We are all cultural experts
but we overwhelmingly do culture mindlessly more than mindfully…
At home, we inadvertently teach our children habits we do not want them to learn and overlook ways to bridge differences between family members and generations. Among nations, outmoded ideas about culture are behind the so-called “Culture Wars” and many cross-cultural disagreements that lead to exclusion, violence, and therefore tragedy. From the personal to the geopolitical, there are many consequences for our lives and communities that result from maintaining our current views on culture. To update our understanding and change our views on culture, we need to know culture better and to know that, we must understand how we learn our cultural comforts. In short, we have to stop thinking about culture not as something we have or possess, but, rather, as the ways we interrelate to other people. Culture is not a thing; culture is ongoing processes of relating to people that we learn and practice throughout life. However we are most culturally flexible as infants and young children; as we learn culturally specific ways of interrelating to others we inevitably both grow more narrow culturally as we become culturally competent. We become less culturally flexible as adults but we never become completely incapable of learning new cultural practices–yet most of us think we have one culture, that it’s who we are and that we cannot change without somehow “losing” our culture… These ideas are commonplace and understandable, but they get in the way both of understanding our cultural abilities and also making the most of them. Culture as Comfort draws upon the latest research from psychology, child development, neuroscience, anthropology and other fields and presents it in non-technical language to help explain culture in a new way.
How did we learn culture? Were we born with it? If not, how did we acquire it? And if we acquire it, what do we remember about learning it? The more we answer these questions, the more able we will be as adults to welcome rather than avoid encounters with culturally distinct people.
Can you imagine embracing new cultural experiences
more than fearing them?
Culture as Comfort addresses these provocative questions by explaining how during infancy and early childhood we quickly, subconsciously, and inevitably learn the cultural patterns of those around us and internalize these not only as norms, but as normal. As we learn culture, “it” becomes our comfort “zones,” the patterned ways of thinking and behaving that are ingrained, habitual and operate below our conscious awareness. We typically do not see our own ways as “culture” however; at least until we engage with people who do things differently. However, moving beyond our cultural comfort zones through encounters with people who do things differently usually makes us feel uncomfortable. Particularly if these other cultural groups speak a language we do not know, and behave in ways our brains do not immediately comprehend. What do we do then? Avoid different people and experiences? Hide ourselves in our cultural comforts?
Culture as Comfort helps us see our own cultural talents better
so that we can more effectively use them