Differences between traditional Indigenous cultures and mainstream Western culture

The descriptions of cultural characteristics is not uniform and there will be differences, variation and diversity among Indigenous people and communities. This comparison chart is a guide to appreciating the cultural differences

Traditional Culture



Mainstream Western Culture

Community is the foremost of all values

Individualism is the foremost value

The future tense is dominant

The present is the dominant tense

The world is understood mythically

The world is understood scientifically

Goals are met with patience

Goals are met with aggressive effort

Ownership is often communal

Ownership is reward for hard work

Gifts are regarded as social glue

Gifts are regarded as holiday issues

Work is often motivated by group need

Work is motivated by ambition

Aging is a source of wisdom

Aging is decay and loss

Eye contact is thought over-assertive

Eye contact is part of conversation

Silences are acceptable anywhere

Silences are a waste of time

Assertiveness is non-communal

Assertiveness is a basic social skill

Listening skills are prized

Communication skills are prized

Soft spoken words carry farthest

Emphasis carries the day

Nodding signifies understanding

Nodding signifies agreement

Handshake is soft, signaling no threat

Handshake is firm, assertive

Collective decisions are consensual

Collective decisions are put to a vote

A faith in harmony with nature

A faith in scientific control of nature

Family is extended family

Family is nuclear family

Responds to praise of the group

Responds to praise of the individual

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