How Can Geography Affect Culture?
Culture refers to a broad spectrum of learned human behavior patterns and perceptions. Culture is a way of living of a group of individuals. It includes knowledge, art, law, shared customs, beliefs, morals, and other habits which man acquires being a member of society. Culture is a strong tool for human survival. It experiences constant changes and can be easily lost since it only exists in our minds. Some of the products of culture include governments and systems of administration, buildings, written languages, and other man-made things. These products are not culture in themselves. Therefore, archeologists are not able to unearth culture directly in their excavations. For example, the broken pots and porcelains of ancient people excavated are only remnant materials that act as a reflection of the cultural patterns. However, they were made and used through cultural knowledge and skills. Thus, this implies that physical geography significantly influences uniqueness of different cultures.
It is obvious that the country’s physical geography has a huge impact on the growth of its culture and society in myriad ways. Its geography plays a significant role in determining how and where its populace makes its living and the most favored economic activities. The climatic conditions of the country dictate on its agronomy and modes of existence. These are some of the different conditions experienced by countries most of which are determined by the physical geography of that particular nation. These conditions in turn influence the way of life of these people. Geography influences culture by adapting people to diverse landscapes, weather, etc. By doing this, humans practically change their clothing, residential houses they live in, foods they eat, means of transportation they use, and knowledge they gain in schools. Culture can also change people’s hobbies, and other ways of life are accustomed to an individual; therefore, moving to other place often involves changing a person’s way of life (Woods, McFarlane, and Binder 65).
In Egypt, the majority of land is arid and semi-arid. Early Egyptians earned their living through agriculture. In order to do that, they depended a lot on the Nile River, which provided enough water for their crops throughout the year. The flooding and droughts of Nile River enabled Egypt to grow, and this cycle made the Egyptians believe that the gods were happy with them. This had an effect on their culture and religion, which is seen up to date. They became believers in gods. Ultimately, Egyptians had several gods whom they worshipped on different occasions. Major gods often had a majority of roles and were involved in different types of phenomena. For example, Khnum was the Egyptian god of Elephantine Island in the middle of the Nile, the river that was critical to Egyptian civilization. Khnum was attributed with producing the annual Nile flood that fertilized the nation’s farmland. Perhaps, as an extension of this life-giving role, he was credited to be the creator of all living organisms. Thus, it is apparent that the key factor behind the emergence of gods among the Egyptians was the physical location of Egypt. They became believers of supernatural powers (gods). In addition, this physical geography influenced to a greater degree on their way of life and economic activities they engaged. This scenario is reflected even in the present-day Egypt (Woods, McFarlane, and Binder 112).
Africa has a lot of wealth in cultural and geographic diversity. People with cultures shaped by many tribes, linguistics, and traditions occupied this land. The physical geography of the African continent largely influenced the cultural foods and diets in the different regions of Africa. For example, in Egypt, the Nile Valley was and continues to be the main source of fishing, planting, and animal food. Therefore, fish became an integral part of the Egyptians’ diet. This has continued up to date whereby one of the staple foods in Egypt is fish. This preference of fish eating was influenced by the geography of Egypt that was arid, but the presence of the Nile River made a lot of habitants focus their attention to the river in order to get food. In the long run, they ended up incorporating fish as one of the most important part of their diet (Woods, McFarlane, and Binder 132).
Another aspect of culture influenced by physical geography is the systems of government seen in various communities and countries all over the world. Cultures that have large valleys, long rivers and are surrounded by wilderness normally tend to have strong central government. This is influenced by the need to control the river. This can be seen in many countries, for example, in Egypt. Wilderness cultures tend to be fragmented and experiences a lot of anarchy. For example, most communities that live in the Sahara Desert and some other arid regions of the world tend to lack cohesiveness, and this fact results in wars in these areas. The wars start as these communities try to protect the scarce sources of water or grazing fields for their animals. In short, communities in the wilderness tend to be very aggressive, and most of them do not have stable forms of government.
Physical geography also influences the way people dress. For example, those people living in the colder regions of the world tend to dress differently as compared to those living in warmer parts of the world. In countries that usually experience winter, such as the USA, people normally dress heavily during the cold seasons. During these periods, people also have limited interactions since majority of them prefer remaining indoors. Such a scenario is contrary to the one in the countries that do not experience winter, for example, the major part of Africa. In Africa, people usually wear light clothing throughout the year. The communities also participate in many cultural practices such as dancing that promote interactions among the members of the community. Therefore, the physical geography of the USA and most European countries limits their interactions as opposed to Africa, in which people interact in a myriad number of ways throughout the year.
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Physical geography also influences people’s religion. Majority of people in North Africa and other coastal regions of Africa are Muslims. This was to a greater part influenced by their physical location, which facilitated their contact with Muslims from Arabian countries, mostly through the trade. The presence of Muslims in these countries influences their architectural designs. For example, in North Africa, there are many mosques and houses built using the Arabic architecture. Therefore, the accessibility of these nations influenced their cultural practices, which are present up to date, through the oceans surrounding Africa.
The majority of African countries consist of a terrain that has many mountains. As a result, the communities residing in those regions have cultural beliefs that their gods abode in the mountains. For example, citizens of Kenya believe that their god resides in Mount Kenya making them pray to their gods when facing this mountain. The physical occurrence of the mountain had a great impact on the cultural practices and beliefs. Such communities also treat these mountains as sacred places. This is an example of how physical geography can influence on people’s beliefs and their way of life in society (Bascom and Melville 78).
Japan is a small country in Asia. It seems even smaller when one understands that very little part of the land is useful for agriculture or house building. Japan comprises of four major islands covered with mountains and forests, and crisscrossed by short fast-flowing rivers. Only a few of the rivers are fit for navigation. Only a very small portion of Japan’s land is suitable for farming and approximately 15% for living. The physical geography of Japan influenced a lot on the social practices of the Japanese people. Due to the unfavorable topography, the population and the agricultural areas are concentrated together. Most of the Japanese live together in these suitable areas and share a majority of cultural practices such as the oversized sumo wrestlers battling it out in the ring or kimono-clad women walking without lifting their legs in street with sunshades above. In addition, due to the lack of vast agriculturally viable land, Japan was able to industrialize easily since its citizens viewed industries as alternative economic activity. This had a great impact on their culture that influenced greatly their ways of eating and diets. Japanese are also, very active and work for many hours a day. Consequently, this affects their social life, making majority of them have a lonely lifestyle and a career-based life without participation in the cultural practices of the communities. This change of lifestyle and cultural engagement are attributed to the development of industries, which are in turn attributed to the physical geography of Japan that favored industrialization (Varley 68).
As per the discussion above, it is clear that the physical geography influences culture since the ingredients of culture, in most cases, primarily involve demographics of the geographical location. Therefore, it is apparent that the culture of the various communities and countries in the world can be attributed to where they are located on the map and the peculiar physical geography in that particular place. These cultural practices are unique to these countries and to the communities that endear them. They form the fabric of the society’s beliefs, morals, and religious practices.