Culture is a broad term that encompasses all aspects of a human society. It refers to a group’s beliefs, values, traditions, and symbols that shape the ways in which a community interacts with one another. These elements are reflected in everything from dress to architecture to social standards and rituals. They are learned and passed along in a way that is distinct to each country. In addition, a cultural expression can be something intangible like mythology or folktales.
The study of culture has been a prominent topic in the fields of anthropology, sociology, and history. Sociologist Georg Simmel defined culture as “a set of normative patterns that give significance to human activity.” While this definition may be broad, it is generally agreed upon by most scholars and reflects the role that culture plays in everyday life.
When examining our culture, it is important to remember that we are all a mixture of different cultures. We have multiple influences and viewpoints derived from our families, community, experiences, and religion. In addition, many of us belong to multiple minority groups each with its own unique culture. For example, a white person living in the United States will be influenced by American culture as well as their own ethnicity and family heritage.
A culture’s foundation is the group’s worldview. This includes its values, ideas, and attitudes as well as its beliefs about the natural and supernatural worlds. These beliefs are then used to form the culture’s laws, traditions, and values. This worldview then influences how a group relates to other people in their daily lives as well as how they see the future of the world and mankind.
Symbols are words, gestures, or objects that carry a meaning that is only recognized by members of that particular group. These symbols are often used for communication purposes as they provide a shortcut to understanding an unfamiliar language or situation. They also allow for the rapid development of new culture as old ones are replaced by the new. In some cultures, symbols are viewed as sacred and must be treated with great reverence. Symbols that are considered sacred include heroes, such as historical or fictional characters, and rituals. Rituals are activities that are superfluous in terms of achieving an objective but are carried out anyway for their own sake.
Each culture has a distinctive environment that exerts a strong influence on it. For example, some Eskimo tribes developed a culture of hunting and fishing that allowed them to live in their harsh climate by developing tailored fur clothing and igloos. This environment has also impacted the way in which these groups view health and illness. The need to understand culture is vital for all organizations as they expand into international markets and deal with diverse populations. It is especially critical that nurses have a firm grasp on the importance of conducting culturally competent research.