Cultural Convergence and Divergence
Culture reflects how a group of people live their lives. Values, religious practices, beliefs, art, customs, food, language and social interaction help to define a social group. Culture can evolve over time and is often impacted by aspects of other cultural groups. It isn’t uncommon for cultures to become similar to one another or even combine and take on a new identity. This fusion is known as cultural convergence.
Technology enables people from different countries to have immediate access to new ideas and cultural identities. Small and large businesses across the globe use the Internet to interact with a wide customer base. Adapting to customer interests and needs is a business necessity. The use of technology such as computers, cell phones and the Internet encourages global communication and provides opportunities for a fast-changing and evolving cultural experience.
The English language is a prime example of cultural convergence on a global scale. English has become a main language of communication for people around the world. Driven by economic realities, many countries have endorsed English as a language that is necessary for their citizens to learn. Business leaders realize that knowing English is a commodity that can mean financial gain. The success and power of Western markets have contributed to this cultural convergence. In many countries, English is taught to all school-age children as part of the regular curriculum. At the same time, teaching English as a foreign language in non-English-speaking countries has become a study-abroad and career option for Americans
The political principles of democracy have seeped into different countries over time and represent the ideology of cultural convergence. Political leaders from democratic republics have encouraged other governments to explore the ideas of a democratic process. Democracies have served as a role model for engaged citizenry and this has influenced political change worldwide. For example, the Soviet Union, once a communist-ruled country, fell apart in 1991. The citizens pushed for a new political process that is now considered a form of democracy.
A sporting event is a culture of its own. Sports bring together people from all cultures that understand and appreciate the game. International events such as the Olympics, World Cup soccer and other global competitions allow international interaction and celebration. Respect for the sport and for the winner transcends individual differences and national boundaries, and deepens appreciation for the players as athletes. International teams can be followed over the Internet and television. Even spectators and players attending events in countries other than their own are exposed to new ideas and customs.
Cultural divergence is the tendency for cultures to become dissimilar over time. Originally, all human beings shared similar cultures, during the period when humans were primarily hunter/gatherers. With the invention of agriculture, different groups began to change. The cultural divergence occurred between the groups that adopted farming and those that remained hunter/gatherers.
Some examples of modern-day culturally divergent groups are:
- The Amish
- Traditional Muslims
- Traditional Jews
Cultural Divergence Comparison
One of the most traditional examples of cultural divergence has occurred with the Dutch. Northern Dutch are overwhelmingly Protestant, while their neighbors to the South are Roman Catholic. In the Netherlands, this division is acknowledged by the colloquialism “below (or above) the great rivers,” with the Rhine and Meuse rivers forming a natural boundary between these two groups. Northern Dutch are characterized as pragmatic and less exuberant in comparison to the Roman Catholic Dutch in the south.
Cultural divergence also occurs as the result of geographical separation. For example, the arrival of immigrant groups to the United States may at first attempt to keep much of their native culture. However, the separation and the immersion in a different culture over time will produced an amalgamation, where second or third generation immigrant groups may be experiencing cultural divergence in celebration of what are believed to be traditional ways, rituals and values.