Reasons for Codes of Cultural Behavior
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Reasons for Codes of Cultural Behavior
Making Acquaintances: Differences and Similarities
DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES
Iraq is located in Western Asia and can be considered one of the most diverse regions on Earth. Throughout the years, many civilizations and empires settled in the regions of Iraq due to its resourceful land. Those settlements impacted the diversity of the land. The region still contains several, different languages, ethnicities, and races. Iraq’s history is rich of well-known people, inventions, and conquests. In the past, Iraq was known as Mesopotamia, which means the land between the two rivers. Those two rivers are called Tigris and Euphrates, and they had a significant impact on attracting settlers. It is believed that Mesopotamia had the first human civilization. The Sumerians were the first people to settle in Mesopotamia and establish their known, impressive civilization around 4800 BC. The Sumerians were very intelligent, creative people. They structured the first known system of writing. They used clay tablets as a method to keep records, which have been discovered and studied by archaeologists in the recent past. The Sumerians always sought to improve and develop their civilization. Their perseverance led them to invent the wheel, the banking system, sailboat, the plow, etc. They also focused on studying several important subjects such as time, astronomy, mathematics, agriculture, etc.
In 2340 BC, the Sumerians civilization came to end due to the invasion of Sargon of Akkad. Sargon of Akkad was aiming to expand his empire, which is considered to be the first empire in history. However, the Akkadian empire rule did not last long. By 2125 BC, the empire started dividing into two separate empires; Assyria ruled the north and Babylonia ruled the south. During 1792-1750 BC, Hammurabi came into power. Hammurabi was a Babylonian king that can be considered one of the most-known people from the region. His fame is earned from developing a code of law. One of his well-known saying is, “an eye for an eye,” which gives a glance of his perspective towards the justice system. Babylonia era also showed their creative architectural designs, which can still be witnessed today. Those buildings include Hanging Gardens, the Gate of Ishtar, and the Tower of Babylon. In 636 AD, Arabs came into power and renamed the region “Iraq,” which means, “the fertile.” This era witnessed prosperity and success in several subjects such as math, science, philosophy, medicine, and literature. Universities were built to inspire and educate new generations about the new discoveries. This era is called the Islamic Golden Age. The reason behind naming goes to the influence the era had on the world. The world was heading towards a new chapter of remarkable progress. However, in 1258 Iraq experienced a significant setback. The capital of Iraq, Baghdad was invaded by the Mongols, who destroyed the city and most of its landmarks. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire ruled Iraq soon after and gained some of the lost prestige. The empire could not survive during World War I, which led Iraq to be divided into three provinces: Mosul (north), Baghdad (center), and Basra (south). In 1932, Iraq was recognized as an independent country. Iraq was identified as a kingdom, and The Hashemite monarchy was in control. However, in 1958 a revolution occurred, which converted the kingdom into today’s Republic of Iraq.
The official languages of Iraq are Arabic and Kurdish. However, Kurdish is mainly spoken in Kurdistan, which is located in the north of Iraq. Moreover, there are other few spoken languages spoken in Iraq such as Chaldean, Armenian, Assyrian, and Mandaic. Those other languages are spoken by minorities in Iraq, and they are usually considered as second languages since most of the population speaks Arabic. The Arabic language is dominant because the majority of Iraqis speak it and most TV channels, newspapers, and schools’ curriculums are in Arabic, which encourages the population to practice the language. Nonverbal communication in Iraq is very common. Iraqis tend to use body language frequently while speaking. One example is raising the right hand up high and making eye-contact to greet someone far away. It is also recommended to place the right hand on the heart for a second or two. This gesture indicates love and respect. When shaking a male’s hand, it is recommended to be a firm handshake using the right hand. When walking into a gathering of people, it is recommended to say “assalamu alaikum” out loud, which means, “Peace be unto you.” Another important aspect of communication styles in Iraq is not to touch the opposite gender, especially in public; it is considered disrespectful and unethical. Instead, the person places their right hand on the heart for a second or two.
Just like its neighbors, Iraq is dominated by Islam. Islam is practiced by 97% of the population. This 97% is divided into two sects; Sunni and Shi’a. Shi’a form the larger sect with approximately 65% while Sunni sect is approximately 35%. The primary difference between the two sects occurred after the death of Prophet Mohammed. Mohammed’s followers had a disagreement regarding who should take over and lead Islam after the Prophet’s death. Shi’a supported the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. On the other hand, Sunni favored Abu Bakr. In addition to Islam, other religions exist in the region, but they are considered minorities. Religions such as Christianity, Yazidis, and Mandaeism. Christianity forms the second biggest religion in Iraq with less than 2% of the population. However, this 2% divides into several sects such as Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenians, and a few others. The reason behind this low percentage is war effects. Many minorities have fled the region due to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Furthermore, ISIS has played a huge role in forcing many of those minorities to emigrate to a safer destination, such as Australia, Canada, Germany, and the United States. Unfortunately, the Iraqi government did not offer any support or protection for the minorities, which affected Iraq’s diversity negatively
Iraq is a family-oriented society, which means they enjoy spending time with the family. Iraqis also value and respect the elderly. Therefore, it is ordinary to witness grandparents living in the same households as their grandchildren. Iraqis consider it extremely disrespectful and disgraceful if a person puts their parents in a nursing home. When it comes to establishing a family, Iraq can be distinct. According to UNICEF, in 2015, approximately 20% of married women were under 18 years old. Even though this might be frowned upon by the majority of non-Arabs, this cultural behavior is acceptable in the Arab world.
Many non-Arabs are unaware that homosexuality is forbidden in Iraq. Families can be extremely intolerant when it comes to this sensitive matter. Families consider it dishonoring if a family member identifies themselves as a homosexual. Therefore, consequences can be as severe as death. Gender equality is not present as much as in the Western world. Unfortunately, Iraqi women do not have equal educational or employment opportunities, and many of those women suffer from violence throughout their life. Therefore, it is ordinary to witness the male as the dominant member in the family. Sadly, the future of Iraqi children is not bright. It is claimed that 34 out of 1000 children die before their 5th birthday. The reasons behind this outrageous statistic vary. Reasons include war, famine, health issues, etc. In addition, many children cannot enjoy their childhood, since they are forced to work at a young age to support their families. Many children abandon school at a young age in the hope of finding a job, which is considered more beneficial than attending school by some Iraqi parents.
The Iraqi government has been unstable recently. Since Iraq is a diverse country, there is always disagreement about who is in power, which leads to political debates. Politics is a very sensitive and controversial topic in Iraq. Media always focuses on addressing any political issues. Discussing politics is considered part of Iraqis’ daily life now. Many friends and relatives tend to enjoy discussing it at gatherings. Currently, Fuad Masum is the president of Iraq. Masum was elected in 2014, and he is the second non-Arab president. Therefore, many Iraqis do not approve of him as a president. Most Iraqis believe it is unfair that a person who represents a minority group rules over the majority.
Reasons for Codes of Cultural Behavior
1.When shaking a male’s hand, use the right hand and make sure the handshake is firm. Usually the handshake is followed by placing the right hand on the heart, or tapping the heart few times if desired. (“Army guide offers Iraq do’s, don’ts”, 2003). Reasons: Iraqi society considers a firm handshake a sign of masculinity and power. Therefore, always go for a firm handshake to impress an Iraqi. placing the right hand on the heart, or tapping the heart a few times is an extra recommended gesture that will indicate respect and gratitude, which is widely liked by the Iraqi society.
2.It is acceptable and normal to kiss the same-sex acquaintance on the cheek if you have established a good relationship with them. Three kisses, right, left, and right is the most common kissing technique. (“Iraq Customs”, n.d.). Reasons: kissing the same gender in Iraq is considered normal and is not linked to homosexuality. Even though it is called cheeks kissing, the naming is misleading. The person places their left cheek on the acquaintance’s right cheek and blows a kiss in the air. Kissing indicates amity, devotion, and equality in status. Therefore, Iraqis tend to kiss each other to express their feelings.
3.If an Iraqi invites a guest to a restaurant, it is very common and normal that the acquaintance insists on paying the bill. The guest should let the Iraqi pay the bill, and the guest can return the favor in the future. (“Army guide offers Iraq do’s, don’ts”, 2003). Reasons: Iraqi society believes generosity is a very important aspect of life. Iraqis believe even if the person is poor, they should offer what they have to their guests. Offering to pay for the guest’s food indicates appreciation to the guest for accepting the invitation and also shows gratitude and love.
4.When invited into an acquaintance’s home gathering, the guest should sit with the same-sex guests. It is normal for men and women to be separated in big gatherings. (“Army guide offers Iraq do’s, don’ts”, 2003). Reasons: Iraqi society believes men should sit together to discuss more important, manly topics such as politics. It is also believed that each group will be more comfortable that way.
5.If the guest is visiting an Iraqi’s home, they should take a simple gift with them. Gifts such as a box of chocolate, cookies, etc. are very common. (“Iraq – Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette”, n.d.). Reasons: Bringing a simple gift is very appropriate and recommended in the Iraqi culture. It shows that the guest is very appreciative and thoughtful. Moreover, if the guest brings an audible gift, the host usually shares it with the guests when it is time
- Do not point the bottom of your feet towards anyone. (“Army guide offers Iraq do’s, don’ts”, 2003). Reasons: this is very important, since other cultures may find this inoffensive. However, in the Iraqi culture, this gesture is considered very offensive and frowned upon. It shows lack of respect since feet can be considered the dirtiest part of the body, thus pointing it towards someone is very rude and disrespectful. Also, having feet up on a desk, for example, indicates that the person is higher than you in status, which is also very disliked in the Iraqi society.
2.When visiting an Iraqi’s house, do not leave any food on your plate. Always compliment the person who made it. You may also ask for the recipe to show your interest. (“Army guide offers Iraq do’s, don’ts”, 2003). Reasons: You should always finish the food on your plate to avoid uncomfortable, embarrassing looks from the host. Regardless if you like the food or not, you should finish it. That is why some guests take a sample of each available food option on the table to taste it first. If they like it, they come back for more. If the guest fails to finish the food on his plate, the host will assume the guest did not like the food and is unappreciative, and that is considered very rude.
- Do not walk into an Iraqi’s house without considering taking off your shoes next to the door. It is very common to see the family’s slippers or shoes lying next to the door. However, few families do not apply that rule. (“Iraqi Customs”, n.d.). Reasons: the guest should always be prepared to take off their shoes when they are visiting an Iraqi’s house. Many families apply this cultural tradition because shoes or slippers may contain mud, dirt, and bacteria, and the host does not want any of those inside their house. A sign if the guest should consider taking off their shoes is if they notice slippers or shoes next to the house door.
4.Do not touch nor make long eye contact with the opposite sex. (“The Illustrated Etiquette Guide for Soldiers (Iraq War Edition)”, n.d.). Reasons: always avoid long contact with the opposite sex, especially with women. It is frowned upon and considered unethical. Aim to make the interaction brief and respectful. The guest should be at their best behavior around the opposite sex. Any unnecessary touches, comments, or looks will ignite an issue that can be escalated quickly since it involves the honor of a girl.
5.Do not point with a finger. Pointing with a single finger to someone is usually considered rude. (“The Illustrated Etiquette Guide for Soldiers (Iraq War Edition)”, n.d.). Reasons: Iraqi society dislikes when someone points a finger at them. It makes them feel attacked, degraded, and less worthy. Therefore, avoid doing so, and use the whole hand instead.
Adhikari, Saugat, et al. “Top 11 Inventions and Discoveries of Mesopotamia.” Ancient History Lists, 4 June 2019, www.ancienthistorylists.com/mesopotamia-history/top-11-inventions-and-discoveries-of-mesopotamia/.
Asen, Taylor, and Zach Strassburger. “Our Moral Duty to Address Gay Discrimination in Iraq.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 25 May 2011, www.huffpost.com/entry/our-moral-duty-to-address_b_620127?guccounter=1.
Chitwood, Ken. “Five Facts You Need To Know about Iraq, Its Religious Minorities, & ISIS.” KEN CHITWOOD, KEN CHITWOOD, 11 Aug. 2014, www.kenchitwood.com/blog/2014/8/11/five-things-you-need-to-know-about-iraq-isis-religious-persecution.
“Iraq.” Countries and Their Cultures, www.everyculture.com/Ge-It/Iraq.html.
“Iraq.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 July 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq
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