What is culture?

Defining culture can be difficult but it is useful to think of culture as:



...that a person acquires as a member of a community or other group of people.

The culture shared by a group allows that group to understand each other, predict what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour and develop a shared sense of community and belonging.

Reference: Tylor (1958 [1971]).

What influences our culture?

We all have culture - but what is our culture and what influences it?
Watch the video below showing three different perspectives on culture.

So, what influences you?

  • Are you a family person - or a committed singleton?
  • Are you committed to a community organisation or volunteer group?
  • Do you play sport?
  • Is it a deeply held religious belief? 

What influences you and builds your culture is important; it influences you and the world you live in. We share rules about behaviour, acceptability, morality and the everyday habits we use to get along with our neighbours, colleagues at work or even people in the local supermarket.

Seeing it from their perspective

For many refugees and migrants, the UK can be baffling, strange and very alien.

Though we are used to talking about and thinking about the need to understand their culture we rarely think about our culture and how this shapes what we do personally and professionally.

Let’s see it from their eyes:

Refugees and those forced to leave their homes can experience a more profound culture shock - cultural bereavement.

“A grieving for the changes forced on them, and a profound sense of loss of all that is familiar.”

Eisenbruch 1991

Developing a culturally aware practice

If we are to understand culture - it is not just their culture that needs to be understood, it is also our own.

Cultures shape the way we live, work, play and share our public spaces and public life.

Important steps in developing a culturally aware practice

  • Knowing your own culture, values, morals and beliefs, and how these shape our own actions professionally and personally.
  • Understanding that cultural barriers are experienced by patients as well as staff.
  • Being aware that the patient maybe culturally disorientated, lost in unfamiliar sounds, smells, buildings,customs, habits and beliefs.
  • Being aware that refugees may suffer cultural bereavement and enter a period of profound grief for all that they have lost.