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What’s the big deal about culture, you ask?  Culture is everything.  Pop culture, foreign culture, hipster culture, and bacterial cultures!  Is your head spinning yet?

In the broadest sense, a culture encompasses EVERYTHING about a specific set of people.  Culture governs the way we act, what we believe, what institutions we patronize, and lo’ and behold, all products of human work and thought.  If you think I pulled that out of nowhere you’re wrong.  That’s just the dictionary’s definition.

There are obviously many other meanings for such a powerful word.  Culture could be the same thing applied to a certain time period, like Victorian culture.  It could also be related to a field of work like musical culture.  In a narrow sense it could relate to a corporation’s predominating attitude.

For our intents and purposes, however, let us restrict ourselves to the broadest possible definition!  Culture relates to ethnicity.  In our world of cultural fusion, it’s become rather difficult to perceive culture like the good ole days.  We have cultural mixing all over the place.  Japanese restaurants run by Chinese owners, Americans practicing Zen Buddhism, henna parties for bridal showers, you name it.

Cultural mixing is not a new concept.  It’s been happening over the last couple thousand years as people actively import arts and goods from other places.  Immigration has fueled much of it as well.  The only thing new about cultural exchange is how easy it is now.  With modern transportation, telecommunication, and the Internet, it’s possible to experience other cultures on a whim.

Of course, there’s bound to be some friction between cultures as they collide.  Culture has been the driving force behind many wars and conflicts throughout history.  Even now we are experiencing a rather serious row between North America and the rest of the world.

But I’d argue that culture is good in and of itself.  It’s the people who use it as an excuse to fight with each other that are truly the losers in this game.  There is no better way to enrich your life then to experience and enjoy what other cultures have to offer. That way you can be exposed to many different kinds of fulfillment and happiness, allowing you to maximize your own outlook on life.

That’s the moral of the story here.  Culture may be the defining element of a group of people, but it’s not exclusive.  As long as we continue to embrace each other as humans and not adversaries, we can also share everything that we hold dear in life.  In the following sections we’ll explore some of the major cultural influences on life in America.  So relax, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare to expand your mind.