In every aspects of society, there are social norms. If there are no norms, we would be living in a world full of chaos because norms define which behaviors are normal and which behaviors are not normal. These social norms are important to know so people do not act in a particular way that would cause Deviance, behavior that violates norms. On February 13th, 2015, I was in my sociology class to obtain some new information and increase my knowledge. It was a regular chilly winter morning and my sociology teacher told the class to break a norm in our society as a research experiment. This to me felt like a Cultural Shock, personal uneasiness one feels when entering a new culture, because as a Korean, being respectful and following the rules are a huge part in the Korean culture. I definitely did not expect a teacher, who should be telling us to not break rules and behave in a respectful manner, to tell us to break the rules and possible be rude by breaking social norms. Although I was shocked, I was very excited to go out there and break some norms.
I began this experiment on February 19th, 2015 in Palisades Park, New Jersey. Now what is interesting about Palisades Park is that it is a Korean town. There were a lot of Korean cafes and bakeries all around the area. And just like me, they all had Cultural Particularities, traits that are particular to a culture. I was very interested in recording the reactions of the people in this town while I would be breaking the norm. I first entered a bakery called Shilla. There were quiet a few people at the place. I observed and it seemed as though most of them were Korean elders socializing and minding their own business. I walked up to the cash register feeling a little bit nervous. The cashier looked very friendly and had a pleasant smile on her face. As soon as I approached her, I asked her, “Can I get a Big Mac, please.” She replied, “Excuse me?”
And I told her the same thing. She had a very puzzled look on her face and that pleasant smile was no longer there. I observed and in my head I went, oh shoot. What is she going to say? Is she going to kick me out of the store? She politely responded, “I’m sorry, but I think you came to the wrong store. We don’t have Big Mac here. Please go elsewhere.” Unable to contain myself, I burst out into laughter. I looked around and the Korean elders were all looking at me funny. I was definitely able to tell that they were all judging me of how rude I was being and how much of a nuisance I was creating. Feeling embarrassed, I ran out of the store quickly. Although I felt like I failed on my first try, I did succeed on examining the reactions of the cashier and the other customers in the store as well.
I moved on to the next store for a second try. This time I was going to not mess up and keep asking for a Big Mac to further see more reactions. The store that I entered was a bakery/cafe called Paris Baguette. I again looked around and observed the area. The social setting was the same as when I was in Shilla except this time the cashier up at the cash register did not look too friendly. I felt like the cashier’s Social Interaction, the ways people respond to one another, was not going to be too polite if I asked for a Big Mac. But I did not let that stop me from experimenting. So I confidently walked up to the register and loudly spoke and asked the cashier, “Can I get a Big Mac, please?” The cashier had a face of a pissed off bulldog and she rudely responded, “Do we look like McDonald to you?” I was a bit intimidated but I did not let that stop me and I continued, “Well I don’t care. I’m asking for a Big Mac. Can you please give me a Big Mac? French Fries too while you’re at it.” She rudely responded again, “Look! I’m sorry, but we don’t have Big Mac.
This is a Korean cafe/bakery, not freaking McDonald!” In response, I told her to go buy me a Big Mac and sell it to me. At this point, she was not going to take anymore of my nonsense and cursed me off and asked me to leave the store before she calls the cop to make me leave. It was time to break the act because if I continued on, I would have gotten into trouble. I quickly explained to her it was a sociology experiment and told her to relax. She did not looked too pleased. As I began to walk out of the store, I observed the Social Structure, the way society is organized into predictable relationships. I apologized to the Korean elders around me who gave me a disgusted look.
They told me I was incredibly rude and told me to not live my life like that, which sounds like a bit of a harsh thing to say to a person, but I expected this kind of a response from the elders because of their Cultural Particularities and their Social Structure on respect and orders. They completely ignored the fact that the cashier was also incredibly rude to me with a horrible customer service. But ultimately, I was the villain of the scene because I was the one breaking social norm.
In conclusion, my experiment turned out to be pretty successful. I was able to observe and obtain data on how people in the bakeries and cafes react to unusual behavior that is not in their social norm. I was able to see and understand many different sociological concepts through my experiment and what can be the cause and the effect of breaking social norm. In today’s world, this concept of social norm will continue on in our society as long as we live in a orderly world of civilians that socialize and live with proper manner.
Courtney from Study Moose
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