Cultures & Emotions – lost for words?

Cultures & Emotions – lost for words?

Is it just me, or is this year’s “word of the year” NOT a word?!?!

THIS is the 2015 WORD of the year ?!?!

How do you even describe this to someone? Well, that’s the inspiration for today’s blog.

I’ve been doing some research on cultures and emotions lately and thought it might be an interesting discussion.

All people can feel all emotions. But not all cultures have words/names for all the possible emotions. Therefore, it is more likely that people will mostly feel emotions that they can name or describe. I find this fascinating! To me, this explains why I get so confused when I feel like I have “mixed” emotions, or an emotion I’ve never felt – perhaps I just don’t have a name for it? (Motivation to learn another language perhaps?). Though I am beginning to wonder if we’ll soon have an “emoji” for every emotion!

I think this would also become interesting if you were communicating with a culture which didn’t have a name for the emotion that you were feeling. My husband often struggles with this when trying to convey the meaning and emotion behind Hindi, Sufi or Sanskrit songs to me – he always ends up exasperated saying “it just doesn’t work the same in English”.

Here is an example for this blog post – how would you explain the emoji above in one word, in English?

Moving on, how you express these emotions has a lot to do with an individual, but there are definitely cultural expectations too. For example, what are the culturally acceptable ways to express grief? In Australia it is generally a private affair. For other cultures, expressions involve very public events of moaning and wailing.

The emotions that come from love are another good example. How acceptable is it in your culture to have public displays of affection? In some countries expressions of love are actually forbidden in public. It can also differ between how you show types of friendship affection – I remember a funny example of this when some of the guys I was travelling with were surprised to have some of the local guys wanting to hold hands with them. Or a friend in Japan who is not used to being hugged by friends because greater physical distance is more acceptable.

Your culture can also determine the source of your emotions – what makes you angry, sad, happy, bashful…? This explains why some countries are baffled when they feel an injustice has occurred, but can’t understand why the other countries don’t seem to show any emotion about it.

So how are you feeling today and how are you expressing your emotions? Becoming aware of your own culture and emotions is a critical step in communicating with someone from another culture and understanding their emotions.

I saw this info-graphic on Facebook. It might help – but it still doesn’t cover them all!


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