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Understanding Other Cultures: Part 1

Group of hunter-gatherers sitting in a semicircle

Other cultures think about things differently and live their lives differently. Sometimes, the way other cultures do things might seem strange to you. It’s important to remember that there is more than one way of doing things.

For example, say you are learning about a foraging society in the African desert. A foraging society means a society that hunts meat and gathers plants for their food. They don’t wear much clothing and have only a few belongings, and there is no technology that we have, like computers or television. And, they live in temporary shelters instead of houses. That lifestyle may seem strange to you.

But think about what would happen if YOU went to live in the African desert. You wouldn’t be able to grow crops or herd animals for food, because it’s a desert. You’d be in the middle of nowhere, so working at a job to get money to buy food is not an option, either. There are no companies to work for, and no grocery stores to buy things. You would need to hunt for meat, and gather wild plants so that you could eat. You’d also need to locate a source of fresh water to drink.  

Other Cultures. Image of Bushmen people sitting around together.

All this having to get food and water would involve a lot of moving around in the desert, so it would be hard to keep a lot of stuff with you. So you’d only have a few belongings. Then, with the extreme heat, it might be easier to wear very little clothing, to help you stay cooler. Doing laundry would also be a problem, so you’d probably have only an outfit or two, not a closet full of clothes. And since you are moving all the time, to follow the sources of food and water, it wouldn’t make sense to build a permanent house made of brick or concrete or whatever. It would work out better to build a more temporary shelter. 

So, you can see how the way the foraging people live makes sense in their environment. So maybe their lifestyle is not so strange, after all. You just have to look at the whole situation.

Don’t miss the next blog post, where I will write about how Anthropologists understand other cultures!

Thanks for reading!

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