Was ist eigentlich Kultur?

January 8, 2017

Let's start from the very beginning. What is culture even? Don't worry, I'm not seriously gonna philosophize about the actual meaning of culture now. We did that in cultural studies class a couple of weeks ago and we came to no conclusion. But I still believe it's an interesting question. And I thought a lot about it when I was in Vienna with my uni friends. There was this interesting modern art, or let's better say anti-art exhibition and we had a great time visiting it all together. We had the chance to show one of our Erasmus students our beautiful capital city and maybe even tried to make her understand what the Austrian culture is about. That included visiting Viennese cafés, walking past the parliament and other huge important buildings (which I probably saw for the first time as well, sorry), going to museums and having lunch and a couple of beers at some cliché place. 

When we talked about the meaning of culture we kept calling it the thing that's happening when a group of people share the same interests and develop traditions and rituals out of it. That thing might get changed and developed further after a while due to several influences. Maybe this could be true and it probably was our easiest attempt to find a definition but when I was sitting there, in that Viennese café sipping on that tiny espresso cup (barely any lactose free options, welcome to Austria) I had to think of the time I came to Ireland and had the chance to experience another culture. Or last year when I was in Australia, further away from home than ever. When I think of my travels and other places I visited I get this certain memory of a feeling I had there. I would call it the vibe I got to feel there. Culture isn't just an interest we share or things we like to do together. It goes way beyond that. It is the way we learned to communicate, the way we express ourselves and how we respond to things. That can vary from country to country, from city to city and even from family to family or friends. Culture is that certain vibe that surrounds a place. This vibe is an addition of all these little things we like to do together and that make us unique as a group. And that can't be found anywhere else. That's why we never truly understand what some place is like that we've never visited before. You have to experience it all by yourself to understand, or at least try to understand a culture. 

I'm thinking too much about things that I can't explain lately and I will instantly retract the third sentence of this post. Now I did it anyway. But I hope my thoughts make sense, they somehow do to me. This is a hard topic but I have to say it feels good from time to time to just sit and write down your thoughts.