Implications of Cultural Differences on the Perception of Good Life
Implications of Cultural Differences to Understand Wellbeing and ‘the Good Life’: A Literature Review
The motto of good life is to understand the wellbeing, happiness and the quality of life. As a social phenomenon, the context of psychological and physical well-being and the quality of good life have a significant implication of cultural differences. The research problem of this paper is to identify the implications of cultural differences and their influences on the perception of overall wellbeing and good life. Cultural indicators of ‘good life’ are reflective of the subjective measurements of well-being and evaluations of the lives of the people (Diener, 2000). In this literature review, five esteemed peer-reviewed articles are taken into consideration to broadly review the concepts of well-being, happiness and quality of life. Taking a cue from these scholarly pieces of literature, the researcher will try to deconstruct the ideology of good life, the socio-economic and cultural qualities defining happiness and the embodiment of happiness in the lives of people.
The psychological research framework suggests that happiness or an individual who leads a happy and contented life is defined as someone who possesses pleasant and satisfied feelings with his or her life in general. An integrated intimacy with culture as well as cultural differences affects the implications of happiness and a good life. Culture, as opined by Diener et al. (2003) has a distinctive connotation with the recognition and observation of happiness. Recent studies have defined the impact of culture on happiness, well-being and the quality of life as a form of subjective well being. Culture or to be specific, the cross-cultural union is a prime agent, through which an individual can conceive pleasant events as well as can conduct their overall goals in life. Happiness is such a state of life that has the potential to boost the desires to lead a good life and shapes the internal attributions of an individual (Disabato et al., 2016).
The global connotations of happiness in light of different cultural implications differ accordingly. While some scholars take into consideration, human capabilities to evaluate their needs as a cultural implication of happiness, others focus on aspects like the Good Life Index and subjective socio-economic indicators. According to the study of Gough (2014), human emancipation is a significant criterion of happiness, and it takes into consideration the engagement with particular aspects of obstacles that human beings face irrespective of gender. Gough (2014) observes that capabilities or needs that constitute happiness are intrinsic functioning that defines a sense of accomplishment. Culture is instrumental in preserving liberty and equal opportunities for every single individual. Cultural connotation towards happiness is evocative of a sense of recognition that every single individual needs contentment to live a healthy life. In Gough’s view, real cultures are ever-evolving and dynamic in its core. Happiness, according to her, is a cultural dimension where people act as the resourceful reservoirs of ideas. That is why happiness has often conceived under a dichotomy of eastern and western values. For instance, happiness in the American cultural context is associated with certain undeniable human rights, positive experiences and personal accomplishments. In the Japanese culture, on the other hand, happiness is referred to as a form of social harmony, ephemeral happiness as well as socially disruptive outcomes. According to scholars, happiness derives from the perspective of cultural diversity which is why Americans can connect happiness with ecstasy, passion and excitement, while Chinese people can associate happiness calmness and relaxation (Kitayama et al., 2000).
Apart from individual needs and cultural relativism, cultural connotations are important in measuring the quality of good life by socio-economic standards and subjective indicators. Diener and Suh (1997) have observed in their study that happiness is not only determined by needs and requirements but also by the social and behavioural patterns of determining well-being. The socio-economic aspects of happiness are determined by normative ideologies, the satisfaction of choices and individual experiences. The socio-economic progress of happiness is directly associated with the choice of people or the healthy environment they belong to (Deci and Ryan, 2008). The social indicators of happiness, as Diener and Suh (1997) observes in their study happiness is a combination of both the subjective well-being and the cognisant experiences that are also known as cognitive satisfaction. For instance, social indicators of well-being and a good life are often exhibited by the measurements of wealth in a nation. However, the gross domestic happiness of a nation is not necessarily had to be depended on the economic index all the time. If a country like Israel is compared with Tunisia that has less than half of the total income of Israel, it can be observed that Tunisia enjoys roughly the same quality of life as Israel (Lee et al., 2016).
This is probably the reason as to why Delhey and Steckermeier (2016) have proposed in their study that economic prosperity is not enough to achieve a good life. The authors have observed in their research that Gross Domestic Product or the index of economic wealth should not be equated with the quality of people’s life. Delhey and Steckermeier (2016) have also stated in their study that a new report prepared by Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi to measure the relationship between economic performance and social progress. Following Aristotle’s theory of eudaimonia, the authors have observed the goodness of a life by its desirability. According to their opinion, culturally the concept of good life has at different attributes such as universality, finality, indispensability, health, security, friendship etc. These attributes are believed to establish a sense of harmony with human nature. Happiness or a good life is all about having a positive life rather than economic affluence which is specifically referred to the western cultures (Michalos, 2017). Happiness, according to this study should be an assessment of self-realisation and actualisation of the human potentials. The good life index suggests that happiness is highly depended on the cultural perception of individual potentials which is why European continents are extremely different in life quality. Within the European continents, Demark is considered to be the topmost country that has the best individual quality of life, while Bulgaria has the least potentials of a good life (Park, 2004).
The concept of happiness across the cultures has been different, and the cultural implications of happiness are also multidimensional. While in ancient times the concept of happiness was concentrated on the fortune of an individual, in recent times happiness is mostly conceived as a phenomenon that is within the grasp of human control (Ryff and Singer, 1996). In their study, Oishi et al (2013) have gone through instances of happiness influenced by different cultural implications. Happiness or the good life, according to the authors is purely a psychological concept. Happiness depends on how an individual conceives the implications of life. Cultural implications play a considerable role in defining happiness in different countries. For instance, East Asians commonly associate happiness with good fortune, while for Germans happiness is revolved round surprising events. Oishi et al (2013) consider happiness to be a state of being that differs from one nation to another accordingly. However, there is a debate between a happy individual and a happy nation since happiness is a subjective notion and the context of human perception and personal control is specific to individual cultures (Suh et al., 1998).
The purpose of life, life-quality and self-regard are also certain fundamental features of culture that are intricately associated with happiness and well-being. This view has been elaborated in the study of Tov and Diener (2013) as they observed happiness and well-being are mostly depended on the internal psychological requirements such as self-sufficiency, competency and relatedness. As far as subjective well-being is concerned, cultural connotations differ in the individual nature of the perspectives of people. The universalist ideology of emotions is also known to influence the concept of happiness. The researchers often consider emotions as a culturally inclusive social construction, and it has the potential to influence the quality of life. The observation is further elaborated by pointing out that cultures have the potential to moderate the formulations related to happiness. Culture is also instrumental in altering the growth and classification of happiness (Delhey and Steckermeier, 2016). Identical approaches of cultures are also critical in defining happiness since values and requirements differ because of cultural specifications. So, happiness or well-being is more of a relative social construction than being something theorised or definite. Well-being is a perspective and mental construction depending on the individual viewpoints about life (Disabato et al., 2016).
To conclude the literature review it can be said that there are multidimensional implications of cultural differences that are necessary for understanding the concept of happiness and well-being. In this literature review, five different peer-reviewed articles have been taken into consideration for discussion. There is one common point of all these articles, and that is happiness or well-being is specific to the subjectivity of a culture. Though there are certain key ideas, i.e. specific needs and socio-economic undertones related to well-being, there are also certain contentious issues like how far economic prosperity ensures wellbeing. The broader insinuation of this literature review is reflective of the consideration of well-being and betterment of life in terms of a perspective of cultural and ideological fluidity.