On the Street of the Knife Makers, Istaravshan, Tajikistan

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The windows are always closed on the public mini-buses in Yerevan, Armenia. Those windows stay closed even though it may be 115 degrees inside and a beautiful 80 degrees outside. This is a part of the culture in the Republic of Armenia.

There’s a valid reason for this behavior. The air quality in the Yerevan valley during the summer months is very polluted. Respiratory infections are common. Residents are far more likely to become seriously sick if this air is blowing on them.

Every type of behavior we attribute to the general term “culture” has a valid reason for existing. The people may no longer know the reasons behind most of what they do, but they innately trust that it’s for their benefit. Most of it is accepted without question. I say most, because culture does slowly evolve to adapt to new or changing conditions. Above all, culture is a human survival strategy for every community on this planet. Because humans exist in so many different environments, we have different cultures.

 

In Central Asia, the survival of the family takes precedence over the survival of the individual. It’s their culture. It’s an extremely difficult place in which to survive. The people living in Central Asia don’t have a moderate climate or the natural resources we have in the United States. Over time, only a family working together can assure survival for their next generation. It’s a survival concept that is part of their culture.

I’ve often heard my friends say, “They don’t value human life in that part of the world.” Of course they do. In American, our natural environment makes it possible to place a greater value on the individual. Survival for our future generations is not difficult.

Perhaps a better way to look at our cultural differences in is to realize our culture could not possibly survive in the natural environment of most of Central Asia. Or, their culture would thrive in our natural environment.

 

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