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The Dynamics of Culture

Many Americans, Americans of European heritage in particular, do not "see" their culture. When your culture is all around you, it is understandable that you will not be aware of your culture as a particular way of being and knowing, but you will accept it as the "normal" way. It is like being a fish in a fishbowl -- you don't see the water that you swim in. It is like not knowing you have an "accent" until someone with a different accent points that out to you.

Use the following resources to explore what culture is and how deeply it affects how you understand the world and even yourself.

Questions to reflect upon as you do this study:

  • What are the visible signs of a culture, the things that people immediately recognize as distinguishing one culture from others, and what are the less visible characteristics?
  • What are characteristics that all humans have in common, what are cultural differences, and what are differences from person to person?
  • Which cultural differences do you have a hard time accepting? What ways of thinking or doing that you think everyone in the world should have? Where did you get this idea?

Why Culture?, by Craig Hassel

West and East, Cultural Differences (video)

Culture Matters: The Peace Corps Cross-Cultural Workbook