22.01.2020 in Exploratory

All People are the Same but Different

“All people are the same; it is only their habits that differ,” the Chinese philosopher Confucius said that two thousand years ago. Admittedly, this world is a diverse place. When one travels all over the world, in each new country, one can meet people with different skin, language, and customs. There are so many different cultures and nations, and each nation and culture are unique. However, nowadays, with the development of the economy, more and more countries have started communicating with each other. People realize that even though different cultures are unique, individuals are inherently very similar to each other in their desires and basic needs. Although the human ability to learn, communicate, and love establishes the notion of sameness, the fact still remains that people differ in their behavior due to socio-cultural influences.

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From the point of species, people are very much the same, just as all trees have branches and bark, and all birds have wings. But that is, so to speak, if one is looking from a distance. However, as soon as a tree or a bird is observed up-close differences spring up. The form and density of leaves are different, blossom at different temperatures, require a different amount of water, and so on. To this effect, people are very similar in their physiological structure and psychological needs. However, when one takes a closer look at different people, they will see that each is very distinct from another.


People have two aspects where their main differences lie: inner and outer. Inside, or psychologically, people are different due to different types of temperaments, characters, the way they express their emotions, and the way they restore their energy levels. On the outside, people are influenced by their environments, family relations, customs, and traditions. These differences are the reasons why people need to study other cultures and why cross-cultural studies are important to today’s political and social issues.

It is common knowledge that Southern people are more passionate and hot-tempered than Northern people. It can be explained by climate conditions. When the weather is hot and stuffy, no one wants to hurry and actually do anything. It affects national character and habits. Robert Levine refers to one of the habits of the Portuguese that can be explained by high temperatures of the air. In his article ‘Time Talks, with an Accent,’ Levine tells about a concept of mañana widespread in hot Southern countries when every activity is postponed as long as possible. Everything will be done tomorrow, mañana, or amanha in Portuguese. Meanwhile, Northern countries are known for their punctuality. Of course, the way people treat time does not necessarily depend on weather conditions only. In his article, Levine gives a graph indicating how accurately people take their time, and Japan takes first place. In Japan, people value time very high; they walk quickly, they serve other people with speed and their clocks are very accurate.

Even seemingly universal emotions such as love and friendship are viewed differently in different countries. In her essay “Friends and Strangers,” Margaret K. Nydell tells about a difference in the concept of friendship between Arab and Western understanding of it. Obviously, all people need friends, but an Arab and an American will not recognize a friend in each other from the get-go unless they are explained the differences in their perceptions of each other. Americans view friends as people with whom they enjoy hanging out. Meanwhile, Arabs primarily see friends as people who can help. Even though in this case Arabs seem pragmatic, in fact, it is just their culture that one should count on his or her friends no matter what and they will promise to help no matter what. At that, an oral promise to help signifies that a person is willing to help but if something goes wrong it is not his/her fault; at least he/she tried. At first, such logic is beyond an American person’s understanding but at the basis there is the same desire to have friends, only expressed in a different way.

In most cases, people feel the impact of a foreign culture when they move to another country. It is not the same when tourists just come to visit and go sightseeing. During traveling, a new country is vibrant with new colors and impressions, but people do not usually have enough time to feel the full impact of a new culture. However, when a person arrives for higher education or some kind of a long-term job, he or she needs to adapt to the language, habits, and customs of the country. Yaping Tang writes in her essay “Polite but Thirsty” how she accommodated to the strikingly different culture of America when coming from China. Being diametrically opposite cultures, America and China represent the West and East with their distinct differences. From addressing by first names to tipping habits, the US and China are culturally on different poles of the continuum.

In comparison with Chinese, Americans are more direct and straightforward. Even the structure and requirements for college and academic papers reflect this. Americans will never dilly-dally or say what they do not mean. They value time and want to know from the very beginning what they will get for their time and money. Conversely, the Chinese tend to observe many social rituals, and they may not do something that they want to do only because it is impolite. Tang tells her “polite but thirsty” story when she came over to her professor’s to discuss her paper and declined an offer of refreshments twice, even though she was very thirsty. The professor did not repeat her offer for the third time. Meanwhile, in China, people are supposed to refuse anything three times, and only then can they be ‘forced’ into agreeing. Otherwise, it is impolite.

Thus, it can be seen that at the core, people are indeed the same because they are driven by the same desires for comfort, acceptance, love, and peace. Meanwhile, at the same time, people are very different due to their environment, habits, and cultures. There are even many proverbs on the topic of people’s difference. Saying ‘when in Rome, live as the Romans do’ and ‘every land has its law’ show that since time immemorial, people have acknowledged the fact that people are different. However, Confucius meant that all people are driven by the same desires and emotions. For successful communication and interaction with people, it is worth remembering that people are intrinsically very similar; they are afraid for their lives, want to be loved, and do not want to die. However, habits and customs are different, and it is always good to know who is in front of you and where they come from. This information will help avoid some problems in communication and explain the peculiarities of another person’s behavior.

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