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  • Writer's pictureDr. Jill King

Culture: When Worlds Collide


It's what makes (our unique) world go round.

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people. — Mahatma Gandhi

What is “culture”?

One of the easiest ways to express culture is that it’s a shared way of thinking, feeling, and doing things.

This could be things like:

  • ethnic or regional cultures — such as being Basque, Appalachian, or Yoruba

  • cultures of representation and expression — such as Internet memes, language, fashion, etc.

  • occupational, industry, or workplace organizational cultures — such as a hospital culture, a backstage culture, or (of course) a wellness industry culture

  • subcultures or special interest groups — such as model train aficionados, tattoo artists, or bodybuilding/physique athletes

Culture — yours and others’ — is another major factor in shaping our reactions and strategies. Culture makes (our unique) world go round Culture makes stuff make sense to us.

If you’re a grownup, living in the “grownup world”, your teenager seems completely illogical. (Why, for the love of God, do they have to listen to that racket so loud?! So many curse words!) But if you’re living in “teenager culture”, your world — with its own language, cultural representation, and modes of self-expression — makes total sense to you. (wht3vr. dad sux. lulz.)

This may seem obvious. But because we’re marinating in our own culture, we forget how much it can shape our ideas, viewpoints, assumptions, and perspectives.

Culture shapes our core beliefs, values, and priorities. Culture tells us how things work. How they ought to work. And what we should do about all of that.

Which brings us to our world today.

Because it's all about values and priorities, right? If you’re not aware of your own cultural standpoint, and you’re not aware of others’ cultural standpoints, you may find yourself butting up against potentially challenging, awkward, and/or miscommunication with cultural divides.

When worlds collide So let’s think about some of these cultural divides you’re facing in your own life. This could include:

  • Language — either actual (as in English or Spanish) or figurative (in terms of the stuff you talk about, and the way you talk about it).

  • Social expectations — what people, on average, should care about and how they should behave socially

  • Daily routines — how much time people have and how they spend it

  • Socioeconomic concerns — what disposable income people have available, and what seems like a good way to spend it

  • Familiar foods — including cultural bonding through food and eating

  • Cultural identity — as “fit person” or “Hispanic American” or…?

  • Transmission of information — who is seen as “the expert”?

How could you speak across these cultural divides? How would you make yourself understood? Where could you find common ground? How would you accommodate your family and their unique needs? How could you make your knowledge intelligible and meaningful to them? What would they need from you to create meaningful interaction between both of you?

Nothing is one size fits all. Life experiences and perspectives are different. We can still honor each other and celebrate our differences.

Putting it all together

Be prepared to listen and learn. To nourish and grow.

  • Think about how “culture” — as a shared way of thinking, feeling, and doing things — might influence our own way of life, and others.

    • What are your “cultures”?

    • What are your others’ “cultures”?

  • Consider what your own cultural standpoint is. Remember that you are “consciously biased” — aware of how your own perspectives, experiences, and worldview affects your agenda.

  • Imagine some of the cultural divides you might face with your family and friends. These could include:

    • language

    • social expectations

    • daily routines

    • socioeconomic concerns

    • familiar foods

    • cultural identity

    • transmission of nutrition information and “expertise”

Relax. You got this.

It's ok that you have a different perspective as other people. We all have experiences and that is the lens we see life through. People can teach us so much about ourselves and that is the beauty of doing life with others. Remember that it doesn't make you, or them, right or wrong. It just makes us different and that is what makes us unique. When someone gives you their opinion, it is like an a-la-carte menu. Take what you want and leave the rest.

This may all seem kinda complicated. And in some ways, it is. Just observe carefully. Ask good questions. Be thoughtful. Communicate as best you can.

Next week we will tackle how to deal with stress that you may feel in difficult conversations. It is amazing what the body does.

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