Culture is developed by beliefs, faith, practices,customs, way to live, art, intelligence, language, food habits etc, it is also a term that its meaning spans through the humanities, social sciences and biology.
In the nineteenth century culture was referred as a refinement of the individual especially through education, while in the mid – nineteenth century some scientist used the term “Culture” to refer to a universal human capacity. In American anthropology, culture is the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols to act imaginatively and creatively the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classify and represent their experiences and acted creatively.
Becoming aware of our cultural dynamics is a difficult task because culture is not conscious to us. From the day we are born, we have learned to see and do things at an unconscious level. Our experiences, values and cultural background lead us to see and do things in a certain way. I remember when I first came to France, I saw a lot of things that was strange to me because it wasn't my culture back home. Here I was in another man's land trying to grasp the culture that one can buy bread from the bakery, hold it with hand without a nylon and walk home majestically with it without seeing anything wrong with that, or people eating hotdog while walking on the streets and even inside the trains and buses!
Another thing that surprised me was seeing couples married or not, kissing and curdling each other passionately in jam packed buses and trains without caring about those around. I also discovered that your dining table can serve as a plate, most people put the bread they want to eat directly on the table top, also left over food can be left open for hours and can still be eaten later. I saw that they greeted each by stamping a kiss on both cheeks twice making it 4 times pecks! The culture shock I experienced is unimaginable, I was flabbergasted!
Cultural awareness could trigger a misunderstanding, because what is considered an appropriate behaviour in one culture is inappropriate in another one! I have been opportuned several times to observe two or three chinese people moving together or inside the train, they are usually very loud, they chat with each other in loud tones speaking their native dialect all the time! This applies to English and American tourist I have seen, these tourist are usually loud in trains, they discuss loudly and freely unlike our French brothers and sisters who are usually very reserved, quiet and calculating all the time!
A child that is born and raised up in Europe or America will not have the same cultural orientation like a child that was raised in Africa or Asia but if that child is taken back to his original home town at an early stage in life, he or she can still grasp the cultural values pertaining to his mother land. Many Africans living in Europe and America send their children home to boarding schools to enable these children get a feel of their culture so that they won't be lost to another man's culture! After their education they would then be equiped with two cultures for their future!
In Russia, I read that its the culture for the women to often walk arm in arm with their female friends, but in some other cultures, they might be mistaking for lesbians. I was told that sometime ago here in France, at the butchers, they threw away the cow legs, tongue, brain, intestine, towel, head and neck because it wasn't their culture to eat it, but when they saw that African and the Arabs were eating it free of charge, they started selling it! You can imagine all the “Obrocotto” they were threwing away! Those people from Nigeria reading this article will know what am saying, it means the juicy part of the cow meat! Till date the French don't eat it but Africans and Arabs still continue to eat and enjoy their unusual meat parts.
Some people have weakness and inability to connect with other people's culture, so they tend to look down on other people's culture, there is no culture that is better or more superior, there are only cultural differences amongst people, that is real and it can add richness and humor to the fabric of life! Also never assume that people you come across are similar to you because you might incur the risk that they are not! If we project similarities thinking they are like us when they are not, we might act inappropriately, so, it is safer to assume differences until similarity is proven.
The first few weeks on arrival in France, I was fascinated with my new found French culture, I loved the pace of life here, the food, the architecture but the honey moon period soon faded into an unpleasant feelings of frustration and anger with the French language barrier and the public hygiene, here in France, it is their culture to have dog 'poo' littered all over on the streets because many french people love having dogs as pets in their homes. In actual fact you are warned that you must look at the ground for 'dog poo' when walking through the streets. Having stepped on some 'dog shit' on arrival as 'JJC', I became upset with this culture of life and started feeling homesick. After a time phase one is able to participate fully and comfortably in the host culture but this does not mean total conversion, people still keep many traits from their earlier culture such as accent and language!
By Hilda Oti