Demystifying Culture

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Demystifying Culture

What exactly does it mean?

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In our journey to explore the depths of culture, it's pivotal that we first understand what "culture" truly means. A concept often spoken about, yet challenging to define in a concise manner, we turn to a trusted definition from scientific literature:

Definition of Culture:
Culture is "the sum total of ways of living, including values, beliefs, aesthetic standards, linguistic expressions, patterns of thinking, behavioral norms, and styles of communication which a group of people has developed to ensure its survival in a specific physical and human environment" (Pusch, 1979, p. 2).

This definition has been borrowed from Margaret D. Pusch's book titled "Multicultural Education: A Cross Cultural Training Approach".

Now, let's embark on an exploration of this definition to offer more clarity:

  1. Ways of Living: Think of culture as a vast mosaic, where every tile represents a unique way of life. These tiles come together to form the grand picture that represents the collective life of a community.

  2. Values and Beliefs: At the core of every culture lies its values and beliefs—principles and convictions that guide how people perceive the world and their place in it. This can range from deep spiritual beliefs to values around family, work, and relationships.

  3. Aesthetic Standards: This refers to what a group of people perceives as beautiful, appealing, or artful. This can manifest in various forms such as art, music, dance, and even fashion.

  4. Linguistic Expressions: Language, in all its forms, is a powerful pillar of culture. The way people communicate, the idioms they use, the stories they tell—all these linguistic nuances shape and are shaped by their culture.

  5. Patterns of Thinking: Each culture has its unique way of approaching problems, perceiving relationships, or understanding the cosmos. It's like a cognitive fingerprint, distinguishing one culture from another.

  6. Behavioral Norms: These are the unwritten rules that dictate how individuals within a culture act in different situations. Whether it's how they greet each other, dine together, or celebrate—each action has a cultural undertone.

  7. Styles of Communication: Beyond just language, this involves the tones, gestures, silences, and even non-verbal cues people use to convey messages.

This ties culture to both the physical surroundings (like landscapes and climates) and the social dynamics. Over generations, cultures adapt and evolve to ensure that their community thrives in their specific environment.

So, when we talk about culture, we're not merely referring to traditions or festivities. It's an intricate web of beliefs, behaviors, and communication styles—a system developed over time to help a community prosper and make sense of their world.


Pusch, M. D. (1979). Multicultural Education: A Cross Cultural Training Approach. Intercultural Press, Inc., 70 W Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.

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