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Cultural Awareness Training: A Definition

You’re on the website Culture Matters now. But what does this word “Culture” mean? Or better, in which context is it used on this website?Cultural Awareness Training; a Definition

When you look up “Culture” in Wikipedia, there are 8 chapters of information and dozens of pages. Using Google to look up “Culture” gives you over 1.5 million hits. Not very helpful.


Within the context of Cultural Awareness Training, there are over 100 definitions. In addition, most definitions are more than one paragraph long.

I prefer a more simple, but effective one: “The Collective Programming of the Human Mind“. This is the shortened version of Professor Geert Hofstede’s definition of Culture.

The two most important words in this definition are: Collective & Programming. Let me explain:

  • Collective: Culture does not describe the behavior of one individual, but rather a group of people. This in such a way that it distinguishes one “group” from another. You can think of groups as “Tribes” or in some cases as countries (e.g. the Netherlands and Belgium; these two countries share the same language (to a large extent), but are culturally very very different; In fact, there are no other two countries that share one language that differs more than the Netherlands & Belgium).
  • Programming: Basically Culture is taught behavior. We are not born with our culture. The general consensus is that this “programming” starts when we are born, and ends around the age of 12-15. That does not mean we cannot adapt to another culture later on in life. But rather means, that one will always be able to fundamentally understand one’s native culture.


Capturing something as complex as Culture in one single sentence is pretty hard. So let me add a bit more.

Another way of describing culture is “The General Trend in Society”. See it like a so-called Normal Distribution or Bell-curve.

Punctuality between Germans & Dutch (Cultural Awareness Training)





(Click this image to enlarge)

On the image above you can see the (schematic) illustration of the “need” for punctuality between Germans & Dutch.

It is safe to say that Germans have a higher need for punctuality then Dutch do. But, this is a General Trend in Society. Not all Germans are punctual, and not all Dutch are not punctual. There are Dutch that are more punctual than the average German, and vice versa.

However and again, the general trend in German society is to be more punctual than the general trend in the Dutch society.

There will always be exceptions, but then again, exceptions prove the rule.

What do you think? Does this make sense? Please leave your comment right here below.

Chris Smit

I'm passionate about Cultural Difference. I have been helping organizations save time and money when they work Internationally for the last 19 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to hold lectures, workshops, and consulting projects on this subject World Wide. It has made me understand my own culture much better, and appreciate the differences around the world.
I have a Master's Degree in Organisational Psychology and have lived in the USA, the Netherlands and, currently, in Belgium.
Thank you!

Chris Smit
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