Some aspects of emotion are universal to all cultures, while other aspects differ across cultures.
Ekman and his colleagues have found that people in different cultures can identify the six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. The physiological indicators of emotion are similar in people from different cultures.
Although many emotions and expressions of emotions are universal, some differences exist among cultures:
Example: Tahitians do not have a word for sadness. Germans have a word, schadenfreude, indicating joy at someone else’s misfortune, that has no equivalent in English.
Example: Shame is considered a key emotion in some non-Western cultures, but it is less likely to be considered a primary emotion in many Western cultures.
Example: A pork chop served for dinner might evoke disgust in the majority of people in Saudi Arabia, while it’s likely to provoke happiness in many people in the United States.
Example: In the United States, male friends usually do not embrace and kiss each other as a form of greeting. Such behavior would make most American men uncomfortable or even angry. In many European countries, however, acquaintances normally embrace and kiss each other on both cheeks, and avoiding this greeting would seem unfriendly.
Example: In some cultures, it is appropriate for people who attend a funeral to show extreme grief. In others, it is appropriate to appear stoic.