Culture can be defined in a number of ways depending on where you look.
“Culture is the patterns of learned and shared behavior and beliefs of a particular social, ethnic, or age group. It can also be described as the complex whole of collective human beliefs with a structured stage of civilization that can be specific to a nation or time period. Humans in turn use culture to adapt and transform the world they live in. (Lumen)”
In the dictionary, Culture is, 1) the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time, 2) a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc., and 3) a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business). (Merriam-Webster)
Culture is multifaceted. It is shaped by many factors, including our own family, friends, larger communities & groups, as well as our local, regional, or national identities. Furthermore, it is our gender, educational experience, the media we consume or are exposed to, larger experiences, traumas, travels, and more. It is a set of values and behaviors that are learned and shared by a community.
Culture is complex because we are complex.
It is not innate but taught. Inherently shared and passes on via generations of teachers, parents, and leaders.
It is the crux of intersectionality. Our identities are not simple, neither are our lives in general. Many of these aspects overlap – this is intersectionality.
How do we learn things? Through common influences and shared experiences. This is the main reason Germany has made homeschooling forbidden because cultural socialization is vital to a shared human success. Otherwise, we might all still be disparate tribes warring often with others.
Where to focus?
Is there a difference between ‘Culture’ and ‘culture’? Yeah, sure. However, that may be a bit much for this post.
There is even ‘high-culture and ‘low-culture’, which again is a conversation for another post.
Here, I would like to mainly remind folks just how complex culture is compared to what we usually think it is. That is, what we can see, hear, taste, and smell versus that which flows under the surface but is really the engine driving each and every one of our interactions.
The Ultimate Personality Test?
My partner likes taking personality tests, or at least he did in the past. Me, I can see their use in some settings but, partly because there is such a plethora of them available – I feel sometimes like it is all a bit far-fetched for me personally. That is not to say that they don’t work necessarily – just that they never worked for ME.
It wasn’t until I began traveling, living, and working internationally and then examining personally why I just don’t seem to understand some people (and vice versa, other people just not understanding me) did I begin to uncover and understand intercultural communication as the ultimate ‘personality test’.
All of this is to say, in our increasingly globalized world, intercultural communication can offer you insight into behavior patterns across the board that will improve your ability to understand and communicate effectively with other people.
Additionally, you never know what pressures are affecting a person’s day; in addition to external factors, there could be internal cultural factors at play. So, be kind to those you encounter.
Over to you
Let me know in the comments:
How do you define culture?
What aspects (listed in the image, or not) make up the most important aspects of culture for you?