Neuroanthropology has an all-too-brief interview on how different cultures around the world have fundamentally different ideas about what it means to be a friend.
It’s a wonderfully simple idea but really challenges some of our core assumptions about social relationships:
Can you describe one of your examples that really makes us think differently about friendship?
When you look at friendship cross-culturally, there are many surprises! Consider the fact that in societies around the world, close friends will sanctify their relationships with elaborate public ceremonies not unlike American weddings or that parents or elders can arrange their children’s friendships in much the same way that marriages are arranged in many parts of the world.
I think one of the more interesting findings, and one that reveals our own American preferences and taboos, concerns the kinds of things that friends are expected to help each other with. For example, in the U.S., we often expect friends to talk through personal problems and disclose deep secrets. Indeed, U.S. researchers often impose this criterion on definitions of friendship.
However, there are many places in the world where such verbal, emotional support is only a minor concern in friendships.
Link to Neuroanthropology on ‘the book of friendship’.