what is culture?

i’ve been assigned to run a group about cultural wellness.  at first i thought it was going to be culture-specific to african american women, but as it turns out we have a mixed group. 

in school, there was a multi-cultural counseling class that i found to be a pretty annoying lesson in reinforcing racial stereotypes.  as with any stereotypes, parts can be true.  but that’s not how i want to think about cultural identity. 

i’m very much into the study of mixed race identity development.  i think identity is fascinating.  but with this group, i have the opportunity to really branch out and look at what makes up cultural identity in general.  for the women in my group, i want to help them explore their own cultural identity and how it is related to their overall wellness.  i’m kind of stuck on where to get started and how to pull it all together. 

so i’m curious – what is your opinion on how to explore your own culture?  what is culture?  and what does it mean in your life? 

i really want to hear from as many people as possible!  thanks in advance. 

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7 thoughts on “what is culture?

  1. hmmm, way to throw out a tough question. well, on first thought, i feel as though i belong to many cutures but most of them fit into two groups. those i’ve been given and those i’ve chosen on my own. given ones include midwestern, white, male, heterosexual, american, protestant(not because i consider myself one but because i was raised in a predominantly protestant family and also if you grow up in the midwest there are a lot of protestant patterns that you’re exposed to). my chosen ones would be artist, woodworker, socialist, punk, buddhist, etc. each identities come with their own culture some big some small. how to explore them?…that’s such a personal journey i wouldn’t know where to start. just figuring out what cultures you belong to is challenging enough. i wish i could help more but i feel like i would come up short. best of luck, you’ve got a tough job, but i think you’ll find your way through. trust your instincts and be willing to fall flat on your face.

  2. Great questions! I think culture is a series of patterns that are learned through the people, places, and situations we experience in life. I think one of the best ways to explore my own culture is to leave it. When I moved from South Carolina to southern California last year, I experienced some “culture shock”. There were surf boards everywhere, people were so laid back and regularly late, and everyone was so stylish. Being away from home helped me analyze my culture and embrace the aspects I really love like southern hospitality and timeliness. It also made me change some aspects of my culture I didn’t like so much, e.g. eating healthier, being more active.

  3. Hi, Bite Size Love,

    I have been struggling with your question for years. As a mixed race person who was converted to Judaism, I have been inculcated into many cultures. I believe it is a shared set of beliefs and behaviors that are passed down from one generation to the next. It is the glue of a people, and it is a way to include some and exclude others.

    Whether we realize it or not, people are a part of many cultures, from the culture of their nation to that of a neighborhood or even a family group. If we were really astute we could find all kinds of influences and beliefs that only we share with our family and no other people. On the other hand, we could minimize those and see ourselves as completely American since our experiences are shaped totally by the unique forces that have made up this country. Well, that is my take.

  4. it’s so complex, isn’t it? when i first posted, i thought there was a simple solution, a short answer that would make everything easy to explain and have conversations about. no such luck 🙂 but our group has had many interesting conversations regardless.

    thanks everyone for continuing to answer and give feedback!

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