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Define your national culture

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Neu Leonstein
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Define your national culture

Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 4:13 am

So there is this concept that gets thrown around a lot: national culture. We have arguments about what is and isn't compatible with "our" culture (insert country of your choice), about what cultures do and do not get along and so on.

My contention is that this is such a fuzzy term that it doesn't really mean anything, and that most people who use the term would struggle to actually clearly articulate what is and isn't part of "their" culture.

Merriam-Webster defines culture as:
Merriam-Webster wrote:a : the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations
b : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture>
c : the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line>
d : the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on print culture> <changing the culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O'Mara>


None of these definitions suggest culture applies exclusively to "the nation" as a thing. There are subcultures all the way down to the smallest possible group. My family has learned patterns of knowledge, beliefs and behaviour that distinguish us from other families in the same neighbourhood. A bunch of skater friends who do tricks in the central business district share their own culture, which is clearly distinguishable from the culture of all the other people that walk past them on their way to and from work. In fact, chances are that those skaters would share a lot of knowledge, beliefs and behaviour with skaters on the other side of the world. Hell, even NSG has a culture of sorts, which ties regular posters together no matter which country they are from.

So usually when I ask people to define their culture, they go to language, religion and certain customs and rituals. Language is one thing - but given that there are a bunch of countries that have several languages, that seems to be problematic. Is there no such thing as Swiss culture, because Switzerland can be divided into subsections by language? And while the skaters are perfectly able to communicate with the office workers in the common language of the country, they do not use the same language when talking to one another - slang, memes and inside knowledge form part of their subculture and are used to reinforce it.

So, because a lot of the time these discussions end up about immigrants who "don't assimilate into the nation's culture", people often go to religion. But that's just demonstrably false - there are very few countries in the world with a single religion so dominant that this makes sense. Germans have many religions: There are lutherans, catholics, plenty of atheists and many others. Which one is more German than the other? And besides, many countries have people with these religions - no one would reasonably say "I'm catholic, therefore I am German".

So then you get to thinks like "do they celebrate the same holidays?", which is really just the same thing as religion in the majority of cases, and at any rate seems a fairly petty way of defining a national culture. So share rituals? Australians for example might point towards things like Anzac worship as being a part of their national culture. But I know plenty of Australians who don't make a big deal of it - some of them even worry about whether it is a good thing. So are they not real Australians?

One last thing people sometimes bring up is particular character traits or ways of behaving. Australians might say "mateship" is an Australian trait. Germans might say "punctuality" is part of being German. But that again strikes me as a really bad way to distinguish a nation of millions. Not only are not all Germans punctual or all Australians mates, but lots of people outside those countries exhibit those traits too.

So basically, I'm left with the impression that few people if any actually have working definitions of their national culture. It's a kind of diffuse "I'll know it when I see it" concept. That throws the door wide open to abuse (just look at the Islam in Germany thread for examples out the wazoo) and makes it incredibly difficult to have reasonable discussions about topics that touch on national culture. It also makes it incredibly difficult for newcomers to a country to know what they have to do in order to "assimilate" sufficiently for people to stop saying that they're not trying hard enough.

So am I wrong? And if so, how do you define the culture of whatever country you consider yourself part of?
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The East Marches
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 4:30 am

https://youtu.be/MGQaH3-LK54

National culture is pretty easily defined as by my video above. If culture were so fuzzy, books wouldn't be written by the thousand on how to deal with different national cultures when traveling for business.

I'm sure there are plenty of posters here that resent the norm in American culture towards the protestant work ethic, a Calvinist view towards sucess in life or our American exceptionalism.

I've noticed other countries largely have the same under lying values or trends going on. The exception being how diverse Europe is. I'm not refering to Londonistan either. I mean like the Frieslanders and Limburgers in the Netherlands, the Britons or Normans in France, the Catalans in Spain. There are people's and cultures that are part of larger states because they were subsumed in the conflicts of Europe. However, there is still a majority culture that exists within those countries too. The only thing we really have similar to that is Southerners or Texas. I wouldn't really put them on a level as unique as the others because they largely have the same world outlook but with a slight regional variation.

People resent the immigrants because instead of adopting our worldview, they keep their own. It prevents them from ever truly being able to assimilate. My father was an immigrant and had to make a huge effort to fit in. Now you couldn't tell the difference between him or another native born. However, he too resents the current wave of immigrants who don't want to assimilate and instead want to live like the they did in the old country. If you want to live like that, why did you come here?
Last edited by The East Marches on Sat May 21, 2016 4:37 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Costa Fierro
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Postby Costa Fierro » Sat May 21, 2016 4:44 am

Well, New Zealand is officially "bicultural", even though mainstream European culture and Maori culture tend to blend quite a bit.

Although personally, I've seen more culture in a yoghurt.
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Neu Leonstein
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 4:49 am

The East Marches wrote:https://youtu.be/MGQaH3-LK54

National culture is pretty easily defined as by my video above.

I wonder whether the framers had someone like you in mind when they wrote about the American citizen...

If culture were so fuzzy, books wouldn't be written by the thousand on how to deal with different national cultures when traveling for business.

Wait, so because someone wrote a book about something, that something must be real?

I'm sure there are plenty of posters here that resent the norm in American culture towards the protestant work ethic, a Calvinist view towards sucess in life or our American exceptionalism.

I think it's rather that maybe it is not as easy to define American culture as you think it is. If there are people who consider themselves American and who don't share your views on the importance of those factors, maybe that means that whatever definition of American culture you have in mind excludes a non-trivial part of Americans? I.e. it is a shitty definition?
Last edited by Neu Leonstein on Sat May 21, 2016 4:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
“Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”
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Postby Tsaraine » Sat May 21, 2016 4:50 am

Costa Fierro wrote:Well, New Zealand is officially "bicultural", even though mainstream European culture and Maori culture tend to blend quite a bit.

Although personally, I've seen more culture in a yoghurt.

"Not Australia" tends to sum it up whenever someone tries.

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Costa Fierro
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Postby Costa Fierro » Sat May 21, 2016 4:52 am

Tsaraine wrote:
Costa Fierro wrote:Well, New Zealand is officially "bicultural", even though mainstream European culture and Maori culture tend to blend quite a bit.

Although personally, I've seen more culture in a yoghurt.

"Not Australia" tends to sum it up whenever someone tries.


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The East Marches
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 4:57 am

Neu Leonstein wrote:I wonder whether the framers had someone like you in mind when they wrote about the American citizen...


I was being facetious fam. They probably didn't have somebody like me in mind as a citizen. I can't blame them. Native Americans were savages and Italians are morally bankrupt shitbags. I wouldn't want them as citizens either.

Neu Leonstein wrote:Wait, so because someone wrote a book about something, that something must be real?


Well there wouldn't be an entire section of academia dedicated to the subject if culture if it didn't exist. Wouldn't you agree?

Neu Leonstein wrote:I think it's rather than maybe it is not as easy to define American culture as you think it is. If there are people who consider themselves American and who don't share your views on the importance of those factors, maybe that means that whatever definition of American culture you have in mind excludes a non-trivial part of Americans? I.e. it is a shitty definition?


Like I said, there are some posters here who resent that. That's what we were taught in school, those three things are fundamental to our culture and worldview. Of course,our culture is far more detailed than that but that was what the most important parts were.
Last edited by The East Marches on Sat May 21, 2016 4:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
Conserative Morality wrote:Move to a real state bud instead of a third-world country that inexplicably votes in American elections.


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Neu Leonstein
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 5:05 am

The East Marches wrote:Well there wouldn't be an entire section of academia dedicated to the subject if culture if it didn't exist. Wouldn't you agree?

There is plenty of research into the concept of culture in general, and about organisational cultures. But I'm not aware of any academic definitions of any particular nation's culture. Are you?

Like I said, there are some posters here who resent that. That's what we were taught in school, those three things are fundamental to our culture and worldview. Of course,our culture is far more detailed than that but that was what the most important parts were.

At the very least then it sounds like you're only made partial progress towards a definition. And even that partial definition was being challenged by other members supposedly defined by it.
“Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow.”
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The East Marches
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 5:14 am

Neu Leonstein wrote:There is plenty of research into the concept of culture in general, and about organisational cultures. But I'm not aware of any academic definitions of any particular nation's culture. Are you?


I am indeed. University of Wisconsin: Madison offers a course in national cultures as part of its business curriculum. I'd assume the textbook for that class counts as one. When I get off mobile, I'll go on the online database and find you some gucci studies.

Neu Leonstein wrote:At the very least then it sounds like you're only made partial progress towards a definition. And even that partial definition was being challenged by other members supposedly defined by it.


I said they resent it, not that they'd disagree. There are plenty of left wing rags decrying the influence of the protestant work ethic or the influence of Calvinism (the poor are poor because they are bad people and god is punishing them). The American exceptionalism goes without saying though. That is absolutely integral to our culture. You may find a couple of contrarians on NSG given that this is a left leaning site. If they don't wanna agree, so be it. The vast majority of Americans do subscribe to those ideas on some level. If you'd like, I could also go into in depth America perceptions of wealth, how to negotiate or other things. If you want a complete academic definition, I'd encourage you to read a book. NSG simply is too small to define all the nuances of a culture.
Last edited by The East Marches on Sat May 21, 2016 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Novus America wrote:But yes, I would say the mere existence of Illinois proves this is hell. Chicago the 9th circle.

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The Romulan Republic
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Postby The Romulan Republic » Sat May 21, 2016 5:23 am

The idea that something as complex and vast as a nation would have only one culture is absurd, and a poisonous fantasy of bigots and authoritarians who want to brand anyone like them as outsiders.

Any nation has different cultures/subcultures galore.
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Neu Leonstein
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 5:23 am

The East Marches wrote:I am indeed. University of Wisconsin: Madison offers a course in national cultures as part of its business curriculum. I'd assume the textbook for that class counts as one. When I get off mobile, I'll go on the online database and find you some gucci studies.

Well, let's reconvene when you send some stuff through. I suppose I should mention that I did an undergrad in international business and have seen some of that stuff... it's just that I saw two types of claims. One was how nations rank on particular psychological axes according to surveys and experiments. I was and remain skeptical of those studies, but at any rate those fall short because they don't correspond to what most people mean when they talk about their culture.

And any descriptions beyond seemed to be primarily exercises in stereotyping - certainly I recall what they said about Germans to be more humorous than rigorous! But that was years ago now, so I shall reserve judgement until you made your case.
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The East Marches
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 5:33 am

Neu Leonstein wrote:
The East Marches wrote:I am indeed. University of Wisconsin: Madison offers a course in national cultures as part of its business curriculum. I'd assume the textbook for that class counts as one. When I get off mobile, I'll go on the online database and find you some gucci studies.

Well, let's reconvene when you send some stuff through. I suppose I should mention that I did an undergrad in international business and have seen some of that stuff... it's just that I saw two types of claims. One was how nations rank on particular psychological axes according to surveys and experiments. I was and remain skeptical of those studies, but at any rate those fall short because they don't correspond to what most people mean when they talk about their culture.

And any descriptions beyond seemed to be primarily exercises in stereotyping - certainly I recall what they said about Germans to be more humorous than rigorous! But that was years ago now, so I shall reserve judgement until you made your case.


Anecdotal evidence as I'm trapped in a god awful airport:

Stereotyping is a legitimate way of doing things. It's certainly helped me navigate the goatfuck that is Europe. I have found myself that most people do fit into a stereotypical norm. Especially the autistic and spergy German obsession with doors. Those fucking people and their doors kill me inside.
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Neu Leonstein
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 5:37 am

The East Marches wrote:Stereotyping is a legitimate way of doing things. It's certainly helped me navigate the goatfuck that is Europe. I have found myself that most people do fit into a stereotypical norm. Especially the autistic and spergy German obsession with doors. Those fucking people and their doors kill me inside.

Yeah, you strike me a real treasure trove of cross-cultural experiences.
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 5:45 am

Neu Leonstein wrote:
The East Marches wrote:Stereotyping is a legitimate way of doing things. It's certainly helped me navigate the goatfuck that is Europe. I have found myself that most people do fit into a stereotypical norm. Especially the autistic and spergy German obsession with doors. Those fucking people and their doors kill me inside.

Yeah, you strike me a real treasure trove of cross-cultural experiences.


Why? Because I don't ooze caring and love? Being exposed to different cultures has had the opposite effect on me. I find the more I travel, the more I dislike the rest of the world and am glad for what I have at home.
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Sat May 21, 2016 5:50 am

The East Marches wrote:Why? Because I don't ooze caring and love?

No. I couldn't care less about how you feel about stuff. It's the profound lack of intellectual curiosity. The way you come across, in your head, you've now established "what Germans are like" (or "the rest of the world", for that matter) because of something to do with doors, and apparently that's good enough for you.
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Postby Valaran » Sat May 21, 2016 6:03 am

Nice OP. Though there are distinct cultural differences between nations (and less distinct differences), I'm largely agreed.

But as artificial constructs go, perceptions of a national culture is one of the more resilient ideas in humanity, so I don't expect it ever disappear. I've seen even tiny remote villages pride themselves on different 'cultural' traits than the next village and so on. Its so natural to mark out these delineations that I doubt collective self doubt will ever reach the stage that stereotypes or perceptions of national cultures will fade.
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The East Marches
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Postby The East Marches » Sat May 21, 2016 6:04 am

Snipped and sent in TG as if off topic.

Sucks to suck. Maybe foreigners should be so bland that I can generalize about them.
Last edited by The East Marches on Sat May 21, 2016 6:09 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Neu Leonstein
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Tue May 24, 2016 5:29 am

Maybe one quick bump, just because no one who actually took the idea of national culture seriously has actually tried to define it yet - despite it being mentioned several times in other threads since...
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Postby Minzerland » Tue May 24, 2016 5:39 am

Australia would probably look like a modified British culture to be honest, definitely influenced by the rest of continental Europe too.

EDIT: It is a Multicultural country I guess...
Last edited by Minzerland on Tue May 24, 2016 5:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Neu Leonstein » Tue May 24, 2016 5:53 am

Minzerland wrote:Australia would probably look like a modified British culture to be honest, definitely influenced by the rest of continental Europe too.

EDIT: It is a Multicultural country I guess...

Yeah, but what does any of that actually mean in practice. How do you distinguish an "assimilated" immigrant from any other immigrant?
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Postby Greed and Death » Tue May 24, 2016 5:59 am

Culture is one of those interesting things, they really are artificial constructs, but they are so ingrained in us that they might as well be real.
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Postby Alvecia » Tue May 24, 2016 6:14 am

British culture: Are we going to be queueing much longer? The rain is watering down my tea.

But seriously I've actually been seriously asked in an educational setting how I define British culture. At the time I had no idea, so made a response much like the above. As it turn out the answers they were looking for was what basically boiled down to "Don't be a dick".
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Greed and Death
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Postby Greed and Death » Tue May 24, 2016 6:30 am

Alvecia wrote:British culture: Are we going to be queueing much longer? The rain is watering down my tea.

But seriously I've actually been seriously asked in an educational setting how I define British culture. At the time I had no idea, so made a response much like the above. As it turn out the answers they were looking for was what basically boiled down to "Don't be a dick".

Being polite, eating bland food, drinking tea, drinking beer and rum, and thrashing the Germans at football is British culture.

2 world wars and and 1 world cup.
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Postby Olivaero » Tue May 24, 2016 6:47 am

Tea, the BBC and a stiff upper lip.
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