Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism: America and Other Countries

Nowadays, our world consists of so many different societies, with their own preferences, interests, customs, and traditions. Culture of every society is unique indeed; it is a set of own values and goals, which characterize the society as a whole and separate institution.

The representative of each society lives with his/her own ethnocentric attitude, the belief that his/her culture is much more superior than any other. In order not to become self-absorbed, it is necessary to train the sense of cultural relativism in the society and make certain differentiations between the idea of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism.

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Ethnocentrism is a tendency, when a person uses the cultural norms of his/her own society in order to judge some other culture and its representatives. In addition, ethnocentrism underlines the superciliousness of one culture among the others.

Cultural relativism is another tendency, according to which personal beliefs and preferences are relative to another culture. Cultural relativism shows that there are not right and wrong standards with the help of which cultures may be compared.

Taking into account such simple and comprehensible definitions, it is possible to say that the ideas of cultural relativism are rather opposite to the ideas of ethnocentrism (Ned-Seelye and Seelye-James, 1995, p 70).

Without any doubts, ethnocentrism affects considerably the international affairs. Lots of people truly believe that America is one of the countries with too high idea of ethnocentrism. Of course, American ethnocentrism is known to many countries: some countries admire America’s power and abilities, however, some other countries cannot still understand what makes this country so powerful and dislike it a bit. “The image of the ugly American prevalent in the 1960s has become increasingly rare.

Although an occasional traveler still behaves as if the world owes him or her tribute as an American.” (Stewart & Benneth, 1991, p 161) It is quite possible that Americans can do certain things better than the other countries. The Americans believe that they are able to do everything better: make films, create songs, dance, communicate, carry wars, etc.

Of course, it is cool than the country is so sure about personal abilities and effects on other countries. However, it is necessary to remember about such a simple thing as cultural relativism in order to learn something new with the help of other countries and develop more and more.

Let’s compare America with some other countries in a certain sphere of life, cuisine, for example. Americans can hardly boast with their own cuisine. In Italia, it is tasty macaroni and pizza, in France, it is croissants and brains of numerous animals, and, in Japan, it is rice and sushi. Of course, American McDonalds is something really amazing and attractive, however, it is not a kind of cuisine, but only a type of establishment, where fast food is presented.

Another sphere that may be compared is dancing. Not every American can easily dance waltz or tango without any practice. For Austrians or Argentine, it will be rather easier, because these dances are in their blood. They just born to do unbelievable things during these dances and attract viewers’ attention.

“Cultural relativism is a way of viewing the world in terms of the relevant culture, that is, in terms of the culture in which one finds oneself.” (Grulan & Mayers, 1988 p 24) This is why America should take into account the ideas of cultural relativism and be ready to respect the other countries, at least in order to learn more, enlarge its own level of knowledge, and be open to other countries. With time, such intentions will probably help to amaze the world and even conquer it.

Reference List

Grulan, S. A. & Mayers, M. K. (1988). Cultural Anthropology: A Christian Perspective. Zondervan.

Ned-Seelye, H. & Seelye-James, A. (1995). Culture Clash: Managing in a Multicultural World. McGraw-Hill Professional.

Stewart, E. C. & Benneth, M. J. (1991). American Cultural Patterns: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. Intercultural Press.


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