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Definitions of Culture

Presentation for exchange students travelling to Argentina or Uruguay
by

Lucas Barchuk

on 13 January 2014

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Transcript of Definitions of Culture

Welcome to your AFS experience!
The iceberg metaphor
You are just about to start your exchange experience in Argentina and we would like to share with you some hints about the Argentinean culture. These will surely help you during the first weeks of the program.
There are many possible definitions of culture and after a while you will be able to define it in your own words. First of all we could start with some analogies that will help you understand this concept.
Have you ever wondered
what “Culture” means?

The fish-in-water analogy gives us some hints on understanding culture: Trying to understand culture is a little like a fish trying to understand water, for we are trying to be objective about something that completely surrounds us at all times. Even the way we approach the task of understanding –the terms we use, the very process of thinking- is affected by culture. Since we can’t get away from culture (as a fish cannot get away from water), we find it very difficult to understand it objectively.
Fish-in-water
A way of understanding culture is figuring that it’s like an iceberg: only 10% of it is visible and about 90% of what constitutes culture is beyond or below our conscious awareness. We can see here some examples of the elements of culture of which we are aware of:
Language
Definition of sin
Food
Music
Visual arts
Celebrations
Performing arts
Literature
Holiday customs
Dress
Fine Arts
Classical music
Drama
Popular music
Folk dancing
Popular music
Notions of modesty
Conception of beauty
Ideas governing child raising
Rules of descent
Cosmology
Relationship to animals
Patterns of superior/subordinate relations
Courtship practices
Conception of justice
Incentives to work
Notions of leadership
Tempo of work
Patterns of group decision making
Conception of cleanliness
Attitudes to the dependent
Theory of disease
Approaches to problem solving
Conception of status mobility
Eye contact behavior
Roles in relation to status by age, gender, class, occupation, kinship, etc.
Definition of insanity
Nature of friendship
Conception of "self"
Patterns of visual perception
Body language
Facial expressions
Notions about logic and validity
Patterns of handling emotions
Conversational patterns in various social contexts
Conception of past and future
Ordering of time
Preference for competition or cooperation
Social interaction rate
Notions of adolescence
Arrangement of physical space
Etc.
It is important to notice that the invisible 90% of the iceberg is shaping the visible part. By saying this we mean that this invisible part of culture is the one that determines many of our behaviors and customs.
We can monitor and attempt to control the elements we are aware of, but we are unlikely to do so with the ones we are not aware of
Let’s dive in now to see what elements we could find underneath the water…
When we dive into the water we find a culture’s most important values, but...

What do we mean when we talk about
Cultural Values?
Cultural values
Values are principles or beliefs that govern our opinions, behaviors, and decisions. They are the source of reaction to the world around us, our central “should” and “oughts”, and the principles, standards, or qualities that we consider worthwhile or desirable. Although every individual would respond to situations and cultural influences in different ways, there are some general norms or central tendencies that apply for each specific culture.
When we are in an intercultural diverse environment frequently we don’t see many of the things that are obvious to a person from that culture. Also, we often misinterpret what we do see reaching conclusions based on our own values and beliefs. Getting to detect and understand our own cultural values will allow us much more effective interactions with other cultures since we would be able to understand what could motivate the behaviors we see.

In the next module you will find a new presentation with some specific information on Argentina’s iceberg and some key elements of our culture that may represent important challenges during your experience.
We encourage you to reflect on what would your culture’s iceberg look like…
Full transcript