Definition Essay - Culture

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In recent decades, the word "culture" has developed a number of very negative, very wrong connotations. When a modern American thinks of culture, he thinks of snobbish rich people discussing European affairs over fine wine. He cannot relate to this image, thinking it pretentious and boring. This may be partially because these same snobbish rich people, when thinking of the rest of the American public, picture an unkempt hillbilly scratching himself. This notion of culture as something exclusive and elusive, however, arose only recently. In fact, according to an article in the New York Times in the 18th century, "the power of classic literature transcended ideology and class, transforming society along the way" (Rothstein). These books, now regarded as a status symbol for the cultural elite, were in reality once read and understood by people of all social classes. Culture is not a barrier between social classes, but rather the factors that define and unify a group of people at a given time. When tourists ventures to a foreign country, they may find themselves surrounded by unfamiliar things. All around them, people are wearing clothes they have never seen, laughing at jokes they do not understand, and conversing in a tongue that they do not speak. The poor confused tourists are baffled by the natives' culture—their way of life. Even in different regions of the same country, there are cultural differences, most notably in dialect. What a person in Maryland calls soda, a person from Michigan calls pop. While natives of Oregon drink water, residents of New Jersey are sipping glasses of “wudder”. And, as comedian Bill Cosby puts it, "Up in New England, a man can die from a ‘hat attack’," rather than the cardiac arrest that endangers the rest of us. These differences set different countries, regions, religions, and other groups apart from one another. There are a number of individual cultures with defining factors that make each one unique. However, these...
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