Additional Cultural Dimensions

As I mentioned in my last post, there is an endless list of things that help determine how we see the world around us. I have been fortunate enough to discuss this topic with a diverse group of people and with their help, I have added these additional dimensions of culture:

  • Geographic Region: If you were raised in the U.S., what part of the country do you call home?
  • Military Experience: Have you been actively involved in the military?
  • Time Orientation: Do you place more value on the past, present, or future?
  • Personality: Are you an introvert, extrovert, or a combination of both?
  • Community Type: Is home in a rural, suburban, or urban community?
  • Body Shape and Size: Does your body fall within the cultural “norms” of society or do you find yourself not fitting in?
  • Incarceration: Have you ever been incarcerated?
  • Tragedy: Have you ever experienced a personal tragedy, such as an accident, unexpected illness, or death?
  • Birth Order: Where do you fall in terms of birth order and how has that impacted you?
  • Food: What do you consider comfort food? What role does food play in your life?

I still don’t believe my list is all-inclusive. I’m waiting to hear from you. What do you want to add to the list? Remember, there are no wrong answers. We all experience life in a deeply personal and unique way. Yet, we are also greatly impacted by our families and the important people around us. Amazingly, these dimensions of culture don’t have to directly impact your life. Your culture can be impacted indirectly through relationships.

I want to share a personal story to help illustrate this point. I have never been incarcerated and have little knowledge of the criminal justice system. However, for the past 13 years, I have been a pen pal with someone who is incarcerated. He has taught me many things about life behind bars and all the challenges that come with it. I have learned what daily life is like, how parole works, and what kind of things you can and can’t send to someone who is incarcerated. Once, I sent him a care package that included gum. It turns out that gum can be used to ruin locks, so it is a big no-no in prison. I had no idea. Without stepping foot inside a prison, I have learned a lot about the prison system and its culture.

Another important and tricky aspect of culture is related to time. Culture can change! For example, I was raised Catholic. Many of my favorite childhood memories revolved around the religious rituals and traditions that I shared with my siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. However, as an adult, I drifted away from the church and no longer identify as Catholic. Did my culture change as a result? You bet.

Now it’s your turn. What dimensions of your cultural identity have changed over time and how has that impacted your worldview?

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4 Comments

  1. Steve Duff June 8, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

    I think age has started to impact my view on technology. When I was younger I used to embrace every new thing (video games, computers, new cell phones). But now that I am older, I find myself questioning technology more, like “What is the point of Instagram? I just don’t get it.” And I find I am comfortable being set in my ways. But I realize the younger culture is moving farther away from me and going to a different place. I’m sure I will eventually be way out of touch with what the younger generation thinks about technology. But I will say… it’s hard not to judge and think that my views are right and the younger generation is losing their collective minds! 🙂

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    • Laura Stanton June 10, 2017 at 1:47 am - Reply

      Thanks for your honesty. I can relate to you feeling distant from the younger generation, in general, not just in regard to technology. In this light, I think it is helpful to think about what the older generation might have thought about you and your generation. I am pretty sure the dynamic is quite similar and it has existed over hundreds of years! Differences will always be there. The important thing is to rack these up as “differences” without placing a value on them as being “better” or “worse.” The generations may just be different and that’s okay.

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  2. David Duff June 14, 2017 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    I found your question a challenging one on a couple of levels. Firstly, my changes in culture have taken places at differing rates. Some have been abrupt (the birth of a child; my first full time professional position; moving to a new part of the country), others have been gradual and more extended (college education in an extremely diverse student body; developing friendships with the homeless; the practice of medicine; living in one of the more diverse communities in the US; developing friendships and working with people of various genders, sexual identities, economic backgrounds; having family members enter the judicial system; etc…).

    Secondly, I am not sure what qualifies as culture as opposed to life experiences that shape our personalities. Is there a difference between them? For instance, is my having had family members who have died a cultural issue? Or is it one of many experiences I share in common with most of the world? Perhaps just trying to identify the bias I bring to evaluate the world is the key.

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  3. Laura Stanton June 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    Great comments Dave. Time is tricky like you said and some changes occur instantaneously and others evolve over time. There are certainly many personality and life experiences that shape the way we see the world around us, as you have mentioned. For me, culture is unique in that it binds itself from one generation to another. So a death of a family member might be viewed as a life experience that you have in common with most of the world. However, a death of a family member might also have a generational impact and the death(s) might become a part of someone’s culture. For example, I’m thinking about families impacted by the Holocaust, deaths caused by black lung disease in Appalachia, or death caused by generational racism, poverty, and chronic health conditions. I personally enjoy thinking about the experiences and events that shape people’s perspectives. In the end, whether it is personality or culture isn’t as important as understanding the impact it has on you and any bias you carry with it.

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