Growing up in America, I had never really understood other cultures around the world. I knew of other cultures but never took the time to address the key differences between life in America and other countries. Take the Middle East for example, I had always thought the region was some third-world territory that wasn’t worth the time to understand. I now see that I was so wrong and there are a lot of major similarities and differences between the culture in America and the Middle East. Here is what I found.
The major religion in the Middle East is Islam. Saudi Arabia is 100 percent Islam while Egypt and Iran are about 90 percent Islam. In America, 51 percent is Protestant and following is Catholicism. Islam only accounts for .6 percent in America while Christianity only accounts for 1 percent in the Middle East. Muslim societies are actually more accepting of other religions than the West has ever been.
Stigmas and Stereotypes
In America we are judged by our popular movies, TV shows, and celebrities, which have lead to many misconceptions. Some stigmas are that all Americans are rich, women are oppressed and America is hypocritical. Although this isn’t true many people from other countries believe this.
In the Middle East they are judged by the power elite that want to destroy their enemy nation. This has lead Americans to believe that Islam is violent and oppressive toward women. We have a false reality of what is actually happening. “They thought that because I am Muslim, I must agree with what the terrorists did.. of course I don’t.”
In America we are free to choose our careers without having to take our gender into account but in the Middle East gender dictates how a gender must act and their career path. In America there is almost equal opportunity for both men and women whereas there is a big gap between men and women in the workforce. Although there is a gap, there is a movement in both cultures to have equal opportunity for women and deviate from traditional gender roles. There is more empowerment in the United States for women to get a college degree and work outside of the home. In the Middle East, women are now going to school, which improves society as a whole, but they are still forced to wear an abaya, which is submissive and modest.
Overall there are a lot of differences between the two cultures. The Middle East is trying to improve their education but there are current political and religious conflicts that make it hard for the region to move forward. From an American standpoint it is hard to relate to the lifestyle in the Middle East because we aren’t experiencing war on a firsthand basis. I think it is interesting that there is a huge gap between the cultures but Americans haven’t put in much effort to even understanding the culture or the conflicts happening in the Middle East. This is a huge problem. In order to relate to another culture and understand what they are going through, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. We need to start understanding each other in order to make peace. So why aren’t we doing so?
“Without mutual knowledge there can be no mutual understanding; without understanding, there can be no trust and respect; without trust, there can be no peace, only the danger of conflict. This means we have to be willing and able to familiarize ourselves with the way people of other cultures think and perceive the world around them, but without losing our own standpoint in the process.”
-Roman Herzog, President of Germany