The impact of COVID-19 on cultures around the world has been severe and, in some cases, devastating. Festival cancellations and other repercussions on the tourism sector are more obvious, than other, less prominent consequences of the pandemic.
Today, we’ll talk about how COVID-19 is changing cultures all over the world. We’ll look at how Covid impacts culture at its very core, how it affects indigenous people, and how it impacted the mental health of the general population.
We’ll also consider how culture influenced the responses to COVID-19 across the globe. And, finally, have a look at how language fits into the Covid response.
Let’s dive in.
The COVID Impact on Culture, Art, and Creative Sectors
What is culture without art? The creative ways that a group of people expresses themselves are one of the defining elements of culture. And the art and creative sectors were significantly impacted by COVID-19 in 2020.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the risk of one losing his or her job in cultural and creative sectors ranged from 0.8 to 5.5% during Covid. This applied mostly to venue-based sectors including live music events, performing arts, museums, festivals, and cinemas.
Due to social distancing, there were many closures and, subsequently, lay-offs. The drop in the tourism sector also meant less money went towards the production of cultural goods and services.
More Virtual Events Popping Up
And while the tourism and cultural sectors felt the brunt of the general response to COVID — a shutdown of economies — virtual cultural events began to pop up to help curb the cultural downfall.
Unfortunately, though, the OECD states that large firms were the ones who benefitted most from these online alternatives, while smaller businesses and independent artists felt the full strain of Covid’s wrath.
Roadside vendors, art exhibitionists, nightclub owners, and small local arts and music institutions stood no chance of survival after several countries banned large social gatherings.
Unless, of course, they innovated.
Even writers, some of whom heavily rely on book fairs and literary festivals for income, were left in the wind when events like the Oxford Literary Festival and the London Book Fair got cancelled.
Eurovision saw its very first suspension in 2020, while sporting events like the Tokyo Olympics and Euro 2020 were delayed to 2021 or “until further notice.”
Like many beloved annual events, their fate is in a sort of limbo.
The cultural strength of many tribal nations is in a similar predicament…
The COVID-19 Impact On Cultures And Society of Indigenous People And Tribal Nations
For one tribe in the US, the death of an elder is equivalent to losing an entire library.
In Montana, tribes of Native American people were quick to implement a strict COVID-19 response — because losing just one elder would mean losing a massive chunk of their cherished cultural knowledge.
A couple of months after COVID reared its head in the country, tribes such as the Blackfeet Nation and the Crow Nation focused on protecting their most vulnerable through “reservation shutdowns and stay-at-home orders.”
Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, a member of the Crow Nation and a state legislator, noted that, “when an elder dies, there’s a whole history, a whole line of information that we lose. It’s like the library burning down.”
That library includes “vanishing languages, history and important cultural knowledge.”
The Navajo Nation fared poorly when they experienced an outbreak and saw 246 people die, so other tribes were keen to avoid similar consequences due to inaction.
How Has COVID-19 Changed Our Culture For The Good?
But while some Native American tribes find themselves in a precarious situation, some experts are looking to theirs and other indigenous people’s harmonious relationship with nature as the world anticipates a COVID-free time again.
While much of the world has infused their reliance on new technologies into their culture — leaving nature to fall by the wayside with drastically destructive consequences — Amazonian, Australian, Thai, New Zealanders, Ecuadorian, and other indigenous people refuse to let up on conserving mother earth as best they can.
Indigenous people continue to live sustainably while the rest of the world now rushes to adopt more environmentally-friendly living habits after roughly 150 years of intense deforestation, species extinction, and habit degradation.
John Scott, a Senior Program Manager of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and a descendent of Australia’s Iningai people, insists that we must enter a post-Covid world only by reconciling culture and nature.
The peaceful coexistence of living beings and nature, including plants, animals, and all of the elements, will (theoretically) help us avoid similar pandemics as well as leave a better world — one where culture reflects a harmony with nature — for our children.
UN Environment Programme’s executive director Inger Anderson pointed to global heating and over-farming, mining, and housing as what initiated the unwanted contact with such deadly diseases from our vital wildlife in the first place.
She urges humans to stop “playing with fire.”
How COVID Has Affected Culture At Its Very Core
On that forward-looking note, the World Bank points to heritage and culture as one of the best means to expedite socio-economic recovery from COVID-19.
Cultural practices boost resilience and social networks. The resulting social cohesion means more people will participate in recovery efforts, and there’ll be stronger leadership.
On the other hand, not practicing one’s culture combined with the social isolation which the pandemic forced upon most of us has led to damaging psychological effects.
One report states that 41.6% of a 2,000-strong survey of participants from Germany, France, New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, the US, and the UK said their mental health declined due to Covid.
Work and organizational cultures have completely transformed as more people adopt a work-from-home practice.
And what about our kids who are taking virtual classes at home?
Aside from the obvious lack of social development that many fear, kids will no longer come into contact with the foreign culture of their peers, or pass on cultural behaviours that only occur during in-person interactions.
How Did Culture Impact COVID-19 Responses?
Inversely, one might also consider how various cultures influenced COVID-19 responses globally.
Places with high collectivism, such as Asian countries, saw swifter responses and earlier decreases of Covid cases.
Meanwhile, places with individualist cultures, such as the US, used war-like phrases to rally citizens against Covid — the “invisible enemy.” This created internal stability but resulted in diverging measures against Covid throughout the country’s various states.
Finally, there is the issue of language as it relates to the indigenous people who may not have had access to accurate information about COVID-19.
Dedicated organizations made sure to prepare an ample amount of resources in various aboriginal and indigenous languages so that life-saving information is accurately translated and provided to those who need it.
Culture Is More Important Than We Thought
What we all need right now, though, is a revival of culture and a unification via our heritage. Covid has left many of us isolated, but it doesn’t mean we’re not coming out of it and finding ways to socialize.
As living, breathing, feeling human beings, interaction is arguably a basic need.
The pandemic has dragged our mental health through the mud, but we can find respite through our art and creativity — two things all of us were granted with.
Slowly, Covid is getting out of our way. And many are filling the space it left behind with culture and nature. Since many places are still not open, there’s often nothing left to do but cultivate a greater appreciation for our only home — this green earth.
Are you still experiencing the Covid culture shock? Or are you starting to see the light?