“Culture” is one of those words – like “purple” or “squishy”….we may know what it is, but have a hard time articulating. For easy explanation, culture is something that defines a group of people.
People with common culture share common beliefs, values, and attitudes; they share a common language and way of talking about things; they share a common perspective on the world – as in – if you have two hearts and can regenerate like BBC’s Doctor Who, you have much less fear of dying than the normal one-hearted human. This basic understanding and belief shapes all actions and thinking.
Your own personal perspective is hard to recognize because it’s embedded, as a “default” setting on how you see the world. If you grew up believing that the world is flat, and all the people and stories around you support this, it is very very hard to embrace an alternative reality. If you grew up believing everyone is out to get you and all evidence you receive and perceive points to that, you will naturally be very defensive. We generally see what we are looking for and take that as evidence of reality and truth. Acknowledging your own norm as only one of many possible “truths” is a way to start understanding other cultures. When you realize that a different culture allows for other people to have their own version of reality, your world of perspective and insight can expand. It can take practice: learning different cultural viewpoints requires getting out of the comfort zone of “normal” and willingness to believe that “different” does not mean “wrong”.
Recognizing different cultures and making it a practice to ask questions of those who are different makes us bigger, more capable, and more aware – not the opposite. It allows us to form more connections, whether we agree with another cultural viewpoint or practice, or not. Like the synapses of the brain, more connections mean higher functioning.
Is there a reason not to be inquisitive, not to expand oneself, or not to seek out new things? It is my own cultural bias not to know the answer to these questions. I grew up with the belief that to ask, to expand and to seek new things was “right”. This is my default setting, and it is the reason I believe in promoting global connectedness. This is why I care about culture.
There are many ways to describe and make sense of different cultural realities, at least as a starting point. If you are interested, let me know. Intercultural frameworks can provide a starting point to understanding a range of perspectives. There is a wide world to explore. The more you know, the more you can do and the more people you connect to. In my opinion, this is a good thing to work on.
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