During my life I’ve been exposed to many different cultures. I’ve been very fortunate to have lived and traveled to countries all over the world. This has been extremely fascinating because its given me insight into how people all over experience life.
The more I travel, the more I realize how powerful culture is and how much it defines us. It influences us in so many ways that we are not even aware of. I think cultural differences only become apparent when you are constantly being exposed to people in different countries, states and regions. You get to see the differences between the way they talk, dress, interact and even drive. Some of these differences are easy to spot but most are often so subtle that we don’t even realize it is culture.
When I first started going to Central America I noticed that many men and women made stiff hand gestures. When talking or resting, their hands seemed rigid as if they all had arthritis. At first I assumed this was the case because people here work more with their hands. As I spent more time in Central America I started to notice more people making the same gestures; people of all ages who weren’t old enough to have arthritis and didn’t work manual labor jobs. My next thought was that perhaps this was due to culture.
I know that people often share accents, but could they be sharing physical gestures as well? I had never heard about this happening before, but the more time I spent in Central America, the more it seemed to make sense. If this is the case, it’s fascinating to think that culture can influence us on such an unconscious level.
Culture effects everything from how we talk and move to the way we think. In my experience, the way culture impacts our thinking can be both good and bad. It’s good because we need various view points for new and incredible breakthroughs to happen. However, it can be bad because it can build barriers between people and ideas.
When people are confronted with an idea that is outside their cultural expectations it can be hard for them to accept, even if this new idea could help them. This can be very challenging when you are trying to help people and share a different perspective on a problem. It can also make people feel torn between worlds or ideas. Working through cultural differences can be very challenging and can take a long time.
Over the next couple of posts I want to share both my good and bad experiences with culture and the role it plays in our lives. I’ll talk about how growing up in multiple cultures shaped my world view and how I’ve noticed that people can struggle to accept the cultural expectations that have been placed on them.
I’d love to know how you think culture influences your life.