By Cheryl A. StapfSpecial to CSMS MagazineWhen asked what is meant by the phrase “much of culture is invisible”, I reflect on the term culture and what it means to me. Culture is where you come from, the people you share a genetic heritage with, and are closely associated with during your lifetime. Your family values, your community and country are all a part of who you are as an individual. These historic forces have joined to form a culture sustained long before your birth. You have no control over choosing your parents, your first or last name, nor any decision about the culture you are born into. As a baby you come into the world with natural instinctive behaviors, but not conscious of culture. Culture is something that is learned. Culture is absorbed by us as a child, like a sponge filled with water. The naked eye is blind to the smallest molecules being drawn up. This invisible source that communicates our values, morals and beliefs is passed down for generations. Each culture has a set of unwritten rules that are solely understood by the people that apply them. The ethics, principles and ideals have been passed to you by actions of your parents, or by words they have communicated. The accepted behaviors of your culture are taught to you by your family, so you can become a productive adult in society. As the authors, Samovar, Porter, and McDaniel suggest in, “Communication between cultures”, the “deep structures” of family and community are intrinsically taught by the family, so the individual will know how to seek happiness and gratification in life. These cultural lessons are unknown by people outside that culture and that is why “much of culture is invisible”. In answer to the question “How does learning about one’s own culture help in understanding other cultures?” If we have specific insight into how our own culture and history was shaped, then we should understand the importance of culture to all people. To show tolerance of ideals and beliefs in cultures we don’t understand, and accept those values without trying to infer our own standards. We know that all cultures have the same guiding principles in common. In order to facilitate better communication and relations between cultures, shouldn’t we educate ourselves about why certain cultures view world issues differently from us? The deep-rooted values in each culture are a way of life, and appropriate and desirable to that society. Since we know that culture will shape the views and ideals of a certain society we can use that knowledge to lessen the need for confrontation. I conclude that if we understand how important our culture is to our way of life, and then we can empathize with other cultures and the importance of their ideology.Also see the invisibility of culture: http://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060906I252
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