The fabric that binds…

Have you ever considered the impact that cultural influences have on decisions you make and social patterns and expectations to which you conform?

Enculturation is a mostly invisible process until the expectations and behaviours of said culture no longer work for us. That’s when we might find ourselves ‘breaking bad’ and going all ‘counter-cultural’.

We have to adhere to many cultural ‘rules’ every day of our lives. There are the home rules (whether you live with your parents, your house mates, or indeed in your own home), the rules of the road, or bike path or public transport; then there are the work place rules and the laws of our country that dictate acceptable social behaviours (think gay marriage – or lack thereof to partake in).

This list of how culture impacts on just about every aspect of our live is long, and quite mind boggling when you take five minutes to stare into space and ponder the enormity of how our lives are shaped for us.

Among the raft of influences on our day-to-day and bigger picture decisions, culture:

  • provides solutions for complicated situations
  • provides behaviour patterns
  • provides traditional interpretations to certain situations
  • keeps social relationships intact
  • defines attitudes, values and goals

These outcomes of culture are of obvious benefit as they help us co-exist and give us social sign posting and a framework by which we can make decisions that, for the most part, will be socially OK.

But what happens you are part of a culture that doesn’t work for you? Some of us recognise a badly-fitting culture immediately and retreat to other options. For others, the fit just stops working over time, as we grow, educate or find out about other cultural options.

When the ‘fit’ changes, what to do?

Some brave souls ‘go rogue’ and break the cultural rules. This can have the effect of ostracising us (for a short time or for everrrrrrrrr) or upsetting those who judge us on our culture challenging choices.

Sometimes though, bold moves change culture.

I’m glad I was born into a culture that caters to my strong independent ways. I don’t know if I would have had the requisite energy and brave heart to have fought a personal cultural revolution. I like to just potter along, making my decisions, not disturbing anyone too much, but enjoying my life the way I like it.

I started thinking about the impact and influence of culture on my life (and my ability to choose to sleep separately, if truth be told) when I read this article in The Times of India.

What if I had been born in India? And my husband snored? And I had kids? And I wanted to get a good night’s sleep by going to a separate room? My options may have been substantially limited by the cultural expectations of Indian wives.

So on the one hand we have the recognition that sleep deprivation can ‘brutally affect your job and health’ but on the other hand having your own room to make sure you aren’t brutally affected is not an option.

I’m confused….

While the article recognises that separate sleeping is an option of ‘last resort’, the lady interviewed resiles her sleeping dilemma by wearing earphones every night. And that sounds really comfortable and practical!

What a good wife she is. Sacrifice for the sake of staying in the bed with the snoring husband. Contemporary Indian culture (along with many others across our planet) still values traditional female stereotypical attributes such as a commitment to domestic skills and a willingness to be obedient.

I would love to know how many Indian women buck the cultural trend and retreat each night (or some) for a good night’s sleep. Not really sure there are many stats out there floating around to sate my curiosity.

But if anyone does know…. please feel free to share.

But for now, my cultural fabric consists of a silky smooth pair of Egyptian cotton sheets in a quiet room.

And as I write this, I hear my darling husband snoring with gusto in his room. Thank goodness for my cultural construct.

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