The Cultural Value and Practice of American Equality

Equality is commonly declared as a high cultural value in American society. And it is true in many regards. Many legislative norms and practices demonstrate widespread equality in American daily life. However, American equality is still inconsistent and far from ideal in some respects.

What Is Social Equality?

Social equality means that all members of a society are treated equally. This may include having access to civil rights, freedom of speech, autonomy, and certain public goods and social services. Social equality implies that there are no legally recognized social class distinctions and that there is no discrimination based on a fundamental aspect of an individual’s identity.

The best form of equality is equity. Therefore, social equality means that individuals have equal opportunity, not necessarily equal availability. Ultimate social equality means that all individuals are equal in their opportunities,

  • regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation,
  • regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, social class, income,
  • regardless of their origin, language, opinions,
  • regardless of their health, and disability.

The Progress in American Equality

The history of American society has been quite controversial in terms of democracy and social equality. Even though American leaders always declared these social values, real legislative norms and practices were far from ideal.

The 20th century has made substantial progress in this regard. It has been especially true since the 1960s. Thanks to the efforts and persistence of countless American people and leaders. America has now come much closer to the ideal of equality upon which the country was founded. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom became a crucial momentum in this regard. One can see clear evidence of the progress in equality. For instance,

  • Race is no longer a barrier to entry at a lunch counter.
  • Restrictive covenants cannot legally state that only certain types of people can purchase certain types of homes.
  • Literacy tests are no longer a barrier to voting.

However, let’s take a closer look at the realities of today in various areas of American life. Studies have obviously demonstrated that real equality is still an ongoing process. Equality is still just a dream, rather than a reality, for many people in the United States.

Is Further Progress Good for American Culture?

On the one hand, many liberal and progressive men and women believe that social equality is good and is a desirable value for the future American culture. On the other hand, many conservative men and women may not think so.

For instance, white Americans, and white men in particular, have a tendency to view efforts to reduce prejudice toward black men and women as being prejudicial to them. This is especially true when the target population is black men and women. We have seen a lot of this conservative backlash against diversity and racial justice.

“The misperception that equality is harmful is stubbornly persistent, resisting both reason and incentivization.”

And the psychology of advantage can explain this social psychological tendency in beliefs, attitudes, and actions. Whether we identify as conservatives or liberals, we tend to hold on to our advantages at all costs (Brown et al., 2022).

“Self-interest…is a massive motivation for those advantaged in society to preserve the status quo insofar as it benefits them.”

The Measurement Pitfalls of Research Designs in Cultural Studies of Religions

Cross-cultural comparability and generalizability are the problems that come up in religious studies and need to be solved for scientific progress (Karandashev, 2021a; Karandashev et al., 2022; Fischer, 2022). When studying behavioral and social phenomena in various populations and religious contexts, culture matters. In this regard, the lead article by Ronald Fischer (2022) in the recent issue of the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior is particularly useful. The author of that article shares personal reflections on the study that their team reported on during their exploratory journey. Here is a summary of one of the two points covered in his commentary “Cultural lessons missed and learned about religion and culture.” It is about “how important cultural context is for thinking about, and researching, religion, morality, and evolution.”

The Typical Mistakes and Their Effective Solutions to Studying Religions from a Cross-Cultural Perspective

The study’s goal was to investigate the universality and evolutionary perspective of religious concepts. Researchers considered cultural dynamics throughout the process, including the specification of key variables, variable operationalization, measurement context, and result interpretation. Researchers summarized the new efficient translation methods (Harkness et al., 2003). They proposed the updated checklists for use by cultural researchers (Hambleton & Zenisky, 2010; Harkness et al., 2003, 2010; Hernández et al., 2020).

In this lead article, Ronald Fischer (2022) addressed two groups of methodological issues:

The first one is the problems of cross-cultural universality of the concepts under study, their conceptual equivalency, the selection of major variables, and their conceptual descriptions and operationalization. These questions are summarized in another article.

The second one is the problems such as cultural contexts of measurement, technical procedures of measurement, cultural biases in measurements, measurement invariance across cultural samples, and culturally sensitive interpretation of results. These questions are summarized in this article.

Confounding Cultural Variables in the Studies of Religions

In complex cross-cultural research, the design itself may create confounding factors. Who is a local co-religionist as opposed to a remote one in a religious context? Religions frequently make fine distinctions in group membership. In the cultural context of Candomblé religion, this includes questions about

  • who went through the initial initiation (“bori”) with you,
  • who is a member of the same “terreiro,” house of worship, typically organized around extended family ties),
  • who has the same sitting “orixá.”

Without knowledge of these regionally relevant group distinctions, the research design of a cultural study lacks these essential local details.

In addition, classic cross-cultural research has demonstrated that both familiarity and theoretically irrelevant features can influence

  • behavioral and cognitive responses (Serpell, 1979),
  • social expectation or experimenter effects that can be difficult to identify or avoid (Smith et al., 2013).

The Cultural Biases in Religious Studies

Typically referred to as technique biases, these difficulties involve

  • how tests are conducted,
  • by whom, and in what (implicit or explicit) context.

Humans are sociable experts. They try to predict what others want from them. These attempts may lead to an array of behavioral adaptations with the intentions

  • to make favorable impressions,
  • form alliances, or
  • gain tiny advantages over local competitors or
  • trade favors with outside visitors.

Depending on how the participants interpret the testing circumstances, these motivations can reverse the expected behavioral responses.

This is another challenge for cultural research. Individuals in small-scale societies converse and make assumptions as to why someone may or may not have received the money. The questions arise

“Does the payout matrix align with the implicit group lineages that participants construct while participating in the experiment?

Does the knowledge of pay-outs affect the next participant’s strategy of playing? ” (Fischer, 2022, p. 214)

In environments with greater interdependence, individuals are likely to respond depending on who has already been tested or how many individuals remain to be evaluated (Yamagishi et al., 2008). These different techniques’ biases provide considerable obstacles for evaluating the outcomes of money distribution and frequently necessitate ingenious and observant researchers conversant with local cultures and standards.

The Pitfalls of Priming Research Designs in Cultural and Religious Studies The research with priming tasks poses other questions. The procedure of priming requires locally salient categories regardless of the question of replicability concerns with priming. This brings scientists back to the principles of functional and structural equivalence, which we talked about above.

“What is a moralistic god vs. a local god?”

(Fischer, 2022, p. 214).

The Christian “God,” which is not part of the Candomblé religion, and Ogum, a particular orixá linked with ironwork and war, are very different planes of existence. Therefore, a contrast between those two may not convey what the researchers intended.

For Candomblé believers, the Christian “God” is familiar. It is simple to identify and acknowledge this deity’s significance in the larger community. However, it is not necessarily an entity with personal meaning for a Candomblé devotee. In the same vein, depending on the context, Ogum may be appropriate for particular goals or for particular individuals.

What is an adequate and comparable indication of the idea of interest within the local cultural context? Questions like this are very important in the context of structural equivalence, specifically the issue of conceptual domain representation.

The Importance of Local Context in Cultural Research In conclusion, Ronald Fischer (2022) encourages cultural researchers to pay more attention to the local cultural context of their studies. He suggests learning the lessons from researchers of previous generations who made progress through these challenging paths.

What Are the Main World Cultures?

What are the main cultures of the world? How global are they? And how diverse are they? These are among the key questions that cross-cultural researchers may ask.

The West-East dichotomy has been a classification of the world cultures well-known by scholars during recent centuries. Western and Eastern cultures should be construed as global cultures, presumably. However, Western culture has been exemplified by the United States, Canada, and a few western European nations, such as England, the Netherlands, Germany, and France. In contrast, Eastern cultures have been typified by China and Japan. These two global cultural regions differed in a number of general cultural dimensions.

Probably the most well-known cultural distinction between the West and the East is the contrast between individualistic Western societies and collectivistic Eastern ones. At the very least, this is the framework that researchers most often use to study different cultures.

How Do Global World Cultures Form?

Regional and global cultures like Western and Eastern ones are usually formed by historical cultural influences of neighboring societies, cultural regional domination of some societies or by expansive migration. The countries of China and Japan, for example, are culturally similar in some respects. In the same way, the cultures of the Netherlands and Germany are more culturally similar to each other than to France, while France is more similar to Spain.

Thus, due to geographical and historical traditions and religious and political influences, national cultures share similarities with those of other adjacent countries. Certain geographical locations may differ greatly in a variety of cultural elements. One source of these cultural distinctions is the transmission of ancient philosophical concepts to new generations. In recent years, many researchers have studied and thought about the differences between Western and Eastern cultures, whose mental and cultural perspectives are very different in many ways.

West-East Scholarly Comparison

Cultural and cross-cultural studies have actively investigated these worldwide distinctions empirically. By comparing the United States, the Netherlands, and occasionally other European nations as representatives of Western culture to Japan and China as representatives of Eastern culture, researchers have discovered a number of fascinating cultural differences between these two global cultures.

As a cultural framework for explanation, they typically referred to individuality and collectivism, or related social concepts.

The questions in this regard, however, have remained unresolved. Is the USA or England sufficiently exemplary of all so-called Western countries? Is Japan or China sufficiently prototypical of other so-called Eastern countries?

What does the West mean? What does the East mean? There are many differences between the cultures of East Asia and South Asia, as well as between the cultures of the United States and Western Europe. For example, many West European countries have very different ways of life in many ways.

A Cultural Variety of the World Regions

In the last few decades, scholars have started to look into the different cultures of the world in more depth. For example, Shalom Schwartz (2014) found eight transnational cultural regions based on the values the countries share. They are English-speaking, West European, East Central and Baltic European, Orthodox East European, Latin American, South Asian, Confucian-influenced, and African and Middle Eastern.

Each of these transnational zones is distinguished by a distinct cultural value pattern. However, eight cultural regions do not fit within the expected locations.

Is Western Culture Really Individualistic?

Studies of the last decades have revealed that the West-East division of culture is not quite accurate in several regards (Karandashev, 2021a). There is a great cultural difference between different “Western cultures” and between different “Eastern cultures.”

As Schwartz (2014) noted, it is not entirely valid to describe Western civilization as individualistic. The complex analysis of cultural orientations has shown that people in the West have a lot of differences.

For example, the cultural samples from the USA and Western Europe showed significant variations in six of the cultural value orientations. Mastery, embeddedness, and hierarchy are more prevalent in the US. Intellectual autonomy, equality, and harmony, on the other hand, are more prevalent in Western European countries (Schwartz & Ros, 1995).

The Transnational Cultural Regions Based on their Geographical Proximity

According to the recent comprehensive analysis of cultural orientations, the transnational cultural regions are based on geographical proximity (Schwartz, 2014). Their cultural similarities can be explained by the transmission of values, norms, and practices across international borders. Additionally, language, history, religion, and other cultural variables also had an impact.

How Does Cultural Power Distance Affect Societies?

People’s social relationships are hierarchically structured in many regards. Individuals’ power and status, for example, are distributed unequally in many societies. And the degree of this social inequality varies in different cultures. Power distance is a measure of how important a society considers social ranks and the hierarchies of power in relationships and interactions between people (Karandashev, 2021a).

A Dutch social psychologist, Geert Hofstede, proposed the cultural parameter of “power distance” to explain how societal cultural norms expect and accept that social status, power, and “vertical” interactions are dispensed unequally (Hofstede, 2001; 2011).

As a cultural variable, power distance assesses how much people recognize and accept that social distance and power are distributed unequally between people of low and high status. In other words, it is the rate of inequality versus equality that people of status and power have in a society.

What Are the Cultures with High Power Distances?

High power distance cultures are present in societies in which the differences in power of “superiors” and “subordinates” seem to be natural and reflect an “existential inequality” (Hofstede, 1980/1984).

In societies with high power-distance cultures, less powerful people accept inequality and expect that power within a society is dispersed between individuals disproportionately. The people of authority, such as rulers, elders, parents, and heads of families, are higher in a relational hierarchy. Subordinate people, such as commoners, youngsters, and children, are lower in a relational hierarchy. These authorities and subordinates are relationally and emotionally distant from each other.

Submissive attitudes and respect of lower-status people towards higher-status people are expected and suggested.

The instances of such high power-distance societies are the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, India, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil (Hofstede, 1980/1984).

What Are the Cultures with Low Power Distances?

Low power distance cultures are present in societies in which people are considered equal in their social status and power in social relations. Cultural norms in societies with a low power distance culture expect equality in relationships and power, and an egalitarian style of communication.

The instances of low power-distance countries are Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, Ireland, and New Zealand (Hofstede, 2001; 2011; Würtz, 2005).

The culture of the United States of America is evaluated as lower than the median in power distance. Despite the official declarations of and inspirations for democracy and equality in the US, the social reality of relationships in American society is still far from these egalitarian ideals. Social inequality is widespread. The racial and cultural diversities of American society make it dependent on social context (Andersen, Hecht, Hoobler, & Smallwood, 2003).

What Is Cultural Identity?

An individual’s identity is fundamentally composed of personal, social, and cultural identities as well as more specific ones like sexual or gender identity. They all explain how people perceive themselves, but they characterize different traits of individual identity. The cultural identity of a person is closely intertwined with his or her other selves, such as personal and social identities.

Cultural Identity of a Person

Cultural identity is a person’s awareness of what cultural group she or he belongs to. Nationality, ethnic group, religious faith, or social class are all examples of cultural identities. This identity is a personal characteristic that is both individual and social in nature. It is up to a person to decide with which cultural group he or she has a special cultural affinity.

What Does “Cultural Identity” Include?

Cultural identity includes a category label, knowledge, and social connections with cultural group.

A person’s cultural category label is how a person identifies with a specific cultural membership. This is how the person calls himself or herself. These labels are national, ethnic, religious, and other group membership identifiers.

Cultural knowledge is what a person understands about their own cultural characteristics. This is how much the person knows about his or her culture and what culturally specific values, norms, practices, and people’s characteristics they know.

Social cultural connections are the relationships that a person has with kin, family, close friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other members of their cultural community. Through such cultural immersion, the person acquires cultural beliefs and traditions.

Varieties of Cultural Identity

The cultural identity of a person can include their nationality: Greek, Italian, Spanish, German, British, Canadian, American, Japanese, or Chinese. But being born in a country or in a family of parents of a certain nationality does not define the identity of a person. Identity is how a person is aware of himself or herself and what nationality he or she personally identifies with.

Regional and local specifics can also define how a person is aware of his or her cultural identity. A friend of mine, for instance, once told me that he identifies himself as Bavarian as well as European. Yet he does not feel himself to be a German. It is up to him to decide which identity he considers his personal self.

The cultural identity of a person can also reflect the ethnic group that person belongs to, such as Indigenous peoples of America, Dutch Americans, German Americans, Hispanic Americans, and others in the USA; Han Chinese, Zhuang people, Uyghurs, and others in China. Each of these ethnic groups has its own cultural specificities. Once again, it is important for the identity of a person to recognize himself or herself in terms of such attribution.

Religious faith is often linked to a cultural group that people identify with. For some, being Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, or Muslim is an essential part of who they are and their identity.

The lower, middle, and upper socioeconomic classes are also considered different cultures. People can feel this social attribution as a part of their cultural identity (Karandashev, 2021).

These can also be cultural generations according to age, such as the silent generation, the baby boomer generation, the millennials, the gen X, or the gen Z. According to the times they grew up in and the social contexts that affected their enculturation, they have lived in different historical cultures.

The Dynamics of Identity

Cultural identity is often in flux. Various historical, social, and cultural experiences can change the identity of a person. This, for example, often occurs during acculturation in a new society into which a person has immigrated. These changes vary from one person to another. A cultural identity is a dynamic notion within a person. Some people undergo more identity changes than others.

Intercultural communication frequently engages cultural stereotypes about people of other cultures. They can facilitate or impede our adequate understanding of other individuals.

Who Is a Multicultural Person?

The article describes studies showing how multicultural communities and cultural mixing foster the formation of a multicultural mind and a multicultural person.

Intercultural Encounters and Cultural Mixing

Inter-cultural connections and cultural mixing in multicultural countries, states, and residential areas are conducive to the development of multicultural minds and personalities. These can be multi-national, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-faith neighborhood communities. People of different cultural groups live together and interact on a regular basis. The more they see each other, the more they like each other, unless some aversive circumstances appear.

Modern urban and metropolitan neighborhoods and the cultural borderlands (communities living near national borders) are often culturally mixed and multicultural. In such residential and workplace areas, the rate of intercultural encounters and relationships is often high. People of different races, nationalities, ethnicities, and faiths meet each other, date, marry, and raise their multicultural children.

Multicultural Communities that Are Conducive to Polycultural Development

In some residential or workplace communities, several cultures are concurrently circulated in the social lives of people. These conditions tacitly shape the culture of polyculturalism. Such polyculturalism implies that “individuals take influence from multiple cultures” (Morris, Chiu, & Liu, 2015, p. 631). The people in those communities naturally develop their polycultural personalities.

The culturally mixed and multicultural circumstances of living and working allow people to become bicultural and even multicultural. They develop their cultural competencies. Their minds and personalities become open and capable of perceiving and acting beyond cultural borders. They see in each other a person, not a member of a cultural group (race, ethnicity, or nationality).

What Does the Metaphor “Melting Pot” Mean?

The metaphor of the “melting pot” is widely used in the USA in reference to America’s status as a country of immigrants where all cultures merge. Although it has not always been and is not everywhere perfectly this way, nevertheless, this idea has always been an American cultural value and inspiration. The metaphor of the “melting pot” means that the cultural differences in the United States melt and blend together, like metals being melted down to become an alloy.

The Western states of the USA, and especially Hawaii, are excellent examples of such multicultural societies with many multicultural minds. Multicultural encounters in the lives of people living there are common. They do not pay much attention to the social and cultural attributes of others around them. They treat each other just as humans with their individual differences and personalities, rather than as members of social and cultural groups.

Who Are the Multicultural Minds?

Multicultural people are those who have good knowledge and understanding of two or more cultures. They have internalized two or more cultures in their self-awareness. These people identify themselves with two or more cultures. They can’t tell if they’re Americans, Mexicans, or Japanese. These people are somebody else. They are Mexican-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Arab-Americans, Chinese-Canadians, or Turkish-Germans. They have an identity mix of two or more cultures.

Due to the multicultural construction of their minds, such individuals are capable of functioning effectively in more than one culture. They know more than one language and develop multicultural competencies. They can think in ways that reflect multiple cultures.

There is strong evidence that being bicultural and having bicultural integration can have positive consequences for personal development. Multicultural individuals often develop multifaceted and complex emotions, cognitions, and personalities (Benet-Martinez & Haritatos, 2005; Hong, Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000; Phinney & Alipuria, 2006; see for review, Karandashev, 2021).

Characteristics of a Multicultural Person

A multicultural personality is a set of attitudes, traits, and behaviors that predispose a person to adapt well to culturally different contexts, communicate effectively, and act adequately. Multicultural individuals are secure in their multiple identities, such as gender, race, ethnicity, and religion. They are intellectually curious regarding novel cultures, cognitively flexible, emotionally stable, culturally empathic, committed to social justice, and feel centered about spirituality. The traits of a multicultural personality are open-mindedness, social initiative, flexibility, emotional stability, and cultural empathy (Ponterotto et al., 2011; Van Der Zee & Van Oudenhoven, 2000).

Being open-minded

Being open-minded means having open and unprejudiced attitudes toward different cultural groups. Multicultural people are open-minded regarding cultural diversity. They do not care much about nationality, race, ethnicity, or religious faith. These people care more about what kind of person another individual is, what qualities she or he has, and what he or she is capable of. They do not have or, at least, suppress their explicit cultural stereotypes and prejudices. And anyway, they do not exhibit them.

Social initiative

Social initiative is a person’s trait expressed in the tendency to take initiative and approach social situations actively. Due to this disposition, multicultural people interact easily with people of other cultures. They are capable of making friends with other cultural groups.


Flexibility is a person’s ability to adjust their behavior to new and unknown situations. Such a person can change their communication and behavior according to a new cultural context. Multicultural individuals perceive new and unknown situations with flexibility. They consider them challenges rather than threats. They change their behavioral patterns in response to unexpected and limited situations that happen in another cultural context.

Emotional stability

Emotional stability is a personality trait of multicultural individuals that allows them to remain calm in stressful situations. Such emotional states are possible when a person encounters culturally different contexts and behaviors, when things do not go the way they do in one’s own culture. Because of this, a person may experience tension, social detachment, fear, frustration, and interpersonal conflict. Therefore, the disposition of emotional stability is useful for interaction with people from other cultures. It helps to cope well with such feelings of emotional discomfort and distress.

Cultural empathy

Cultural empathy is a personality trait of multicultural people that gives them the ability to emotionally understand and relate to the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of others whose cultural background is different from their own. Multicultural individuals function effectively with people of other cultures because they have an adequate understanding of those cultures. Cultural empathy is an important capacity that allows us to “read” other cultures.

What Is Multicultural Identity?

In daily life, people frequently need to answer questions about their race, ethnicity, nationality, social class, gender, and age. To those who ask, it looks like a simple question. However, it is less simple for people to answer. Many people have a multicultural identity.

Contemporary understandings of personal, social, and cultural identity appear more complex now than before. In some countries, regions, and neighborhoods, social mixing and cross-cultural relationships happen more often than in other places.

Some modern urban communities have various ethnic and national cultural groups that regularly and routinely contact each other. Some metropolitan residential areas are quite multicultural. Cultural mixing occurs in the same way in communities living near national borders—the cultural borderland. The rate of intercultural relationships in such regions can be high. Men and women of different ethnicities, nationalities, and races marry and have children.

The Challenges of Multicultural Identity for Intercultural Children

For children of such intercultural marriages, it may be challenging to identify themselves with one or another cultural group, such as ethnicity, race, or nationality. Who are they? Similar challenges are experienced by immigrants attempting to integrate into their new culture.

For these children, it may be challenging to identify themselves with one or another cultural identity because they have a mixed identity of two cultures. They have a bicultural identity, which is a kind of multicultural identity.

Bicultural Identity

Bicultural identity is the cultural identity of a person in which she or he combines the cultural features of two different cultures. These can be a mixture of French and German or Mexican and European-American.

For example, the bicultural identity of an immigrant can include the attributes of both ethnic identities acquired from the culture of their origin and the culture where they live now. The same bicultural identity can be experienced by the children of intercultural marriages.

Bicultural Identity Integration

When the personal cultural identities of two different cultures are incorporated, these two parts of bicultural identity can be separated from each other or incorporated into one. Cultural boundaries within a bicultural person can be distinct or blurred.

Here are some examples of how multicultural people who currently live in pluralistic U.S. society yet still have close connections with Korea experience their cultural identity.

Examples of Bicultural Identity Integration

First example:

Jean Kohl, a 9-year-old daughter of a German father and a Korean mother, was born and raised in the United States. Her parents, fluent speakers of German and Korean respectively, adopted English as the primary language at home. “I am an American,” proclaimed she, but she often ended her proclamation with an addendum that she was also German and Korean. For several summers she traveled to visit her maternal or paternal grandparents in Korea or Germany, during which she was exposed to her parents native cultures and languages. The German, Korean and U. S. heritage blended in her cultural repertoire. For Jean, where does the “American” cultural border end and other cultural borders begin?

(Chang, 1999)

Second example:

Carrie Baumstein, a 20-year-old woman, was born in Korea and adopted by a Messianic Jewish-American couple when she was 2 years old. She has lived in the States ever since. She was not exposed to much Korean culture and language when she was growing up, but was instead surrounded by her parents Jewish tradition. Despite her primary identity with the Jewish culture, she was often reminded by her relatives and neighbors of her Korean or Asian linkage. She was in an identity search for Asianness when she was attending a small Christian college on the East Coast. For Carrie, where do the cultural borders lie between the Korean and the American and between the Messianic Jew and the Christian?

(Chang, 1999)

Third example:

Peter Lee, a 15-year-old, was born in the States to immigrant parents from Korea. His parents own and operate a dry cleaning shop in a suburb of Philadelphia. Their English is functional for the business but they prefer speaking Korean on all other occasions. Peters family attends a Korean church regularly, which usually serves as a cultural community as much as a religious one. Peters Korean is so limited that he usually speaks English, although his parents speak Korean to him. He is definitely an American in his mind and heart, perhaps a Korean-American occasionally. But his preference of Korean-American peers to others is a curious phenomenon. Where lies the cultural border that divides the Korean and the “American” for Peter?

(Chang, 1999)

Fourth example:

Elaine Sook-Ja Cho, 50 years old, immigrated to the States 30 years ago to marry a Korean bachelor 10 years her senior. Her husband came to the States as a student and found employment upon completion of his study. Elaine was a housewife for 20 years before undertaking a small grocery business. She speaks “Konglish” (a mixture of Korean sentence structure and English words) but she seems to be at ease speaking English. She is Korean in her heart but “Americanized” in her own words and by her life style. For Sook-Ja how far does the Korean cultural border stretch to meet the “American” culture?

(Chang, 1999)

What Does It Mean to Have a Multicultural Identity?

Thus, these men and women experience their multicultural identities in various ways. They cross cultural borders daily. They turn out to be culturally Korean in the morning, German during lunch, “American” in the afternoon, and Korean once again in the evening. Amazing transformations within their cultural identities.

What Is a Multicultural Community?

People in the modern world are exposed to a variety of cultures, some of which are more or less compatible with one another. Many countries have mixed cultures that shape multicultural people and mixed cultural identities. These mixed cultures are more conducive to the development of multicultural personalities and multicultural community (Karandashev, 2021).

In the modern world of increasingly mixed cultures and multicultural societies, people encounter other cultures more frequently than ever before. In some countries and regions, it’s more likely for people from different cultures to meet.

Monocultural and Multicultural Countries

Some countries are homogeneous in the races, ethnicities, and religions of their population and in the languages they speak. They can be called relatively monocultural societies. According to the data of 2013, among those are the Comoros, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Haiti, Rwanda, Uruguay, Sweden, Japan, North Korea, and South Korea (Rich Morin, 2013).

Some other countries, on the other hand, are quite heterogeneous in terms of the ethnicities, races, and religions of their population and speak a variety of languages. They are highly multicultural societies. Among those are many African countries, such as Chad, Cameroon, Congo, Nigeria, Togo, and South Africa; several Asian countries, such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore; and many countries in other parts of the world, such as Switzerland, Spain, Canada, and the United States.

See more: How regional is the cultural diversity of countries?

Within-countries’ Diversity of Cultures

In many countries, different regions, states, and provinces have substantially different cultures. Among those are the United States, Canada, Germany, Spain, and France. For example, some scholars think that the southern states (the Deep South) and the northern states of the USA have somewhat different cultures in many respects. The northern industrialized regions of Germany culturally differ from Bavaria and other regions of Germany. The southern and northern parts of France have quite different regional cultures.

Besides, some regions of the country can be more multicultural than others. For example, the west and northeast regions of the United States are much more multicultural than the Midwest.

Hawaii is the most multicultural state in the US. The northern parts of Germany are more multicultural than others. The large and densely populated urban areas, such as New York City, Toronto, and Paris, are more multicultural than rural or urban areas, such as the Midwest of the USA.

See more: What is the multicultural diversity of countries?

Culture Mixing in Multicultural Communities

Nowadays, cultural mixing has become widespread. Such cultural mixing is evident in the coexistence of various representative symbols of different cultures at the same time and place (Hao, Li, Peng, Peng, & Torelli, 2016; Harush, Lisak, & Erez, 2016; Martin & Shao, 2016).

The dynamic communities of some regions have large variations in the national and ethnic origins of people living there together for quite a while (e.g., Van de Vijver, Blommaert, Gkoumasi, & Stogianni, 2015).

For example, the cultures of countries along their national borders frequently mix with each other on the same territory. That is sometimes called the cultural borderland (Chang, 1999; Foley, 1995). The Mexican-American borderlands of Arizona, California, and Texas in the US represent such examples of Mexican-American culture.

The Regional Diversity of Countries

What are the national cultures? Does any regional diversity exist in the national cultures? Or are they homogeneous in their national cultures?

National cultures are the cultures that people from specific countries living in certain territories have in common with each other. National cultures have evolved over time due to various historical events. They can share historical origins, languages, ethnicities, religions, social institutions, cultural norms, traditions, practices, and many other things, but primarily they belong to the same nationality.

People belonging to national cultures are Italians, Greeks, Finns, Swedes, Brits, French, Austrians, Germans, Moroccans, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Indonesians, Americans, and Canadians. These are national cultures because they consist of people from the same country within national borders. If people reside abroad but keep their nationality and cultural identity, they can be considered to belong to their nationality of origin.

Do national cultures exist as something cultural that they have in common? Cultural studies have demonstrated that people of specific nationalities have similar beliefs, attitudes, values, cultural norms, practices, and behaviors.

Throughout the history of cultural research, scholars have classified national cultures into groups according to cultural similarities between nations. Western and Eastern cultures were among the earliest transnational cultural divisions. Researchers usually attribute Western societies to individualistic cultures, while Eastern cultures are attributed to collectivistic cultures. Some core differences between Western and Eastern cultures certainly exist.

African and Latin American cultures combine with other large transnational groups of cultures. European cultures are often divided into East-European and West-European cultures (Karandashev, 2021).

Regional Diversity of National Cultures

National cultures can be monocultural, multicultural, or regionally specific in terms of their subcultures. For decades, cross-cultural studies have primarily focused on the comparisons between national cultures, neglecting regional variations within each country. Therefore, researchers investigated, for instance, the residents of New York City and Paris as representatives of American and French national cultures. Besides, undergraduate students from the middle class have been typical participants in the studies.

There are plenty of regional cultures within many national cultures. In this regard, it may not be quite adequate to treat the United States of America, Switzerland, India, and other large, multiregional, and multiethnic countries as unitary, monolithic, and monocultural national cultures (Smith & Bond, 1999). Such an approach can conceal the diverse nature of their subcultures, or even different cultures unified under one national unit.

Territorial regions of some countries with historically distinct cultures strive to retain their social and cultural identities. Among well-known examples, are Scotland in the United Kingdom, Bavaria in Germany, Catalonia in Spain, Quebec in Canada, and Texas in the United States.

Regional Diversity of Cultures in France

France is a country with a relatively modest territory. Nevertheless, the French people of northern France are quite different from the people of southern France. The cultures of the northern and southern regions of France shaped their regional cultures due to the impact of surrounding countries and the climate.

The culture of northern France may look, to some extent, like the neighboring north European cultures of Germany and Belgium. People in northern France are a little more reserved and less flamboyant than southerners.

The culture of southern France can remind you of the Mediterranean cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Italy. People in the south of France are more extraverted and flamboyant.

Regional Diversity of Cultures in Germany

German culture also has significant cultural diversity between its regions. Distinct differences exist between southern, northern, and eastern Germany.

The industrialized regions of northern Germany, such as Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt, are culturally more transnational. This can be due to their historical international trade relations with other countries (Hall & Hall, 1990).

Some German regions have their own cultural origins and prefer to follow their cultural heritage. For example, the cultural understanding of work ethics and time systems in Mannheim is quite different from Munich. Many German territories are Protestant. That is different from the Catholic German south.

Bavarians feel quite different culturally from other parts of Germany. The Bavarian German language has a strong regional dialect. Historically, Bavaria is traditionally Catholic. However, the number of Catholics has recently declined.

Regional Diversity of Cultures in the USA

The United States of America is a country with a great regional diversity of population. Since its origins, the USA has been a country of immigrants, with colonists from various countries settling in different parts of its large territory. Immigrants of the same origin preferred to reside close to others of the same nationality.

American demographers tend to speak of Americans as being people of Western and Northern European roots. These European Americans are the cultural majority. Native Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, and Asian Americans are usually viewed as the cultures of minorities. One can see an obvious European-centric notion of American culture, which contrasts with others (Karandashev, 2021).

It is worthy of note that immigrants from different European countries, such as Sweden and Italy, have many cultural differences. The same can be said about Asian Americans. Despite their general Asian similarity, they are culturally diverse.

Another major facet of American regional diversity is the socially noticeable cultural distinctions between the southern and northern states. Many researchers consider the northern and southern parts of the USA to have different cultures (e.g., Cohen, 1996; Vandello & Cohen, 1999; Vandello, Cohen, & Ransom, 2008).

The Culture of the American South States

Generally, people living in southern states are more conservative and more collectivistic in many regards. Collectivist tendencies are stronger in the Deep South. Southerners tend to consider social stratification fair and favor patriarchal gender roles. They are more intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty in many situations. Therefore, they prefer the established order in life. They highly respect the cultural tradition, stressing the value of honor.

The Culture of the American North States

Commonly, people living in northern states are more liberal and individualistic in many respects. Individualist tendencies are stronger in the Mountain West and Great Plains. Northerners tend to favor social justice and gender equality. They are more tolerant of situations of ambiguity and uncertainty in life. They emphasize the value of pride less than southerners.

Cultural and Individual in Cross-cultural Comparisons

Many countries around the world have a diverse population in terms of races, ethnicities, religions, languages, and historical and cultural backgrounds of the people living in their territories. So, researchers widely investigate cross-cultural comparisons.

Even though people in many countries speak a common language, many others are multilingual. Among those are Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Serbia, Moldova, Zimbabwe, India, and Singapore.

Even though people in many countries share a common history, cultural heritage, and ethnicity, many others are multiethnic. Throughout history, various cultural factors have compelled them to remain together on common lands. Among those are Bolivia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Canada, and the United States of America.

Do National Cultures Exist?

Cross-cultural comparisons show that despite the heterogeneity in languages, ethnicities, and other cultural characteristics, many nations share a common cultural background. Their sub-cultural variations, which compose their diversity, let them have some common national attributes and live peacefully together for centuries.

Cross-cultural comparisons have demonstrated that on such cultural parameters as Power Distance, Individualism-Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Orientation versus Short-Term Orientation, various in-country regions of 28 countries in the Anglo world, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast and East Asia clustered homogeneously along the national lines of 28 countries. The cases when those regions intermixed between borders were relatively uncommon.

Even in Mexico and Guatemala, or Malaysia and Indonesia, in which each pair of countries has common ethnic groups, religions, and official languages, the cultural divisions were along their national borders. Even the parts of African countries that are close to each other, like Ghana, Mali, and Burkina Faso, do not mix in clusters of cultural parameters (Minkov & Hofstede, 2012).

Individual Variations Within Cultures and Cross-cultural Comparisons

While people living in countries have common national cultures and maintain the diversity of subcultures, they still substantially vary in terms of social classes and individual and typological personality traits (Karandashev, 2021). These differences can expand beyond their national and cultural resemblances.

So, what do cross-cultural comparisons of country-averages of various individual variables, such as perceptions, emotions, attitudes, traits, and beliefs, tell us about national cultural differences? I believe they tell us many things, yet we shall take them with reservations, counting on possible limitations. The average scores of individual variables at the country level can mask and even conceal the individual variety of people within a country.

Many cross-cultural studies tend to average the variables they collect from cultural samples in several countries and compare their statistical means. This way, they presumably compare cultural similarities and differences between countries. Do they? But what if a within-country variation is higher than a between-country variation?

Methodological Pitfalls of Cross-cultural Comparisons

According to some experts, individual variation in some attributes within a country can be significant, while certain categories of people between nations can be similar to each other (Minkov & Hofstede, 2012).

Research has demonstrated that within-country variations in studies often exceed between-country variations (Karandashev, 2021).

A meta-analysis of multiple cross-cultural studies comparing love emotions and love attitudes across countries, for example, revealed that cross-cultural differences are frequently minimal (if any), statistically significant in many cases, but practically too small to be meaningful and scientifically worthwhile (Karandashev, 2019).

So, a question arises: how informative for cross-cultural analysis is a comparison of the statistical means of individual variables between countries? Sometimes, these statistical measures can be mindless (Gigerenzer, 2004; 2018). The aggregation of individual variables for a country’s sample of participants should be done with care. It is important to avoid a methodological fallacy, which I call “the average body temperature of the patients in a hospital.” It appears that not all statistics in cross-cultural research are meaningful.

For example, such aggregation showed that participants from an American sample had a high average score on the personality trait of extraversion. Thus, the USA seems like an extraverted culture, despite the subcultural and individual variety of the American people. Many of them have introverted personalities.

Therefore, what is cultural and what is individual should not be confused in research. Extraversion and introversion are personality traits, not cultural ones. When we say things like “extraverted” Americans or “hot” Italians, we should keep in mind that these are metaphorical cultural stereotypes rather than literal implications.

Corrections for the statistical artefacts related to methods can be valuable for obtaining valid results in cross-cultural studies and avoiding cultural bias. A meta-analysis of 190 studies of emotions conducted from 1967 to 2000 showed that

“a correction for statistical artefacts and method-related factors reduced the observed cross-cultural effect sizes considerably.”

(Van Hemert, Poortinga, van de Vijver, 2007, p. 913)

Country-level and Individual-level Cross-cultural Comparisons

Some scholars advocate the use of multilevel analysis in cross-cultural studies. Such multilevel methodology requires researchers to examine cultural variables at both the individual and national levels as distinct but interacting variables (Fischer, & Poortinga, 2018; Smith, Fischer, Vignoles, & Bond, 2013; Van de Vijver, van Hemert, & Poortinga, 2008).

For example, it is inadequate to assume that all participants from the United States are individualistic because they live in an individualist country. Similarly, it is not adequate to think that all individuals from East Asian countries are “collectivistic” (Fischer & Poortinga, 2018). Their individualistic and collectivistic values and attitudes on an individual level can vary.

For example, such multilevel cross-cultural analysis can describe cultural factors with corresponding sets of variables (Karandashev, 2021):

  • at the country level, these can be power distance, individualism of society, relational mobility, or context differentiation.
  • at the individual level, these can be personality traits, intensity, prevalent emotional valence, expressivity, or idiocentrism (psychological variable of individualism).

Thus, it is important to differentiate between cultural and individual variables. We shall recognize what is cultural and what is individual in a culture and treat them separately in research, even though we shall acknowledge that culture affects individual differences among people. American culture can certainly determine the prevalence of extraverted or introverted personalities in a society by their selective promotion or another way.