Food and culture are closely related, as every nation looks first at what is valuable to their body. Food habits are fixed based on environment and values and can be changed in unfamiliar conditions. Acculturation and acceptance of other people’s experiences affect how cultural patterns develop in society. The purpose of this paper is to identify cases of acculturation and to establish the conditions for the formation of initial food habits.
Food, Culture, and Acculturation
Food is a term that reflects both the objects suitable for human consumption that replenish one’s energy and chemical reserves and the object of cultural heritage. The first definition is relatively straightforward and may include beverages and foods people like by taste or other characteristics (Kittler et al., 2016). Food as cultural heritage is ideas about why food is valuable and its role in the community.
Culture encompasses social characteristics – linguistic features, behavior, religion, food habits, and history. Culture refers to the lived experience of a nation or society accumulated throughout its existence (Kittler et al., 2016). A community has nurtured its habits, developed its language, transformed its behavior and religion, and lived its history, seeking to preserve and accumulate as much knowledge as possible.
Acculturation is a process that describes the introduction of one culture into another and the adoption of specific habits or behaviors. Acculturation can also be a positive phenomenon in which original cultural patterns are preserved (Kittler et al., 2016). It occurs when peoples move or visit other countries or areas. Alakaam and Willyard (2020) report that the eating habits of international students at colleges in the US change after relocation. It is found that many students are forced to move to standard American buffet-type diets and large portions. Students concerned about not fully following traditional eating habits (Alakaam & Willyard, 2020). After some time and growing opportunities, they learned to combine their own culture’s American tradition and patterns.
Food Habits of East Asians (Japanese)
East Asians are primarily Buddhists or a mixture of Shinto. These religions refer to simple foods that are natural, enough to bring satiety. Everyday eating habits usually do not include meat products because they are messy but focus more on fish and plant ingredients. Nevertheless, eating etiquette is strictly enforced because food is a tool for communication and bonding, as spelled out in religious beliefs.
Religion has influenced the role food plays in the family. It is common for families to have at least one meal together to strengthen bonds and pray together. East Asians prefer to share meals with loved ones in a foreign environment to show respect and bond. Japanese families’ traditions in the art of serving food allow them to bring relatives together and share the goods.
Among the eating habits of East Asians is the consumption of green tea, which has a positive effect on health. Health in East Asia is presented as a value attainable through nutrition and the social bonds achieved while eating together. Gabriel et al. (2018) suggest that principle characteristics of the Japanese diet have influenced Japanese longevity. The authors identify rationality and understanding food as the primary habit for health.
Although the food of East Asians is simple and usually wholesome, severe illnesses are common among them. In particular, this is blamed on irregular schedules and the prevalence of smoking and alcoholism due to the need to work very long hours per week (Ishida et al., 2020). In addition, the general workaholic atmosphere forces the Japanese to abuse fast carbohydrates, and obesity is common among them. Although the general perception of food is quite aesthetically pleasing, many people do not follow healthy eating habits.
Food and culture are related, and people can adopt food habits from each other. This change translates into a different behavior toward food: a change in portion size and its components. Food habits are influenced by environment: the Japanese are sensitive about food intake, but workloads lead to alcoholism and obesity. The connections between food and culture are dense, and it is impossible to study them in isolation.
Alakaam, A., & Willyard, A. (2020). Eating habits and dietary acculturation effects among international college students in the United States. AIMS Public Health, 7(2), 228–240.
Gabriel, A. S., Ninomiya, K., & Uneyama, H. (2018). The role of the Japanese traditional diet in healthy and sustainable dietary patterns around the world. Nutrients, 10(2), 173.
Ishida, Y., Yoshida, D., Honda, T., Hirakawa, Y., Shibata, M., Sakata, S., Furuta, Y., Oishi, E., Hata, J., Kitazono, T., & Ninomiya, T. (2020). Influence of the accumulation of unhealthy eating habits on obesity in a general Japanese population: The Hisayama study. Nutrients, 12(10).
Kittler, P. G., Sucher, K. P., & Nelms, M. (2016). Food and culture (7th ed.). Cengage.