Characteristics of Culture - شهية الطبخ المغربي

Characteristics of Culture

Characteristics of Culture
There are several important characteristics of culture. The main ones are
these: (1) A culture satisfies human needs in particular ways. (2) A
culture is acquired through learning. (3) A culture is based on the use of
symbols. (4) A culture consists of individual traits and groups of traits
called patterns.
Satisfying basic needs. All cultures serve to meet the basic needs
shared by human beings. For example, every culture has methods of
obtaining food and shelter. Every culture also has family relationships,
economic and governmental systems, religious practices, and forms of
artistic expression.
Each culture shapes the way its members satisfy human needs. Human
beings have to eat, but their culture teaches them what, when, and how
to eat. For example, many British people eat smoked fish for breakfast,
but many Americans prefer cold cereals. In the Midwestern United States,
people generally eat dinner at 5 or 6 p.m. However, most Spaniards dine
at 10 p.m. Many Turks prefer strong coffee with the grounds left in the
cup, but most Australians filter out the grounds for a weaker brew. Many
Japanese eat their meals from low tables while sitting on mats on the
floor. Canadians usually sit on chairs at higher tables.
Learning. Culture is acquired through learning, not through biological
inheritance. That is, no person is born with a culture. Children take on the
culture in which they are raised through enculturation.
Children learn much of their culture through imitation and experience.
They also acquire culture through observation, paying attention to what
goes on around them and seeing examples of what their society considers
right and wrong. Children also may absorb certain aspects of culture
unconsciously. For example, Arabs tend to stand closer together when
speaking to one another than most Europeans do. No one instructs them
to do so, but they learn the behavior as part of their culture.
Children also learn their culture by being told what to do. For example, a
parent tells a son or daughter, "Say thank you" or "Don't talk to
strangers." Individual members of a particular culture also share many
memories, beliefs, values, expectations, and ways of thinking. In fact,
most cultural learning results from verbal communication. Culture is
passed from generation to generation chiefly through language.
Using symbols. Cultural learning is based on the ability to use symbols.
A symbol is something that stands for something else. The most important
types of symbols are the words of a language. There is no obvious or
necessary connection between a symbol and what it stands for. The
English word dog is a symbol for a specific animal that barks. But other
cultures have a different word that stands for the same animal-the French
word chien, for example, or the Swahili word mbwa.
There are many other kinds of symbols besides the words in a language. A
flag, for example, stands for a country. Colors have symbolic meaning,
and the meanings vary from culture to culture. For Chinese people, white
is a color of mourning. In Western societies, black is the color of
mourning. White is a symbol of purity, and brides wear white. All human
societies use symbols to create and maintain culture.
Forming patterns. Cultures are made up of individual elements called
cultural traits. A group of related traits is a cultural pattern.
Cultural traits may be divided into material culture and nonmaterial
culture. Material culture consists of all the things that are made by the
members of a society. It includes such objects as buildings, jewelry,
machines, and paintings. Nonmaterial culture refers to a society's
behaviors and beliefs. A handshake, a marriage ceremony, and a system
of justice are examples of nonmaterial culture.
Cultural patterns may include numerous traits, both material and
nonmaterial. The pattern for agriculture, for example, includes the time
when crops are harvested (nonmaterial), the methods (nonmaterial) and
machinery (material) used in harvesting, and the structures for storing the
crops (material).
Most traits that make up a cultural pattern are connected to one another.
If one custom, institution, or value that helps form a cultural pattern
changes, other parts of the pattern will probably change, too. For
example, until the 1950's, the career pattern for most women in Western
societies was to work full-time as homemakers and mothers. By the late
1900's, the pattern was for most women to get jobs outside the home. As
part of the new pattern, attitudes about marriage, family, and children
also changed. The new pattern includes marriage at a later age than ever
before, a dependence on alternative child-care systems, and more
frequent divorce.

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