Understanding the Nature of Culture

Understanding the Nature of Culture - Understanding the...

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Understanding the Nature of Culture Also before traveling consider your own values and stereotypes. A Stereotype is a broad generalization about groups based solely on the group affiliation. Although it will be discussed more in the Race chapter, stereotypes have to be managed, especially among ethnocentric persons. Culture is the shared values, norms, symbols, language, objects, and way of life that is passed on from one generation to the next. Culture is what we learn from our parents, family, friends, peers, and schools. It is shared, not biologically determined. In other words, you are only born with drives, not culture. Humans have Biological Needs, which are the innate urges that require some action on our part if we are to survive. These include the need to urinate, breath, eat, drink, and sleep or else we eventually collapse and die. If we urinate in enclosed bathrooms, behind a tree, or in an open air urinal depends as much on our cultural traditions as it does on our biology. Likewise, we may eat ground beef, snails, worms, fermented cabbage, fish eggs, or animal lard depending on our cultural assumptions. Values are defined standards of what is good, bad, desirable, or undesirable for ourselves and others. Typical American values—considered for the entire nation and described by Williams, 1970 were: achievement and success ; equality; individualism; racism and group superiority; activity and work ; education; efficiency and practicality; religiosity; progress; romantic love/monogamy; science and technology; equal opportunity; material comfort; nationalism/patriotism; humanitarianism; external conformity; freedom; and democracy and free enterprise (see Williams, R. M. (1970). American Society: A Sociological Interpretation, 3rd Ed. NY; Knopf). Do these collective values apply to your own personal values? It helps to do your homework about your country and your own personal values before you experience another culture. After you’ve researched the cultures you will visit, compare them to your own using this continuum : Not Very Extremely Morally ←-------------------------------------------------------------------------------→Morally Significant Significant Key Point: You should never, ever be required to forfeit your own values in the pursuit of teachability, cultural relativism, and skilled cross-cultural relationships. If the typical US culture is more like your world-taken-for-granted and you travel to an equatorial country where they behave in a different manner, then your enthusiastic hand shaking, personal questioning, and space intrusions might land you in hot water (see Table 6 below). It’s best not to assume that a polite American also makes a polite Costa Rican and vice versa. Table 6: Aren’t My Best Cultural Skills (the ones that work so well for me at Home) Good
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Understanding the Nature of Culture - Understanding the...

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