What is Culture?

Culture rules virtually every aspect of your life and like most people, you are completely unaware of this. If asked, you would likely define culture as music, literature, visual arts, architecture or language, and you wouldn't be wrong. But you wouldn't be entirely right either. In fact the things produced by a culture which we perceive with our five senses are simply manifestations of the deeper meaning of culture – what we do, think and feel. Culture is taught and learned and shared – there is no culture of one. And yet, culture is not monolithic – individuals exist within a culture. Finally, culture is symbolic. Meaning is ascribed to behaviour, words and objects and this meaning is objectively arbitrary, subjectively logical and rational. For example, a "home", is a physical structure, a familial construct and a moral reference point – which is distinct from one culture to another.

Culture is vital because it enables its members to function with one another without the need to negotiate meaning at every moment. Culture is learned and forgotten, so despite its importance we are generally unconscious of its influence on the manner in which we perceive the world and interact within it. Culture is significant because as we work with others it both enables us and impedes us in our ability to understand and work effectively together.