Sunday, 8 September 2013

“Are all people the same across the world?”

“Are all people the same across the world?”

I believe that people have certain unities – certain characteristics and qualities shared all over the world – which makes us similar. By comparing English people and their culture with Japanese people and their culture, I can show you how similar everyone is.

Firstly, Language plays a large part in who we are, what makes us the same, and what defines us as different.
The English language only has one alphabet. We form words up by clustering the letters of the alphabet together to form a sentence. Unlike the English language, the Japanese one makes sentences using sounds, characters, and not letters. However, both types of sentences portray what we are thinking and feeling – it doesn't matter how they were formed or what language they were said in. And, unlike English, Japanese has three alphabets: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana.
The origin of Japanese is considerably disputed among scholars. Many believe that when the Chinese migrated to Japan, they brought their own language with them, giving Japan Kanji. The Japanese then adapted their language over time, adding the Hiragana alphabet for their own Japanese words. Katakana followed for loan words, taken from other countries' languages and changed to fit the sounds that they make. Examples of this is the Japanese word for bread , 'Pan', originating from the Spanish word for bread, 'Pan', and the Japanese word for Ice-cream, originating from the English language, 'Aisucuri-mu.'
Thus, majority of the Japanese language is actually borrowed. However, this is the same for the English language as well.
English is said to originate from West Germany: Anglo-Frisian dialects brought to Britain by Germanic invaders. It was also a diverse group of dialects with varied origins of Anglo-Saxon, including Late West Saxon.
The English language has even borrowed words from Japanese: 'Karate', 'Tsunami,' 'Karaoke' and 'Sumo ' etc.
Therefore, how we portray what we are thinking through speech and literature/writing may be different from anyone other language, the thoughts and feelings conveyed will be the same.
We also portray what we are thinking through non-verbal communication. Hand gestures are commonly used to convey simple messages. Waving to say hello is known throughout the world. The Yuki et al study of 2007, proved that cultures interpret body language and facial gestures differently from each other. When investigating, they found that the Americans looked more towards the mouth to determine someone's feelings, whilst the Japanese looked towards the eyes. This could be due towards culture difference. Where the Americans were free to communicate their feelings, it was frowned upon in Japan. Therefore, the Japanese adapted to portray what they were feeling by using their eyes.
Again, a message which means the same can be conveyed to mean the same but with slightly different expressions/actions.

Secondly, Symbolism unites us in many ways. In every language there are words that mean the same, or have loose meaning. Symbolism is when an image or figure has another respected meaning. The imagery may be diverse in different culture, however the meaning will still remain the same, which ultimately unifies us. Lets take, for example, a well known English symbol of peace, the Tudor Rose and a Japanese symbol for peace, the Crane. These two images are extremely different from each other. So how do these two images mean the same?
It's all down to culture and historical differences. The Tudor Rose came around during the Tudor dynasty. It bonded the warring Yorkists and Lancastrians during the War of the Roses, and adopted the symbol of peace. In Japanese history, the Crane became the symbol of peace from the popularisation of the story about Sadako Sasaki – a two year old girl who died because of the after effects of the Atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima in 1945. An old Japanese myth tells that if you fold 1000 paper cranes, the holder will be granted a wish by the gods. It is said that Sadako only folded 644.
These symbols of peace are significantly different because of their imagery, however the way they came about are relatively similar. Both were brought during warring periods and both act as symbols to prevent these situations from happening again, and to remember what had been.

Finally, there is a larger role to play that unifies us all: it is the fact that we have Kinship.
Family roles are much the same in both English and Japanese households. Both in England and Japan, there is a traditional role for the housewife to play – that is to take care of everyone in the family and clean. There is no time for work. This is, however, more traditional and looked towards in Japan than England, but both countries do have the same idea of what a housewife should do. Typically, it is the man who is the money and rule maker.
It is becoming more common that marriages start to deteriorate. When interviewed by Karen Kelsky, Nagata Mitsuko said this about dating an American man: 'But in Japan, from long ago, after marriage you just become a 'wife'. So girls instinctively know that before marriage is their only chance to really shine. The same is true of men, of course, but once you get married, there's nothing left. You live together, but there's no romance. You can't hope for romance in marriage.' I believe that this is the same for people everywhere – that they have rushed into or been forced into a marriage they do not want, therefore there has been a lower success rate in marriages, and the reason and meaning behind a marriage has been transformed over the years into something people don't really understand.
This can also be said of relationships outside of marriage. Cultures have different views on what a perfect relationship should look like, how you should behave and what should be involved in one. 'Japanese society, and Japanese men, are bad at 'performing,' you know, at showing a woman a good time, escorting her, speaking sweetly to her. They're very bad at taking care of her. So the women are much more advanced in that sense. They want to have freedom to have fun, but Japanese men are no good at that, and Japanese society doesn't permit it.' Whereas the Japanese are more selfless about their relationships, the English aren't (this could be generalised to other cultures too). Males in England have an expectation to fulfil – where they sweep their princesses off their feet and ride off into the sunset. Naturally, because of this idea, men in England are always looking to be the guy every female wants to date.
It seems like these two examples are totally different: Japanese males are more shy, thus the relationships are more modest, where English males are expected to be Prince Charming and the relationships are more tantalizing. However, they are not. We can look at both and say they are different, but we can look at them and say they are the same.
It is an evolutionary trait programmed into us to reproduce and pass on our genes. For this to happen there needs to be a partnership. These marriages and relationships are attempts to make the situation more domesticated. In every country, city, town and village, this is happening all the time.

In conclusion, all people across the world are the same by: communicating, using symbolism, and having families/marriages/relationships. These examples happen all over the world, not just in one culture. This unifies us. We may not be the same, carbon-copies of each other, our principals and morals may differ, our appearances and cultures are diverse, but the fundamentals of what makes us human are the same.
Japanese Women's Diaspora:
An Interview

Introduced and annotated by Karen Kelsky

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