My Experience with Culture Shock, Culture and Culture Diffusion

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“Modern mas hit at J’Ouvert San Fernando” is an article published by Trinidad and Tobago Newsday on 4TH March, 2019. The author of this piece was done by Laurel Williams. J’Ouvert is an annual Carnival event that is held on a large street. On March 4th, the party was held in the streets of San Fernando in Trinidad. There were 26 mas band performances and this year’s J’Ouvert celebration, it had the largest crowds, there were a great number of modern mas bands and modern J’Ouvert celebrators.

They were not much traditional participants of the ole mas and J’Ouvert. The bandleader, Val Ramsingh went along with tradition mas band claiming to show that he was trying his best to revive the old traditional ways of mas. He stated that either way we try to restore the ole ways, “somehow or the other we allow propaganda” and that he also blame “the powers that be” does nothing to restore the traditional values. Ramsingh said, we need to do something about rescuing ole mas and J’Ouvert. He said it should not be reduced of its traditional values, so we need to search for sponsorships. He does not want J’Ouvert to become a type of street party. San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello suggested that the traditional mas was fading away as Carnival evolves with new rising styles. He said that young people are not participating in “placard mas”, in which they dress with logo clothing’s, and they behave in a revelry way towards Carnival celebration and Carnival music. He said that “Carnival is changing” and that “young people are not interested” of the old traditions. In this article three cultural concepts will be looked at; culture shock, real culture and cultural diffusion.

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Theoretical Discussion

“Culture shock is the disorientation that people experience when they come into contact with a fundamentally different culture.” (Mustapha 2009, 84) Culture shock was seen in J’Ouvert in San Fernando due to the lacking of ole mas displays by crowd. This is because a large sum of people did not wear any traditional costumes and the photo taken by Ansel Jebodh during J’Ouvert morning in the article which was evident to the aspect. Culture shock was seen by persons who saw differences in their traditional event. Further evident was seen in the article due to veteran bandleader Val Ramsingh who stated that it broke his heart due to the way most people were dressed for this annual event. He was in a shocked and disappointed state to see J’Ouvert celebrated differently from its traditional manner and how the component of materialistic culture (costumes) as rarely seen.

“Real culture refers to the values and standards of behavior that people actually follow in society.” (Mustapha 2009, 84). Real culture aspect was found & mentioned in the article due to the way the bandleader Val Ramsingh said he displayed himself and the band. He was seen wearing a dress along with false breast and a wig, as he stated “just as Holly Betaudier formed a parang bandwagon and revived parang when it was dying, so too would he and his band for traditional mas”. (Williams 2019). He followed the norms of the tradition and respected its values rather than acting with a revelry behavior.

“Cultural diffusion this is the spread of cultural characteristics from one group to another, or the spread of cultural traits from one society to another.” (Mustapha 2009, 93) The knowledge of how one is to dress for J’Ouvert is crucial for the excitement of the event. If one is to dress, you can say inappropriately to the J’Ouvert then questions may arise about the way that person is dressed. Now as stated in the other aspects above; culture shock & real culture, we can now relate to the cultural diffusion aspect. This aspect focus on the way the people carried out themselves during J’Ouvert and especially the way they were dress. Evident to the lacking of costume displays is seen by the photo taken by Ansel Jebodh during J’Ouvert morning (See Appendix 1). Costume dress up plays a huge role during ole mas & J’Ouvert but this Carnival it was a bit different. The crowd wore brightly colored t-shirts with logos and acted in a revelry manner to the soca music. This showed a different type of movement (trait) was spread from other events such as music concerts; this can be referred to as cultural levelling. “Cultural levelling refers to the process by which cultures become similar to one another.” (Mustapha 2019, 93) According the article, “San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello agreed that traditional mas was dying, and said new trends are developing as Carnival evolves. Young people, he said, are not participating in “placard mas” compared to years ago.” (Williams 2019). His statement identify that there was a change in the tradition and according to Mustapha (2019) “Not all sectors of society experience change equally, nor do all parts of a culture change at the same pace.” Hence Val Ramsingh, and his band celebrated J’Ouvert the traditional way.


My Opinion and conclusion to this article is that it gave aspects about Trinidad 2019 Carnival J’Ouvert event and how it will evolve as Mayor Junia Regrello said in the future. However since ole mas and J’Ouvert are traditional, certain changes may be added, but traditional values should not be removed. It will affect the norms and customs of the tradition and eradicate the main flavor of the event. The manner in which bandleader Val Ramsingh carried out his band was an excellent way of reminding the people of how the event should actually be celebrated.  

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