Morés are “norms that people define as essential to the well-being of their group. People who violate morés are usually punished severely” (Sociology a Global Perspective, Joan Ferrante). In contrast to Folkways, morés are morally significant. They are based on definitions of right and wrong. According to sociology.about.com, “Morés typically take the form of laws with strong sanctions such as imprisonment, ostracism, or death.” Here are a few examples of morés: it is not considered acceptable to abuse drugs, such as heroine or cocaine; it is not acceptable to steal under any circumstance; it is not acceptable to murder; and it is not acceptable to wear a bikini to church.
Consider the morés that govern how we eat our food in American and Asian cultures. In America, when we eat soup or other liquid food, it is not acceptable to slurp it up noisily. That is viewed as very rude and disgusting, and one who does that loudly in a restaurant will be reprimanded and perhaps asked to leave. In contrast, in many Asian cultural groups, vigorous and loud slurping shows enjoyment and signals genuine approval of the food, giving great satisfaction to the ones who prepared the meal.
Each culture has morés that may differ from our culture’s expectations. Why the morés are significant or important to other cultures is often beyond the scope of our understanding, but they are real nevertheless. When associating with folks from other cultures, it can be a challenge not to judge their morés as wrong. However, an attempt to understand, and perhaps on occasion even to embrace, them may prove enlightening and even disgustingly fun.
Can you think of some morés that would be acceptable in other cultures but totesawk if enacted in American and vice versa?
Folkways are “norms that apply to the mundane aspects or details of daily life” (Sociology a Global Perspective, Joan Ferrante). Ferrante’s book gives such examples as when and what to eat, how to greet someone, how long the workday should be, how many times caregivers should change babies’ diapers each day. According to sociologist William Graham Sumner, “Folkways give us discipline and support of routine and habit.” If we HAD to constantly make decisions about these small details, we would go insane. We tend to go through life without questioning the way we do things until something prompts us to see that there are other ways to do them.
Consider the folkways that govern how we signal “yes” or “no” in American and Albanian cultures (this is in response to Suzan’s comment on my previous post). In America, when a store clerk asks us if we would like assistance, we nod our heads (up and down) if we do want help and shake our heads (side to side) if we don’t. In contrast, in Albania people nod their heads to indicate “no” and shake their heads to indicate “yes.” Suzan gave a great example of the awkwardness she experienced because she did not understand this difference.
Each culture has folkways that govern people’s behavior in simple situations, but we don’t stop to consider that others may do things differently in other cultures until we encounter a response or behavior that seems unconventional.
Can you think of other folkways that would be acceptable in other cultures but totesawk if enacted in American and vice versa?
When you walk into the library, does anyone have to tell you to be quiet and courteous of others? No, you automatically behave in this way. Why? You have been "programed" to obey a "norm."
Norms are “written or unwritten rules that specify behaviors appropriate and inappropriate to a particular social situation” (Sociology a Global Perspective, Joan Ferrante).
Examples of written rules include restaurant signs (No Smoking Section), college handbook guidelines (appropriate dress for students), and government laws (on how to run a business).
While unwritten rules exist throughout life – washing your hands before eating or cooking, not holding hands with the same sex in public, and leaving a good tip of at least 20 percent for waiters – norms are basically all those small rules that we learn through life and automatically conform to.
What norms would be acceptable in another country but totesawk if enacted in America and vice versa?