What is Culture?

What is Culture

In this episode of the CQ for Global Leaders Podcast, Tom discusses what culture is all about – how culture is tacit and at the same time subjective, and how self-awareness is key to understanding a culture that is different from your own.

Definition of Culture

  • Dr. Geert Hofstede defined culture as the collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes one group from another.
  • In his book “The Invisible Elephant”, Tom defined culture as the lens through which you look out at the world.
  • Depending on which research you read, here could be between 5 and 10 different dimensions of cultural differences.
  • We learn culture by observations. It is our environment that teaches our culture.
  • Culture is a framework of beliefs and behaviours.
  • Dr. Fons Trompenaars described culture as the way we do things around here.
  • Culture is the unwritten and unspoken rule.


Culture is tacit whilst at the same time subjective

  • Culture is tacit. We understand our own culture. At the same time, culture is also subjective, which means that when we look at the behaviours of a different culture, we use our own cultural norms to compare to that.
  • Being ethnocentric means having your own culture at the centre of your universe and comparing it to others.
  • It is always about understanding yourself. Self-awareness is critical in terms of understanding yourself first before understanding the other – what are your values, that are important for you, and how do you operate from that?


Today’s Take-away Action

  • Based on our upbringing, we learn our culture and that’s where our differences lie. Take a moment to think about:
    1. What are some of my own cultural values?
    2. Reflect on some of the interactions you may have had with people of different cultures and think about what are some of the similarities and clash points that you’ve experienced and why those occurred?


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