What Even Is “Culture”?

Defining culture comes with difficulty. Philosopher Edward Hall defines culture as a means of “communication” among groups. Anthropologically and contemporarily, scholars define culture as a way of life passed down from generation to generation through learning. Essentially, it is the process of passing down certain practices and behaviors. Therefore, every human being has both an internal and external culture.

We mark internal culture via our core beliefs and values, while we show our external culture via explicit behaviors, such as nonverbal communications through eye contact, facial expression and personal space. If it helps, think of our being as an iceberg, with our small external showing outside, and our large internal hidden.

How Do We Gain Culture?

We gain our culture through the processes of enculturation and acculturation respectively. Enculturation is the process of gaining our native (or primary) culture, which often occurs between infancy and age two. Then, once introduced to communities outside the home, acculturation begins. This continues throughout life as we expose ourselves to differing environments and groups.

These two terms should not be confused with assimilation, which is the process of acceptance into a culture as a fully participating member, equal to others. Essentially, it involves practicing and molding oneself to the customs of a different group so that you are accepted and equal to the group.

What is Intercultural Communications?

Therefore, if culture is a means of communication, there must be some conflict and struggle to communicate amongst different groups. Thus comes intercultural communications. Used in medicine, diplomacy, and business, it helps us to better communicate as groups.

This is not to be confused with cross-cultural communications. This involves the comparison of differing cultures, and the assertion that there is some form of cultural hierarchy.

How Do I Utilize It?

Utilizing intercultural communications in practice is lifelong. As every person you meet holds onto a different culture. Therefore, there will be some form of conflict. However, via having deeper discussions and opening dialogues, one can bring this to light.

For example, once I started learning about my gender identity, I discovered newfound acculturation. I’ve had to slowly but surely come out to friends, family, and society. Defined by language, ambiguity, and different conflict styles, these conflicts must be managed in various forms depending on the crowd that I am dealing with. For my family, there is conflict surrounding the ambiguity and language of transgenderism. To them, there is ambiguity because they have built up certain expectations and images of me in their minds and believe that each of their pictures is correct.

However, I am the only person who knows who I truly am, and there is conflict because they do not understand nor see who I truly am.

Furthermore, there is a language conflict because of how I communicate my acculturation, and how they relate theirs. How I manage this conflict is different depending on the person in my family. With my mother, I utilize the discussion style, where I restrain emotions and present objective facts and resources about my situation, which I believe are a cause for my disconnect and dysphoria, provided by my therapist.

To get over these humps of intercultural conflict, it is going to be a complicated process. However, through adequate communication and using intermediaries, I am happier than before. Thanks to the new language and behaviors I have been presented with, I am better able to assimilate into the modern cultural dynamics of men and women.

And ultimately, grow and become my own man.       

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