Cultural dissonance

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What is cultural dissonance?

Cultural dissonance is a phenomenon that may present itself when individuals that participates in multiple cultures (most of us) are faced with situations where s/he perceives conflicts between a set of rules from one culture and the rules of another. This phenomenon may even appear in the same culture (across “sub-cultures”.)

I have seen cultural dissonance in action on a daily basis, when the values of one culture clashes with the values of another. Typical clashes include: ethical, spiritual, or even examples on the level of identity, such as fashion, entertainment, and speech.

It’s easy to imagine a group of recent immigrants of international backgrounds, but the concept of culture dissonance may occur even within people with shared national backgrounds. Cultural differences between different regions of the country and generational differences are two examples.

We are moving towards greater cultural complexity

Cultural complexity may be related to greater cultural interaction (a good thing). To encourage its continuous positive development we may need to address the complexity through better understanding of the emerging issues – cultural dissonance is one of these issues.

Learning about cultures

Some colleges and universities are making efforts to bridge the gap of empathy between cultural groups. My own college experience is peppered with courses focused on the study of cultures.

When I attended community college, I took course in ethnic studies. We discussed cultural patterns of the local cultures. We took field trips to neighborhoods like “Little Saigon” in Garden Grove, California, which is the second largest Vietnamese community outside of Vietnam. We visited restaurants as a class and shared in a wide range of foods from different cultures. We were introduced to people who served as representatives of the community and we visited folk and cultural museums. For many of us the experience was like traveling to a foreign land in our own backyard.

Since then, I’ve noticed that good food, music and educational exploration are great ways to start introducing people to different cultures.cultures.

Learning about other cultures is important to bridge the gap of empathy between cultures. While the learning may start with exposure to foods and music, it’s important that it also cover concepts of religion, moral ethics, and other values.

Related books

  1. Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom
  2. The Cultural Intelligence Difference: Master the One Skill You Can’t Do Without in Today’s Global Economy
  3. Cultural Differences in a Globalizing World
  4. Cultural Dissonance in the Second Language Classroom
  5. Managing Cultural Differences: Global Leadership Strategies for the 21st Century



Cultural Diversity in the United States: A Critical Reader



Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching (5th Edition)



Cultural Diversity: A Primer for the Human Services


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