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Culture and Behaviour
What is Life?

Olé summaries

The influence of culture in our behaviour

We started the discussion with a helpful introduction by Lars about the meaning of interaction. This as we picked the topic about how our different cultural backgrounds getting visible through our behaviour and through communicating and interacting with each other.

“Inter” means a constellation of people or even  abstract concepts that are entering any kind of relationship with each other. This in the case of the people at most for the exchange of information or customs. As the Latin word is “interagere” Lars also explained the meaning of “agere” what simply is act or acting. 

As this is what the Melton Foundation is exactly about, to interact with people from other cultures and diverse backgrounds, we wanted to share the experience we made during our Fellowship. Through this we hoped to clarify misunderstandings as well as to establish better insights on the culture of other Fellows.

By explaining experiences we made with other Fellows, we understood very soon that it is not possible to reach our high settled aim to clarify the reasons why somebody from a different culture behaves in some ways different then oneself would do. Nevertheless, the group was arguing pretty active about the differences, tried to name reasons for different behaviour. In this we named differences which occurred—for what reasons ever—between almost all Fellows from all cultures. For instance, we figured out that Chileans greet each other with hugs and kisses as a step to shorten the distance between them and foreigners. However, this style of greeting is very uncommon in India or China. So that Chilean found it easier to greet Fellows from US-America or Germany in their common way. Furthermore, we discussed differences between Indians and Germans in the way how they talk with each other. Vij mentioned that Indians might have not a to Germany comparable person to person conversation and that Indians may not exchange as much pleasantries as Germans do. Even we noticed that in China persons of every age but with the same gender are walking embraced and hand in hand at the streets together, what would be uncommon in some of the other MF countries. We also had a nice outlook for Northern Ireland as Lars wrote about his seventeen month long stay there and how he felt in this European but nevertheless for him different country.

While naming just a few of our the experiences we exchanged its needful to say that we were always touching a frontier as well as a problem which didn’t made it possible for us to reach out for a more true and proven knowledge about the influence of culture. The problem was that we were not able to speak of experiences which truly showed us cultural influenced behaviour as we didn’t experienced enough since we were either not in the country or that the Fellows represent just a few aspect of the culture we were writing about. The frontier which faced us was that we didn’t could distinguish between cultural influenced and individual behaviour.   

This might have been a reason why the discussion’s emphasis shifted towards more or less abstract thoughts about the influence of culture not only in our behaviour, but also how it influences the ways how we create our own realities and societies. However, this part of the discussion seemed to be less productive in the end.

The conclusions of this discussion could be that all of us are carrying a core behaviour in us which is rooted in the Fellows of one country and culture. This core is a expression of the values and norms of one society as well as of one’s milieu and surrounding what all in all establish culture. This core could not only be described as a “Chilean”, “Chinese”, “German”, “Indian” or “US-American” culture since in all those society we will find several cultures, sub-cultures and classes that forms the background of a person and of groups. So that it might be impossible to speak of a country’s single culture. Nevertheless, there are still sections of this core which are shared by all members of one culture and society as parts of the core will overlap. Besides this reason for different behaviour there is even furthermore on the top of the core the individual note. Adding a quite good thought about the field of tension between the cultural and the individual components, David wrote that our behaviour is mainly individual but restricted by the society we are living in. 

To make it short, our behaviour could be seen as a product of our cultural background and of our individual note. Somehow both parts create our reaction and action in interacting and both form our behaviour. So that we might greet different, so that we might would like to maintain different body distances and so that we perceive things different or even might solve problems in different ways. Unfortunately, we were not able to get closer to the issue how much our behaviour is influenced by the individual that we are and how much by the person educated in our own societies that we are all.