Culture essentially refers to certain aspects of how humans approach various aspects of life. It encompasses how humans cultivate their mind or soul, in terms of factors that are used to shape them into who they are. Culture in essence refers to factors that define an individual and determine the groups to which they belong. Important aspects of culture include: language, religion, cuisine, technology, social conventions, gender roles, recreational activities, aesthetics, values and social structure. Further, within a particular culture, there can be subcultures, mainly influenced by regions inhabited, or inherited cultural elements. Within the United States, there usually exist multiple subcultures, which can be directly related to the areas these groups inhabit, as well as the original nationalities they belong to. For instance, two cultures that are of particular interest, are the Chinese American and the Japanese American cultures. Chinese Americans, are individuals who are of American nationality, but are fully or partially Chinese. A majority of Chinese Americans are descendants of immigrants from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and mainland China, and as such, have essentially inherited a majority of their cultural elements. This situation is similar for Japanese Americans who are mostly descendants of Japanese immigrants to the United States in the late 1800s following the Meiji restoration. As such, the Japanese Americans have also largely inherited the various cultural elements they have.
Cultural Beliefs and Practices
Chinese Americans typically place significantly high value on cooperation within groups, and as a result encourage the practice of significant levels of individual modesty and humility. As such, a lot of emphasis is placed on safeguarding relationships and respect for others. The culture is set up in such a way that hierarchy and formality are accorded significant importance. Most members of the community are aware of the customs and rules for how they are expected to behave in any situation. In Chinese American culture, the relationship carries significantly greater weight compared to completion of tasks. As such, it is acceptable to fulfill relationship obligations and fail to carry out tasks. The cultural rules are therefore, structured in a way that is aimed at shaping interactions and eliminating any chances of confrontation and ensuring harmony.
Japanese Americans usually hold similar views on the importance of hierarchy, although there is less emphasis on safeguarding relationships at all costs, unlike Chinese Americans. As such, a majority of the rules are meant at cementing existing statuses, as well as upholding the hierarchical relationships that typifies Japanese American culture. The most basic form of hierarchy stems from age, with the relationship between individuals being shaped mostly by one’s age. Further, the Japanese Americans value public image, and as such, relationships in public are mostly formal and limited to certain topics. All the same, the Japanese also value group harmony, and advocate for individuals to willingly forgo personal needs in favor of the greater good. Japanese Americans significantly value economic progress, and as such, it contributes significantly to one’s status within their community, perhaps serving as an explanation for the significant value Japanese Americans place on educational success and higher learning.
The Chinese Americans mostly speak Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, with the former mostly common amongst immigrants from Taiwan and mainland China. English is spoken by both sets of cultures, mostly due to the fact that it is the most widely spoken language in the United States. Japanese Americans commonly speak Japanese as well as English. In this regard, both cultures still maintain their traditional languages, with most teaching their children the languages of their country of origin, as well as English.
Perhaps due to the immigration and conflicting influences, a majority of Chinese Americans do not have a religion on record, with most claiming that they are not affiliated to any religion. About 22% report that they are protestants, 8% that they are Catholics while 15% indicate that they are Buddhists. As such, a significant majority (55%) of Chinese Americans indicate that they do not have religious affiliations, a significantly high number compared to the national average of 19%. Similar to the Chinese Americans, the Japanese Americans also practice a form of Buddhism, referred to as Mahayana Buddhism, Christianity and Shinto. However, amongst Japanese Americans the most prominent religion is Mahayana Buddhism, as espoused by the fact that a majority of community traditions continue to be influenced by Buddhism, as can be seen based on the most popular festival: Obon festival. Christianity is however also significantly popular amongst the Japanese. As such, the two cultures are similar in the sense that they practice similar religions with the exception of Shinto. Both cultures however report significantly high rates of Atheism and agnosticism. Churches and Temples that serve the two cultures are usually similar in the sense that they usually offer translations services.
Both cultures essentially practice a similar dietary culture, common amongst the northeast Asian traditions. Their cuisines commonly entail an emphasis of sauces, fats and oils during cooking. Although a majority of their traditional foods are not readily available within the United States, both cultures have found a way to take advantage of the fascination with Asian food to introduce their foods into the mainstream American culture, with the Chinese particularly enjoying significant success in this regard.
All in all, although there are significant variations between the two cultures, both display significant similarities to their native cultures. A majority of the Chinese and Japanese Americans have succeeded in maintaining practices inherited from their immigrant forefathers. Both cultures also display similarities when it comes to the value of family and the community. This importance both cultures place on relationships is perhaps the main reason for their success at maintaining important aspects of their cultures despite significant influence from the overriding American culture. This can also be attributed to the religious manner with which both cultures have been able to maintain the importance of social status when it comes to interaction, with a majority of the set rules aimed at ensuring smooth interactions between members of the two communities. This emphasis on relationships has ensured togetherness that comes in quite handy when it comes to maintaining important aspects of culture. Similarities can also be seen when it comes to foods and religion. In particular, the similarities when it comes to religion are quite striking. The two cultures therefore have a lot in common, perhaps due to the similarities shared by both countries of origin.