Although every society has a specific culture, there are certain elements of culture that are universal. They are known as cultural universals, in which there are certain behavioral traits and patterns that are shared by all cultures around the world. For instance, classifying relations based on blood relations and marriage, differentiating between good and bad, having some form of art, use of jewelry, classifying people according to gender and age, etc., are common in all cultures of the world.
Some people believe that humans are the only living beings who have a culture. But, there is a group of people who believe in the existence of culture even in animals. It is said that animals have certain social rules which they teach their young ones as a medium for survival.
Culture is necessary to establish an order in the society. It is not only a means of communication between people, but also creates a feeling of belonging and togetherness among people in the society.
Culture rules virtually every aspect of your life and like most people, you are completely unaware of this. If asked, you would likely define culture as music, literature, visual arts, architecture or language, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But you wouldn’t be entirely right either. In effect, the things produced by a culture which we perceive with our five senses are simply manifestations of the deeper meaning of culture – what we do, think and feel. Culture is taught and learned and shared – there is no culture of one. Finally, culture is symbolic. Meaning is ascribed to behaviour, words and objects and this meaning is objectively arbitrary, subjectively logical and rational. For example, a “home”, is a physical structure, a familial construct and a moral reference point – which is distinct from one culture to another.
Culture is vital because it enables its members to function one with another without the need to negotiate meaning at every moment. Culture is learned and forgotten, so despite its importance we are generally unconscious of its influence on the manner in which we perceive the world and interact within it.
WHAT IS CULTURE SHOCK? (IX)
Culture shock is a condition that affects people who travel to a country different from their own. The term describes a traveller’s feelings of bewilderment when the environment and culture change from the one that he or she is familiar with. The unfamiliar surroundings, foreign language and strange habits of a new country can all contribute to culture shock. Culture shock is not just suffered by those who travel and live abroad. Any change in surroundings can bring about the feeling of culture shock. If a person leaves home for the first time and goes to college, then the new environment and new experiences may be a shock to the system.
Although culture shock is a state of mind, it can result in many symptoms, both physical and mental. Anyone who has moved from home for the first time or to a new city is probably familiar with the immediate feeling of bewilderment and sometimes loss. Sadness and loss, however temporary, are only natural when living in a new place far from home. The mind needs time to familiarize itself with new surroundings and new ways of life.
Some people experience physical symptoms due to culture shock. They may feel ill or suffer from sleeplessness or mood swings. Although homesickness is considered a state of mind, it can bring about symptoms such as irritability and a short temper when confronted with confusion over a new culture.
If living in a new country, the best way to deal with culture shock is to integrate slowly. Be aware that everyday tasks may be completely different from the way they were back home. A simple task such as ordering a meal in a restaurant may require learning a whole set of new social skills. The feeling of excitement upon entering a new country can soon dissipate as a whole new set of life skills must be acquired.