Ah, the mystery and the power of culture.
Culture is difficult to define because, well, it is ‘culturally defined’.
Culture is, I believe, a gift from God. It relieves us from many mundane decisions in life. We just ‘know’ what is acceptable and what is not… without thinking.
People sometimes query me on some aspects of Turkish culture:
“Why must you uncross your legs when you pray?”
“Why are crossed legs inappropriate?”
“Why is blowing your nose in public profoundly rude and offensive?”
“Why, when I have a cold, is it acceptable, a non-event, to continuously sniff, sniff, sniff?”
The simple answer, is “that is the Turkish, (cultural), way”. But so often people are reticent to comply until they understand the ‘why’ and even then, I suspect that if the reason is not convincing enough, that they will feel free to reject the prevailing culture, opting, interestingly, for their own cultural norm.
Culture, generally, by-passes our conscious minds. It is behaviour and values that we have learned as children and have become embedded in our hearts and minds. They are not the result of reasoned thinking, deduction or conscious decisions. They are, if you will, subconsciously inherited.
And they are powerful.
Culture is extremely persuasive and operating as it does underneath our conscious mind, the result is that we are more often than not, blissfully unaware of its very existence and yet all the while living according to its dictates.
For an inadequate example: if someone asks me what time it is, my natural answer will be a precise: “It is 10:36”. My culture calls for and honours accuracy.
And then I come to this culture that seems to paint ‘word pictures’ that describe the scene, and include ancillary information but tend to be woefully inaccurate.
To the question of what time is it, the respondent, feeling it is late in the day and time is flying by, may well respond “It is 11:00” or if they feel there is much of the morning left, they may reply “It is 10:00”. Broad-brush accurate, but patently and profoundly fuzzy and, well, inaccurate – after all it is 10:36 exactly.
So, when I ask a question, I prepare my heart for a non-accurate ‘word picture’ which both answers the question (generally) and gives an insight to the speakers feelings about it.
Now, when I am asked a question, my culture demands, requires me to answer ‘specifically and accurately’. That is the way my culture was formed and it has an inescapable influence over me. My reply will be highly accurate and utterly devoid of any emotional content, that part which gives a hint of how I feel about it.
Do I communicate? Yes, but after a fashion.
Do I understand? Yes, but there are times of frustration and struggle as I am stumbled by the patently obvious inaccuracies declared. For the speaker, they are not ‘inaccuracies’ but the part that declares their feelings about their answer.