About Culture from Babies

Some years ago, I first saw the documentary movie “Babies” (Bébés), released in 2010 by French director and producer Thomas Balmès. At that time I thought it is a nice, cute movie about little kids and their everyday life routine, but now I know that  is more than that. It is about cultures and differences. It is about realizing that there is not right and wrong when we talk about cultures and about accepting people from other cultures as “normal” (here, I used normal because in many cases we perceive something that we are used with, that we grew up with as normal). But first, let me introduce to you the story of this movie, so that you know what we are talking about.

First I must say that in this documentary is only natural sound, no voice over, no narration, which was really interesting. Nobody explains you the events, nobody teaches you something, you just have to look and understand the message. Or the messages. It is a documentary that has an open ending, gives you space to personally relay on the events and learn from them. Personally I watched it twice and I got different messages each time. I think I’ll watch it again over several years.

The film follows the story of 4 humans in their first year of life. These little kids are not commonly picked, but they have something in common: they live far from each other, in different parts of the world, in different economical areas and different cultures.

Ponijao from Opuwo, Namibia. A little girl that has eight brothers and sisters. Her family is part of Himba tribe and they live in a village.


Mari from Tokyo, Japan. She is the single child of two loving parents that live in Shibuya, a crowded, metropolitan area.


Bayar from Byanchandmani, Mongolia. He lives with his mother, father and older brother at their farm.


Hattie from San Francisco, California lives with her mother and father and she has a “green” lifestyle.


After introducing to you the main characters, you can already visualize how the story will look. But I must say that the movie is delightful and I would not like to know that I spoiled it for you. The reason for giving you details about their lifestyle, family and location is a simple one: to understand the differences between the cultures that they were born in. Now let me give you some in depth details from my experience watching twice this documentary. While watching it for the first time I have to confess that I felt sorry for the babies that were not so lucky to live in a city, to have a wealthy family, to have activities since day 10 of life, and so on. I thought that Hattie and Mari have a normal lifestyle while Ponijao and Bayar seemed to me two kids that did not have the same chances.

I said that two of them have a normal lifestyle. Normal, judging from my point of view, at that time. And normal because I related these kids to me, my lifestyle, my culture and society and at some points they matched. I saw Ponijao and Bayar through the eyes of the society and culture that I live in. And they seemed to me so far away in time and space.


When I watched “Babies” for the second time I knew something changed. I could see the details. I could see the happiness of every child in this movie no matter where he was living. They all grew older no matter the place, they all played and had fun, they all ate well and gain weight. So I asked myself, why to feel sorry that they don’t have the same culture and the same lifestyle as me? They are so very happy the way they are and I should respect that.

This is the lesson that these four babies thought me about culture. We should not judge before we truly understand. Plus it is such a nice documentary. Enjoy!

Online documentary here.

Article Sources: Focus Features

Photo Sources: Focus Features, Soda Head, Such Moving Pictures

By Roxana Miron


Football as a social thing

As a football (read— soccer) non fanatic whatsoever, this change in behavior that happened personally to me while watching the Champions League Finale had been unusual, to say the least.

Cheering up for one’s favorite team can become, as it is widely known, an intense, almost religious-like practice. Thousands of fans gather up, sing anthems, cry at defeats, curse the opponents, and bang their fists on the table. During the viewing of a game, especially in social outdoors contexts, I’ve seen fans express the most fervent feelings: biting nails from the stress they undergo, shed tears of happiness or sadness (as the case requires it), and all in all— these people get deeply invested in every single one of their teams’ games.



What happens here seems to be not only the simple herd behavior, according to which in large crowds of people individuals act and behave according to similar models, even without a central authority. There is a whole field of studying sports fanaticism which brings together elements from sociology, psychology and physiology.

This “social experiment” I underwent while watching the game reinforced the psychological and sociological connections to what sports fans experience. Even without having a previous preference for one team or another, I somehow got myself drawn into the cheering-cursing-bang-fist-on-the-table behavior. And it was fulfilling.

Most of the fans I’m quite sure are not connecting this kind of behavior to deeper rationales. Loving one team and hating another is put in sociology in terms of “ingroup/outgroup”, or identifying and belonging as being a member from one group vs. not belonging and rejecting the other considered rival. And to the level to which this identification goes is much larger.

Some say there are clear psychological benefits from identifying with a sports team, such as “higher self-esteem, they are less depressed, less alienated and less-lonely”. It is all about being part of a group, identification, community and feeling of connectedness.













Larisa Rusu


cc Weird Al. Yankovic

Intentional communities: Amish Paradise

by  [•…•]


I intend to live with you in my little Village, until the end of time or some sort of plague breaks out and we need the help of technology we that we choose to neglect for decades. And if all else fails we can stay around our celebratory bonfire singing the song of our people. There is little to talk about these communities that has not been treated in one way or the other in pop culture in recent time. These communities stem from the wanting to stay among like-minded individuals. The reasons from establishing such a community may be differ in terms of base motivation, be it social, political or spiritual, but mostly all of them promote a social cohesion, voluntarism and teamwork, the hippie’s dream, with particularities.

One year after the release of The Village, linked above, the creator of the award winning documentary “SuperSize Me”, Morgan Spurlok, released a tv show called “30 Days” where similarly to ‘SuperSize Me’ he puts himself or other willing individuals to live for a period, you guessed it, 30 days under unfamiliar and challenging situations, in the 3 seasons he pairs volunteer border guards with illegal immigrants, he and his wife lived on the minimum wage and in episode 5 in season 1 he takes two people to live off the grid in an ecofriendly community, and while the participants struggle to adapt, the host presents documentation on the theme of each episode. Here is a direct ThePirateBay link to the torrent for the 1st season, episode 5 is the relevant one to this post, I would have provided other ‘legal’ links but this situation applies. I claim no responsibility for YOUR choice of action: ignoring the link, researching the show or piracy.

Another heavily embedded into contemporary culture is the Amish way of life, who chose to keep their way of life relatively unchanged since they came to America from Europe in the 18th century, they are extremely reluctant to adopt any new technology, especially when it contravenes their ethics.

Under the evidence of “The fellowship of Intentional Community” there are as of writing 2437 such gatherings across the world. The largest of these being the Danish ‘Freetown’ of Christiania, one of Copenhagen’s neighborhoods. Initially a military base that was abandoned in 1967, by 71 the holes in fences gave way to groups of people slowly taking residency in the base. Claiming that it is indeed a hippie’s dream, where any and all can find refuge. It has come so far that Christiania, has a representative in the local government, and has special internal rules that the community fallows and there are special laws in regards to the management of the property, while the land is still owned by the Danish Defense Ministry, administration is done by the government and not by the city’s council. And while there have been several violent incidents where the government tried to relocate the residents, Christiania sees roughly half a million tourists each year, most Danes bringing guests to show them something truly unique in Europe. This probably has nothing to do with the fact that the Freetown has its own marijuana market, condemned by the state, but at the same time tolerated.

While this particular community is a spark for much debate many important lessons about people can be learned from Christiania. Such lessons stem from the community’s banishment of hard drugs, of biker gangs who wished to ad drugs inside the community; the fact that while the government spent roughly 100.000 euros in an attempt to establish a new architectural plan for the region, and later dismiss all proposals, the community established group meetings and workshops and made their own urban-plan, which gained the support of the municipality, this was done in less time and with no actual expenses for the state.

I can only wish for such civic involvement in my town, my country, to say I dream big, I wish the whole world would take example. But it’s not the most feasible model on a large scale. But still I like to think that man is good, malleable, but good, because he is social, and such communities bring the best out of those who wish to take part, since they are incentivized to actively participate in everything that affects them.


Do your part for a better world!

Mongolian nomads and globalization

By Larisa Rusu

With the advent of capitalism and the free flow of people and goods there has been an intensifying globalization which has made possible certain changes, prominently in the fields of world trade, international policy agreements, and politics. In this turmoil fueled by low-cost air transportation, the on-growing tourism industry, multinational companies and the Western supremacy, something called the “clash of civilizations” has been given birth to.

Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicts that “The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics”.
In this gap between cultural identity and globalization, national identity, the preservation of one’s own states’ values and war-leading national pride collide with the principles of no boundaries and worldwide acceptance of the same life principles.

In search for a speaking example of the clash between tradition and the growing globalization I found the Mongolian nomads. They are one of the last remaining nomadic cultures nowadays. Tradition of thousands of years of wandering the Mongolian steppe is now at risk as a consequence of the changing economic and environmental landscape. Sitting on a vast gold, coal and copper resources, Mongolia has seen an increasing westernization after the fall of the communist regime in ’92. Many of the traditional pastoral herders and cattlemen have chosen to give up the nomadic lifestyle and move to Ulaanbaatar’s impoverished yurt slums.

The following short documentary by the Journeyman Pictures shows how ancient nomadic practices are swapped with the more Western style of life.

Herders often chose to sell their belongings and live off underpaid coal mining jobs. The risk is the abandonment of millennia-old traditions. As Dagvadorj, one of Mongolia’s richest businessmen and sustainer of their culture sai about children born and/or raised in towns: “They seem less and less to know about the 5 ‘muzzles’ (horses, cows, goats, sheep, camels). The Westernization and increasing stagnation of our recent times are a real concern in our nomadic culture”

Young nomad herds by motorcycle

eagle hunter

Eagle hunter- Asher Svidensky

Naadam Mongolian Festival


Samuel P. Huntington- The Clash of Civilizations


by Dan Dracea

As the title already suggests, this is a reply to the article written by Mircea yesterday. You can find it here.

Indeed, the Internet has exploded amid the fact that Austria won the Eurovision Song Contest. And rightfully so, since it was a thing that would definitely be marked “out of the ordinary”. I’m not going to talk about the contest and whether the winner rightfully deserved it, but about the human being that won.


Now, the aim of this article is to settle things straight, because I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on. As Mircea stated in his first paragraph, Thomas Neuwirth (or as “she” is more commonly known as, Conchita Wurst) is indeed, a transsexual. A transsexual is, by definition, a person that identifies himself or herself with a gender opposite to his actual sex. In this case, Miss Sausage (as “wurst” is German for “sausage”) is a man that identifies himself with female culture, thus changing his appearance and coming up with his stage name and behavior. He makes use of makeup, dresses as a woman on stage, but incidentally, wears a beard. He is effectively, a drag queen. This is in no way ordinary, but it is neither ultra-rare.

Notice the fact that I didn’t use “sexual orientation” in any way up until this point. That, my friends, is another concept, totally unrelated to the ones I’ve talked about until now. Sexual orientation has to do with sexual attraction, and the four big types of sexual orientation are heterosexuality (in which a human feels attraction to the opposite gender/sex he/she is) homosexuality (attraction to the same gender/sex), bisexuality (attraction to both genders/sexes) and asexuality (in which case there is no attraction whatsoever; poor chaps).

Having said this and coming back to Conchita Wurst itself, one is wrong to judge him as homosexual, because we have no idea what he is attracted to. The title of Mircea’s article should have been “Trangender 1, Contestants 0,” if you wish.

Today’s society is changing pretty quickly, and it is quite common for these, let’s call them “sexual minorities”, to make themselves heard and noticed. Their numbers are growing as well, and Conchita herself is a prime example of their movement. She stands for “tolerance against a different life style, sexual orientation, or any kind of being away from the norm,” as she said in an interview back in 2012.

The night of the Eurovision Song Contest was “dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.”

Good for you guys and gals!

This little chap is going to dedicate this night to beer and football.


Dan Dracea is a sports journalist based in Romania. You can follow him on Twitter @DDracea.

Going global, or going reckless?

by Diana Cristolţean

Two examples of globalization gone wrong popped into my sight in the past weeks. These misrepresentations cannot be overlooked by someone interested in other cultures as I am, and thus, I will try to analyze the aforementioned cases and point out towards the flaws in these media products.



Preppers: do they know something we don’t know?

by Laura Vlasa

Let me be clear, as Obama likes to say, that there’s a slight difference between Preppers and Survivalists. While both groups are certain that we are going to face apocalypse in a near future, Survivalists have a more Bear Grylls approach on how to escape the imminent doomsday. They base their training on urban and nature survival, being ready to get going in a matter of minutes with nothing more than a bag-pack and an impressive set of skills, should a disaster of proportions occur. Preppers, on the other hand, have fixed shelters (or multiple shelters, by that matter), huge stocks of food, means to defend their provisions and a very detailed and well-established plan on how to “bug out” or “bug in”.