What is Culture?

Most people have a very vague idea of ​​what culture means. The term has become a buzzword, heard and spoken everywhere, repeated ad nauseum in every medium, with little understanding. In vague and general terms, it is what makes “they” different from “us.” It is the language, the customs, the food, the art, the architecture of the music and the lifestyle. And that is all true; These are undoubtedly an integral part of what we call culture. But there’s more than that

. There are a number of social sciences that really define and study culture: anthropology and sociology are the two best known. There are also the highly specialized fields of Intercultural Communication, Cultural Psychology, Sociolinguistics, and Cultural Anthropology, each of which clearly deals with various aspects of culture. Among these sciences and studies there are more than 500 definitions of culture. One that is simple and often used is:

Culture is all learned behavior.

The learned behavior consists of everything that would not be considered instinct. For example, all human beings have the natural instinct to find food and eat. However, the way a specific group chooses to do that, what they choose to eat, is culture, not instinct. Animals operate solely on instinct and are allegedly cultureless, although that assumption has been questioned.

The concept of culture is often taught initially in initial anthropology and sociology courses using the “cultural iceberg”:

Think of an iceberg in the water. There is a part of the iceberg that you can see above the waterline. The part above the water represents all the visible componentsof culture: art forms, music, food, food customs, funerary customs, tools and technology, clothing, religious customs, objects and artifacts, and a host of others. Under the water is the part that cannot be seen, which basically consists of beliefs, values, philosophy, worldview, perceptions and ways of thinking. This part of the iceberg obviously supports the part above the water. Which part of the iceberg is the largest? Obviously, it is the invisible part and this is exactly what you stumble upon when experiencing the so-called culture shock, culture potholes and culture conflicts. A cultural bumpIt is any specific experience in which someone experiences dissonance, discomfort, or a problem due to a cultural difference. The person involved may think that the problem is due to a visual component of the culture, but it is often what is not seen or understood that causes the problem, i.e. the invisible part of the iceberg. What is more, most of our culture is unconscious and we are not fully aware of the core beliefs and philosophies of our culture because we have internalized them so deeply and accepted them as reality. and the truth.

Parents and families transmit the culture from the first day of life and the transmission continues through other social institutions, such as schools, churches, peer groups and other social groups, the media, generally throughout life.

All cultures believe that their culture is correct and good. This is the definition of ethnocentrism and it is characteristic of all human beings of all cultures (believe it or not!). The reason we are ethnocentric is that the core beliefs, worldviews, and philosophies of our own culture make up much of what we call reality, and are highly unconscious and highly internalized. Until we’ve spent years trying to unearth these and examine them for what they are, their cultural norms will dictate their definitions of good, bad, rude, polite, right and wrong.

Here is an example of a cultural bump in which the two parties involved had no idea why they had a negative reaction. In a cultural experiment in which people in various social situations were observed, two businessmen, one North American and the other South American, had a meeting. After the meeting, the North American had the impression that the South American was “aggressive”, but when asked about the specific behavior caused by this response, he was unable to respond adequately. The South American thought that the American was “cold”, and could not say why either. At the time the study was transported, the acceptable body distance between two people was determined to be the culprit.

Americans stand and sit a little further apart, in a fairly defined comfort zone. The comfort zone of the South Americans is a little different, a little closer. You can see that this aspect of culture was not on the conscious level of consciousness of the two people involved. Other problems that arose include different forms and interpretations of compliments,and a different level of intimidation expected between the two parties. This study is old and may not be true today, since another characteristic of culture is that it is always changing. Especially with the advent of the Internet and the global media, very interesting changes are taking place in individual cultures, and the world is obviously becoming more homogeneous. And, there are also all kinds of good / bad opinions about that fact!

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