Previously, we took a peak at Xenophobia in South Africa especially as it concerns Nigerians. We looked at the definition and causes of xenophobia particularly in South Africa. In juxtaposing xenophobia against acculturation, we will try to emphasize how acculturation can prevent xenophobia can lead to xenophobia. Before we do that, let us take a look at Acculturation.
We are looking at Acculturation. According to Wikipedia, Acculturation is a process of social, psychological, and cultural change that stems from the balancing of two cultures while adapting to the prevailing culture of the society. Acculturation is a process in which an individual adopts, acquires and adjust to a new cultural environment. Individuals of a differing culture try to incorporate themselves into the new more prevalent culture by participating in aspects of the more prevalent culture, such as their traditions, but still hold onto their original cultural values and traditions.
The word Acculturation comes from the word Culture. Acculturation is steeping oneself in the culture of another society. Culture is made up of the following elements:
- Religion. Beliefs of a society, some traditions.
- Art. Architecture, style.
- Politics. Government and laws of a culture (rules and leadership)
- Language, Communication system of a culture (speech, writing, symbols)
- A man’s way of life
- Work Ethics
Furthermore culture can be material and non-material. The following is an excerpt from Houghton Miflin Harcourt from and Article published in Note Cliffs,giving us a deeper understanding of material and non- material culture:
Sociologists describe two interrelated aspects of human culture: the physical objects of the culture and the ideas associated with these objects. Material culture refers to the physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture. These include homes, neighborhoods, cities, schools, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, offices, factories and plants, tools, means of production, goods and products, stores, and so forth. All of these physical aspects of a culture help to define its members’ behaviors and perceptions. For example, technology is a vital aspect of material culture in today’s United States. American students must learn to use computers to survive in college and business, in contrast to young adults in the Yanomamo society in the Amazon who must learn to build weapons and hunt. Non material culture refers to the nonphysical ideas that people have about their culture, including beliefs, values, rules, norms, morals, language, organizations, and institutions. For instance, the non material cultural concept of religion consists of a set of ideas and beliefs about God, worship, morals, and ethics. These beliefs, then, determine how the culture responds to its religious topics, issues, and events. When considering non material culture, sociologists refer to several processes that a culture uses to shape its members’ thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Four of the most important of these are symbols, language, values, and norms.
Having looked at acculturation and culture itself, we need to ask the very vital question. What is the importance of Acculturation?.It is said that when in Rome, one is expected to behave like a roman. To my mind, doing this is a show of respect for the way of life of the society that one is visiting. It would also make it easy for the visitor to be readily acceptable and “accommodated-able”.
Acculturation is a field of Anthropology. It makes the new comer culturally sensitive and literate. Acculturation makes one culturally savvy or sophisticated. This is very important in our daily interactions as cultural savvy helps us in having sensitivity towards other people that are not of our culture so that we do not offend their sensibilities.
The Knowledge of the culture of our new environment helps us in our professional and personal lives in very phenomenal ways. Professionally speaking, when it comes to doing Business, knowing the culture of the person you will be negotiating deals with can go a long way and that can give one’s company a big advantage. You show of respect to a man by showing respect for his culture, which is the sum total of what has been listed and discussed above. Acculturation is so important to International Business Management to the point where Intercultural Management is a COMPULSORY course in any International Business Academic Programme. When I was studying for my IEMBA in International Business, this was my Favourite. In all my travels, I did not realize that I was paying little attention to other people’s culture. Intercultural Management opened my eyes to how truly ignorant I was. ….And Ignorance is not bliss especially when you are going to do Business or leave in a place where xenophobia is openly accepted or when you are negotiating a Business deal.
A friend of mine who works with AGIP, told me that he was in China to represent his company at a negotiating table. He said he saw octopus, frog etc. he decided he just wanted rice and fish, which was not served on the table. A Chinese negotiator on his side of the divide called him out of the room and told him nicely that in Chinese culture, one was expected to eat what the host was eating. He was told that even if he did not want to eat he should just place a little portion on his plate. He corrected his ignorance quickly. Otherwise, it would have been one Business Lunch gone sour. I think that when you eat the frog and the octopus with your host, it expresses acceptance…just saying!. Acceptance is what every normal Human Being lives for. International Business Managers are professionally trained on how to develop cultural savvy where ever Business takes them to.It is serious Business.
Acculturation or steeping ourselves in other People’s culture is imperative for any Nigerian who wishes to cross the border in the name of doing Business. It is particularly so because we are domineering lot. Where ever we go, we take our loudness and our ethnic arrogance with us. A story was told of how some Nigerians where talking at the top of their voices in Yoruba at a dinner table in Europe and everyone else in the restaurant thought that they were quarreling. They were actually “gisting” and “yabbing”each other. Even their intermittent laughter did not help until someone walked up to the table and asked if everything was Ok. They were perplexed. We Nigerian will turn any quiet place into a fiesta. That can be very irritating to a culture that places a premium on low voice in public places. This is just one Minor example.
Having looked at acculturation, we will now relate the lack of it to xenophobia especially as it concerns Nigerian Business men and women…… as well as Nigerian criminals in South Africa.
This we shall do next week.
Have a great week