Importance of Cultural Relativism in Attaining Cultural Understanding

People tend to view the world from a single perspective, which is usually their own. People also apply their own cultural standards for judging the beliefs, customs, and values of other communities. Cultural relativism is an ethic which consists of beliefs, values, and customs. It is the society’s culture which decides what is considered right and wrong, not the individual person. Every society will have their own different views of what is considered right and wrong. Cultural relativism never imposes its standards on other cultures, or its behaviors on the outside of the group. In cultural relativism, cultures are not to be judged by our own standards of what we believe is right or wrong, but we should try to understand why the culture is the way it is.

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The bumper sticker that goes along with cultural relativism is “When in Rome, Do as Roman do”, which means that when you are visiting a foreign place, you should follow the customs of that society. One should be polite and respect the foreign place by following the customs of the people who live there when visiting. It is important to try adapting to the customs of the people who are native to the place in order to have peace and for the greater good.

In the Islam culture/ religion in countries such as Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia there is a dress code for both men and women. Women wear a burka, hijab, chador, and a niqab. The dress code for a woman is meant to protect her modesty and privacy. Most of the time you see the woman’s face and hands being the only uncovered body parts of the body. Also, marriage in Islam is to be within their social group, caste or ethnic group.

In the American culture there is no dress code for both men or women. Women in America are allowed to wear whatever they want to. Women can wear revealing clothing, showing their arms, legs, and chest. Marriages in American culture can be within religions if they chose to, but do not have to be. We can marry outside of our religion.

The American and Islam culture are very different from one another. If an American woman was to visit a country that practices the Islam culture, and where all the women are covered up to protect their modesty and privacy, it would be disrespectful to see the American woman wearing revealing clothing such as a crop top shirt and shorts. While visiting we should follow the bumper stick “When in Rome, Do as Romans do”. As an American woman visiting a country of the Islam culture, we should dress appropriately to what they believe is the correct way to dress and cover ourselves up to show some respect to the people of that culture. We should understand why it would be disrespectful to dress revealing, and to not follow their ways of how they do things. If it was to be the other way around, a woman from a country where Islam is practiced coming to the United States, she should be able to understand why American women do not have a dress code as they do. Coming to America, one would see the majority of woman revealing a lot more than just their faces and hands, by possibly wearing sleeveless shirts, short sleeves, crop tops, and shorts. The woman practicing the Islam culture should not judge or criticize the women who choose to reveal their bodies, but she should be able to see that here in America women are allowed to express themselves freely by being allowed to wear what they want to. It is our right as women to dress how we want to in America.

People come from many different cultures, which have different experiences and perspectives. It is important for us to be able respect each other’s cultures and try to understand it. It is each individuals responsibility to not just see the world from our own perspective, but see other’s perspective as well, and to also try to understand that every culture has their own beliefs, values, and customs, and their own views of what is considered right and wrong. We should not judge those who are of different cultures from us or because we simply cannot understand their ways. We should attempt to understand every culture. We should have respect for other cultures as it can be beneficial and it can be a great learning opportunity. Learning from other culture experiences and perspectives can contribute to the greater good. 

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Importance of cultural relativism in attaining cultural understanding. (2021, Jul 27). Retrieved December 5, 2022 , from
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