What is Culture?
Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, defined by everything from arts, beliefs, customs, language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and other products of human work and thought considered as a unit. Cultural diversity is where many cultures are mixed together. America has become a culturally diverse country, and it is time to support that!
Engage With a Different Culture
The main culture around me is one that I am familiar with and know well, American. The restaurants I attend, the festivals I go to, and the stores I visit are all of American ethnicity. After doing a search of my town, however, I found that there are restaurants, stores, and even a few festivals that cater to different ethnicities. I went to La Mexicana and got a closer look at Mexican ethnicity. While at the store I observed interactions between the people there, the different smells in the air, and the sounds such as language used and the volume of that language.
My older cousin, my husband, and my daughter went to La Mexicana with me. We stayed and observed for about 45 minutes. An interesting thing I noted about the interactions is that it was as if everyone knew everyone. When we walked in there was a male clerk at the front and he said hello with an accent, but we could tell that he was not used to seeing newcomers. When other Mexicans walked in the clerk spoke to them in Spanish. Two Mexican families came in while and about four Mexican males came in alone during our stay. The interactions between people were upbeat and loud. They laughed a lot when they were talking and used their hands to talk some.
The language I heard while in the store is attributed to the fact that the store catered to a different ethnicity. The clerk was used to Mexicans coming in and so they spoke Spanish to one another. The neighborhood around the store is quiet because many people walk in the neighborhood instead of driving. The different smells in the store are attributed to the fact that the store sold different groceries than a typical American store like Wal-Mart or County market. Mexicans are used to different items and a way of life. For instance, one thing I noticed that the store had a lot of was tortillas. There were many different kinds and at least 3 of the customers that checked out bought tortillas.
This experience brought me out of my comfort zone. I had never driven in the neighborhood until I visited the store. I felt uncomfortable walking up to the store and going inside, because it felt like I was the minority in that area. At this store, we were the outcasts and the ones who felt like we did not belong. This observation opened up my eyes to how other ethnicities must feel when walking into Americanized restaurants or stores. It also broadened my intercultural communication. It helped to understand Mexicans more and how they interact with one another. A positive thing about it is that I now know how Mexicans greet one another and the gestures they use when speaking.
Dare to Change
Culture is all around, embrace it! Being different isn't a bad thing. We look at people who are different than us, and automatically our thoughts go negative. It doesn't have to be this way. Through learning about other cultures, my appreciation for things such as art, music, festivals, LIFE, etc. has grown considerably.
It is my plan for you to visit a store, restaurant, neighborhood, festival, party, etc. that is out of your comfort zone. I stayed stuck in my same culture for years and never experienced what other wonderful cultures the world has to offer. With technology and the resources available to us in this day and age, people are better able to communicate with others outside of their culture and to even visit with them. Take advantage of this, and expand your horizons. Some of my best friends are now those who are of a different ethnic background than me. From them I have learned how to love, how to throw a party, how to laugh, and even how to speak a fraction of a few different languages. One of the neatest things I learned was how different cultures celebrate holidays. For instance, Cinco de mayo, is a holiday in Mexican culture, and while in America people use it as a day to drink, there is an important meaning for it in Mexico and to those of the Mexican ethnicity. I challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone and make an effort to learn something new about a culture other than your own. Have fun! You may even enjoy it like I did. During my quest I also visited a Baptist church, and let me tell you, they know how to rock it! Usually I am shy, but I could not help but dance. Share your cultural experiences in the comment section. I would love to hear about them!
Who would have thought the same gesture could mean different things to different cultures?
Quote on Culture
"Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbour is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions."
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"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people."
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The best way to understand another culture is though meeting the people of the culture, not reading about it in a book or believing everything that is on TV.