What is culture

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OGER Virginie
Master 1
18 November 2008

What is culture ?

First, we will explain what the definition of culture is. Second, we will talk about culture in society. Finally, we will deal with stereotypes the lack of understanding which it can involve.
Culture is meaningful. That is why we need to define it first. Globally speaking culture means a way of life in society and in personallife. Culture presents several points of view such as law, beliefs, politics, history, art and language… Each culture has a language, an art, a settlement, a story and so on. The way these elements are combined create the own identity of each culture. A cultured person is said to be well-educated and open-minded, to be able to be at ease whatever the subject. In my opinion, a cultured person doesn’tmean being intelligent.
Culture is very individual. Each human has a different culture since everyone have its own beliefs, education, and personal history.
Some examples are helpful to illustrate my mind.
Concerning law, countries have not the same way of living. We could for instance take a look at how ways of living influence law. Indeed, labour laws are characteristic to each country. InFrance, our system is governed by a 35 hour week whereas in England there are not any rules of this kind. As a consequence French workers have more free time for hobbies or to go out. However, English workers work as much as their boss needs. They have neither the same mentality nor the same working conditions. In France, we are said to be lazy because we have the right to strike and we allowmaternity leave for example. In China, workers have no rights, they are fired as soon as they are away. So we do not have the same approach to work which means that we have not the same culture.

About beliefs, let’s compare Moslem and Catholicism. Muslims have to observe Ramadan. In Contrary to this religion, Catholics do not have this same practice. Moreover, they have to eat kosher meat according totheir beliefs. Catholics eat whatever they want, but they are supposed to eat fish on Fridays. Wedding traditions also change according to the religion or the culture. Muslim weddings can be celebrated at home or in a mosque whereas in Catholicism they are only celebrated in the church. In France, weddings are very festive, there are lots of games, drunk people whereas in the USA, it is said tobe more calm.
Christmas as well is being celebrated differently. In France, we are used to celebrate it on 24 December, children received lots of presents. Contrary to this habit, in Germany, they (Germans) celebrate Nicolas’ fest. So children have presents on 6th of December.

Customs also proves that national culture can be totally opposed. For example, in Japan, workers do the “ojigi” beforebeginning their work day. It means that they bend forward. There are no hierarchical barriers because bosses and workers eat together at lunchtime and they used to call them by their surname. In France, hierarchy is essential. Bosses maintain distance. Why? It is in our national habits.
Furthermore, making decisions involve collectivism and solidarity in Japanese business whereas individualismtakes precedence over the group in France. In Japan, negotiations always happen in team.

Culture in society

In society, we are all unique too because we have our own culture. For example, through the language French and German have not the same beliefs. Indeed in France, we say a sun and it is a masculine noun whereas women are associated with the moon which is a feminine noun. The moonreflects the sun’s light. French people consider that men are shiny and bright. Through this observation we can better understand relations between French men and women. In Germany, these words have a different meaning, it is almost the contrary. The sun is “Die Sonne”, a feminine noun. Germans believe that women bring warm to the world, make growing up things and raise children. Men are the night,...
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