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Challenges and Benefits of Cultural Relativism

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What I see as a perfectly normal thing to do could be absolutely appalling to someone who was raised in another culture. As an example, I work at a US retail store that gets visitors from around the world, many of which are from Brazil. There are times when I am having a conversation with a customer and a Brazilian traveler will interrupt our conversation and demand help from me despite me helping another customer. The first couple times this happened I thought they were just rude people but after witnessing this several times I realized that this must be a normal part of their culture. This is an action that is so appalling to US citizens but is totally normal to those in other areas just because this is what we were brought up around. 

Cultural relativism takes note that different cultures have different morals that they live by, that something that is seen as normal in one society might be repulsive to those in another society. Since there is not a universally agreed upon “right or wrong” then we cannot say that one culture is wrong simply because they have different moral. When compared to other ethical standards we can see that cultural relativism emphasizes what is right or wrong based on the societal norms someone is used to. This can lead to negative consequences if someone is visiting an area where they are not familiar with the societal norms. The process of bribery in Mexico City is effectively a more efficient method of paying a traffic violation when compared to other nations. The ethical justification is that this is a societal norm and that it is seen as an ok thing to do by most of those in that culture. Here in the US if someone bribed a police officer I believe that they can be apprehended for the action, I believe this can happen at the mere mention of the idea. I don’t see a way that a bride could be seen as ethical in the US. 

Cultural relativism is a complicated way to live life especially in a world where we as people are so blended together in. Cultural relativism might be fine if people remained in the societies that they grew up in and are used to but the fact is that many people enjoy traveling which causes different societal norms to interact with and conflict with each other. This can cause some negative interactions between those that do not understand each other’s cultural differences. I think that we should be aware that other cultures have different societal norms but I believe that there should be a more universal ethical code to live by. Most people are not going to forgive an action that they see as repulsive because that is what they are used to and we should be aware that, unfortunately, most people are not going to go out of their way to understand cultural differences.

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