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Thoughts on Culture: Similarities and Differences

Cheryl's Musings: Thoughts on Culture: Similarities and Differences

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Thoughts on Culture: Similarities and Differences

Culture: "the characteristic features of everyday existence... shared by people in a place or time" (from Merriam-Webster Online.)

One of the things we do, as children's writers, is help kids connect with people from other cultures. But how? Here are some of the similarities and differences you might consider in other cultures:

  1. Children's games: Children in Peru play with dolls and toy cars, chase each other through the market, and talk to their stuffed animals, just as they do in the U.S. And yet, I bet they have some games new to the average gringo. Games make great articles!

  2. Children's behavior: On a hot day, a ten-year-old hides a water balloon behind his back to sabotage a friend--just like one of the kids on my block. A 2-year-old drags at his mother's hand in universal 2-year-old language. But I also saw something new: kids having a shaving cream battle.

  3. Family fun: Preschoolers and their mothers feed crackers to the geese and fish, just like I used to do with my youngest. Friends laugh over cold drinks--although the drinks are more likely to be Inca Cola (above) than Coke.

  4. Daily life: In Lima, elementary-aged children walk between cars stopped at a traffic signal, juggling tennis balls or selling pins or simply asking for coins. In Cuzco, Chechuan children earn money by posing for tourists' photos. In the U.S., brothers fiddle together on the downtown mall, collecting dollars in their cases. Similar. Different.

  5. Transportation: In Cuzco, few people own cars. Instead, they ride public "combi" routes with names like Batman and Robin, or take one of the ever-present taxis. Cars are expensive; but public transport is inexpensive and readily available.

When we weave details of culture into our stories--whether cultural similarities or cultural differences--we celebrate the humankind in its many forms. And, on a practical level, the details make for richer, more believable writing. What things do you take for granted in your own culture? Take notice. And then write.

:) Cheryl

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