Cultural Codes are things we don’t think much about as youngsters. We just obey them as we live our lives. The rules that govern our lives are different at different life stages. Pre-school children are treated differently, and not given the same responsibilities, as high school students. College students are not governed by the same Cultural Codes as married people with families. Elders are not treated the same as those who are embarking on their career track. All of these age groups rely on Cultural Codes for correct behaviors.
I have never thought much about Cultural Codes and how they affect my own life, until I read a recent New York Times article by Tanzina Vega about aging Asian-Americans. Immigrants who come to the United States, from their native homelands, seeking citizenship and better opportunities are finding that they may have to compromise their own ancient Cultural Codes, which simply do not apply in America’s multi-cultural, and multi-linguistic society.
As Parents Age, Asian-Americans Struggle to Obey a Cultural Code, this was the headline for the article about how Asian culture dictates that children must take care of their parents when they cannot care for themselves in old age. It is an accepted fact that older Asians, “don’t want nursing home.”
Asians are not the only ones facing the struggle to obey similar Cultural Codes. Latinos, Pacific Islanders, and others are also confronting this dilemma in the United States, where nursing homes seem to be the norm.
However, even in America it has not always been the norm. My own grandmother was cared for by her children and it was not a decision made by any of them, It was, indeed, the cultural norm to care for her and not to send her to live virtually alone in an “old folks” home.
There are many Cultural Codes today that are changing, perhaps as we speak. Nudity and profane language is acceptable in most media genres; and elderly people are considered burdens, rather than treasure troves of wisdom.
As we study and discuss culture on this site, Cultural Codes will be examined to see if they are still viable and if they will survive globalization’s processes. Explore More! in Cultural Anthropology, and learn about the Global Villages, where Culture Codes are still in place in many regions.
It is up to young people to decide which Cultural Codes are worth struggling to obey, and which will fall by the wayside-either for good or bad.