4.3: Perception – Attitudes, Values and Belief Systems

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Aim: To illustrate that not everyone sees the world in the same way.

The “Feel” of a culture

We take our own culture for granted. It is like the air we breathe – it is just there as part of who we are.

When we visit other countries, we know that cultural differences are a large part of the fun and fear of foreign travel. Moving away from our familiar, everyday world, we have the opportunity to become aware of our own cultural background, as well as that of others. For example:

– We may step out of the hotel and find the local language incomprehensible.
– People are making gestures to each other that we don’t understand.
– People notice us and stare at us because we are dressed differently.
– The food looks, smells and tastes strange.
– When we meet people, they stand very close and we feel uncomfortable.
– People arrive late for meetings we have arranged.
– When they finally arrive, they waste a lot of time making ”small talk” before getting down to the issues at hand…

As we experience the other culture we may feel some or all of the following:

Disoriented, frustrated, not in control, curious, depressed, excited, aggressive, disappointed, resentful, alone, superior, homesick, inferior, bored, withdrawn, afraid, insecure, defensive … and more!

Culture On-stage and Backstage

Culture is like a theater performance: there are parts we see and parts we don’t see. On-stage, we can see the actors, hear their words and watch the action. But backstage there is a lot going on that we never see and are not aware of.

What we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch is in fact only a small part of what is actually happening. This is why it is often so difficult to say what is specifically making us feel uncomfortable or frustrated when we are in a foreign culture.

Another way to think about culture is like an iceberg: one-third visible (on-stage) and two-thirds below the water (backstage).

Activity
Write down the elements of culture that are visible and invisible.

On-stage

greetings
posture
music
theater
gestures
gift giving
literature
dance
clothes
food & drink
art
architecture…
manners
facial expressions
rituals & ceremonies

 

Backstage
Attitudes, values and beliefs about:

time
beauty
family
gender
solving problems
age…
space
truth
friendship
sex
deadlines
power
leadership
raising children
work
self
nature
responsibility
education
decision making
status

 

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What is Culture
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