Cultural Concepts of Leisure
Modern American culture seems to have the need for discrepancy between leisure and work more than any other culture in the world. We really forget the possibility that other meanings besides our own might exist. I would like to explore the different meanings that leisure has for people of other cultural backgrounds and compare them with those of European descent. It is important to keep in mind that there is no way of regarding any culture in which the results can be taken as truth about the culture in its entirety. Values and ideals vary from person to person and from community to community. There are, however, commonalties found spread throughout the body of a culture and these can be very meaningful.
The western concept of leisure in most cases contains some notion of the need to get away from pressures, to have time for one's self, in order to do exactly what one would be doing were they not required to work. This is one concept which has not been found in some other cultures. In fact it was quite an offensive idea to the Indo-Canadian women interviewed for the Journal of Leisure research. These women had arrived in Canada in 1903 and made themselves homes here despite difficulty posed by extreme discrimination against Asian immigrants at the time. There were ten women interviewed for this study. Although it provides a strictly female view this research provides valuable insight into the cultural perception of leisure in India. Before conducting their interviews, researchers Susan C. Tirone and Susan M. Shaw sought advice from a professor from the Indo-Canadian community, familiar with qualitative research methods. She explained that using terms like leisure, hobbies and recreation would probably be misunderstood or interpreted differently by these women.
The researchers simply asked the women questions about how they spent their time rather than asking them to differentiate between their leisure and their work. The ten women all expressed discomfort with the Western concept of leisure as a time to escape. Family is the central concept of social behavior in India. All importance for the individual revolves around the family.
We never like to leave our daughter on Saturdays or Sundays. That is something you will probably find common among Indian families. We have a real hang up about taking time off for yourself. We don't at all feel comfortable leaving her because we feel she is left after school at the day care. So we go only to those places where we can take her. (Professor, daughter age 8)
Most of these women also said they would quit their jobs, or their husbands would quit their jobs if it came to the point where their children were spending time alone at home. This attitude towards work as secondary to "leisure" is not so common among Anglo-Americans, or if it is, it is not widely practiced.
Similar results came of Daniel McDonald and Leo McAvoy's study of Native American concepts of...