OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Cultural influences on gratitude

Definition of gratitude may differ from culture to culture

Photo of Jae Min
0 0

Written by

When I was growing up, teachers have always taught me to express gratitude by giving back to the community. If I saw a homeless man on the street, I would ask my parents for some change so I could give it to them. However, nowadays if I come across a homeless man on campus, I would simply walk away. When I looked around, I saw many other people walking away from the homeless as well. It made me wonder when and why I stopped expressing gratitude towards homeless people. More importantly, I noticed that as we grew older, people went on volunteer mission trips to write on their resume, instead of going out of their good will. Does our society inhibit people from expressing genuine gratitude as they grow older? I also noticed the cultural influences because as I was growing up in Korea, I was taught to give up my seat on the bus or train if elder was standing next to me. It was an Asian culture of showing respect and gratitude to the elders. However, when I did the same in America, elder told me he can stand fine and he thought that I was judging and insulting him as weak. One other time, I witnessed an elderly man suddenly collapsing on the ground at the library. When I went near him to help him get up, other people stopped me from doing so due to liability issues. This summer when I was studying abroad in Europe, some girls came up to ask me for donation, but I knew that as soon as I take my wallet out, they would take it and run away. In the end, I am curious to learn about how the society can bridge the gap between helping others and not helping because my actions and views on helping people changed drastically as I grew older. In terms of social actions such as being generous, it seems like personal experiences have more power than education. While math or engineering can be taught from just education, social actions are something that kids learn from education as well as experiences. So what can be done to minimize kids from avoiding gratitude as they grow older? 

Tell us about yourself

Student at the University of Michigan


Join the conversation: