Culture is defined as the full range of acquired or learnt behavioral patterns expressed by humans. The human society in all parts of the world expresses unique behaviors that are transferred down the generation. Therefore, a community is easily distinguished from the next by observing their particular expression of culture. The concept of culture entails a look at the beliefs, norms, morals, customs, ethics, knowledge and religion among many other factors (O’Neil, Para 1).
Culture is not static in nature and is continually evolving. A community may easily abandon some cultural practices and embrace new ones resulting in a complete overhaul of the previous culture. However, this is due to influence from external elements such as technology, legislature and other cultures. The culture shared by a community is developed by the basic unit of society-family. Culture may be said to exist in various levels. The first level is the societal culture which distinguishes world societies; for example, the Russians, the Swiss, and the Americans and so on. There also exists a level described as subculture. This is usually expressed in mixed societies when the people forming that society come from different parts of the world. In most cases, these people almost retain and observe their traditional, cultural practices. Then there is the universal culture which is expressed by the entire humanity (O’Neil, Para 2). This paper will focus on the societal cultural differences between Switzerland and Russia.
The Swiss and the Russians have marked differences in their cultural expressions. The differences are notable by a close look at the values, manners, taboos, leadership structures, gender roles and their expressions of architecture, art, literature, communication, film and music. Switzerland’s culture is characterized by diversity. A notable feature of the Swiss culture is their respect for values they hold. Therefore, they take all measures possible to back up their values, for instance, despite them observing the principle of neutrality in political matters, the people are well protected from any form of aggression. In the entire Europe, no other country has as many weapons per square mile as Switzerland. The Swiss are committed fully at all times to protect their national integrity and sovereignty. With the Swiss community ready to defend their territory at any given time, they have gone as far as ensuring that every male in their society aged between twenty and fifty years has military skills and in addition keeps weapons (Lewis, p. 239).
The Swiss community is characterized by diversity constituting of French, German, Roman and Italian communities. This has aroused a sense of mistrust and suspicion in the community. This has degenerated to a level of ensuring that any matter of national importance is only approved through a referendum. The country is also governed by a council of prime ministers and an annual rotation on the presidency. The people of Switzerland have a deep rooted element of distrust in their leaders political or otherwise. The power entirely belongs to the people in the Swiss society. In the cultural context of the Swiss, material possessions are regarded as a societal status symbol. Therefore, it is widely believed among the Swiss that with wealth, one automatically has access to immense powers (Lewis, p. 240).
The Swiss attach strong value to space. Only a small segment is arable due to the mountainous nature of the country. This means that whatever space is available; it is treated with the utmost care and is highly cherished. The people here have cultivated a culture of protecting space both personal and communal. The other element notable within the Swiss culture is their respect for time. The Swiss do not waste any time unnecessarily and are readily submissive to set schedules and deadlines. Since they do not rush in performing their duties, they always achieve their targets within the allocated time frames. Their daily life activities are organized with reference to time. Therefore, the people are able to make accurate predictions on upcoming events by observing time frames. It is very uncommon to hear a Swiss who believes in spontaneity (Lewis, p. 240).
The communication patterns by the Swiss display extreme politeness. A conversation with a Swiss whether in social or business environment is surrounded by calmness. They value privacy and decorum, which contributes to their conversations being carried out in a sensible manner. They rarely show any form of inquisitiveness in their speech. Therefore, they will ask questions in a technical approach with no guilt of wanting to know what does not concern them. They are said to lack charisma in their speech and thus do not make exciting speakers. The Swiss Italians display openness but with an element of arrogance attributed to their prosperous lifestyles. The Swiss of German origin are very cautious in conversations, and they try as much as possible to avoid offending their listeners. They also are keen in observing modesty and are reserved in making pronouncements and forecasts (Lewis, p. 241).
The Swiss also make good listeners. They are concise in seeking clarifications and rarely forget what they are told. It is common to see the Swiss take notes as they speak to someone so that they can refer to the notes later. While listening, a Swiss will almost never interrupt. However, they are conservative in giving their own opinions concerning an issue. In addition, they rarely overturn their decisions due to persuasion or advice given to them (Lewis, p. 241).
In terms of making deals, the Swiss are not aggressive in nature or demanding but will eventually get the upper hand in the deal. They display unparalleled self-confidence in describing and promoting their goods and services. They have a strong, convincing power, which makes many to continue purchasing their usually expensive products. They put an emphasis on the quality of their wares making one ashamed if they bargain too hard. When negotiating, they display honesty and are straight forward. A common tendency displayed is that of putting themselves in their opponents’ shoes and analyzing matters from the opponents’ side. Never inconsiderate, a Swiss national will always make helpful suggestions in a negotiation even if it does not favor them. Therefore, they can commonly be referred to as being reliable and proficient. They attach great respect to confidentiality in dealings and negotiations (Lewis, p. 242).
The Swiss mannerisms may not endear them to many. They are ranked ninth in the world in respect to heavy drinking and thirteenth in regard to smoking. Drug abuse is also prevalent among the Swiss with records placing them third in drug offences when compared to other European countries. The community’s taboos include invasion to privacy, boasting, lateness and unnecessary curiosity (Lewis, p. 242).
Numerous studies reveal that the Swiss have been detaching from modern and traditional religion lately. Today, 25% of the total population belongs to no particular religion, 32% are Protestants, 31%catholics and 12% non-Christian. This situation differs from forty years ago when only 1% had no religious affiliation. This is however not to mean that they are atheists since they could still be believers in God or an alternative spiritual being (Vogel-Misicka, Para, 2)
The Russian society has certain cultural elements that define them as a community. The society is close knit beginning with the basic unit-family. The Russian family is in most cases small and depends on all its members for support and co-existence. With most women working outside the homesteads, they bear fewer children. The small families usually occupy apartments and up to three generations live together. The Russian society is one of the most patriotic to their country. They are strongly attached to their cultural heritage and aggressively defend it. They dearly pride in their country and readily appreciate the difficulties they encounter as part of their daily life. They hold the view that they are the only individuals who have triumphantly survived what any other society cannot persevere. This gives them a purpose to be proud and patriotic as expressed through their music, art and poetry (Mitchell, pg.16).
For the longest time and despite modernization, the Russian people have maintained the communal mentality. Most families were centered on communal based agricultural entities. Decision making on farming and family set ups were determined by an assembly household heads. The land has historically been held in high regard. The collective spirit among the Russians has grown stronger from generation to the next. It is common to see a Russian mingling with strangers in a restaurant rather than eat alone! The communal theme means that everybody minds the other’s business. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see a Russian who is a stranger to another reprimanding him/her if they break the societal rules (Kwintessential, Para 6).
In the normal day to day life, Russians are friendly to one another. The characteristic greeting is a firm handshake and a direct eye contact. This is accompanied by a verbal greeting determined by the time of the day. Female friends demonstrate their friendliness by kissing three times on the cheek in a uniform style that starts with the left cheek. Males who are close, when they meet, they hug and pat each other on the back (Kwintessential, Para 7). In a friendly gesture, the Russians are fond of giving gifts. Families and close friends always celebrate birthdays together; events such as Christmas and New Year are also characterized by gifts exchange. A culturally universal practice among the Russians entails carrying a gift if invited for a meal. It considered a bad omen to present an expectant woman with gifts for the unborn child and one has to wait until the child is born. A male guest into a party is usually expected to bring flowers with an emphasis never to carry yellow flowers. It is common for the Russians to dislike ready acceptance of gifts; but on continued prodding, they will accept. This attitude indirectly shows appreciation for your effort (Kwintessential, Para 8).
The names given to children contain a component of family continuity. The Russians mainly use three names. The first identifies the individual; the second is inclined to the paternal or father’s name such that a son’s second name takes the father’s name with an addition of ‘vich’ or ‘ovich’ while the daughter adds ‘avna’ or ‘ovna’. The last name represents the family name. In formal settings, the Russians use all three names while friends may use only one name either the first or second. Family members use only the first name to refer to one another (Kwintessential, Para 7).
Russians are good at creating relationships even with strangers. Being outstandingly transactional, they easily establish personal connections with other people and go on to do business with them. They value networking as much as possible and commonly believe that for one to make through life or business deals, they must be connected to those in higher ranks. They believe that to build trust and the associated relationships sincerity must come first. The Russians are reserved when they encounter people whose only motive is to make profits out of a deal. Personal relationships are developed slowly and with patience (Kwintessential, Para 11).
In business negotiations and meetings, they are very systematic combing through all fine details with no rush. In dire circumstances, they will even include technical experts in such deals. Decision making in large organizations is left to the senior officers. This is due to the Russians’ reverence for hierarchy in terms of age, experience and rank. Therefore, only people of similar ranks or experience engage in negotiations so as to make significant deals. Their negotiations are based on a win-lose format and never a win-win situation. They are aggressive in their negotiations and do not compromise on their part. This is because doing so is regarded as a sign of weakness. Their aggressive nature may make them irrational to the extent of losing their temper, threaten or stage a walk out all in an effort to coerce the other party to agree to their terms (Mitchell, pg.23).
The Russians are known to be keen on time. They usually use it as a weapon particularly in making deals. Should they know that the other party is under pressure, they employ delay tactics to ensure you crumble at the imminent deadline. They are cheeky at times in negotiations, and when dealing with them, it is important to be completely sure before signing any deal (Kwintessential, Para 6).
Majority Russians are unreligious but appreciate Christian moral values. Despite atheism being an official state region for more than sixty years, many have taken to Christianity with an inclination to the Russian Orthodox Church. Since religion is not part of their daily life, they do not follow the Christian moral values to the letter. Russians refer more to the horoscopes than the bible. Anyone can attend a church service at any day of the week; however, one does not have to make any contribution. Churches in Russia charge services such as baptism, weddings and funerals to obtain funds for maintenance (Small, Ellsworth, Burgess and Herbert p. 128)
The cultural differences between the Swiss and the Russians only acts to represent the varied cultures exhibited in different parts of the world. Each society occupying a certain area acquires the cultural practices of choice depending on the circumstances surrounding. As evidenced, the Swiss attitude towards security may have arisen from their political neutrality principle which may put them at loggerheads with influential external powers. They also display mistrust to strangers, a culturally acquired attitude courtesy of the tensions that exist among the four main communities that make up Switzerland. On the other hand, the Russians still display the communal attachment, many years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The aggressiveness and failure to compromise even on trivial matters may be a culturally acquired factor resulting from the many years the country was engaged in war.
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