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?