We focus a lot on this website about cultural differences in business; however for us it's all about culture and understanding that culture influences who we are and what we do. Only when you understand your own "self" and the cultural programming your have received, can you move towards understanding the "other".
In this context we were interested in a recent article by Nicholas Day
in which he explores cultural differences in parenting and raising children. According to Day, western parenting is very much oriented towards face-to-face interaction. We even think this type of interaction is crucial for the baby’s later life and define it as the foundation of good parenthood.
However, many babies across the globe are brought up without face-to-face interaction – and function perfectly later on in life.
Heide Keller, a German psychologist, once conducted an experiment where she showed German and Cameroonian Nso
mothers footage of each other’s styles of parenting. Both the Germans and the Cameroonians were not very convinced about the others way of handling babies. The Cameroonians thought it was strange to be as affectionate to babies as the Germans were, while the Germans had issues with the distance between the Cameroonians and their kin.
Nso babies participate in the social Cameroonian community from a very early age onwards. When they are carried, they face outward, thus making their world bigger than the dyadic world of German babies. This example does not mean that parenting styles are connected to the level of development of a country. In fact, the way parents bring up their children are related to their culture.
Not only their visual view of the world is culturally determined; what babies hear varies from culture to culture as well. A study
that compared French mothers with West African mothers living in France showed that only ten per cent of what French mothers uttered to their baby referenced someone other than the mother or the baby. West African mothers, on the other hand, referred to other people in 40 per cent of the cases. This is clearly related to culture; while French mothers prepare their newborns for a life where social communication is often in one-to-one situations, West African mothers teach their babies to interact in a communal society.
The results of these different approaches are visible from a very young age onwards; German toddlers, for example, are much more aware of themselves in the mirror than Nso children of the same age are. As mirror self-regonition is a way to measure self-awareness, this indicated that German children are more aware of themselves and become independent sooner than their Nso counterparts.
So next time you start to think about you, your culture and how you see the world - think about how you were raised and you may start to understand why you see the world through the lenses you do. Your culture has a massive influence on you.
Can you share any examples of cultural differences in raising children from your country or culture? We'd love to know more....