One thing you often have to consider when spending time with someone from a different culture is that person’s tastes. In particular, maybe you enjoy something, but does the other person? What do you do if your tastes are really different? You have to take account of people’s preferences when you are trying to communicate. The good news is that people from different cultural backgrounds often do seem to enjoy the same kinds of things.

It seems that our ideas about what is beautiful are often shared across cultures — and maybe across time. Photo. By Rameessos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It seems that people’s ideas about what is beautiful are often the same even if they come from different cultures and from different socioeconomic groups.

Everybody everywhere has the same sense of beauty? Great! Photo. By NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In one experiment, Japanese and American subjects showed the same kind of preferences for street scenes. So it seems we may share a lot in common when it comes to our appreciation of the things around us. Be careful, though, because a lot of people claim that we see things in very different ways. For example, check out this YouTube video where the speaker explains that Indians see patterns in different ways compared to westerners. Maybe some western cultures put more importance on efficiency, uniformity, and control than other cultures do.

It seems we have to get used to some things before we are able to appreciate them as beautiful. Consider the reaction to impressionist art. When people saw impressionist paintings for the first time, they thought it was rubbish. It was mocked and rejected. However, later started to see it in a different way and people started to pay a lot of money for it. Why is that? It seems that our response to beauty is not always as direct as we imagine.

Impressionist art was mocked and rejected when it first appeared. Photo. Claude Monet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Japanese art forms such as ikebana have spread around the world. However, ikebana is a “natural” art form that makes use of natural objects. How about the Japanese artistic style known as kawaii? Kawaii seems quintessentially Japanese, yet it has become very influential overseas, just ikebana gained many followers around the world. How do you explain these things? Perhaps this artistic style also can be grasped directly without any need for cultural understanding.

The Japanese artistic style of kawaii has gained many followers around the world. Photo. By Adrian Pingstone (Photographed by Adrian Pingstone) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Berlyne, D. E. (1974). Aesthetics and psychobiology. New York: Wiley.
Nasar, J. L. (1984). Visual preferences in urban street scenes. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 15, 79-93.

Featured image: By ESO/Y. Beletsky ( [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons