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Spelling "Culture": Museums, TVs, and the American Way

Culture - what exactly is it? Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary lists a number of definitions. I like 5b, "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group". Why I should ask? Because The German Way Expat Blog brought up the topic in a post last week.

The writer, Jane, who is originally from Pennsylvania talks about her relocation from Germany to California: "The differences abound and the culture shock is subtly creeping in: translating 2nd floor to 1st, writing dates with the month first, converting ounces and pounds to grams, and bad driving." Jane is unhappy about paper plates and plastic spoons at the Marriott Residence Inn, about losing the Television battle against her children because screens are everywhere, about eggs which "taste absolutely like nothing".

Jane concludes: "This leads me to my final point. I am understanding a bit more the whole moan about the lack of culture in America, particularly the West Coast. It has nothing to do with the number of art museums or historical sights, does it? Rather, it’s the pervasiveness of doing things on the go such as eating and drinking or how medical professionals in Germany would never step out of the hospital in their scrubs."

I share Jane's distaste of disposable table ware and have wondered about hygienic standards in hospitals on either side of the pond but I would like to argue that there are many aspects to culture. Eating habits - manners, where we eat, how we set a table - are one part; they are different in California. Museums and historical sights are another; California has plenty of both.

But there is a third aspect which is important to me. It has to do with how we treat each other, with how we as individuals care for those who suffer and need help, with how friendly and open minded we are, with our tolerance of other people's religious ways, with how we welcome strangers into our communities. I see no lack of culture in California.


debi said…
I agree with your third point.
The people of Texas, also, are friendly and helpful to a fault; I hope this is the case all across the US.
I look forward to enjoying some California culture in September - friendliness, food, drink and arts.
As always, Debi, thank you for your comment. Can there really be such a thing as helpful to a fault? Have a wonderful time in CA!

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