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The Indian culture has been shaped by its long history, diverse demographics, unique geography, and the absorption of traditions, cultures, and ideas from some of the communities neighboring them while at the same time preserving its ancient heritages, most of which got formed during the Indus Civilization. India’s strong traditions and religions continue influencing their way of life and remains one of the richest cultures in the world. The American culture, on the other hand, is a mass of knowledge derived from reason. This reasoning makes it possible to understand the kind of life the American live, and the ideal cores and values that govern their life. This essay, emphasizes on the family and family values to analyze the differences between American and Indian culture.
The family and its values form the pillar role to the culture, which does not exist in the American culture. In India, being a part of the family is the most valuable thing. Indians are more family oriented and the values of the family come first before individual values. Women get lessons on how to take care of the children and the husband, and as they start their families they already know what the society expects of them. People hold extended families are highly in the Indian culture, where members of a certain family live together in the same house. The American society, on the other hand, considers individuals values first before family values. Moreover, Americans do not consider the extended families, to the extent that they take some elder people to elderly homes since they are troublesome.
In Indian families, commitment is extremely crucial, and separation in a family is a taboo. As a woman is growing up in the Indian culture, she learns that divorce is not an option, and they have to fight and tolerate problems in their marriages. However, in America, people do not value commitments especially in marriage. There are many cases of single parents, and divorce is the order of the day. People do not commit themselves in marriage and conduct live-in relations. In situations where couples get married, but feel like they are not compatible, the divorce is always the option. Children in such families do not have mental peace since they do not have a stable family to take care of them. Sometimes, the children live one parent and the other parent gets visitation rights where they visit the children occasionally. As these children grow, they fail to recognize family values. Therefore, such children’s chances of getting divorced in their marriage become extremely high.
Indian families emphasize on excellence in whatever they do whether in school, business or other chores. Parents encourage children to study hard in schools and excel in their studies. Indians take their work personally and lateness is disrespectful. Children take part in family businesses from a tender age, and most of them end up working in such businesses even after completion of school. Indians do not believe in taking wealth from the family circle, and family members run businesses. Americans, on the other hand, do not take their work personally, not because they do not take their work seriously, but because they work best under relaxed atmospheres. Americans believe in searching and accumulating wealth for themselves, and their children study in what they would want to undertake in the future. They also employ professionals to run their businesses, who can maximize returns for the businesses, since wealth belongs to the individual owner and not the community.
Indians place a lot of importance in caring for each of their family members, and the people living around them. Indians will try to find out why a member of the family is sad, and will offer comfort, and a leaning shoulder. If the questions and concerns are not welcome, then the aggrieved person will indicate so, but will appreciate the concerned. The Americans, on the other hand, really place a lot of emphasis on having fun, and will not care so much that a person is not feeling well or unhappy. In an event that an American comes across a sad person, they assume that the person wants to be alone, unless they are close friends.
In India, families place a lot of emphasis on respecting the older people in the society. Children are taught to respect any person who is older than they are, since they consider any older person as a parent. Children should not even face their elders directly while to talking to them, as this is disrespectful according to the culture. In addition, children cannot address an elder with their first name; they refer to them as either aunt or uncle. However, the American society is quite different. Parents teach their children to speak out their mind regardless of what other people will think about it. Children learn to express themselves at a tender age, and it does not matter the age of the person the children are addressing. Children learn to face everyone face to face when talking to him or her. In this society, it does not matter is a person a millionaire, a child or an old person. Every person deserves the same amount of respect. Addressing an elder by their first name is the order of the day and perfectly acceptable in this society.
Indian families emphasize the importance of having a male child, who becomes the heir of the family’s wealth. A family without a son is considered as one that does not have a child and the chances for survival, and continuity for such a family becomes minimal. The families’ desire to have a male heir in India has a close connection to religious beliefs in the need for stability and continuity of the generations. Women in India are considered caretakers of the homes, whose main responsibilities are to give birth, rear the children, and take care of their husbands. In addition, men are the sole providers of the family. In this community the women do not inherit any property, since they would inherit wealth together with their husbands in the families they get married. In America, on the other hand, men and women have equal rights to property, and women can inherit property from their own families. Women and men provide for the family equally, with each person working independently.
Indian families place a lot of emphasize on rituals that follow the main rites of life, which include birth, marriage, and death. When a woman gets pregnant, she does not announce it to the people, but wait for them to notice, either by missing her menstrual period or by widening of the waist. The brothers of the expectant woman may take her to the parent or choose not to take her. Regardless of where the woman is, people treat and take care of her in a special way as she prepares for the birth of the child. The woman, referred to as the ‘jacca’ should not be out in the dark and should not pass by some trees, which the Hindu believes houses some evil spirits.
On delivery, Hindus give attention to the time of delivery, which determines the horoscope for the born child. On the birthday, the priest performs a specific ceremony for the mother. Women of the extended family brews herbal tea. During this time, the baby and mother undergo cleansing to remove the pollution. The mother and the child, then, return to the main household. In cases of a baby boy, family and friends get together for celebrations; such celebrations are minimal for a girl child. The American culture does not place emphasis on such rituals. Childbirth is a source of happiness for the nuclear family and a few close friends. Normally, there are no ritualistic celebrations among the Americans.
Indian wedding has three key parts, the pre wedding, main wedding and post-wedding. The pre wedding part entails the party and preparations on the night before the wedding, where both side of the families get a chance to meet, dance, and have fun with each other. Pandit conducts prayers for the couple and their families for a happy life. During the day of the wedding, they build a wedding altar called mandapa, where the mother-in-law welcomes the groom; his feet washed and offered honey and milk. The sisters in laws attempt to steal his shoes, and he has to pay if she succeeds.
The parents give out the bride, but do not eat anything before the wedding, so that they can remain pure. The groom’s scarf gets tied to the bride’s saree to signify their union. During a similar ceremony, the elders tie a cord around their necks to keep off evil spirits. A mangala sutra gets tied around the neck of the bride rather exchanging the rings. They, then, conduct a mangal ceremony where they circle a sacred fire four times. At the end of the ceremony, the couple takes seven vows to seal their marriage. After the wedding, the bride leaves with the brothers. Then she leaves to her groom’s family. After the wedding, another fun game called Aeki Beki takes place for the new weds. The day, then, ends with a word of prayers for requesting love and happiness for the new weds. A wedding ceremony in the American culture is a quite short ceremony, with only close families and friends in attendance. The wedding takes place in either a church or a court of law, and a short after party ensues. The bride and the groom, then, set to start their new marriage life.
In India, after the death of a family member, the body remains at home before burial or cremation, which takes place within 24hours. Preparation entails washing and anointing the body with a mixture of sandalwood and water mixed with turmeric powder. The family garbs the dead body with new clothes and mourners can bring flowers. Mourners prefer wearing white attires since they consider wearing black attire during mourning inappropriate. Priests and the senior members of the family conduct the ceremony. Cremation takes place. The ashes and the bone fragments are immersed in a holy river. Then everyone takes a purifying bath, but the members of the family remain in a purified state for a number of days, ranging from seven to thirteen. After closure of the mourning period, close family hold a ceremonial meal and offer gifts to charities or the poor. The death ceremonies among the Americans, like the wedding, ceremonies do not take long. Mourners dress in black during the burial ceremonies, which symbolizes mourning.
The differences in the Indian and American cultures are very different, like day and night. In a careful analysis of the two cultures, one can barely notice any similarities. One of the most profound differences in the cultures lies in the values of families and how families relate with each other. In the Indian culture, the family forms the basis of the society, and people are always willing to forego their own goals and aspirations for the benefit of the society. The society values the elderly people in the society, and lots of respect is accorded to them. Children learn from a tender age to respect any person older than them. Hard work is a key issue for the Indians, with all efforts directed towards family businesses. Life rituals form a vital part of the family life, with the extended families taking part in all the family rituals.
Individualism, capitalism rights, happiness, science and technology, on the other hand, characterize the American society. Americans focus on individual fulfillment, and they do not give up their personal goals to please other people. They do not value commitments and people can have affairs without having to commit themselves. Separation and divorce rates in the Unites States are high since people do not have the patience and tolerance with their partners. Extended families are largely disregarded with the nuclear family belong the most distinguished family group. Celebrations in the society are considered as a waste of time with people preferring to hold small ceremonies for their weddings and holding burials for loved ones. People do not take part in other people’s problems so much, and only intervene in situations where the troubled person is a close friend. Every person in America, young or old deserves the same amount of respect. The referring to women, as to the weaker sex, is offending to the majority. Human rights groups fight constantly for equality of all the genders and consequently, women are able to acquire and inherit property in their own names.