On Human Culture

Culture: the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations

Culture: the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group

Culture: the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life} shared by people in a place or time

Culture: the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization

Culture: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic (All the above are from Merriam-Webster)

I don’t know why, but I enjoy being around different cultures of human society, although growing up in a bilingual household may be part of it.

Across the US, geography creates different American cultures as rural-city, east-west, urban-suburban, Catholic-Protestant, Christian-Jew-Muslim-Hindu-Budahist, and many more. Pockets of ethnic neighborhoods remain today in many cities today where a foreign culture strives on American soil. Yep – count me as one who loves the Italian neighborhoods as in San Francisco (North Beach) and Boston (North End).

Today, I think of two important aspects of culture. First, American culture has a rich history of effects from immigration. After all, our melting pot heritage is loaded with remnants from days gone by. Secondly, given the ease of travel and communications and a worldwide economy, cultures are in contact with one another more and more with each passing day.

Our ballroom dance studio is an interesting place as I’ve gotten to know people from India, China, Guatemala, Russia, and Ukraine. On my recent work project, I’ve encountered a team from India. These very kind people noticed my interest in their culture, thus told me about their life in India and shared food with me that they prepared.

To me, the bottom line is simple and they have reinforced a something I believe – goodness is a human quality that transcends all cultures. Although we tend to dwell on the negative, we need to remind ourselves that good people are throughout the world. Through different languages, different religions, different ways of life, different dress, different ideologies, different traditions, different values, and different foods, goodness exists – thus kindness, smiles, and understanding go a long way.

41 thoughts on “On Human Culture

  1. I miss the multi-cultural life in the big city – rural Ohio is rather monochromatic, in more ways than one. That’s part of why I love cruising the Net and finding all you oddballs out here blogging. 😀
    By the by, I may be silent tomorrow (alright, enough cheering!) due to my doc appt. in the morning and the wife’s in the evening. Enjoy the silence!


    • John,
      Relating your experience in big cities and a rural area is right on. And as we both know, because of communications, travel, and global economics, the world has gotten smaller – thus greater cultural interaction. I know some see that as a negative and problems happen. And thus the importance to knowing about and understanding different cultures … and that in itself is a monumental task.

      Hope all goes well with the docs!


  2. I have always ranked language study first, followed by food, of ways I can explore the world’s cultures. Your post has made me think about adding dance.


    • Tim,
      You mention good points. Let us not forget dress. Several years ago I led a multi-day workshop in a major city. One participant showed her pride in her African heritage through her dress, and I admit looking forward to her colorful wear each day. Of course we can add music, customs, and general behaviors to the list. Thanks for sharing.


  3. A lot to think about here. How our openness (or lack of openness) to other cultures might influence our approach to immigration issues- for example.

    I wonder if one’s openness and appreciation (or lack) is a reflection of a deeper world view. The world and it’s people want to be good and friendly or the world and it’s people are basically bad and dangerous. This is, of course, an oversimplification. But I do wonder…


    • Nancy,
      Wow … two great points. Regarding the latter, I would think that the degree of one’s openness, appreciation, and understanding of cultures highly correlates with one’s deeper world view. I have no evidence, just a gut feeling. Nonetheless, something to ponder. Thanks for commenting.


      • Nancy and Frank – I suppose this can’t be deemed evidence…but my view of the world is of a good and friendly world and I love to travel obviously and am quite liberal…on the other hand…my husband views the world as a more dangerous and bad place, whose idea of travel is a beach somewhere, and who is not very tolerant of those who are different than him!



        • Sherry,
          Now that’s a perspective that I haven’t thought about. Ah yes, the power of a mindset. Which also makes me wonder about reasons why some people travel more than others. But you can count my wife and I as ones enjoying travel! Thanks for stimulating a thought through your comment.


  4. Wonderful post for my first visit to your blog. Thought-provoking and interesting view of culture.

    Travel, I think, plays a role. It seems like many Americans in particular find other cultures scary simply because they haven’t traveled much beyond their own town and culture. It’s not so much a matter of leaving the country (although I think that helps) as it is exposure to another culture through visits to those pockets of ethnic neighborhoods that you mentioned. I, for one, enjoy the various ethnic festivals that go on throughout the year in my area.

    Since we’re exchanging coincidences via blog comments, my husband and I recently had brunch with an Indian colleague of his who spent the morning teaching us a little about Indian culture from his point of view (he is Muslim). We met his parents who were in the U.S. for the first time, and it was interesting talking with them as well. It was, in a sense,a cultural exchange morning. 🙂


    • Welcome Robin on your first visit here … and thanks for commenting as well.

      Great point about the role of travel in learning about culture. I imagine there will be many things that can be overwhelming to someone from a homogeneous rural visits a big city for the first time … and exposure to different cultures is one. In a similar context, going away to a good size university. BTW … going to ethnic festivals is a wonderful way to learn .. as well as have fun and probably eat well.

      And thanks for sharing the experiences within your own home!


  5. I love your last paragraph. I think we all want the same things in life – enough food, a warm dry place to sleep, a better life for our children – and I think most people are basically good. Traveling is a good way to widen one’s perspective as is simply trying something new. I started dancing salsa and Argentine tango a few years ago and I met so many wonderful people from Brazil, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Peru and the Ukraine. We all shared a love of dance and I now have some great friends.

    Lovely post!


    • Sandy,
      Special welcome to a first-time commenter. You may have been able to tell that my posts are all over the make in terms of topics. Right on in terms of the importance of travel when learning more about culture. At the same time, people from throughout the world also travel to us. Good to hear that you are also involved in dance (a hobby of ours in this house). The love for music and other arts is also right there with dance. Thanks for visiting and hope you return.


  6. Frank! You’re so open-minded and accepting, you can’t be American. My family is multi cultured and religiously varied but I hope to travel more and see it all for myself.
    Really cool subject and great blog as usual.


    • Les,
      ha ha … but unfortunately there is a lot of truth in your opening chuckle. My recent experience with working and getting to know a team from India. Here’s an odd coincidence. As I was reading your comment, an email arrived … and it was one of those from India – well, she is actually on assignment in London (UK). Odds are that I will never see any of that team again in my lifetime, so the unexpected message brought an instant smile and feeling of gratitude for the many kind people that I know exist in this crazy world.

      Les – a question for you – You mentioned the multicultural nature of your family. My I ask “from where”? Thanks for visiting!


  7. Just saw this Frank. My father’s Russian Jewish, Mom’s Irish Catholic, my nephew-in-law is Nigerian (Muslim!), and another nephew-in-law is from Equador. It’s nice to hear from the other parts of the world. I still want to travel more!


    • Les,
      With a background like yours, one develops a greater understanding of the world and the people living on it … and if it perks your interest in travel, that’s a plus – so I hope you get the opportunity to travel to the places you hope to see and to the places you may not see yourself. Thanks for the comment.


  8. Thank you Frank, for pointing out this post to me. I liked it very much, and I like the idea that we can be enriched by exposure to different cultures… and that it is important to look for the good. That’s true about life in all areas. We gain so much more by searching out the good. There are problems everywhere… mistakes, and intolerance, and misunderstandings… sometimes, we accidentally trod on someone else’s toes. So it’s a good thing to keep our eyes open… and if they’re open, to look for the good.


  9. I agree goodness is a human quality that transcends all cultures. This is very base real. A great post, to be reminded we are one. I love different cultures – the flavours of other lives…


    • LouAnn,
      The majority of people in the world would get along … unfortunately, the majority is not power hungry. Nonetheless, I truly believe in the goodness that humanity can deliver. Thanks for visiting.


  10. Cultures fascinate me. I’ll be very honest and tell you I am amongst those least cultured folks . . . While I am a resolute believer of “When in Rome . . .” I am not very often in Rome. I’ve seen to surrounding myself with a cornucopia of ethnicities, however, my ignorance stems from a fear of the vessel which would take me outside my bubble, and an abstemious diet.

    Traveling, in my opinion, is the most effective way of jumping outside your comfort zone, but more than that, you feel compelled to be bold and daring, to try new things — because you have more than likely paid to do so. But, I am that lady who is bawling by the window seat before the plane has even pulled away from the tarmac, and is still sniveling by the time the plane touches down 45 minutes later. 😉 As for being adventurous with foods . . . by the time the weekend rolls around I just want something I know will be delicious.

    I’ve recently come to the decision that entering a marriage is much like entreating into an unfamiliar culture; for however many years this other person has done all the things you have done: brushed his teeth, bought groceries, done laundry, etc . . . however, those minor variations in the modus will be enough to make it feel like entering a foreign land. 😉

    Happy Tuesday to you,

    ~ Cara


    • Cara,
      Welcome first-time commenter … and wow .. thanks for sharing so much. Besides having my laughing, diving into the meaning of your quips allwos me to see that we are on the same page about culture … well, make that the same book, but different chapters because of various factors. 😉 Thanks for visiting and hope you return.


    • Christine,
      Welcome first-time commenter via the crazy lady in Lexington … and welcome to a fellow Cincinnatian. Our city being a bit homogeneous is a bit of an understatement. But we do have the Eastside/Westside thing. Glad you liked this post and thanks for taking the time to visit and comment.


  11. Pingback: Flashbacks: On Perspectives | A Frank Angle

  12. “I don’t know why, but I enjoy being around different cultures of human society . . . . ”

    I think I know why you like being around other cultures, but it will take 18 holes of golf (walking) to fully explain.


  13. From my reading I believe that human cultures are the inevitable consequence of the evolution of self-awareness, and they must have a significant survival value to have done so. We evolved in tribes and there has always been a need to have others to watch each others backs, and of course to specialize. In general, men hunted, provided and defended while women nurtured. That worked just great until the recent invention of agriculture. We are of course still trying, chaotically, to deal with the consequences of that, including cities, the health and disease effects of crowding, and the founding of large religions.

    Living together as a small tribe only makes sense then, and is natural. The problems multiply when the tribe gets very large, as in city-large, state-large and country-large, not to mention religion-large, probably the most problematic grouping of all. In searching for some perspective on this I found a web site that seeks to define the differences between Islam and Christianity and drilled down to a comparison of how each views the other:

    For Islam:

    Jews and Christians are respected as “People of the Book”. All religions should be respected and tolerated, though Islam is the only correct way.

    For Christianity:

    Judaism is accorded as a true religion, but with incomplete revelation (incomplete without the Messiah). Judaism cannot save men and is now insufficient because the Messiah has come and taken away the sins of the world.

    Thus, each throws a sop of tolerance to the other but yields nothing of substance in the effort. They are resolute in their own beliefs, and the same is true, I submit, for political parties. We are divided more by cultural instincts than by rational differences and I can’t think of a better example of this than the current passionate fight over the Affordable Care Act, something that was originally conceived by Republicans and was embraced in Massachusetts by a Republican governor and which is now seen as anathema to their party.

    Culture on a small scale helped humanity survive and evolve, but now, on a large scale, it is destroying us, even as the explosion of population threatens the environment and the oceans die. Mankind’s future pends at a crossroads – how will it end?


  14. Whilst I don’t seek out people of different cultures, I often do find myself chatting to them, even if only briefly. I think as long as we speak the same language, we’re more comfortable interacting. It’s when we don’t fully understand what’s being said, that it becomes a problem.


  15. Pingback: On the Most Beautiful Species | A Frank Angle

  16. Pingback: On a Happy 10th – A Frank Angle

Comment with respect.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.