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The Erosion of Cultural Differences Essay


In the contemporary world, cultural differences are hastily fading due to the effects of globalisation. The world is becoming one large global village where people are interconnected due to innovations like the information technology and improved transport networks. Businesses and large organisations have been in the forefront in expanding their operations outside their countries of origin as countries open their borders for foreign investments. This move has convened people of different cultures into a common environment where they adopt new cultural practices, which are termed as homogenised cultures. Globalised consumer culture, which refers to consumption of international standardised goods and services in different consumer products and services such as supermarkets, tourism, and food products, has contributed greatly to the homogenisation of culture (Croucher 2004). However, the erosion of cultural differences has caused loss of cultural heritages by some communities around the world, where some groups are in favour of leading others due to political powers.


Globalisation is defined as international standardisation of economic, social, and political ideas. This paper looks into globalisation via cultural perspective whereby the mobility of people in the contemporary world has facilitated the understanding of new cultures and identities in a globalised world. In the twentieth century, globalisation was viewed only via economic perspective, but today scholars are quick to look at it through humanistic approach and its impacts on culture.

The advancement of technological development in the modern world has played a major role in allowing a large population to travel easily and quickly across various parts of the world for various reasons. Despite humans being mobile creatures, psychologists define humans as social beings, and hence they interact with other people all the time at different places of the world. Through these interactions with different people belonging to diverse cultures, there is often flow of new ideas, concepts, and ideologies, which play a major role in behavioural and cultural changes (Bauman 1998).

Globalisation can also be achieved via other means despite travelling and meeting with people of diverse cultures. In the modern educational system, students are taught newly developed ideas that change their lifestyles in the concept of being learned and well exposed. Hence, education system introduces new ideas to the society and it has an effective influence on society. The major difference between the education system and travelling is that the education system introduces ideas whereas travelling and meeting with new people from different cultures gives one the experience of ideas and ways of life (Baud & Ypeij 2009).

The concept of globalisation is believed to have started during the era of earliest anthropologists, who took the initiative of exploring the world and found out that the people they met were affected by changes they had brought to their land. Trying to address the issues of controversy concerning the generally accepted meanings of globalisation, the controversial definitions can be divided into two categories. The first category points at a single cause of globalisation, and thus it is defined as the ‘one dominant logic’ of globalisation. The second category points at the many causes of globalisation, and thus defined as a ‘phenomenon with multiple causes’ of globalisation.

Beginning with the first category of globalisation, the definition is based on the capitalist world system where societies are seen as one world system where all things form a single dimension of labour. The capitalistic system is viewed as a major influence of globalisation whereby the system forces people to accommodate themselves into the system, whose influences go beyond nations’ boundaries across all cultures and through the consumption exercise for this paper. Hence, people tend to live under unified culture whereby there is a common language or method of doing economic activities, thus making globalisation an institutionalised world market.

In the second category where globalisation is looked as a phenomenon of multiple causes, globalisation is seen as the expansion of transnational spaces that are dependent on national authorities going across nations’ boundaries. This idea implies that globalisation has dominant sources of ideas that take control over other players across the world. For instance, one party can influence other cultures, but other cultures cannot influence it, as it is defined through the theory of McDonaldisation. The theory of McDonaldisation emphasises on the threats of cultural uniformity as seen in the contemporary habit of hamburger eating, coke drinking, and PlayStation games. Hence, some cultures are dominant over others and thus they pose a threat of eliminating latter’s existence.


Culture is defined as a condition or a circumstance under which human values are cultivated. Looking at culture from a global perspective, it could be defined as the process of cultivation of intricate inner human life, which takes on meaning and form of social action on a global larger scale. The processes of cultivation are facilitated by virtue of human beings being social creatures and through their social interactions, knowledge, and cultural values are interchanged across diverse cultures.

Scholars define culture as learned, socially transmitted values, behaviours, and beliefs of a group of persons. Culture defines the human behaviours in terms of dressing codes, eating habits, lifestyles, social activities, and interrelations. Culture has no well-defined origin, but instead there are myths that tell the history of numerous cultures across the world. Hence, values are passed on orally through the different generations in vertical form called cultural heritage. However, due to globalisation and intermingling amongst cultures, there is a horizontal passing on values and beliefs across different societies that are of diverse cultural heritages. In addition, human beings are subjected to evolution and cultural values are subjected to modernisation, which comes from globalisation (Stromquist 2002).

Effects of Tourism on Local Culture

Tourism is a major globalised consumer culture in the contemporary world of economics. Tourism is an essential economic sector for any country, and thus governments of various countries have implemented policies that are aimed at enhancing this sector by making it attractive for international consumption. In addition, locals are encouraged to be hospitable to tourists and show their attractive cultural heritage to them in an effort to attract more business. This effort by governments and locals often poses a great risk of culture erosion, as tourists tend to intermingle with locals and in some cases, the locals take the foreign cultural heritage to their homes and vice versa.

Omekwu (2006) notes that tourism is the leading globalised consumer culture that has played a major role in eroding cultural differences, but its influence on culture depends mainly on the form of tourism in practice. However, tourism takes many forms and not all of them fit in its economic definition of global consumption, but this paper looks into consumer global tourism, and hence the dominant form. The three major types of tourism include leisure, exploration, and educational tourism (Tomlinson1999). Leisure tourism is the most common type of tourism and it fits the definition of globalised consumerism whereby tourists travel across world countries to visit attractive places for holiday and relaxation purposes.

Secondly, exploration tourism is often more specific and mostly undertaken for knowledge and scientific purposes by both researchers and scientists. In addition, it is believed to be the first form of international tourism that was undertaken by early anthropologists. Exploration tourism serves as an exposure exercise to the tourists, who often get exposed to new cultural experiences in the land they visit and take back cultural values that attract them to their countries of origin like was the case of American anthropologists who settled in the United States after exploring the land (Reisinger 2009).

Thirdly, educational tourism is the most common type of tourism that is undertaken by young people in different parts of the world today. Prestigious learning institutions are nowadays carrying out international marketing exercise where they target international students and introduce them to a common environment. However, Appadurai (1990) warns that young people are the most vulnerable people by globalisation of new cultures and hence they easily adopt new cultural lifestyles, which they pass on to their peers in their countries of origin after completing their education.

The effects of tourism on local culture fall into two major categories, viz. adding value to a culture and eroding cultural differences. Tourists bring new ideas to a culture and when such ideas are implemented, they lead to cultural development. For instance, the colonial era brought massive changes to the world cultures whereby colonialists introduced their cultural values to their colonies by forcing their subjects to do away with some of their cultural values and adopt newly introduced values. The adoption of new cultural values creates strong linkages amongst cultures, hence eroding cultural differences.

However, in some cases, tourism brings forth destructing cultural values to the local culture, which when adopted leads to erosion of crucial cultural values of a community. Over the last two decades, there has been an outcry in Africa over the erosion of cultural heritages due to effects of westernisation. The problem is believed to have resulted from tourism among other causes with tourism being the most influential as tourists pass new values to the locals who then adopt the values easily. For instance, during the winter season in western countries, tourists flood African countries that lie along the shorelines (Urry 1995). Tourists do not put themselves in ways that conform to local cultural values; instead, they retain their cultural values when it comes to dressing, communication, and interpersonal relation skills. Hence, the local communities tend to admire the new culture and thus imitate it in their local cultural phenomenon.

The erosion of cultural differences due to the adoption of new cultural values and heritages leads to homogenisation of culture. Homogenised culture has both advantages and disadvantages to the affected cultures. The most dominant advantages include economic growth and development, improved social relations, and improved international relations. Economic growth and development is directly affected by homogenisation of culture due to increase in economic activities and opportunities among different communities (Carrigan 2010).

For instance, colonialists found new economic opportunities in their colonies where their cultural value uniformity led to loss of identity and values to the colonialists’ expectations. Today, the impact of colonialists is exhibited by the uniformity of languages and political structures that exist in many counties across the world. Despite the loss of identity and cultural values, locals benefited from economic benefits that emerged from the cultural homogenisation.

In addition, cultural homogenisation led to social development through the adoption of common education systems that have played a major role in bringing together various cultural values. Education is necessary for human developments and in the contemporary world, education acts as a globalised consumer culture whereby students go to overseas countries in pursuance of knowledge, and hence learning new cultures that they adopt and integrate into their cultural values. Hanner (1990) notes that after completing education, one gets into the job market and in some cases, people who study in overseas countries are employed in foreign countries, where they stay for long periods.

The prolonged time in new cultural environment forces an individual to adopt new cultural values, which are then passed on to the children if one marries in a new cultural setting. Children who are born in new cultural environments have problems with adopting their parents’ culture, and thus they easily learn the culture that they are born into as opposed to that of their parents. Hence, local culture loses its people to foreign culture due to globalisation, which is a disadvantage. However, the theory of MacDonalisation of society assumes that the world is moving towards homogenised culture due to globalised consumerism and tourism seems to be in the forefront in the realisation of this theory.

On the other hand, homogenisation of cultures has many disadvantages to a culture. The dominant disadvantages include loss of cultural territory coupled with the loss of cultural heritage and values. Originally, every community around the world had geographical territories whereby the land and everything that fell within a certain territory belonged to a specific cultural community. However, many communities have lost their cultural territories due to homogenised cultural heritages. This aspect often implies that other cultures find their way into other cultural territories, thus leading to increased population within a specific geographic area, among other problems (Miller 1995).

Another major problem that comes from homogenised cultures is the loss of cultural values and heritage by some communities. Globalisation entails two dominant players where one brings about change and the other adopts such changes, and hence some communities retain their original cultural heritage whereas others lose as they adopt the homogenised cultures (Carling 2006). For instance, studies have shown that African cultures are adopting westernised cultural values at a high rate as they continue to lose their original cultural heritage. The acceptable women clothing amongst a majority of African cultures was supposed to cover almost the entire body, but nowadays the values are different in many African cultures as western apparels are selling at a high rate across the continent.

From a political perspective, globalisation of homogenised culture is influenced by political powers and dominance across the world. Politically powerful countries have a higher chance of influencing cultures that belong to less powerful countries. The United States has been in the forefront in propagating globalised homogenised culture across the world. Its ability to influence the world cultures lies in its rich cultural diversity of its citizens and political power (Ritzer 2006). The United States is the only country in the world that nearly all world cultures are represented, and thus its rich cultural diversity helps in the homogenisation of culture within the country, even though some people take cultural values to other countries through tourism (Stiglitz 2006).

On the other hand, due to its political power, the United States is adorable to many cultures across the world and especially from the developing countries, and thus such admirers adopt new cultural values. Hence, globalisation is not equally distributed as the powerful political cultures stand higher chances of influencing the lesser powerful cultures. Moreover, commodity fetishism is exhibited across the world markets whereby commodities from developed nations have a bigger market share in the world markets as they are perceived as more powerful than their counterparts are from developing countries.


Globalisation of consumer culture has greatly led to the erosion of cultural differences across the world. However, the majority of communities have lost their cultural values and heritage to the more powerful cultures due to the inequality nature of globalisation in the contemporary world. Globalisation started during the era of anthropology when the world began to praise some cultures and the problem persisted during colonialism. The problem is still persistent today due to political and economic power differences between countries that make some cultures submissive to the powerful ones. In addition, tourism, which is a globalised consumer culture, has played a major role in bringing forth homogenised cultures across the diverse world cultures.

Reference List

Appadurai, A 1990, ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Culture Economy’, in M Featherstone (ed), Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalisation and Modernity, Sage, Thousand Oaks, pp. 295-310.

Baud, J & Ypeij, J 2009, Cultural Tourism in Latin America: The Politics of Space and Imagery, BRILL, Los Angeles.

Bauman, Z 1998, Globalisation and the Human Consequences, Blackwell Publishing, New York.

Carling, A 2006, Globalisation and Identity: Development and Integration in a Changing World, I.B. Tauris, Toronto.

Carrigan, A 2010, Postcolonial Tourism: Literature, Culture, and Environment, Taylor & Francis, London.

Croucher, S 2004, Globalisation and belonging: the politics of identity in a changing world, Rowman of Littlefield, New York.

Hanner, Z 1990, Cosmopolitanism, W.W. Norton, New York.

Miller, D 1995, Worlds apart: Modernity through the prism of the local (ASA Decennial Conference Series: The Uses of Knowledge), Sage, London.

Omekwu, O 2006, ‘African culture and libraries: The Information Technology Challenges’, Electronic Library, vol. 24 no. 2, pp. 247-248.

Reisinger, Y 2009, International Tourism: Cultures and Behaviour, Elsevier, London.

Ritzer, G 2006, The McDonaldisation of Society, Rowman & Littlefield, New York.

Stiglitz, E 2006, Making Globalisation Work, W.W. Norton & Company, London.

Stromquist, P 2002, Education in a Globalised World: The Connectivity of Economic Power, Technology, and Knowledge, Rowman & Littlefield, New York.

Tomlinson, J 2003, Globalisation and Culture, Polity Press, New York.

Urry, J 1995, The Tourist Gaze, Sage, Thousand Oaks.

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