What does "culture" mean?

What does "culture" mean?
 Image (c) depositphotos.com/ Irochka
Missionaries live and work with people in a culture different from their own. What is culture? What parts of our lives may we be taking for granted?

Fish, Food, and Funny Ways

I heard a joke the other day you might like. Two young fish were swimming along, laughing and joking with one another. They passed an older fish swimming much slower who said, "Enjoy the water, young fry!" The young fish smiled politely and nodded, then kept swimming. Finally one turned to the other and said, "What's water?" Culture is a lot like that. It is all around us and so much a part of our lives that we can't always see it or even know that it is there. A culture is the way a group of people think, do things, and relate to other people (like how we greet someone). You and I both live in a specific culture, even if we aren't aware of it. Our culture is a big influence on our worldview--how we understand and relate to this world, people and life experiences. One of the best ways to explain culture is to look at some.


In America, we usually shake hands, nod at one another, hug, give high-fives, or fist-bumps, depending on who we are greeting. We use words like "Hey," "What's up," and "How are you" as well as traditional greetings like "Hi" and "Hello." In China, people usually shake hands or slightly bow to one another. The way they say hello is different depending on who they are greeting. It is similar to how we have mister, misses, miss, doctor, ma'am, sir, and other titles. The way you say hello would depend on the persons title. Ask an adult and then check out more information here.


 Traditional indian lunch food and meals with rice, phulka, puri, curries and sweets isolated on white
Some might say traditional American food is hotdogs and hamburgers. Others might say it was any number of other things. Cooks with a background in India usually use a lot of spices. Have you ever eaten a Kebab? Yum! What would a typical lunch in India look like? See the picture to the left. Ask an adult and then check out more about Indian food here and here.


Did you know that American men in the 1920s used to wear suits and hats everyday? The younger ladies would wear dresses that went just above the knee and were covered in fringe. Women decorated their short, slicked back hair with feathers and sequin bands. In the 1960s it was fringe leather jackets, bell bottoms, and flowers in women's long, straight hair? In the 1980s the fashion was shoulder pads, shiny or bright colors, big hair, and lots of blue eyeshadow for the ladies. What is do most people wear where you live?


What music do you like the best? What is your favorite song? Is it like this one? (I challenge you to see how long you can listen. It changes a bit as time goes by.)

Your Turn

 AFRICA, KENYA, AMBOSELI,NOVEMBER 5: Amboseli tribe woman with her small baby,portrait of an African family,review of daily life of local people, Amboseli 2008
Choose a culture to research, preferably a modern-day one. Answer the following questions. You could even ask them about your own culture. You are an expert on that one!
  • How do people say hello? What do they say? What do they do? What do they call other people?
  • What do people like to eat? Is it different between poor people and rich people?
  • What do people wear? Is it different between young people and older people?
  • How do parents take care of their babies? What are children expected to do? Do grandmas and grandpas live with the family? Who else lives in the house?
  • Where do kids go to school? How do they get there?
  • What do people do for fun? What games do people play? What music do people like? What are some popular movies and songs?
  • What are some important holidays to that culture?

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