Spain | A look into its culture

The cultures of Spain are European cultures based on a variety of historical influences, primarily that of Ancient Rome, pre-Roman Celtic, Iberian culture, Phoenicians and the Moors. The subsequent course of Spanish history added other elements to the country’s culture and traditions.

The apex of Spain’s social pyramid is occupied by the royal family, followed by the titled nobility and aristocratic families. In today’s modern and democratic Spain, the circles around the royal family, titled nobility, and old aristocrats are ever widened by individuals who are endowed with social standing by virtue of achievements in business, public life, or cultural activity.

The institution of Marriage

Spaniards today marry for mutual attraction and shun the idea of arranged marriages. Class consciousness and material self-interest, however, lead people to socialize and marry largely within their own social classes or to aim for a match with a spouse who is better off.

Traditionally, access to property was an important concern with well-being often counting for more than love. But today marriage is considered a partnership, although different input is expected of the two sexes, and the rearing of a family is regarded as central to it.

Remarriage for widowed individuals beyond childbearing age was traditionally greeted with community ribaldry, since a sexual relationship was being entered into without the end of family-building. These views and customs are becoming archaic. Divorce is now permitted; liaisons outside of marriage are increasingly common and accepted; and the economics of marriage for most people are freed from the ties to landed property that obtained when Spain was more heavily rural and agrarian.

Most Spaniards live in nuclear-family households of parents and unmarried children, and this is widely held as ideal. A Spanish saying goes “casado casa quiere ” (“a married person wants a house”). Older couples or unmarried adults tend to live on their own.

Two kinds of household formations produce stem families.

Where estates are impartible, the married heir lives and raises his children on the parental estate and expects his heir to do likewise.

Where estates are divided, an adult heir may nonetheless stay on with his or her parents on their house site. This is often the youngest child, who agrees to stay on in the aging parents’ household.

The acknowledged strains between co-resident married couples suggest that indeed casado casa quiere, and demographers find the stem-family régime to be waning. This does not mean that the philosophy of estate impartibility is any weaker, however, in areas where it is traditional.

Culture of Kinship

All Spaniards reckon kinship in effectively the same way: bilaterally and using an Eskimo-type terminology—the same as most Europeans and Americans. Kinship relations beyond the household are nonetheless supremely important in social life.

Family and relatives are defined broadly (without genealogical limits) and inclusively (embracing in-laws as well as blood relatives) to create a large pool of relations beyond the limits of any single household or locality.

Within this pool, people socialize as much by choice as by obligation. Although this field of relations is at best loosely structured and relations between kinsmen from different households must be viewed as voluntary, kinship networks are extraordinarily important in Spaniards’ lives and serve as vital connectors in many realms, influencing such choices as those of residence, occupation, migration, and even marriage. Despite diminishing family size, the Spanish family as an instituted set of relationships remains extremely strong.

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Japan and its decreasing divorce rates

Japanese society is portrayed as classless or one with a class structure in which very tiny elite groups and underclasses bracket an enormous number of middle-class people.

However, there are significant social differences among rural and urban residents, including family composition, educational attainment, and labor force participation. Within the urban population, social differentiation exists between the white-collar, salaried “new middle class,” blue-collar industrial workers, and the self-employed petty entrepreneurial classes of shopkeepers and artisans.

Marriage and Family Life

Marriage is generally based on mutual attraction between individuals i.e. a “love marriage”. Some people still rely on arranged marriage in which a go-between negotiated a match in a process that might give parental opinions more weight than those of the prospective bride and groom.

Looking at the history of the Japanese family over the last century or so, Japan is one of the few countries that’s gone through industrialization and had the rate of divorce drop.

In traditional Japanese families, families would send back a bride or an adopted son-in-law if they didn’t feel that the marriage was working or that the person wasn’t able to contribute to the household. Today that traditional family system is transformed into the contemporary nuclear family as more and more marriages are based on free choice because of which the divorce rate went down a great deal. In most countries going through urbanization and industrialization, it’s quite the opposite.

Weddings are almost always held in hotels or wedding halls, with a lavish banquet for several dozen guests. The ceremonies blend elements from Shintō marriage rituals and stylized adaptations of Christian weddings. Weddings are elaborately staged, and the bride and groom typically go through several changes of costume.

Most urban families consist of parents and their children while slightly extended families have an elderly parent living with a married couple and their children.

The family in Japan is called “kazoku” in Japanese. The Japanese family is based on the line of descent and adoption. Ancestors and offspring are linked together by an idea of family genealogy, or keizu, which does not mean relationships based on mere blood inheritance and succession, but rather a bond of relationship inherent in the maintenance and continuance of the family as an institution.

The most usual living arrangement in Japan today is the nuclear family—more than 60 percent of the households are of this type, and the number has increased steadily throughout this century. Another 16 percent are single-person households.

Just over 20 percent of households are extended, most of which are in rural areas. This type of household, known traditionally as the ie, is thought today to have been typical of living arrangements in Japan until well into this century, although in reality there was always considerable regional and class variation in connection with household composition. The ie usually was composed of a three-generation household of grandparents, parents, and children. 

Inheritance

The primary imperative of the family as a social institution was to survive across the generations. In traditional agrarian life, land was almost never divided, because to do so might imperil the next generation’s ability to survive. So in most cases, inheritance was by a single child, usually the eldest son. In the case of an extremely prosperous family, they might be able to establish other children in newly independent family lines, which would remain forever subservient to the original line.

The particular social custom called “adopted sons-in-law” was there so that a family that had daughters, but no sons, might adopt a young man and have him marry their daughter, and when the adoption and marriage was completed, he would take on the family name of his wife’s family, and for all intents and purposes would be considered the heir to that family. So it’s not inheritance through the female, but still inheritance through the male, but the male’s role is created socially through the process of adoption.

Kinship

Various kinds of fictive kinship modeled on patterns of adoption and relationships between family branches have been used to sustain other kinds of social relationships. Patron-client relationships sometimes are referred to as parent-child ties, and may involve elaborate formal rituals of bonding. Traditional artistic life is structured around master-apprentice relationships that involve adoption and the establishment of lineages.

The kinship system before World War II was based on upper-class family patterns established during the late Tokugawa period. Later the government put in place legal norms and standards that defined an ideal family structure. It established clear rules about membership, inheritance patterns, and the authority of the household head over assets and marriages. This legal structure was radically altered after World War II, by reducing patriarchal authority, increasing the legal rights of women, and requiring that estates be shared among children and widows.

Patterns of traditional kinship still shape the social conventions of family life.

The traditional family system was organized around a multigenerational household with a single central authority: the male household head. Inheritance of a family’s estate and succession to a family’s occupation, social position, and obligations devolved to a single child. In terms of social participation, the household was considered as a single unit rather than the sum of its members.

The kinship system is bilateral, and includes relatives connected to both husband and wife. Cognates and affines are addressed by the same terms but horizontal ties are usually stressed over vertical ties. 

Russia | Understanding opennes of its culture

The derivation of name ‘Russia’ is often argued upon. While some say “Rus” is derived from the name of a tribe , others say it is derived from an ancient name for the Volga River.

Relations and Marriage

Romantic love is considered the only acceptable motivation for marriage, and there is a long tradition in literature, poetry, and song of idealizing lovers’ passion. Contemporary practices highlight more pragmatic and cynical aspects of marital relationships, such as improving one’s economic status or housing prospects.

Traditionally it was mainly an economic contract between the heads of two households, reinforced by the payment of the wedding costs by the groom’s household and the provision of a substantial dowry by the mother of the bride.

In the past, both patrilocal and matrilocal marriage were practiced but today the former is preferred and more frequent. In matrilocal marriages, parents without sons adopted a son-in-law under a contract that stipulated that he support them for the remainder of their lives and give them a decent burial.

Although marriages today are individual commitments, they are often associated with obligations to older female relatives. In Kemerovo, for example, families can gain prized housing rights by means of a co-resident grandmother, real or adopted, who is thus protected and in turn helps with child care and household tasks.

In today’s generations, people frequently meet partners at school, university, or at work, although discotheques and clubs in the cities have become popular meeting places. Premarital sex and single parenthood have always been common but marriage continues to be a major socio-religious act. Since premarital sex is generally accepted, and marriages arising from unplanned pregnancies are not uncommon.

Since the 1930s, 23 years has been the average age of marriage. 97 percent of adults marry by age forty, and most before age thirty. Approximately one-half of all marriages end in divorce wherein economic hardship and alcohol abuse are the contributing factors.

Ethnic intermarriage is fairly common in Soviet, and most people have at least one ancestor of a different nationality.

Wedding Ceremonies

  • Paying the ransom: When groom arrives at the bride’s home, he must pay a ransom for the bride
  • Traditional ceremony: takes place in a church and is divided into two parts: the Betrothal and the Crowning. The service traditionally takes place in the morning, after the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, during which the wedding rings were blessed by being placed on the Holy Table.
  • Civil ceremony: takes place at the department of public services known as ZAGS where the couple is greeted by family members with bread and salt
  • Tour of the city: newlyweds and their witnesses travel around the city in a limousine
  • Reception:
    • The first toast is made to the newlyweds and after the first shot, the guests begin to shout Gorko, Gorko, Gorko,…. Gorko means “bitter”
    • At this point the couple must kiss for a long time to take out the bitter taste of the vodka
    • The second toast is made to the parents
    • The new couple dances the first dance of the night
    • The guests dance, sing, play games and make toasts

Family

An extended family living with the husband’s family characterized peasant life in the past. Today, the size and structure of the household unit is more flexible, although patriarchal control over the labor and behavior of the household is usual across social classes.

Nuclear family has become the most important domestic unit and most married couples want an apartment of their own, away from their parents. But housing shortage and high cost of new housing have made this a challenge, and families are often forced to live in apartments holding three generations.

Many couples with children live with a widowed parent of one spouse who provides child care and food preparation. A grandparent’s monthly pension may contribute significantly to the family budget.

Inheritance

Before the revolution, property was divided among all the living sons but for most families today all children have the legal title to their parents’ or grandparents’ property. This requires officially registering of the children as residents of those places before the death of the title holder. Otherwise, the title can revert to the government.

Kin Groups

Kinship is reckoned bilaterally, although usually stressed the paternal. Until the mid-19th century, kin terms for over sixty specific relations were in common use because even across distances, close relations are maintained. But lack of geographic mobility, support in hard times, and regular visits has caused this to cease.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Russian kinship terminology was defined by the exogamic units set by churchly canon: four “links” for consanguinai kin, two for affinal; only the archaic term dyadina (father’s brother’s wife, mother’s brother’s wife) extended further.

No distinction is made among consanguinal kin between male and female lines of descent; cousin terms derive from sibling terms; gender suffixes distinguish the sexes among the consanguinai kin of ascending generations and among affinal kin (except daughter’s husband and son’s wife); and the terms for daughter’s husband and sister’s husband are merged.

To this day on the collective farms, and to a lesser extent in the cities, various joint household budgets persist. Christenings, reverence of icons, and parental blessings of various kinds strengthen human relations.

 

Sri Lanka and its Sinhalese culture

Sinhalese societies in Sri Lanka are constructed on several hierarchies which include the party-political, religious (Buddhist and deity worship), caste, bureaucratic-administrative, professional (educational, medical) and the military.

Family

The most important social unit is the nuclear family which includes husband, wife, and unmarried children. Relatives of both wife and husband form an important social network that supports the nuclear family and encompasses the majority of its important social relations.

In Sri Lanka, individual households are identified by cooking practices, so that, even within a larger house, a wife will cook for her husband and children independently from others who may live within the structure, perhaps sharing the same kitchen.

Although women have a great deal of power within a family, ultimate authority belongs to the oldest male member of a household, whether that is the father, husband, brother, or son.

While overall there is a preference for sons, Sri Lankans express a preference that their first child be a girl, who they believe will help care for and be a disciplining influence on younger siblings.

Marriage: The institution

Marriages in Sri Lanka are monogamous although unions between one man and more than one woman (polygyny) are neither illegal nor unknown. On the other hand, unions involving one woman and more than one man (polyandry) are also legal and possible.

Although some castes their emphasis on in-group marriage e.g. Karava caste, some arranged marriages also take place between men and women from different castes.

Choosing a marriage partner is a very intricate affair and is often based on astrological readings of horoscopes, compatibility checks, wealth and status considerations, personalities of the two people involved, and parental control over dowry and other assets that may pass on to the children.  Hence the decisions on children’s marriage are often determined by factors other than the love exhibited between the man and woman to each other.

Wedding Ceremony

  • The groom and his relatives assemble on the right of the Poruwa and the bride’s family gathers at the left.
  • The bride and groom enter the Poruwa leading with the right foot first.
  • They greet each other with palms held together in the traditional manner.
  • The ceremony officiant then presents betel leaves to the couple which they accept and hand back to him to be placed on the Poruwa.
  • The bride’s father places the right hand of the bride on that of the groom as a symbolic gesture of handing over the bride to the groom.
  • The groom’s brother hands over a tray with seven sheaves of betel leaves with a coin placed in each.
  • The groom holds the tray while the bride takes one leaf at a time and drops it on the Poruwa. The groom then repeats this process.
  • The groom’s brother hands a gold necklace to the groom who in turn places it on the bride’s neck.
  • The maternal uncle enters the Poruwa and ties the small fingers of the bride and groom with a single gold thread (to symbolize unity) and then pours water over the fingers.
  • Six girls will then bless the marriage with a traditional chant (Jayamangala Gatha).
  • The groom presents to his bride a white cloth which in turn is presented to the bride’s mother. This is an expression of the groom’s gratitude to his mother-in-law.
  • The bride’s mother will then present a plate of milk rice specially cooked for the occasion to the bride who feeds a piece to the groom The groom then feeds the bride.
  • As the newly married couple steps down from the Poruwa, the groom’s family member breaks a fresh coconut in two.

Kinship

The kinship systems of Sri Lanka indicates that the most acceptable person for a young man to marry is the daughter of his father’s sister. The most suitable partner for a young woman is the son of her mother’s brother and parallel cousins (the son of the father’s brother or the daughter of the mother’s sister) tend to be improper marriage partners.

There is a close and special relationship between children and their aunts or uncles, who may become their fathers- or mothers-in-law. Special kinship terminology exists in both Tamil and Sinhalese for relatives in preferred or prohibited marriage categories.

In many villages, people spend their entire childhood with a clear knowledge of their future marriage plans and in close proximity to their future spouses. The system of cross-cousin marriage is ideally suited to maintaining the closed ritual purity of an extended kinship group and retaining control over property within a small circle of relatives.

Kinship is acquired through two means i.e. birth and marriage.  One is again born into a given sibling and extended kin group.  Marriage allows new interconnections with hitherto unrelated families even though some marriages take place between already related families also.

The largest kin group is the “microcaste” (called “our caste people” in Tamil), a section of a larger caste category within which people recognize common descent and a shared status. The microcaste is often distributed among several hamlets or wards in adjoining villages.

In sharp contrast to south Indian Tamil culture, descent is fully bilateral, save in the eastern coastal regions, where matrilineal descent is common.

Bangladeshis & Bengalis | Culture, Society and more

“Bangladesh” is a combination of the Bengali words, Bangla and Desh, meaning the country or land where the Bangla language is spoken.

The class system is similar to a caste structure. The ashraf is a small upper-class of old-money descendants of early Muslim officials and merchants whose roots are in Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran. Some ashraf families trace their lineage to the Prophet Mohammed. The rest of the population is atraf.

In rural areas, this classification is linked to the amount of land owned, occupation and education.

In urban areas, a great majority of people are laborers; the middle class is of small businessmen and midlevel office workers, and above this is an emerging entrepreneurial group and upper-level service workers.

One of the most obvious symbols of class status is dress. The lungi is worn by most men, except those who consider themselves to have high socioeconomic status and done pants and shirt or loose white cotton pajama pants with a long white shirt. White dress among men symbolizes an occupation that does not require physical labor.

The society is patriarchal in nearly every area of life, although some women have achieved significant positions of political power at the national level. For ordinary women, education is stressed less than it is for men whose authority is reserved to woman’s father, older brother, and husband.

Family and kinship are the core of social life in Bangladesh.

Family

A family group residing in a bari functions as the basic unit of economic endeavor, landholding, and social identity. A barhi is composed of a husband and wife, their unmarried children, and their adult sons with their wives and children. Grandparents also may be present, as well as patrilineally-related brothers, cousins, nieces, and nephews. A bari might consist of one or more functional households, depending on the circumstances of family relationship.

A barhi in rural areas is composed of three or four houses which face each other to form a square courtyard in which common tasks are done. Food supplies often are shared, and young couples must contribute their earnings to the household head. Cooking, however, often is done within the constituent nuclear family units.

In the eyes of rural people, the chula defined the effective household which is an extended family exploiting jointly held property and being fed from a jointly operated kitchen.  Married sons generally live in their parents’ household during the father’s lifetime.

Marriage

Marriage is almost always an arranged affair. Men marry typically around an age of 25 but women marry between 15-20; thus the husband is usually at least ten years older than the wife. Muslims allow polygynous marriage, but its occurrence is rare and is dependent on a man’s ability to support multiple households.

A parent who decides that a child is ready to marry may contact agencies, go-betweens, relatives, and friends to find an appropriate mate with an equal match in terms of family economic status, educational background, and piousness. Later, an arrangement between two families may be sealed with an agreement on a dowry and the types of gifts to be made to the groom.

Divorce is a source of social stigma and can be most difficult for the woman, who must return to her parent’s household.

Wedding Ceremony

The following 8 rituals take place in a Bangladeshi wedding:

  1. Arranging the wedding:  arranged by Ghotoks (matchmakers), who are generally friends or relatives of the couple, or sometimes just professional
  2. “Paka-dekha” or “patri-patro”: formal consent given by the family elders from both sides
  3. Turmeric ceremony: the paste is prepared by five married women called ‘Eyo-stree’ and is applied to the bride’s skin by her friends
  4. Main Wedding ceremony: Saat paak: bride encircles the groom seven times, as he remains seated on the ‘piri’ while covering her face with betel leaves. Followed by Shubhodrishti: when the bride finally removes the leaves from her face and their eyes meet. Ritual is accompanied by ululation and blowing of conch shells.
  5. Bou Bhaat: bride serves Rice with Ghee to all her in-laws at lunch  at her new home
  6. Phul Shojja: bride wears a lot of floral ornaments presented by the bride’s family
  7. Oshto Mongola: 8 days after marriage, the couple visits the bride’s house and spends three nights there
  8. Shubhochuni Satyanarayan Puja: On the 8th day of marriage, the newly wed couple in their wedding attires are blessed by the purohit and prayers are offered to bless the couple with a happy family

Inheritance

Islamic inheritance rules specify that a daughter should receive one-half the share of a son; but this practice is rarely followed. A widow is supposed to receive a share of her husband’s property, but this too is rare. Sons, however, are custom-bound to care for their mothers, who retain significant power over the rest of the household.

Kin Groups

The patrilineal descent principle is most important and the lineage is very often localized within a geographic neighborhood. Lineage members can be called on in times of financial crisis, particularly when support is needed to settle local disputes. Lineages do not meet regularly or control group resources.

China: Understanding society and culture

Author's Note: This is to understand the essential pillars of Chinese culure, their relations- how they marry, how they get out of marriage and why?

The early sages in China believed that the family was the basic element of society since a family is bonded through blood. The relationship between father and son is the core of the relationship and is extended further to encompass relationships between husband and wife, monarch and the subject, senior and junior and between friends.

These are called the Five Cardinal Relationships, and they include most of the relationships between people in a Chinese society even today.

Benevolence is considered the highest standard of social ethics and the nation’s moral benchmark when its welfare is at stake. The notion of righteousness is often regarded as the core value and the supreme standard of ethics.

Some say benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, intelligence and faith are the five fundamental moral principles and righteousness the core value of the Chinese society.

Defining Kin

In Chinese culture, “nine grades of relations” is an important concept when it comes to application of laws and observing rituals. Since the Han Dynasty, there have been two separate interpretations of what is defined by the nine grades. Each interpretation is based on societal and political needs as the ruler of the day see fit.

The older interpretationdefined the nine grades of relations strictly in the paternal line. That is, nine generations from great-great-grandfather down to great-great-grandchildren. This interpretation was officially recognised after Tang and Song dynasties. While, the contemporary interpretation defines these nine grades of relations to be four generations from the paternal line, three from the maternal line, and two from the wife’s.

Institution of Marriage

There are essentially six rituals in a Chinese wedding, despite China’s long history and many different geographical areas, which are as follows:

  1. Proposal: When an unmarried boy’s parents find a potential daughter-in-law. Then they locate a matchmaker who discusses marriage on the part of two families yet unknown to each other.
  2. Birthdates: If the selected girl and her parents accept the proposal, the matchmaker would match the birthdates which is used to predict the future of that couple-to-be. If the result of is good, they then would go to the next step.
  3. Bride price : At this point the bridegroom’s family arranges for the matchmaker to present a bride price to the bride’s family.
  4. Wedding gifts: The groom’s family would then send an elaborate array of food, cakes, and religious items to the bride’s family.
  5. Arranging the wedding: Before wedding ceremony, two families would arrange an auspicious day for wedding.
  6. Wedding Ceremony: The final ritual would be the actual wedding ceremony where bride and groom become a married couple, which consists of many elaborate parts:
    1. Wedding Procession: from the bride’s home to the groom’s home
    2. Welcoming the Bride: the bride’s family stops at the door of the groom’s home followed by ceremonies to welcome the bride
    3. Actual Wedding Ceremonies: the couple would pay respect to the Jade Emperor, the patron family deities (or patron buddhas and bodhisattvas), paying respect to deceased ancestors, the bride and groom’s parents and other elders, and paying respect to each other

In traditional Chinese society, there are three major ways to dissolve a marriage.

  1. no-fault divorce:  due to personal incompatibility, provided that the husband writes a divorce note.
  2. state-mandated annulment: when one spouse commits a serious crime against the other or his/her clan.
  3. husband may unilaterally declare a divorce: based on one of the following seven reasons
    1. The wife lacks filial piety towards her parents-in-law
    2. She fails to bear a son
    3. She is vulgar or lewd/adulterous
    4. She is jealous
    5. She has a vile disease
    6. She is gossipy
    7. She commits theft