Spending all day with a bunch of exchange students makes one think a lot about what constitutes culture. Today we discussed the idea of the iceberg. You only see 10% of an iceberg's mass, 90% of it is below the water. Culture is like an iceberg. There are visible things that we identify as culture and then there are the little things, the nuances, that make up the culture, much of which we have absorbed during our every waking moment without thinking about it.
"Culture is a mold in which we are all cast and it controls our daily lives in many in suspected ways...Culture hides more than it reveals, and strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from it's own participants" -Edward T. Hall
So what are some of the things on the iceberg above the water? Food. Art. Style. Sports. Literature. Music. Holidays/ Festivals. Religion. Language. Etc. And below the iceberg? Fine details such as, what constitutes cleanliness, is hard work rewarded, how do family members communicate, who makes decisions, what kind of emotional expression if considered appropriate, what is considered polite/ rude, is cooperation/ competition rewarded, dating customs, gender roles, family member responsibilities, what are the notions of timeliness, etc. You get the idea.
One of the most interesting thing about living in another culture is how much you learn about your own - the things you never noticed before. It's like in the Wizard of Oz when everybody is wearing rose colored glasses - we all wear glasses tinted with our own cultures and we never notice it until someone points it out to us or we go somewhere where we take them off for the first time. The difference between traveling and living someplace is the difference between seeing the tip of the iceberg to understanding some of what lies hidden below the water.
Tell me, what do you think constitutes some of your hidden iceberg?