How Japanese and Americans Sustain Love in Bicultural Marriages in Japan

Authors: Clifford H. Clarke and Naomi Takashiro

Intercultural lovers experience many challenges in attempts to build bicultural marriages. In this article, we consider the key issues that arise in the dozens of bicultural marriages we have known through observation of interactions and interviews in Japan. We clarify misinterpretations by use of kotowaza or proverbs and sayings that illuminate the values behind the cultural interactions. Understanding the deeper values leads to modified interpretations of each other’s behavior that become more isomorphic and mutually acceptable to partners committed to constructing together a successful Third-Culture Marriages.

A Third-Culture Marriage (TCM) builds upon earlier concepts of Ruth & John Useem’s (1967) Third-Culture Kid (TCK) and David Pollock’s (1999) Adult TCK.

What Is Third Culture Building Model?

Fred Casmir (1993, 1999) recognized the need for a building model or conceptual framework for individuals interacting across cultures for extended duration.  He developed the conceptual Third Culture Building Model (TCBM), which inspired Clarke & Takashiro (2019) to research and develop an applied process of communicating between Third-Cultural Marriage partners in Japan.

The Third-Cultural Marriage is defined by its process wherein two partners from different original cultures commit to a lifetime of utilizing periodic processes to investigate each other’s perceptions, values, and communication styles with approaches grounded in intercultural communication competencies. The goal of the Third-Cultural Marriage is to sustain commitment to the relationship in a way that demonstrates increasing mutual understanding, respect, appreciation, empathy, trust and love.

The Third-Culture Marriage interaction process they developed was built upon Barnlund’s (1976) holistic interpretation of intercultural communication processes and Ruben and Kealey’s (1979) augmented seven intercultural communication competencies.

In their recent chapter 51 in the International Handbook of Love, Clarke & Takashiro (2021)elaborated on the eight primary qualities summarized below.  These eight primary qualities below are not sequential steps of interaction processes but rather must be applied simultaneously with consistent awareness.

Here Are Eight Primary Qualities of the Third-Culture Marriage Interaction

  1. For Third-Cultural Marriage (TCM) creation, instead of trying to fit into others’ categories, construct together from your own experiences, with new definitions and communication scenarios, the intercultural interactions that are relevant to each partner. The ICC (Intercultural Communication Competencies) that are required is that of personalizing one’s perceptions, in other words, the ability to communicate one’s own values, beliefs, and assumptions as personal and not universally applicable and accept that personal preferences may need modification or to be changed altogether. This usually requires learning about oneself by analyzing how it impacts its new environment, the society and the marriage.
  2. TCM focuses on creating a process for communicating about any issues of your choice that you would like to create clarity around, such as making sense of each other’s attitude or approach to something or interpreting what each partner perceives as common sense in order to build common grounds. Develop mutual commitment to your communication process even as you make changes together along the way. It is this process that is your goal rather than building final unchangeable standards. The ICC skill for this process is being non-judgmental about whatever one hears from one’s partner, while seeking to understand and accept whatever that may be. 
  3. TCM is based on principles of fairness and democracy, focus on each other as equals and build an atmosphere of caring and respecting the other, avoiding confronting or trying to persuade each other. No one’s needs take priority over the other’s needs. An ICC for this quality is to communicate respect in a way that is acceptable to the other partner and that requires listening to the other’s preferred ways of receiving respect that generate happiness and self-esteem. 
  4. TCM requires a process that searches for new insights to oneself as well as the other’s including personal backgrounds, preferences, knowledge, and feelings. Think of this process as an exploration into the unknown of both parties and a negotiation that constructs shared experiences and new learnings. ICC that support this process are perseverance and patience because the end of the process never ends. For such sharing patience needs to be demonstrated and not only felt internally. Patience is required because exploring the culture that each partner brings to the relationship and then constructing together a new culture takes dedication and perseverance. 
  5. TCM processes are engaged with mutual enthusiasm and deliberateness. It requires conscious effort and discipline to establish structures, systems, artifacts, shared values, and styles of communicating that can enrich the quality of the couple’s lives together. Their process should be aimed at creating trust, respect, and meaningful interactions that both partners can understand, explain, and support. The ICC skill for this process is to show an ability to tolerate ambiguity when working together without demanding clarification or conformity to one’s own standard or common sense.
  6. TCM is grounded in proactive communication that avoids crises, conflicts, and problems because it takes a proactive problem-solving approach that can enable healthy interactions with modifications of external circumstances or ingrained cultural behaviors. The ICC skill for a proactive problem-solving approach is to display personal empathy for the partner when a situation seems to be creating a problem. The challenge is to learn how to exhibit empathy in the partner’s preferred way. That requires keen observation, trial and error, or inquiry in a way that shows appreciation for any answer. 
  7. TCM is strengthened by a striving for positive outcomes that will be beneficial and satisfactory to both partners for the present and into the future. It is designed to enable partners to build, create, and shift frameworks if needed by any situation but does not advocate any specific outcome as it is a process for constructing a new culture for a third culture marriage of partners from two different cultures. An ICC skill that suits this process is demonstrating role flexibility by the willingness to experience new roles within the marriage and the society, as an active learner eager to try new behaviors with the partner. 
  8. TCM definitely requires time because it is a communication process that serves to integrate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors from two cultures into one new culture. It requires of partners considerable reflection, exploration of new information, new standards or norms for the new culture.  Expanding one’s behavioral repertoire also requires practice with mutual support. The ICC skill needed for integrating diverse thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of the partners is a demonstration of perpetual reciprocal concern for each other. Concern for another is a feeling of compassion that is best communicated by action with or without words.

The foundational ICC that were mentioned in these eight steps are the authors’ modifications on Ruben & Kealey’s (1979) Intercultural Communication Competencies. (Refer to: Clarke & Takashiro, 2021)

We believe these pieces of advice and experiences about sustaining love and building bicultural marriages among partners in Japan will be helpful for partners living in bicultural marriages not only in Japan but also in other countries.

Authors: Clifford H. Clarke and Naomi Takashiro

What Was Special About French Women’s and Men’s Physicality?

Many people, and anthropologists in particular, are interested in learning whether the qualities of beauty are shared by all cultures or whether they are unique to particular countries. They focus on the people’s physical constitution, bodies, and faces. They examine the shape, color, physiognomy, expression, and expressiveness of faces. Additionally, they focus on the bodies’ shape, color, and expressiveness.

Some observations revealed differences in the natural personal beauty of people in European countries. Henry Finck referred to many authors of the 19th and previous centuries to characterize Italian, French, Spanish, and other European cultures.

In other articles, I summarized Henry Finck’s portrayals of personal beauty in Italian and French cultures.

Let us continue looking in more detail at what is special about French personal beauty as it was characterized in the 19th century.

French Women’s Beauty in Graceful and Charming Manners

As Henry Finck asserts, French women often lack natural beauty. After the adolescent years, women have a general tendency to either become too lean or too stout. It seems to be more noticeable in France than in other countries in Europe. As he continues, there is no doubt that French women of supreme beauty definitely exist in France. However, such cases are as scarce as “strawberries in December.”

Nevertheless, French women strive to compensate for their lack of grace in beauty with their good manners and fashion. French women are naturally bright and quick-witted. They endear grace with their charming manners. French women typically captivate with their delicate little ways and movements.

French girls know how to use their eyes to their advantage from a young age. A witty newspaper writer once remarked that French girls

“can say more with their shoulders than most girls can with their eyes; and when they talk with eyes, hands, shoulders, and tongue at once, it takes a man of talent to keep up.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 507).

French Men’s Constitutional Features

Men, meanwhile, are easy to recognize by their simians’ hairiness or their diminutive stature. Henry Finck, in particular, remarked on a difference in general manliness and stature between French and German or English soldiers. The English soldiers are superior to the French in terms of vitality and attractiveness. And it is more than “skin deep.” It appears to go all the way down to the chemical composition of their tissues.

French Professor Paul Topinard commented in his Anthropologie (1885) that he articulated in the early 1860s a fact that was generally supported by others, namely,

“that the mortality after capital operations in English hospitals was less by one-half than in the French. We attributed it to a better diet, to their better sanitary arrangements, and to their superior management. There was but one serious objection offered to our statement. M. Velapeau, with his wonderful acumen, made reply, at the Academy of Medicine, that the flesh of the English and of the French differed; in other words, that the reaction after operations was not the same in both races. It is, in effect, an anthropological character.”

(As cited in Henry Finck, 1887/2019, p. 508).

Different Love Styles in Cross-cultural Perspective

During the 1970s, Canadian sociologist John Alan Lee explored a number of different love styles that men and women practice in their romantic relationships (Lee, 1973, 1976). This theory and method have become significant contributions to the individual typology of love styles (Karandashev, 2022).

In the 1980s and 1990s, his theory of six different love styles became widely known among researchers who study love. Numerous researchers adopted this typology and examined many individual variables associated with these different love styles. Scientists also attempted to make cross-cultural comparisons of these different love styles (Karandashev, 2019).

Not many, however, were aware that John Lee theoretically justified the cultural ideologies of these different love styles. In the conclusion of his work, he suggested that cross-cultural replication of his method in a comparative perspective could yield interesting findings. Here is the summary of how Lee enlightened the cultural ideologies of different love styles.

Cultural Ideologies of Different Love Styles

Lee suggested that the preferred cultural patterns of behavior associated with different love styles may evolve over time as socially sanctioned systems of ideas. Such cultural ideologies could develop due to the influence of specific social institutions and philosophies. In certain historical periods, the social conditions and cultural ideologies of people’s lives can cause a specific love ideology (Lee, 1975).

Here are some examples.

The Roman Cultural Ideology of Love

The cultural ideology in the historical period of ancient Roman civilization was open and permissible to a variety of sexualities and love. The Roman culture was conducive to the art of love and seduction rather than to genuine love feelings. The cultural ideology of the time encouraged love more as a playful adventure and a game. The principles underlying entertainment, play, and games determined people’s experiences of love and expressions. (Meister, 1963; Ovid, 1939). This is why the Ludus love style was popular in the cultural climate of that time.

The Christian Cultural Ideology of Love

The Christian ideology that prevailed during the early centuries of the Christian era opposed the Ludus love ideology (cf. Nygren, 1952). Different from this, Christian religious teachings emphasized the importance of the Agape love philosophy. The Agape love cultural ideology served as the foundation for Christian conceptions of religious beliefs, practices, and marriages. According to this ideology, love should adhere to the ideals of selflessness, generosity, and concern for others.

The Feudal Cultural Ideology of Love

The feudal societies were highly structured and had a high-power distance between people of different social classes. People believed that the cultural ideology of hierarchical societies fits into the reality principle of life. Many traditional collectivistic societies have been organized this way.

This feudal cultural ideology developed into a pragmatic love ideology. The Pragma love style was well suited to that social organization. And the institution of arranged marriage became very common in these societies.

The Cultural Ideology of Courtly Love

Since the 12th century, a cultural ideology of courtly love has evolved in several European societies. The adventurous pleasure principle of this love style opposed the Christian ideology of the Agape love style as duty love. It also opposed the Feudal ideology of the Pragma style of love and arranged marriage.

The social conditions of life among medieval knights and aristocracy in the south of France, Spain, Italy, and Germany were well suited to the new adventurous style of love relationships. In the centuries that followed, it developed further into what we now know as romantic love or Mania love style.

Thus, we can see that the cultural and intellectual atmosphere of certain epochs has been more favorable to one of them than to another. Throughout history, various cultures have promoted certain ideologies of love as the ideal model.

The Individual Variation of Love Styles in a Culture

In any historical or modern culture, men and women vary in their typological differences and in the personal experience of relationships they have. Therefore, each of these different love styles has existed in all historical eras. And each of these different love styles is present in a wide variety of modern cultures.

The way a person loves and the things that come with it may depend on their personality, the personality of their partner, and their relationships. The person can act in ways that are typical of different love styles in different situations and contexts of their life. She or he can change their love style in the different stages of their relationship. For example, Mania and Eros love styles tend to be more common among young men and women, while Storge love styles tend to show up later in a relationship (Karandashev, 2019).

Prospective Use of Lee’s Method in Other Cultures

The same research methodology that Lee developed could be applied to other cultures (1975). However, as far as I’m aware, no other cultural studies of this kind have been conducted.

For many years, cross-cultural studies on love styles in other cultural samples have focused on cultural differences in love attitudes (see Karandashev, 2019 for a review). In the context of Lee’s theory and method, the concept of love styles differs from the concept of love attitudes (1973, 1976, 1977).

The love attitude is only one component of the love style, yet it is an important one. Different love styles are multifaceted and complex emotional experiences, expressions, actions, and relationships.

Surprising Findings on How Religions Affect the Expression of Emotions

Religious teachings give their followers lessons about the world, life, the mind, emotions, and behaviors. Among other important things in human life, religions teach believers the proper ways to experience and express emotions (for a review, see Karandashev, 2021a). In another article, I talked about emotional experiences. Here I’ll talk about expressions of emotions in accordance with religious cultural lessons.

As I commented elsewhere, many religious cultures teach people moderation in emotional experiences and expressions. The question remains how believers do this. Do they suppress their emotions?

Religious Cultures of Emotional Moderation

Many religious cultures believe that very strong positive and negative emotions are distracting to people and their behaviors. They especially discourage the expression of socially disruptive emotions. This is why many religions teach emotional moderation.

Religions offer spiritual justifications and techniques for coping with the disruptive nature of emotions such as guilt, despair, and anger. For example, Christian and Jewish teachings have been around for a long time telling people how to control bad feelings like anger, pride, and envy (Schimmel, 1997).

Suppression of Emotions and Sublimation in Religion

According to classical Freudian psychoanalysis, religions teach them to suppress their emotions. Religious sublimation is a defense mechanism when a person re-channels his or her unacceptable emotional urges, transforming them into productive aspirations and divine religious beliefs. Researchers looked at how people’s suppression of anger may affect the sublimation of their emotions in experimental situations (Kim, Zeppenfeld, & Cohen, 2013; Tsai & Clobert, 2019). I just want to remind readers that sublimation is a psychological defense mechanism when a person unconsciously suppresses their socially unacceptable desires, transforming their energy into socially acceptable actions or creative behaviors.

Studies of Sublimation among Christian People

For example, Kim and co-authors conducted an original experimental study, inducing in participants certain kinds of suppressed emotional experiences and measuring their creativity in the following tasks they needed to perform.

To induce the emotional experiences, they asked Protestants, Catholics, and Jewish people to relive their past emotional experiences by thinking about certain emotional events in their lives. Specifically, researchers asked participants of these three kinds of religious beliefs to experience (1) an anger-provoking incident by suppressing their thinking about it; (2) an anger-provoking incident by suppressing thinking about a neutral topic; or (3) recall a neutral event and suppress thinking about a neutral topic (Kim, Zeppenfeld, & Cohen, 2013).

Then, researchers gave those Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant participants creative assignments, such as making a sculpture, creating captions for cartoons, or making a collage. They were interested in knowing how different types of emotional suppression affect the participants’ sublimation expressed in their creativity. Expert judges of the creative assignments assessed the productivity of completed products such as sculptures, collages, or captions for cartoons.

The results of this experimental study demonstrated that emotional suppression affected the creativity of participants in certain conditions, thus demonstrating a sublimation effect. However, the specific effects and creativity of the products that people completed under suppressed emotions varied across religious denominations. The suppression of anger had little effect on creativity among Jewish and Catholic participants. Yet, the suppression of an anger-provoking emotional experience among Protestants motivated more creative and angry products of art. Thus, the effects of sublimation by emotional suppression were partially established but to a different extent by religious denomination.

The Role of Religious Values in the Suppression of Emotions among Religious People

It is widely known that Christian and Islamic beliefs affect experiences and expressions of emotions differently. Muslims tend to be more reserved and suppressed in their emotions compared to Christians. For instance, it was a cultural premise that “countries with more Protestants show lower levels of positive emotions” (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.918). Another cultural assumption was that “countries with a higher percentage of Muslims show lower levels of general emotional expression” (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.918).

However, empirical studies found no support for these cultural beliefs associated with different religious groups. They showed different cultural tendencies (e.g., van Hemert et al., 2007; Veenhoven, 1994). Contrary to theoretical expectations, a meta-analysis of many cross-cultural studies discovered that people in countries with a higher proportion of Protestants report more positive emotions (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.918). Also, contrary to the researchers’ expectations, meta-analysis found that people in countries with a higher or lower percentage of Muslims do not significantly differ in emotional expressivity (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.918).

Higher orthodoxy in religion also makes many people reserved and suppressed in their expressions of emotions. Several studies have shown the importance of religious values in emotional experience and expression (Karandashev, 2021a). However, the meta-analysis of many cross-cultural studies did not support the hypothetical expectation that “countries with higher levels of religiosity may be more restrictive in their expression of emotions” (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.918). Contrary to some previous opinions, the findings of meta-analysis demonstrated that “expression of emotions and particularly positive emotions, was higher in more religious countries” (van Hemert et al., 2007, p.933). Based on these controversial results, more studies are needed to investigate the effect of religions on emotional expressivity of people.

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.

Unexpected Conceptual Challenges in Cultural Studies of Religions

Cultural studies of religions encounter the problems of cross-cultural comparability and generalizability, which need to be resolved for further scientific progress in this field (Karandashev, 2021a; Karandashev et al., 2022; Fischer, 2022). Culture matters when we study behavioral and social phenomena in different populations and religious contexts. The lead article by Ronald Fischer (2022) in the recent issue of the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior is very valuable in this respect. In that article, the author presents personal reflections of the study that their team reported on their exploratory journey. Here I summarize one of the two points on which his commentary “Cultural lessons missed and learnt about religion and culture” focuses. It is about “how important cultural context is for thinking about religion, morality, and evolution and researching them.”

The Best Way to Explore Religions in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

The research team intended to explore the universality and evolutionary salient dynamics. Therefore, they considered cultural dynamics all the way, including the specification of key variables, operationalization of variables, the measurement context, and the interpretation of the results. Researchers developed effective translation options (Harkness et al., 2003). They also made checklists for researchers to use (Hambleton & Zenisky, 2010; Harkness et al., 2003, 2010; Hernández et al., 2020).

There are two groups of methodological issues which Ronald Fischer (2022) addresses in his lead article:

The first set of questions concerns the issues of conceptual equivalency and cross-cultural universality of the concepts under study, the selection of key variables, their conceptual definitions, and the operationalization of those variables. These questions are summarized in this article.

The second set of questions concerns the issues of technical procedures of measurement, cultural contexts of measurement, measurement invariance across cultural samples, cultural biases in measurements, and culturally sensitive interpretation of results. These questions are summarized in another article.

Conceptual Problems in Cross-Cultural Studies of Religions and Their Solutions

The author (Fischer, 2022) illustrates some conceptual questions with concrete examples. They are mainly taken from Afro-Brazilian Candomblé, one of the field sites. The religious landscape project began with 20 community members being interviewed and asked to name five gods or spirits. The prominence of these gods or spirits in people’s lives was ranked. In an environment with a single deity or a list of widely known gods or spirits, it may be easy to answer these questions and discuss them with strangers. It was a different social situation in the case of that study due to cultural circumstances that:

  • these are the religious systems in which gods or spirits are individualized: each person has a guardian spirit,
  • religious information may not be given to non-initiates,
  • spirits may not be identified, or
  • the prominence of a god or spirit depends on the topic or occasion.

The Cultural Case of Candomblé Religion in Brazil

The religion of Candomblé is a fascinating case study because a person is a “filho/a de santo,” that is, the “son” or “daughter” of a particular “orixá” (ancestor figure). Hence, a person has a highly intimate bond with a potent ancestor spirit. Individuals who have not reached the same level of initiation should not be given specific information about what these orixás may or may not do. It’s important to know that there are different kinds of Candomblé, each with its own rules and taboos.

Given individualized relationships on the one hand and what a respondent may or may not be able or permitted to say with non-religious outsiders, researchers encounter a challenge. They may or may not obtain a consensus by interviewing 20 individuals. These people may hesitate, considering how acceptable it is to disclose one’s personal gods to an outsider. The question of insider vs. outsider knowledge is central to traditional indigenous research procedures such as pagtatanong-tanong in the Philippines (Pe-Pua, 1989) and in other cultural cases.

Researchers should take this personalized status as crucial in light of one of the key distinctions: “What is an omniscient or punitive god?” (Fischer, 2022, p. 214). Depending on which orixá and the relationship of the believer to that orixá, an orixá may be both or either. This distinction may not make sense to participants when viewed:

  • through a functional lens: “Does the concept or idea make “sense” within the local cultural context?”
  • through a structural equivalence lens: “What are appropriate empirical instantiations of the concept or idea?” (Fischer & Poortinga, 2018; Fontaine, 2005; van de Vijver & Leung, 1997).

The question remains whether these issues communicate this confusion to an outsider. Maybe yes, but maybe not.

Two African Societies with Matriarchal Cultures

Traditional patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout the world for many centuries, are known to many of us. In a patriarchal society, the father is the main owner of a property and the head of a household. Because of this, he is viewed as the leader of a family, along with corresponding male-dominated cultural norms. I explained how a typical patriarchal culture runs elsewhere.

What Do We Know About Matriarchal Cultures?

One may believe that it is the only possible way of social organization and family structure that men are predisposed to be in a dominant position. However, it is not true. Over human history, many societies in the world were matriarchal. Some of them are still ruled this way. Matriarchal societies have different cultural systems of gender relations. In a matriarchal society, the mother is the person in charge of the household and the head of the family. I explained how a typical matriarchal culture runs elsewhere. In another article, I presented three matriarchal cultures of today in Asian societies. Sarah Madaus, an editorial fellow at Town & Country, gave a brief description of a few matriarchal cultures around the world.

Let us consider the examples of the Akan people in West Africa and the Umoja community in East Africa, which, like several other African tribes, have matriarchal cultures.

The Akan Matriarchal Culture of West Africa

The Akan people of West Africa are the largest ethnic group in Ghana. Their social organization is matrilineal. The Akan live in matriclans. The term “matrilineal” refers to kinship that is passed down through the maternal line.

The Akan people have a matrilineal system of inheritance. This social system of tribal organization is based on the Akan traditional cultural beliefs. According to them, a child is related to the mother by blood and related to the father by spirit. Therefore, in the family relations between the mother, the child, and the father, the father is the stranger and outsider.

The matriclan is the central pillar upon which the Akan people have constructed their social order. Matriclan was founded by women, as one can imagine from the name of this social unit. Their politics, money, wealth, inheritance, identity, and major decisions are all discussed within the matriclan.

It is important to note, however, that within the Akan matriclan, men do in fact hold positions of authority and leadership in some issues of social life. Nevertheless, women are in queen mother roles among the Akan people in Ghana.

The Umoja Matriarchal Culture of East Africa

The Umoja tribal community is a recent development of matriarchal culture. The matriarchal community of Umoja village is located in Kenya, a country in East Africa. It is a modern, all-female matriarchal village that was established in the early 1990s as a sanctuary to shelter homeless female survivors of violence against women and young girls running from forced marriages. The name of Umoja is derived from the Swahili word for “unity.”

Women who have been victims of sexual or other forms of gender-based abuse call this village their home. Men are not allowed to live there. Therefore, the Umoja tribe is a genuine “no man’s land.” Men are allowed to visit the village but not to live there. Only men who were raised in Umoja as children are permitted to sleep in the village. Women, children, and older people living in the community give tours to visitors and spread awareness of the villagers’ human rights.

Three Surprisingly Unusual Matriarchal Cultures in Asia

Many of us are familiar with traditional patriarchal societies that are widespread across the world. In patriarchy, the father is both the home and family head in many respects.

Can a matriarchal culture of gender relations be possible and viable? In a matriarchal system, the mother is the head of the home and family. Some matriarchal communities are successful worldwide.

Is Patriarchy the Only Possible Type of Culture?

Many of us know about patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout history in many traditional societies of the past. In a patriarchal system, the father is the head of the household and family. In a patriarchy, the father holds the position of authority within the family and is in power. Over the course of history, cultures around the world began to adopt a more patriarchal framework, which is prevalent in most traditional societies and communities. That social system entails many consequences for gender inequality and corresponding stereotypical gender roles. Cultural norms and customs favor men, who have higher status in gender relationships. Women in such patriarchal societies presumably have lower status and lower rights in family relationships. Women are respected and admired mostly for being able to bear and raise children.

What Is a Matriarchal Culture?

A matriarchal system, on the other hand, is a social system in which the mother is the head of the household. Some of these societies with matriarchal cultures of social relationships have been successful across the world. These matriarchal communities have managed to survive to the present day. In these societies, women are the most important guiding force in politics and the economy, as well as in all other areas.

Let us look at some of them, which the editorial fellow at Town & Country, Sarah Madaus, briefly described. Let us learn about how these cultural communities have deviated from the western-patriarchal cultures. Within these communities, located in different parts of the world, women are in charge of everything, including the political system, the economy, and the larger social structure. This article focuses on three cultural groups in Asia.

The Minangkabau people of Indonesia

The Minangkabau people, commonly referred to as Minang, are an ethnic group that lives in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangs are the largest matrilineal culture in the world. It has a complex social system built on matrilineal clans and property passed down through female lineage, including land and homes.

The cultural beliefs of Minangs are that the mother is the most important person in society. Women in their society rule the domestic sphere. In Minangkabau society, marriage is permitted, but partners must have separate sleeping quarters.

The Khasi people of India

The Khasi people are an ethnic group native to Meghalaya in north-eastern India. Even though most Khasis live in Meghalaya, a large population of Khasis also reside in the neighboring state of Assam and certain regions of Bangladesh.

In the hilly Indian state of Meghalaya, property names and wealth are passed down from mother to daughter instead of from father to son. This is because in Meghalaya, the Khasi people have a matrilineal system of inheritance in their communities.

In this particular system, lineage and descent are determined by the clan that one’s mother belongs to. When women marry within the Khasi tribe, their surname is passed down rather than their husbands’.

The Khasi family is referred to as a “ling.” A ling commonly includes a mother, her husband, her unmarried sons, her married daughters, their spouses, and their offspring. In matrilineal families, such as those of the Khasis, the husbands visit their wives. Only mothers and mothers-in-law are permitted to care for children. Men are usually not permitted to attend family gatherings.

The Mosuo people of China

The Mosuo people are a small ethnic group that lives in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China. They are also known as the Naxi amongst themselves. Geographically, they reside close to the border with Tibet. They adhere to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Mosuo people have a system of matriarchy in their society. The family lineage is determined by the women of the family. Their society is matrilineal, which means that ownership of property is passed down the same line of female ancestors. The mother has the primary role in raising the children in the family.

The Mosuo live in a surprisingly modern way. In many regards, women are equal to men. In other gender relationships, women are superior to men. Both women and men can have as many or as few sexual partners as they want without judgement. Extended families raise children and care for the elderly. Mosuo men build houses. They are responsible for livestock and fishing. They also assist in the upbringing of their sisters’ and female cousins’ children.

Several Fascinating Facts about Emotional Experiences in Religious Cultures

Religious cultures teach their followers about various aspects of the world and life. Religious teachings also educate people about the human mind, emotions, and behavior, among other important things in their lives.

So, believers’ emotional experiences, expressions, and even their overall emotional well-being have always been heavily influenced by the religious cultures and communities in which they were raised and lived (e.g., Saroglou, 2010; 2011; Tsai et al., 2013; for a review, see Karandashev, 2021a).

Desirable and Undesirable Emotions in Religious Cultures

Cross-cultural researchers explored the desirability of happiness, pride, love, gratitude, and jealousy; and sadness, shame, guilt, and anger. Some emotions are of special interest to us in this context. Researchers discovered that Christians more often than Buddhists and Muslims prefer to experience love ideally. At the same time, Christians tend to experience love in real life more frequently than people of the other two religious groups.

On the other hand, Muslims tend to consider sadness and shame more normative in daily life compared to Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus. Muslims also tend to experience these two emotions more frequently in their real lives than Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus.

Another interesting finding is that Buddhists experience fewer dips or peaks in any emotion in comparison with the emotional experiences of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. Buddhism teaches people that life is full of suffering, sorrow, and grief. And to achieve the state of “enlightenment” is the best way to end this suffering in our daily lives (Kim-Prieto & Diener, 2009; Smith, 1991).

What Religion Tells Us About Gratitude in Life

According to many religious cultural norms and practices, experiences and expressions of gratitude are possibly the most valuable elements of a person’s daily emotional life.

A cross-cultural study found that religious people tend to have a grateful attitude in their lives. This is how they perceive themselves and how their peers perceive them. Religiously spiritual people feel more thankful in their daily dispositions and moods than others.

For instance, Christians believe that expressions of thankful joy, gratitude, and love toward God are indications of people’s sincere emotional experiences. (McCullough, Emmons, & Tsang, 2002; McCullough et al., 2002). From a small study of Catholic priests and nuns, it was found that gratitude and love are the two feelings that people have toward God the most (Samuels & Lester, 1985).

The religious cultures of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam also greatly praise the values of emotional gratitude. For them, it is among the important and desired emotional attitudes for people to live a good life (Emmons & Crumpler, 2000; Kim-Prieto & Diener, 2009).

What Religion Tells Us About Forgiveness in Life

Religious culture also teaches people about other desirable prosocial emotions. For example, people who are religious place a higher value on being forgiving than people who are not religious (Rokeach, 1973). It is important for us to keep in mind that the concept of forgiveness might have different connotations depending on the religious culture (Cohen et al., 2006).

What Religion Tells Us about Values of Negative and Positive Emotions in Life

Cultural attitudes toward experience and expression of guilt and anxiety vary within Christianity. It would appear that those who adhere to Catholicism are more motivated by emotions of guilt and anxiety than those who follow Protestantism (Hutchin­son, Patock-Peckham, Cheong, & Nagoshi, 1998).

When compared to Catholics in Europe, Protestants in the United States of America have more emotionally positive personality traits, such as high extraversion and low neuroticism. They feel less discomfort encountering new challenges, and they are more open to new experiences in their lives. This is in contrast to Catholics in Europe (Saroglou, 2010).

Here are the three summaries of other interesting findings: Dispositional attributions are more common among Protestants than Catholics in situations they encounter and emotions they experience. They are more likely to attribute their experiences to their own internal and personal qualities than to external circumstances (Li et al., 2012). This can explain why, in the case of marital divorce, Protestants experience fewer and less extensive negative emotional effects than Catholics (Clark & Lelkes, 2005).

Protestants in Germany experience deeper and more frequent trust in other people in various circumstances of life than Catholics. And both Protestants and Catholics have more trust in others than non-religious people (Traunmiiller, 2011). Christians and Buddhists are similar in some respects, while they are different in others. People who identify themselves with Christian or Buddhist religious culture value the positive emotions of low arousal and intensity. In addition, there are some religious and cultural differences. Christians are more inclined than Buddhists to support high-arousal positive states. Christians are also less likely than Buddhists to support low arousal positive states (Tsai, Miao, Seppala, 2007).

What Do Religious Cultures Teach Us About Emotions?

Religious and cultural traditions have a big impact on how people experience and express emotions in their lives. Religions teach them what feelings are moral, good, and desirable and what actions are right, ethical, and appropriate in specific situations and contexts. Religions also teach them what feelings and actions are bad, undesirable, immoral, sinful, and should be avoided (Karandashev, 2021).

Religions not only tell us which emotions are appropriate, but also which are preferable. Religions advise people how intense feelings should be and teach how a person can cultivate intense positive emotions while regulating negative emotions.

Researchers elucidated the diversity in religious teachings about emotions. They show how cultural aspects of different religions impact people’s emotional lives (e.g., Koopmann-Holm, 2013; Silberman, 2003).

Love, in a variety of its meanings and types, is a central tenet of many religious beliefs. Therefore, religions teach people how to experience and express love, admiration, and gratitude (Karandashev, 2021a).

Conservative Religious Values of Positive and Negative Emotions

In general, people prefer to experience positive emotions. On the other hand, they wish to avoid negative emotions. Between these two opposite desires, they tend to prefer to avoid negative feelings more than to experience positive feelings. Religions and cultures have different ideas about what is normative and good about pursuing or avoiding certain desires and feelings. Religions usually follow their cultural traditions of emotional life over the centuries. Many are conservative and advocate moderation in the pursuit of pleasure, novelty, and excitement. For instance, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Greek Orthodox, and Muslims discourage their religious followers from experiencing the emotions and motivations associated with pursuing change, novelty, and excessive pleasure in life. The religious teachings of Dutch Roman Catholics, Dutch Protestants, and Israeli Jews advise more traditional, reserved motivation and discourage hedonistic motivation.

Cultural Variations in Religious Teachings about Emotions  

There is still some difference between religious cultures. For example, lexical content analyses of Christian and Buddhist classical texts showed that Christian teachings are more likely than Buddhist teachings to encourage positive states of high arousal.

Some cultural variability is still evident. In North America, where most people are Christian, and East Asia, where most people are Buddhist, the importance of happy feelings with high and low levels of arousal is different.

According to lexical content analyses, Christian texts more frequently than Buddhist classical texts praise high arousal positive states. The ancient basic texts of the two religions show that in the Gospels in Christianity and the Lotus Sutra in Buddhism, “high-arousal positive emotions, such as excitement, are valued more, whereas low-arousal positive emotions, such as calm, are valued less in Christianity than in Buddhism.” (Tsai et al., 2006).

These differences are consistent with the findings of empirical studies about ideal affective states in both Christianity and Buddhism. When researchers compared the ideal affect of Christian and Buddhist practitioners, they discovered that Christian and Buddhist texts and practices have a significant influence on their ideal affect. The findings of the studies showed that Christian practitioners place a higher value on high-arousal positive affective states and a lower value on low-arousal positive affective states in comparison with Buddhist practitioners (Tsai, Miao, & Seppala, 2007).

Cross-National Variation in Religious Emotional Experiences

Emotional cultural norms vary across national cultures, even within the same religion. For instance, Muslim people in the countries of Egypt and Bali have different dispositions toward experience and the expression of emotions. Egyptians regard emotional expressions as a cultural norm that is essential for good health. The Balinese believe that showing emotions is a threat to others and to themselves because it makes it hard to make rational decisions. Emotional reactions to death also differ between these two national cultures. People in Bali react calmly to the death of a child, whereas people in Egypt react with intense emotional reactions (Wikan, 1988).