We recently began our new area of study in psychology, in which we are looking at how Culture influences behavior and decisions in human beings. Psychologists are always looking as to the ‘Why’ when it comes to understanding the way we humans behave, and culture has a very profound impact on the way you are as a person. It shapes and implements the values you hold dear, and in turn, these values and ‘cultural norms’ dictate the way you act.
We investigated a few dining cultural norms about Singapore which included:
- It is very common to see people using their mobile phones at the table and not communicating with the people they are dining with
- Tipping is not common
- It is typical for food to be brought out when it is ready regardless of whether the other people at the same table have their food
Now, as we have just had one lesson on this, I’m just going to try and brainstorm some explanations using my own knowledge. For example, people using their phones being common may tell us how people value communication at the dinner table, is it very informal and casual when you dine out? Is it thought of that being on the phone translates to working, and that aspect of work is held in higher regard than chatting? In regards to tipping, maybe the culture believes that you reap what you sow, or you earn where you put effort, and that no extra bonus, the idea of that is not common or is just not part of the mindset. Perhaps it is a straightforward mindset, you work a certain job/hours and you earn that pay, simple, and the people believe that this structured system is in place, and it works for them, perhaps it keeps everyone accountable and on their toes? Comparing it to my own culture, we do tip in Pakistan, because we are quite collectivist, and we also understand that the system is not fair on everyone, in our culture charity is a very important aspect of it, and it is something expected. Also, expressing gratitude as a form of respect, say after a meal, is also part of our culture, because the people value the idea of saying thanks, be it to God and/or the people around them, as religion plays a big part in the culture as well. Another example of culture you see at the surface (Surface Culture i.e actions and mannerisms that are visible) in my culture, is not taking food before your elders do, and only then you begin to eat. Looking at the deeper culture meaning here (i.e values), i believe its to do with a high regard for respect in my own culture, and respecting those who are older to you, respecting the time they have been in the world, even if they may not know as much as you, you still have to show them respect because they are older to you. I think age and respect come intertwined in my own culture.