what is culture?

what is culture?

culture frank bonilaculture, frank bonilla

When we were asked to describe our culture, I was surprised to learn how hard it was for me to do so. I thought to myself, I can describe American culture in a generalized sense but is that what she is looking for?
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I realized that my culture couldn’t fit into one box, but instead incorporates many boxes. I like to think of my culture as one of those Russian nesting dolls. Each layer of my culture is one of the dolls, and the smallest doll in the center of all the layers of “culture” is me. I come from a family with both Mexican and German heritage. My parents have been divorced the majority of my life. I have a disabled mother, and a brother who is ten years younger than me. I am a college student, who also happens to be married.

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I found that it was exceedingly difficult for myself to pick apart my own culture. I identified my culture initially as an average, middle class white male who grew up in a small, farm oriented community.

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I’m a first generation American. I’ve struggled to identify which culture group I belonged to. I’ve realized that my identity is something unique and that I do not need to forego my family’s culture but rather embrace it as well as the culture and the traditions I’ve learned in America.

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I do not know how to describe my culture other than saying that I view my culture as an extremely Mid-Western culture. I have trouble just saying that because I do not know how other cultures view mine, and if I were to say that to someone maybe they would think that this is not a culture or lifestyle to be proud of and would be judging me.

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I define my own culture as “American”. Generally speaking, I think American culture is classified by our overall state of democracy and the diversity in the United States. Yet, it was hard for me to think of anything to put down besides American. I am a white woman and I do not identify with any religious affiliations or other sort of traditions, and those are the sort of things I normally attribute to the term “culture”.

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Growing up in Minnesota, I was taught to be “Minnesota Nice”. We say hello to passerby. We wave when someone lets us go first at the stop sign. We help a lost child find his or her mom in stores and at the mall. We dread the Mall of America, but help those who are lost in the large complex. We play in the streets with other kids in the neighborhood, using the nearest house to go to the bathroom or to call home and ask when dinner is. We simply are nice to all, friends or strangers.

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To be honest, I was not a fan of the “stepping forward and back” and “could you survive” activities. I would have much rather spent this time learning about other people’s cultures. Or maybe about common cultural issues/misconceptions that people hold. I’m sure I have probably said culturally insensitive things that I’m unaware of. Learning what these things are would be a lot more useful to me.

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