The Differences Between American And Indonesian Norm

Essay, Research Paper

Imagine this: You are on your way walking to school and having both your friends and strangers saying hello to you or asking you are doing. It s normal for American to do this but being a foreigner, it s a totally a new experience to have people greeting me so often. I fell so different, it s like having a lot of people care about me.

Basically there are tons of different kinds of social in this world, from something you never think off to something that really astonishes you. Some norms are rules of conduct that specify what should and should not be done. They are also guidelines for people to regulate their own behavior. Hence it s also a set of behavior that governs the way we interact with one another.

According to William Graham Summer, norms are the standard or guides for behavior. Norms specify behavioral expectations by defining what are correct and incorrect ways of responding to situations. He classified norms into 3 major types; folkways which have relatively weak norms which are only mildly enforced in a society. An example would be correct manners, appropriate dress, and proper eating behavior. The second one is more; the strong and important norms of a society. Violation of mores will evoke severe punishment. Breaking the law, bigamy, incest and cannibalism are the instances of mores. The last one is laws; norms which are designed, maintained and enforced by political authority of a society. Examples are speeding, cheating on income tax, and murder.

How would you feel when someone cut into the middle of the line and never say a single word to you? This is totally unacceptable in the States. I think it s not the right way to do things in the States. You will feel very innocent, but back home in Indonesia, people seem to not care about that, even if you tell them that they would queue in the line.

Social norms are tightly connected and violation would mean paying for the consequences. We quickly learn the surprising power of even relatively minor and usually invisible social norms. Norms exist in all different types of social environments. There are norms in school, norms at work, norms at home, and so forth. But all of those different types of norms have their origin from one source, social norms. Most people will try not to violate norms their social life, they will try to shape their everyday behavior accordingly in order to be accepted by their society. The consequences of violating norms are sometimes too hard to be accepted; one could get isolated by his/her society.

You are so uneducated! (qtd. from Tjhioe). That is the only thing that I remember what my mother saying to me when I violated norms. I came from Indonesia, a Southeast Asian country with more than 200 million in total population. Ninety percents of the total populations are the ingenuous Indonesian (Malay) and only 5% of the rest are Chinese. There are some different kinds of norms between the Chinese Indonesian and the Malay. In Indonesian Chinese society. It s kind of weird to see people eating with their hands, but for the Malay. It s part of their cultures. On the other hand, the Malay looks at some of the Indonesian Chinese norms generally differ with their norms. Different cultures have different views in the determining what is right and wrong, as do different countries. But as societies grow and start overlapping each other, they start to find some norms that also to tend fade as people grow more willing to accept differences. They started to find some norms that had been join together and became a new better norms.

I have been shaped by my Indonesian norms, so when I see people kissing on the street or when I hand something over to someone using my lest hand, I feel weird and perhaps other people will think that my mother wasn t teaching me well, but that s the reality in my society.

The American norms on the other hand differ in many ways with the Indonesian norms. When I first came to the States back a year ago, I was overwhelmed by the differences in behavior. The first thing that I noticed was the friendly atmosphere that everybody had towards everybody else. When you meet other people on the street, they will say hi , hello , or how are you doing (qtd. from interview with Kok). That makes them seem very friendly, although they really do not mean whatever they say. But for me, being a foreigner, I felt welcomed and I started to have the courage to talk to them with my broken English. All norms have the same goal, to specify what you should and should not be doing in the society and also by not violating those norms; it will make you a better person and acceptable in the society.

There are some norms in my society that differ with America s. In my society, we have to obey the elders. It s acceptable for us to use our hands when we are eating,, we have to greet the elders when we want to eat and also you can t call the elder by their first name, this is incredibly impolite. The last example perhaps is one that differs the most. Here in the States, people call the elder with their first name. If that happens in my society, one will be deemed uncivilized and will en up being ignored. But this kind of norms (calling the elder with their first name) perhaps only applies for the elder that you really know. It really depends on the situation and condition. Some cases like in workplace doesn t applies this kind of norm. For example when one manager is younger than another, you should call the manager with a title, like sir or madam.

The other thing that I noticed is about the American classrooms. In the States, American students participate in class vigorously, they asks question, make some comment towards their instructor s lecture and sometimes make some criticisms if they don t like or disagree with their professor s ideas. Back home in Indonesia, students tend to be passive in class. They don t seem to give any response toward their instructor. It is very rare to encounter making comments, perhaps that is what makes them look very passive at class. An American instructor of mine once told the class that he thought; most Asian students were mute. They just came to the class, and left when the class ended. He was lest wondering if they understood his lecture.

Another example of difference between those two norms would be about American way of think in term of their safety. A friend of mine told me that Here in States, people seem to be very concern about their safety. An example of this would be when you see people riding a bicycle, they use lots of safety devices (qtd. from interview with Harjapamekas). Back home in Indonesia, people seem doesn t care about their safety. It s very rare to see people with safety devices.

Norms enrich our knowledge about cultures and customs. It s a good idea to compare different norms and try to pick up any norms that you really think are suitable for you. The differences between these two cultures have enriched my personality by making new better norms. By combining those two norms, hopefully you will become a better person. Social norms are types of behavior and attitudes that also can be influenced by race, religion, and culture. There are 4 reasons for conformity norms, the first one is indoctrination; being told over and over to do something the “right” way. The second one is habituation; doing something the same way over and over again. Practicality is the third reason; other members of society know in advance what your behavior will be. And the last reason is desire for approval; other members of society will approve of your behavior because you are doing the “right thing” . (qtd. from Social Norms ). Have you ever been to another country and realize how it feels to be on another planet? Sometimes it makes you fell you are in the middle of foreigner, but truly those kinds of behavior have good points that perhaps will take some time to make you understand.


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