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Culture has a diverse meaning in different contexts and captures all aspects in the everyday life of people. Culture is composed of the behavior that people acquire over time through interaction with others in their community and society. The concept of culture is diverse and consists of the customs, beliefs, morals, art and other habits and capabilities acquired by people in their social context. Culture is therefore created and possessed by people. Culture only exists in the mind and thus, changes frequently. Observable characteristic of people in the context of their society or community is the result of culture. Material aspects of communities such as language, architecture, and art are reflective of cultural practices of people. This essay seeks to compare and contrast Egyptian culture and European American culture. It considers such aspects as symbolic meanings of color, social customs, holidays, values, religion, and the concept of time among others.
Meanings of Colors
Different colors are perceived differently in the two cultures. Red color in European American culture is a sign of love and is commonly used in holidays such as Mother’s Day, Valentines, and Christmas. It is also associated with danger due to its common use in traffic lights and other warning signs. In Egypt, red is associated with victory and life and is used by many people as the theme color in victory parties or celebrations. It is also used as a sign of anger and chaos. Blue in American culture is associated with calm, as it is the color of the sea. Blue is a favorite color for many Americans. In Egyptian culture, the color blue is associated with the calmness of the sea and the sky as well. This color is also strongly associated with creation and heavens, and thus it is favored by many people. Yellow in European American culture depicts intellectual energy and warmth; it shows wisdom, which is why many people in America like it. Yellow is also associated with taxicabs in America. In Egyptian culture, yellow is associated with gold and is a sign of imperishability. Many people wear this color as a sign of success in their endeavors.
Green to Americans is a sign of sincerity, trust, and dependability. It also depicts nature and is used in sustainability themes and conservation of the environment. In Egyptian culture, green is the color of joy and blessings, since it depicts vegetation and new life. Islam, which is the main religion in the country, also favors green, making it the favorite for many people. Black in American culture is taken to be a sign of elegance through its use in formal functions. It is also used as the color of mourning and is worn in funerals. The mystery of black color also results in its association with bad experiences and fear. In Egyptian culture, black is associated with death and nights. It depicts mystery, in most cases bad posibilities; this differs from the elegance associated with black in American culture. White symbolizes purity, happiness, and peace among Americans. In Egypt, white is also associated with purity and clarity of things, which is similar to the perceptions of white color in American culture.
Social customs are a significant part of every culture. Among the European Americans, politeness and consideration for other people is a highly valued character trait. The relationships among most people are casual; following social rules is not a core requirement in the relationships among Americans. They are open to breaking social rules as long as people remain polite and reasonable. Formality and social deference among Americans are not favored, especially among the youth. Inherited titles such as Sir or Lord are not common among Americans; however, professional titles such as Senator, Colonel, or Reverend are quite common. Family invitations, for example for dinner or holidays, are common in America, and it is customary to bring something, such as flowers, or wine, to the guest. The idea of gift giving is very significant in American culture, especially on such events as baby or bridal showers. These events are organized for a new mother or bride to get ‘showered with gifts’ from her female friends. Punctuality is very important for Americans in all events either formal or informal.
Islam mostly guides social customs in Egypt, which is the main religion. The family is a key to social life for Egyptians, which results in favoritism based on family backgrounds. The individual is considered less significant compared to the family, community, or tribe. Honor and respect are a very significant part of everyday social interactions in Egypt. The honor and respect accorded to a person is intertwined with the person’s extended family. Guests are important in Egyptian culture and it is expected that people should be hospitable to their guests.
Greetings in Egyptian culture only take the form of handshakes among members of the same sex, unlike in America, where handshakes are not limited between sexes. Members of the same sex that know each other well greet with a kiss on the cheeks. For invited guests the idea of gift giving is also prevalent, however, flowers are not an appropriate gift in Egypt unlike in American culture, except during weddings (Tanya par. 6). In Egyptian culture, it is considered rude to use salt so as to add it to the served dish in your host’s house when invited.
Issues of Time
Time is a very important concept in American culture and people believe that it should not be wasted. The notion of ‘time is money’ is mostly practiced in America, where things are fast paced and people work 24 hours. The issue of convenience is also important for Americans, with instant cash machines, weight loss plans, and meals. Order in reception of service is dependent on arrival time for customers, and the notion of first come first served is used in provision of services in banks, restaurants, and other institutions.
Convenience is required even in taking meals among Americans, where the timing has to be efficient. Not many Americans are happy with people that fail to keep time for appointments. Meetings go as they are scheduled with people avoiding wastage of time on non-crucial agendas.
Although convenience and efficiency are highly regarded in Egyptian culture as well, especially with the advent of globalization, their focus on time is not as high as it is in American culture. People are willing to spend their time on activities that may not generate a profit or money but add value to their families or relationships. The belief that destiny is not in their hands results in acceptance and acknowledgement of the status quo. Egyptian culture is supportive of people spending more time on decision-making and therefore, business meetings sometimes take longer than anticipated (Communicaid par. 4). Patience is a revered virtue in Egypt and people believe that decision-making should not be rushed.
Clothing and Food
Egyptian food and clothing are influenced largely by the traditions of ancient Egyptians. Modern staple food in Egypt is a mixture of dishes from the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. Clothing worn in Egypt is also dependent on location. People in the larger cities have adopted casual contemporary clothing such as suits, t-shirts, and jeans, but the headscarf is still an important item of clothing among Egyptians. Smaller towns have conservative dress codes, which are dependent on social status. The robe is common among married women in Egypt and the Hegab is required for all women (Ehow par. 3).
Food in Egyptian culture is accorded a significant priority. In contemporary Egypt, the meat is rarely eaten; instead their staple food is fava beans or mudammas accompanied with bread. Garlic is used in the preparation of many dishes in Egyptian culture. American cuisine, on the other hand, consists of many dishes from different parts of the world. Different types of seasoning such as cinnamon, vinegar, and other are used in the preparation of food. Fast foods are the most prevalent among Americans because of convenience in time. Coffee is another important food item in American culture, which is drank frequently by many Americans. The turkey is another highly valued food item, as it is the traditional food on thanksgiving dinners.
Clothing is very important for Americans. However, Americans prefer to wear casual and comfortable clothes, and the formal dress code is usually worn by office workers or on formal events, such as balls. America is also known for innovations in clothing and fashion, especially for women, who are liberal compared to other parts of the world.
The main religion in Egypt is Islam and majority of the people are Sunni Muslims. Although the numbers are small, there are Christians in Egypt as well, mainly Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholics. The economic, legal, personal, and political life is often governed by the principles of Islam. The Koran is the main religious book and is highly respected with strict adherence to the five principles of Islam (kwintessential par. 3).
In America, the issue of religion is far more diverse than in Egypt. However, the religion with the largest following in America is Christianity. However, the European Americans do not have a state religion since their political, social, and legal relations are guided by secularism. This means that religion is not as strongly embedded in their culture as in the Egyptian culture. Freedom of association and choice in European American culture allows people to choose the religion that best suits their faith.
European Americans have many special rituals that they have kept from their homeland in Europe. According to their culture, weddings, births, funerals, and christenings had to take place in peasant houses. The use of sacred corners decorated with saints’ pictures was important for keeping the setting of the house suitable for these important events. Events such as baby and bridal showers are practiced in this culture as a rite of passage to marriage or motherhood. In Egyptian culture, special rituals accompany the death of a member of society in line with the Islam religion. The dead is covered in white cloth and buried before sundown on the same day. This is because Islam has a special respect for the dead, whose soul lives eternally according to their beliefs. The mother, according to Egyptian culture, is banned from weaning her baby before the end of two years after birth (Lane 61).
Both cultures enjoy both religious holidays and secular holidays. In Egyptian culture, one of the main holidays is Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of the month of fasting. Another religious holiday in Egypt is Eid-al-adha, which commemorates the obedience of Prophet Abraham to the will of God. Other non-religious holidays include Mothers’ Day, Sinai Liberation Day, Labor Day, and others. In European American culture, there are also religious and non-religious holidays. The main religious holidays observed in this culture are Christmas and Easter Holidays. There are many non-religious holidays, including Independence Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Martin Luther King’s Day, Labor Day among others (Advameg par. 6).
Egyptian culture is embedded in values such as honor and respect. Every person has an obligation to practice honesty and to be true to his or her word. People are also expected to dress decently, especially women, as a sign of respect for themselves and for society. Morality is a revered virtue, and Egyptians should conduct themselves according to the law and mainly the teachings of the Koran. Children are taught the value of respect as well as the importance to fulfill responsibilities at a young age. Other important values in this culture include humility and patience. European American culture also shows the importance of moral values, such as appreciation for diversity. They foster harmony in the community to enable people from differing backgrounds live peacefully. Freedom in decision-making is another value that the European Americans foster apart from honesty and integrity in their endeavors.
Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication
European Americans are not direct people in their communication. Their use of non-verbal communication to convey messages is rampant in social and business interactions. They are demonstrative in expressing ideas. They have a ‘high contact culture’ when in the presence of family and friends, but touching is limited to handshakes among strangers. Eye contact is maintained during conversation as a sign of confidence. In Egyptian culture, it is considered rude for a man to stand or sit too close to a woman. A light kiss on the cheeks between people of the same sex is a common form of greeting. Men in this culture are more touch oriented than the European Americans (Lane 25). Verbal communication between people of the same age group and sex is accompanied by eye contact as a sign of confidence as well.
In conclusion, there are many differences between these two cultures, especially in their perceptions about color, non-verbal communication, and religion. However, it is clear that some aspects of culture are similar in both these cultures, such as ethics and some secular non-religious holidays.