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?
 


Margaret
10/05/2013 10:23am

I shared one situation in the 2nd post. Same-sex handholding is common, even among men, in both Haiti and Africa. It's not an indication of their sexual orientation, but an indication of their bond of friendship.

Another I can think of that is kind of funny: In grocery stores in South American cultures the pictures on the packaging are critical. For example, Gerber couldn't figure out why their baby food wasn't selling. They finally discovered that South Americans believe that whatever is displayed on the packaging is what's inside. So Gerber had to take the precious Gerber baby off their package. Then, it sold like hotcakes! Creepy, if you think about it.

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10/12/2013 11:41pm

Wow! That's is crazy with the Gerber situation! Who would've thought that something as simple as a picture on a product would confuse them that intensely?!
Thank you for sharing that!

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