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THE CONCEPTS OF CULTURE AND CIVILAZATION; THE IMPACT OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION
Before starting the discourse on a certain culture and/or civilization, some explanations regarding the above concepts as well as their definition could be considered helpful for a better understanding of the task in view: the acquisition of basic knowledge on the life and thinking of a certain society, so that the mental process of crossing a culture different from the one, someone lives in, may be achieved. For a long time, the attempt of defining the concept of “culture” has represented the preoccupation of numerous scholars all over the world, and it has caused vivid and long debates; more than 160 definitions have been suggested up to now, each of them considering the concept from a different point of view: some look upon culture as something that separates humans from nonhumans, while others define culture as “communicable knowledge”; in other cases, culture is considered responsible for having shaped the totality of historical achievements produced by human activity, and so on. However, an attentive examination of these definitions reveals that most of them contain some common elements, thus: culture is learned, shared and transmitted from one generation to the next; culture is primarily transmitted from parents to children but, at the same time, by school, church, social organizations and even by government or special interest groups;
thoughts and feelings. discipline and care. Therefore. geographic environment or main historical events which influenced and contributed to the shaping of the respective culture. considered as consisting of patterns of human behaviour giving to a group (ethnic. last but not the least. as well as tolerance to alternatives. for the purpose of our text. where we have in view. done or made by its individuals. religious. etc) a certain identity.- social pressure is taken into consideration as well. speech. and which are characteristic of the members of the society under consideration. from the spiritual to the material ones. . “cultural identity” vary from one group to another. on the one hand. That is what Hofstede calls “the collective programming of the mind”. including everything which has been thought. this system means. Undoubtedly. shared manners. due to its power of reinforcing some common ways of human thinking and behaving developed in a certain place. on the other hand. Out of the multitude of definitions. and. the presentation and. The possibility of the groups individuals to communicate among them. This is a competence/skill acquired as a result of a process which requires knowledge. basically. as an integrated system of human behaviour patterns which are transmitted to and learned by each generation. the understanding of a specific culture . material artefacts. action and artefacts and depends upon man’s capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations”. and according to which the individuals within the group will shape their values. aesthetics. attitudes and feelings. Therefore. culture could be. education. There is a wide variety of “values” worth mentioning. sometimes dramatically. an example is offered by Webster: culture is called “the integrated pattern of human behaviour that includes thoughts. social and political institutions. professional. customs. and what is positive for one group may be absolutely unacceptable for another. at a certain moment. social. in fact. and even more that that. religion. their wish to communicate positively depends on the groups/individuals possibility to understand and accept cultures with value systems and priorities others than theirs.the above concept would be defined paraphrasing Webster’s statement. the totality of material and spiritual values accumulated by the respective society along centuries. and which represent the constitutive elements of what we call “culture”: language (verbal/nonverbal).
gestures. either spiritual or material are permanently added to the old ones. there are many variables determining what has been defined as “civilization”. etc. education. nation. of course. for example – may vary dramatically from one culture to another regarding the way of being performed. Both culture and civilization are multidimensional. the process is abrupt and spectacular.o. etc). developed over long periods of time. civilization reflects a process of collective progress. on the contrary. thus. religion. may have. be slow or difficult. there are elements which are included in all cultures. and family rituals and celebrations. electrical appliances. characteristic of the manifestations representing the worldwide way of life of any group. a certain uniqueness that determines the cultural diversity we are still impressed with. new values. one and the same activity – eating habits.s. sometimes. However. music. status differentiations. different artefacts (clothes. some change occurring in one dimension will influence the others to the same extent. Another aspect to be emphasized is that each and every individual. in our modern world.It goes without saying that today. At a certain moment of its existence. these elements are called “cultural universals” and they represent some general values. the level of material and spiritual development of a social-economic group or individual can be defined as “civilization”. nowadays. that it resists change and fosters continuity. An aspect worth being pointed out refers to some characteristics of culture: thus. Being in evolution. there are situation when. irrespective of geographic area. This permanent process of teaching/learning . consequently. consisting of a large number of elements that are interdependent. culture evolves. each society or social group finds itself at a certain level of development. belongs to a certain group and. the concept of family. civilization can be considered a process of improving institutions. material or spiritual life. in the way in which they are performed. In other words. trade customs a. race or historical development. regarding social. as social being. even if the process can. the activities mentioned and many others which occur everywhere in the world crossing cultures. cars. They include etiquette. However. it is said that culture is conservative. should behave and think according to the group who teaches him/her the “right way” of acting in life and within the group. mealtime. legislation.
on the international arena. or structural affinities. persons encultured in one particular culture have to know and even to adjust their personality to another culture. the individuals will become more efficient in communicating with the people belonging to the respective culture. It goes without saying that it is not reasonable to expect a person to have much knowledge about each and every type of existing cultures. the process of their learning. Cultural incompetence can easily jeopardize the positive development of some important relations. acculturation is no longer considered an occasional phenomenon producing devastating effects. because the living or working conditions require it. by communication. and they must be prepared to face its impact. The recent research on acculturation made possible a new interpretation of a large number of inherited points of view referring to the characteristics of culture. research. in this way. “cultural risk” is as real as the political one. Modern life and present developments often make the individuals meet the cultural challenge. is known as “acculturation”. on the contrary one of the usual ways by which each society or individual can develop culturally. a more practical approach for individuals would be to start by examining some cultures they feel interest in. this would be next to impossible. . in any international environment the achievement of this process is a key to success. and even the reinterpretation of the concept of culture. the process of crossing cultures. In time. But. Thus.reflects the individual’s progress. adjusting and adapting to a specific culture. but. learning. Thus. interests. By understanding and adjusting themselves to the elements of a culture specific to a certain group/society. taking into consideration the multitude of cultures existing in our world. Therefore. sometimes. it is said that any individual is encultured into a particular culture. a fact which confers “cultural identity” to the respective person and which is included in the individual’s personality. another than their own. and it is said that. education and experience. they could get a sound knowledge of some types of cultures to which they are or might be exposed during their lifetime because of their profession.