Intercultural Communication Supplement 2
Before reading any further please take a moment to visit the following web site:
On this site you can read some of the different definitions of culture people have posted.
You can even post your own.
How do you define culture?
Write your definition down
and compare it to the definition found in the next few paragraphs.
There is a great temptation to define culture in terms of national, racial, or religious
Some people want to define culture in terms of traditions such as wedding
and holiday traditions.
These answers are partially correct, but there is much more to
culture, and as you will see, its complexity influences your every communication.
Culture can be defined as a learned system of values, beliefs, attitudes, behavior,
knowledge, and norms (Beebe, Beebe & Redmond, 2005).
learn what is important, how we should feel about it, what it should look like, and how
we should behave while we’re doing it.
We learn our culture from our parents, family members, teachers, and friends.
sponges we absorb culture from everything we read, every movie we see, every song or
advertisement on the radio.
Since there are so many different sources from which we
acquire our culture, no two people in your family (no two people anywhere) will have an
identical set of cultural standards.
You might say we each have a culture of one.
Why Study Culture
Whenever we communicate with another person, we speak and we listen through the
filter of our culture:
While sitting in class you hear your instructor refer to the paintings of Chagall as if
everyone knew who Chagall is and what his paintings look like.
You think you detect a
slightly “snobbish” tone your teacher’s voice and you think to yourself, “Oh, no!
going have to know who this fancy French painter is, am I?”
(For the record, Chagall
was Russian, and you’re not going to have to learn who he is.)
Your teachers’ parents may have given her art lessons as a child.
She may have grown
up thinking everyone knew who Chagall was.
Meanwhile, you might have grown up in a
house where people were suspicious of “egghead” professors and “too much useless book
It is also possible you and your teacher came from the same town, but since
you acquired different cultural values and norms, you speak and listen with very different
values and attitudes.
So, it is important to study intercultural communication because our culture helps to
define who we are, what we think, value, and know.
It’s also important because this