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Culture is what distinguishes and makes unique different regions and countries. Puerto Rico and Iraq have a rich cultural diversity influenced by their history, geography and ethnic milieu. Iraq shares numerous traditions and customs of the Arab world, while Puerto Rico was considerably influenced by Hispanic culture. This paper examines the distinctive cultural features of both countries.

Both countries share the similar interpretation for some colors. There are several colors that have a pivotal meaning and usually are used in the flags of Arab countries. Therefore, they are called Pan-Arab colors: green, white, red and black. These colors are preferred as they carry a definite meaning. Green is the symbolic color of Islam, white means purity, while red represents sacrifice and black, in its turn, martyrdom. In order to observe various holidays or dates of personal significance, Muslims often fly colored flags (“Pan-Arab Colours”). The meaning of some colors in Puerto Rico and Iraq coincides. White color is a color of innocence and purity before God, while black color is a symbol of mourning. Green is also highly significant and usually associates with unofficial national symbol which is the little frog coqui. In Puerto Rico, blue color is a spiritual color while it is a color of the Virgin Mary’s clothing.

The Concept of the Family in Both Countries

The foundation for effective social relationships lies within the concept of the family which is highly praised and remains extremely significant in both countries. Puerto Ricans approach the concept of family with the similar awe and respect as Iraqis do. The role of women in the Iraqi society has been changing. Modern women prefer to work although there are those who enjoy staying at home and raising children.

One of the most admired assets of the Iraqis is hospitality. They are known for an outstanding generosity and politeness when it comes to treating their guests. Especially, it concerns meals which, as a rule, are festive and casual rather than formal. Most Iraqis are raised to feed their guests prior to eating themselves, encouraging the guests to try all the cooked dishes. Thus, overeating is considered as an act of appreciation the hospitality of the hosts (“Food in Iraq”). Puerto Ricans are known for their warm hospitality, as well. They are often considered exceptionally friendly and expressive to strangers.

The attitude towards time in Iraq can be characterized as calm and tranquil. No one is in a hurry. It is not crucial to be exactly on time, although it is not recommended to exploit the generosity of people being significantly late (“Iraq”, Culture Crossing). People in Puerto Rico have the similar attitude towards time. They put the main emphasis on social relationships rather than tend towards strict adherence to the sets of schedules. Therefore, Puerto-Ricans do not plan in advance. For example, they welcome unexpected guests, and usually visit their friends, without previous notice.

The Differences of Both Countries

People in both countries considerably differ in the way they dress and what they eat. The majority of Iraqis is religious and conservative. Nevertheless, there are certain changes that influence the lifestyle of modern people. Thus, these tendencies are reflected in the way people dress. For instance, conservative men wear traditional thawb, which is long and looks like a shirt. Modern men also prefer a more relaxed style, if judged from a perspective of neighboring Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states while it is considered to be a conservative by Western standards. Nonetheless, while suits are becoming more popular, short or revealing clothes are still considered inappropriate. Women are supposed to cover their heads; therefore, they wear traditional chador and veil, which is called the %u1E25ij%u0101b. While wearing the traditional clothing and dress underneath it, women can also prefer the latest style from an internationally known designer. In Puerto Rico, the climate and humidity have defined the clothing tradition for many years. The prerogative color choice is white. Traditional dress for men is the Guayabera which is a shirt shaped like jacket.  Women prefer colorful skirts with white tops or colorful dresses of African influence, which are called Trajes. On the whole, the key element in the clothing is the material that should be lightweight and breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen.

Iraqi cuisine does not have a distinct cooking style, but it mirrors that of Syria and Lebanon, with strong influences from the culinary traditions of Turkey and Iran. Nevertheless, there are several dishes native to the country, such as masgoof (a fish barbequed at the outdoor grill), pacha (a slowly cooked broth from different parts of sheep, because it is common to cook almost every part of an animal in Iraqi cuisine) or turshi (a mixture of pickled vegetables) (“Food in Iraq”). Eating pork is forbidden in Islam, while the most common meat is sheep and goat. Chicken, lamb, beef, or fish are popular, as well, especially when marinated with spices, garlic, and lemon and grilled over charcoal. During every meal, flatbread is served a staple, with a variety of cheeses, dips, olives, jams, fruits and vegetables (“Iraq”, Encyclopædia Britannica). For those, who practice the Muslim religion, alcohol is also forbidden. Therefore, tea and coffee are served before and after a meal but never during the meals. Iraqis like various desserts, pastries and candies, and always try to keep them home in order to present them to the guests. The meal often ends with a wish of “two healths” to each other.

The Puerto-Rican cuisine was shaped by the island’s multicultural heritage. The Spanish are those who contributed to local culinary techniques to a considerable degree. The most typical dishes are asopao, pastelón de carne, bacalaítos fritos, alcapurria. The tropical climate has caused the emergence of distinctive food preservation. Coconut is popular due to its widespread area of distribution. Rum and coffee are the preferred beverages for Puerto Ricans.

More than 97 percent of Iraqis is Muslims, or followers of the religion of Islam. There are two main groups of Muslims in Iraq with slightly different beliefs, the majority Shias (Shiites) and the minority Sunnis (Fast 6). Traditionally, there are no distinctions between church and state; therefore, any deviation in this sense is a result of more recent tendencies and developments. Islam is based on five pivotal pillars which, first of all, involve praising of Allah as the only God, with Muhammad as his prophet; praying five times per day; those who can afford helping others must give to those who are in need. Moreover, they embrace fasting from dawn until dusk during the month of Ramadan, as well as making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca which is in Saudi Arabia.

In Puerto Rico, the principal religion is Catholic. The U.S. occupation also brought Protestants mission. Espiritismo is also represented along with santería, which is an Afro-Caribbean belief system brought to Puerto Rico from Cuba. Revivalism is quite popular. Churches of many denominations can be found throughout the island. There is even a synagogue in San Juan, although there is no mosque in Puerto Rico.

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The Approaches Towards Marriages, Kinship, Birth and Death Rituals

Both countries have unique approaches towards marriages, kinship, birth and death rituals. Although, in the past the arranged marriages were common in Iraq, nowadays this tradition gradually becomes increasingly rare. Taking into account that family is the basis of Iraqi culture, marriage is viewed as a joining of two kin groups. After marriage, an Iraqi woman does not legally adopt her husband’s name. Instead, she retains her mother’s family name. Divorce is accepted, but usually it does not create a problem for a husband while it is a rather more complicated process for a wife. Families tend to live with extended households though some prefer to live separately. The birth of the new family members is highly encouraged and even required by the governmental policy. The relationships within such kin groups are tight, trusted and reliable. When it comes to the death, people are buried on the day following their death. Funerals are very simple and somber events, which are the same for everyone regardless of person’s wealth (“Iraq”, Countries and their Cultures).

In Puerto Rico people treat family as a core value of the society. Most families choose to live separately from their relatives although they communicate remarkably often. In a modern world, it is acceptable to be single though marriage is highly encouraged as it shows the maturation of people. The income of Puerto Rican families is usually based on principle of equality although the earnings of a woman may still be lower. After marriage, Puerto Ricans tend to use both the father's and the mother's family name as surnames. Thus, kinship is highly significant in the society. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico has a high divorce rate despite the fact that the concept of the family is highly praised within the society.

Both countries do not share any similar festivals or holidays. The most secular holiday in Iraq is celebrated on 17th of July and marks the Anniversary of the Revolution of 1968. Other holidays celebrate Islamic feasts. The day following the month long fast of Ramadan is called Eid al-Fitr. Another significant celebration is called Eid al-Adha, which is the sacrificial festival. Furthermore, people celebrate when a person has returned from his pilgrimage from the holy city of Mecca (“Iraq”, Countries and their Cultures).

It is historically conditioned that people celebrate both United States and Puerto Rican holidays. Among the most popular are Christmas and New Year's Eve, Three Kings Day (6 January), Hostos Day (11 January), Constitution Day (25 July). On the whole, there are nine local holidays, which usually honor influential leaders or events in the island's history. On November 19th, people celebrate the Discovery of Puerto Rico. In addition, each town celebrates an annual festival in order to honor its patron saint.

As it was already mentioned, Iraqis highly praise their families and consider them the pivotal parts of the society. They also admire the wisdom of elderly generation and ask for their advice. Meanwhile, honor and reputation are of paramount importance, as well. Women are respected, especially those with children (“Iraq”, Countries and their Cultures). Iraqis also stand out for their hospitality and generosity. Puerto Ricans also value the concept of family and interpersonal relationships. Elders are highly respected, and, in general terms, respect is the indispensable component of social interaction. Although Puerto Ricans are friendly and expressive people, they never cross the boundaries of private space.

The Importance of Respect and Trust in Both Countries

Communication style is based on establishing respect and trust in both countries. In Iraq, demonstration of emotions is seen negatively due to the need of saving face and protecting honor. The indirect approach is more common in communication because saying things directly and straight forward might be considered rude sometimes. Therefore, it is preferred to use compliments and be polite. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans communicate in a direct manner. They tend to talk loudly, quickly and expressively, using their hands to enhance the meaning of the words.

As far as non-verbal communication is concerned, it is essential to respect the personal space, especially when it comes to the opposite sex. A little eye contact for Iraqis is acceptable while too much can be considered rude or even indicative of hostility. Pointing with a single finger is considered rude just like in the majority cultures. If the right hand is placed on the chest, it is a sign of respect or gratitude. These are the common rules of a polite communicative style in Iraq. Obviously, the behavior can differ in various situations depending on whether it is a meeting of friends or business partners (“Iraq”, Culture Crossing). On the contrary, Puerto Ricans appreciate direct eye contact as it allows them to demonstrate their interest and respect towards their interlocutor. If a person tends to avoid the eye contact, it can be taken as the evasiveness. Being rather expressive, Puerto Ricans engage in using various hand and facial gestures. Therefore, body language is a highly significant form of communication.

Thus, both cultures share the same respect for the family and relatives. The concept of the family is highly praised being the foundation of both societies. Puerto Ricans and Iraqis tend to have a tranquil approach towards time failing to be punctual. They also have the similar interpretation for some colors. Nevertheless, other concepts of culture such as religion and holiday, clothing and food, social customs, verbal and non-verbal communication prove that there is considerable diversity in culture identity of Puerto Ricans and Iraqis.

Code: Sample20

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