Defining Culture

How do you define “culture”?  It is the word providing the predominant aspect of “multicultural” and the basis for “diversity” programs. Many people give this word an extremely narrow designation, thinking of it as racial or religious.

To define the term correctly, we need to look at the dictionary. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Culture is “The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought.” The dictionary further explains “these patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population.”

With this thinking it is easy to understand there are many categories of culture. Let’s say your family is planning a summer weekend reunion by a wooded lake. Some will look forward to the weekend as they will be able to swim, ski, hike, relax, read, or engage in quiet conversation.These six items can be categorized as “recreational”.

Upon further analysis, the first three are “active recreations” while the last three are “sedentary recreations”. Dig down further and you will find that each of the six activities can also be considered a culture. Swimmers, for example, may prefer pool, fresh, or salt water, still or gently tidal waters, and so forth. People who prefer pools think and act differently from people who are avid about swimming in the ocean. In fact, each level of these categories and subcategories give us more insight into a group of individuals, with the familiarity helping us to better relate to the culture’s members as customers or employees.

Each of us is a variety of different cultures in a single body. Recreation, religion, race, politics, economic level, educational background, geography, and many other aspects of life have defined ways to think, act, and react.

When your think of diversity perhaps you will  no longer look at it as just a black and white issue.