides its youth with as much opportunity it can to go beyond their limits and achieve what no one else could. However, both cultures have their distinct attributes; both the cultures provide the people living there with a sense of belonging and an identity.
By Bilal Zafar
Originally published 20th of September 2016
Brauer, Jerald C. “Regionalism and Religion in America.” Church History (1985): 366-378.
Fazal, Tanveer. “Religion and Language in the Formation of Nationhood in Pakistan and Bangladesh.” Sociological Bulletin (1999): 175-199.
Shamama-tus-Sabah, Syeda and Nighat. Gilani. “Household Chaos and its Association with Maternal Education, Family System, and Children’s Academic Achievement in Pakistani Culture.” Pakistan Journal of Psychological Research (2010): 19-30.
Spindler, George D. and Louise Spindler. “Anthropologists View American Culture.” Annual Review of Anthropology (1983): 49-78.
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