Saturday, February 17, 2007

Culture & Country Information

In what island country do businessmen and other civil servants wear wrap around cloths called sulu vaka togas? When looking for information on a country's current culture, Sirs Discover and Encyclopaedia Britannica are great sources for information, but two others may be flying under the radar too such as Greenwood Daily Life or the print source CultureGrams.

SIRS Discover
(easier to Use; less depth)
For specifics on culture or country fact books the browse by Culture or Country is rather effective, even though much of the same content is in both sections. Sirs, and this is probably more of a personal preference on my part, does a really good job of presenting the material in easier to read format visually on a computer screen than paging over many page loads using Encyclopaedia Britannica. The Newspapers and Magazines section at times covering countries/culture are more event driven then topic of the country or culture in general terms.

The Reference book section such as country Such as Country Facts section covers: population, geography and weather, economy, government, history, Culture Facts section covers: daily life, language, food, culture, dress, arts and music, religion; holidays, traditions, and folklore; fun facts, and additional sources.

Encyclpaedia Brittanica
(greater depth; more navigation involved)
I'm not going to spend to much time on this, database other than to cover content in country overviews. Britannica also provides a variety of different kinds of materials such as broad areas covered include: geography, culture, economy, industry, society, government, cultural life, history, and additional readings. The complete Italy article is rather long and detail or you can break up a country and drill down into a specific area of interest such as customs.

Greenwood Daily Life Database
(greatest depth in historical cultural/activity by continents)
This database has a special niche in that it covers the historical culture of daily life activities of various people groups and regions. Country specific information at times can be rather sparse.

By continents or regions in various time periods the following topics are covered with depth being: domestic, economic, intellectual, material, political, recreational, religious; and with historical overviews and primary sources.

Culture Grams
(In-Library Print Source at Most Branches R 306 Culture)
For this post, I am briefly also touching on the printed source called Culturegrams. It is wonderfully concise yet informative and standardized. For example, each country profiled has the basic information in so many different areas of culture. The list is numerous, and the risk of being repetitive, I have included many already mentioned in electronic sources but some are not found in the above databases. Here is an overview of what categories are typically covered in Culturegrams:

Background: land and climate; history;
People: population, languages, religion, general attitudes, personal appearance;
Customs and Courtesies: greetings, gestures, visting, eating;
Lifestyles: family; dating and marriage; diet, recreation, the arts, holidays, commerce;
Society: Government, economy, transportation and communication, Health,

In case your curious to the question asked at the beginning who wears the sulu vaka toga? According to Culturegrams, both men and women in Fiji wear sulu vaka togas which is a medium-to-long wrap around cloth.

Bottom Line. All four of these sources compliment each other. Each one serves a different audience well. Overall, for a concise current day overview of a culture/country daily life activities Culturegrams is a great source for almost all audiences . For historical context, the Greenwood Daily Life does an excellent job of providing the same thing, but primarily focused on a regional basis.