The uncomfortable sense of disharmony, confusion, discord or conflict arising from a change in the cultural environment, is known as cultural dissonance (Daenekindt and Roose 2014). The cultural changes may be sudden, unexplained and not clear as there are a lot of cultural dynamics involved. The individuals exposed to the multiple cultures often face a situation of conflict when they make a transition from one culture to a different culture. This phenomenon may take in the same culture, where there is the existence of a number of sub-cultures (Lee and Jeyaraj 2014). There may be different clashes like spiritual, physical, ethical, identity and others, which may lead to cultural dissonance. This reflective paper would discuss about my
personal experiences of the cultural dissonance and how I overcome them.
I travelled to India, one of the most famous country in Asia, last year. I had one month holiday and hence started to explore the world. I visited a southwestern region of India, known as Karnataka, which has some picturesque locales. My tourist guide took me to a remote village to enjoy the natural beauty. I was surprised by the cultural imbalance in the region. There are different caste systems in the village and there was no cordial relationships between the members of the communities (Desai and Dubey 2012). There were severe enmity between the people of two different castes. I witnessed widespread violence all around. My tourist guide, however, told me that it is a normal phenomenon, in this region. I personally felt a great degree of discomfort in the village.
I was startled by the level of untouchability practiced in this modern age (Thorat and Joshi 2015). It is severely practiced here and though I had read it earlier, I was shocked to see the real picture of this social taboo. The lower caste people, often known as Scheduled Tribes or the Scheduled Castes or Dalits, were not allowed to enter public places (Rao 2015). They didn’t find suitable education or employment opportunities. They were being deprieved from a lot of things. I found this against the humanity. I believed that we are human beings and hence should possess equal rights, but I found that merely being a human being is not sufficient in this village. The upper class people didn’t wish to be “touched” by the lower caste people (Rao 2015). I felt such cruel practice is against humanity and I felt uneasy and wished to run away from the place. I seemed to have lost my cultural identity after witnessing such cultural indifferences. I perceived that culture is concerned with freedom, society obligation, harmony, mutual respect, but I was wrong (Eyerman and McCormick 2015). I was primarily thinking of the western cultural attributes which may not be applicable to all parts of the world. This was causing a cultural dissonance (Eyerman and McCormick 2015).
I found out that there are a large number of child laborers in the village (Dumas 2013). Childhood is the time for education and subsequent development of values, beliefs as well as principles. I was again proved wrong after I visited this place. The children of the lower classes were denied access to schools and also their families were not eager to make their ward educated. They were happy to “lease out” their children and earn some money. I really felt uncomfortable after learning the mentality of the people. These feelings collided with my beliefs and hence caused cultural dissonance (Daenekindt and Roose 2014).
I perceive the social boycott as a brutal behavior which I was not previously exposed to. I felt uneasy and started to imagine myself in the same situation. I felt numbness in my head thinking that what would have happened if I was born in this village. I would also have to go through the same kind of things. I believed that my positive mind, individualism, migration, cultural bereavement, social mobility, exposure to the western culture and the beliefs of equality led to the cultural dissonance that I faced in India (Guzder Santhanam-Martin and Rousseau 2014).
I overcome the cultural dissonance by taking active measures. I started adjusting to the situation by accepting it as the inherent culture in this part of the world and I should not feel uncomfortable about it (Eyerman and McCormick 2015). I expected differences to come up in the next couple of days. I started to deal positively with the culture shock and accommodate myself in the new culture, at least for a few days. I also started communicating with the locals so that I can get a fairly good idea of the host culture. I also started to make observations of the native people who are accustomed to this culture. I resisted the feeling of “losing my own culture” and welcomed the new culture as an additional one. I learnt that each culture has some distinct characteristics which makes it unique. It separates it from other cultures. The different culture has a different way of life, habits, customs and opinions. It is good to embrace it rather than feeling uncomfortable. The exposure to different cultures, not only enhance my knowledge, but also makes me a better human being (Eyerman and McCormick 2015). I was a more mature and confident individual, after I came back. I learnt that I should respect each culture of the world and understand the true essence of it. I should get rid of the negative emotions while travelling to a different culture and instead possess a positive mind.
I feel that cultural dissonance is an important issue in this age of globalization. The cross border education, trade or travel has become a common phenomenon. In such circumstances, it is necessary to reduce the cultural dissonance, commonly faced by the individuals. I may travel to a foreign land for professional commitments and if I cannot overcome cultural dissonance, then I would have to suffer a lot. This assignment helped me to overcome the cultural dissonance and made me a confident individual.
Daenekindt, S. and Roose, H., 2014. Social mobility and cultural dissonance. Poetics, 42, pp.82-97.
Desai, S. and Dubey, A., 2012. Caste in 21st century India: competing narratives. Economic and political weekly, 46(11), p.40.
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Eyerman, R. and McCormick, L., 2015. Myth, Meaning and Performance: Toward a New Cultural Sociology of the Arts. Routledge.
Guzder, J., Santhanam-Martin, R. and Rousseau, C., 2014. Gender, Power and Ethnicity in Cultural Consultation. In Cultural Consultation (pp. 163-182). Springer New York.
Lee, J.J.Y. and Jeyaraj, S., 2014. Effects of self-construal differences on cognitive dissonance examined by priming the independent and interdependent self. SAGE Open, 4(1), p.2158244014521434.
Rao, A., 2015. Caste System (Dalit/Untouchability). The Encyclopedia of Political Thought.
Thorat, A. and Joshi, O., 2015. The Continuing Practice of Untouchability in India: Patterns and Mitigating Influences. India Human Development Study Working Paper, 3.
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