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Comparing Cultures

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Culture is an important aspect of study in the world today. Culture defines who you are and where you are from. It is important to learn about the culture of different backgrounds, so you can understand why different people act the way they do. Intelligence is a major factor that is directly related to an individual's culture and environment. Psychology also plays an important role in culture. Comparing and contrasting an American Culture from a Sierra Leonean culture, which is a very small country in West Africa will clear up a lot of stereotypical ideas that people believe in.

Compare and Contrast Your Cultural Background and Another Cultural Background

The culture that I will be comparing in the American Culture, where I currently reside, and the Sierra Leonean culture where I am originally from. Sierra Leone is a very small country in the continent of West Africa. The area of the United States is America is 9,372,610 sq km while the area of Sierra Leone is 72, 325 sq. km., which is slightly smaller than one of the 50 states in America named South Carolina. The population is America is 296,000,000 people, which happens to be the third populated country in the world, while Sierra Leone is only 4,000,000 people. The percentage of literate people in America is about 97% while in Sierra Leone it is only about 21%. This just to say how underdeveloped Sierra Leone is. Also, the life expectancy in Sierra Leone is 42 years, and in the United States, it is about 75 years. (Hall, 2005)

Culture may be defined as a set of attitudes, behaviors and symbols shared by a large group of people and usually communicated from one generation to the next. (Shiraev & Levi, 2004 p. 4). These are two different countries with very different cultures. European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1652, the first slaves in North America were brought from Sierra Leone to the Sea Islands off the coast of the southern United States. During the 1700s there was a thriving trade bringing slaves from Sierra Leone to the plantations of South Carolina and Georgia where their rice-farming skills made them particularly valuable. In 1787 the British helped 400 freed slaves from the United States, Nova Scotia, and Great Britain return to Sierra Leone to settle in what they called the "Province of Freedom." Disease and hostility from the indigenous people nearly eliminated the first group of returnees. This settlement was joined by other groups of freed slaves and soon became known as Freetown. In 1792, Freetown became one of Britain's first colonies in West Africa. Thousands of slaves were returned to or liberated in Freetown. Most chose to remain in Sierra Leone. These returned Africans or Creole's as they came to be called were from all areas of Africa. Cut off from their homes and traditions by the experience of slavery, they assimilated some aspects of British styles of life and built a flourishing trade on the West African coast. In the early 19th century, Freetown served as the residence of the British governor who also ruled the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and the Gambia settlements. Sierra Leone served as the educational center of British West Africa as well (Ferme, 2001). Fourah Bay College, established in 1827, rapidly became a magnet for English-speaking Africans on the West Coast. For more than a century, it was the only European-style University in western Sub-Saharan Africa. This affected both cultures because when the American slaves returned to Sierra Leone, they isolated themselves, from the other people, and this started Tribalism. The slaves claimed that they brought education to Sierra Leone, and the called themselves Creoles to be different.

There are many stereotypical ideas that each culture has for each other. Stereotype may be defined as categorical assumptions that all members of a given group have a particular trait. Stereotypes could be positive or negative, simple or differentiated, and held with or without confidence (Shiraev, 2004 p. 288). It is the general notion that most Americans think of Sierra Leone as an impoverished place where people live in huts and have no means of transportation, everyone walks around to their destinations, and are surrounded by wild animals (Hall, 2005). They also think there is little or no education in Sierra Leone and we cannot speak English, also people walk around with no shoes on, and they are very poor, while Sierra Leoneans think that America is the land of milk and honey. They think that no poverty exists here. They also think that there are no beggars on the streets, and no homeless people living in America. Everyone is rich just because they live in America, they also believe that there is a very little no crime rate. Most of these stereotypes are wrong. In Sierra Leone, the official language is English, although there might be an accent different from the American English. They also live in houses, and drive the same cars like the Americans. The animals live in the bush just like America. Sierra Leone is a very rich country because it is blessed with minerals such as Diamonds and Gold, but it is a very under developed 3rd world country( Morgan-Conteh, 1999). In America, it is surely the land of opportunities, if you work hard to make use if it. Also, poverty and crime rate exists a lot. They are also a lot homeless people living in America. I believe that as individuals of this world today, it is beneficial that we study the history and culture of different nations before making a stereotypical judgment.

From a psychological perspective, social issues have played an inportant role by inpacting serious issues, and trouble that will ever remain in their history. In Sierra Leone, because of polital issues, and tribalism, also because of greed, a war started that was formed by The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) was a rebel army that fought a failed ten-year insurrection in Sierra Leone, starting in 1991 and ending in 2002. The war is estimated to have cost the lives of between 50,000 and 200,000 people led by Foday Sankoh, the RUF developed a reputation for enormous cruelty during its decade-long struggle( Morgan-Conteh, 1999). The RUF made extensive use of child soldiers, using horrific methods to numb their new recruits to barbarity. Thousands of abducted boys and girls were forced to serve as soldiers or as prostitutes, and those chosen to be fighters were sometimes forced to murder their parents(Morgan-Conteh, 1999). Guerillas frequently carved the initials "RUF" on their chests,



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