Culture is a concept that can be defined in many different ways, but I think the UNESCO definition is pretty accurate in saying that culture is “the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features of a society or a social group, that encompasses, not only are and literature, but lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions, and beliefs.” This definition lends itself to culture being a relative concept of the particular social setting referred to. However, this is not the complete picture. There are some ideas that can transcend cultural borders, but these things will manifest themselves in different forms within the individual cultures. One culture may define a family as a man with one woman and their kids, while others may consider polygamy to be the social norm, and still another may emphasize the close ties to the extended family or the group as a whole. This example shows that the concept of a family unit is not bounded by cultural lines, but the way the idea is held can be. The same could be said for many other facets of culture, such as music, human rights, food, and social contracts. These are the things that we can use to relate to another culture. Often among the first things we ask about a cultures how they define these concepts. For instance, “What is the food like there?” and “How does their government function?” are common. There are commonalities between cultures because we are all human and we all create cultures based upon certain criteria. Seeking to really understand how another group defines those criteria is a way to relate to them on a deeper level. If we as citizens of the global community made an effort to focus on the commonalities of different peoples, then many conflicts could be lessened or even avoided altogether.
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