My Blog Friends

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Culture plays a huge role in who we are and how we behave. Whether we go against the cultural norm or we follow the cultural norm we are still being influenced by the culture that we were both raised in and the culture that we currently live in. Some things that culture influences are: interpersonal attraction, sex, touching, personal space, friendship, family dynamics, parenting styles, childhood behavior expectations, courtship rituals, marriage, divorce, cooperation vs. competition, crime, love, and hate.

Just like in many of the things that we have already looked at it is always important to take into consideration the culture in which a person lives in. A person can also have cultures within cultures such as a person may live in America (1), live in a particular state (2), within a county (3), within a city (4), within a particular part of town (5), within a family unit (6). This doesn't even take into consideration the religion of the family, did they move recently or live in the same place their entire lives etc....

Triandis et al. (1988) proposed that culture can be looked at in different dimensions. One dimension of culture is whether or not the culture is individualistic or a collectivism. The team listed several differences between the two types and then began conducting studies on them. The following attributes are a few of the attributes considered to be from a collectivist culture: sacrifice, self is an extension of group, group is paramount, greater conformity, "vertical relationships" (child-parent, employer-employee), shame, hide interpersonal conflicts etc... The following attributes are a few of the attributes considered to be from a individualistic culture: Hedonism, Self is distinct from group, self-reliance is paramount, less conformity to norms, greater value on money and possessions, prefer to confront interpersonal conflicts, horizontal relationships (friend-friend, husband-wife) valued more, Guilt etc....

It is important to note that these two types of culture are on a continuum on opposite ends and so individuals and cultures will generally lie between these two extremes.

When creating our characters and the worlds that they live in it is important to understand the culture in which they are in. It is interesting that in many stories the MCs are generally fighting against the culture in which they live and so there needs to be reason behind this. I feel like I have said this before but I will say it again. In order for our characters to be realistic there needs to be some reason why they are acting outside of the norm.

Tidbit: Just for fun I'll tell you about a character I am creating for a D&D campaign that we will be starting this week. It is going to be a gestalt character, Ranger/Spell thief. Now if you understand this tidbit you would then be a geek :)


  1. When I went shopping with a girl from Germany, cultural norms were noticeable. She wanted an item that a person was standing in front of. In my "social norm" I would wait or come back for it later. She just stepped in front of him and got what she needed. I was shocked. That might be my own personal, shy norm too...
    Anyway...I agree, great post! You geek!

  2. haha i am a geek...rangers rock...and i agree with you on this...having a reason why they act outside the norm is worth repeating though.

    read that paragraph on Triandis again...the opening sentence, did something get cut in there as i am struggling to make sense of it...

  3. I had to blow some cobwebs out of the recesses of my mind to remember my days in middle school playing D&D. Boy, I must be a geek :)

  4. My partner of five years is forever interrupting me and my two teenage daughters. After a few months of him living with us I sat down with him and explained that it really annoyed me. He wasn't even aware he was doing it. He was brought up with three much older siblings, and in his house if you didn't interrupt nobody would stop talking long enough to listen to you. I guess that could be counted as a culture difference :-)

  5. I am as nerdy as they come some days but, I am cool with it. Culture can be so simple as the personality of a business and the employees with adhere to it or change it. The gift of great leaders is to create cultures of success or passion or for what ever goal is set. You can create your own culture by the people to gather around you or chose not to associate with. Culture is a choice at lower levels and guide or a prison at upper levels of society depending on your agenda. ;D

  6. Ah D&D. I would hang around my older brother and his friends watching. One day they actually let me join despite the fact that I was three years younger. I thought they were so cool for letting me do it with them. It was so much fun.

    I love reading about the cultures in the books. I think that really makes the books, especially fantasy and science fiction. I have been reading The Wheel of Time and I think Robert Jordan did a great job with the different cultures in the book. Though there are similarities between them each culture does something drastically different with clothing, behaviors, buildings, and even what the people find important. This is something I struggle with.

  7. Great post! I love reading about the cultures. There are lots of discoveries :)

  8. I remember reading something once about the range of what counts as "personal space" from culture to culture; that some consider a certain distance to be too close, and others the norm.

  9. I'm writing about the south right before the civil war. Want to know how to deeply offend a southern man of honor? Tweak his nose and you may find yourself challenged to a duel.

  10. I'm not a geek, but my kids are :) I understand enough of their games and the character profiles to get me in too deep in some conversations . .

    My women's fiction trilogy has a girl that grew up in an alcoholic/DV/molest environment. Some of my readers don't understand why she would think it's ok for the guy to hit her; why she could compare it to her father's drunken abuses and say, "this is nothing". As you say, culture is more than just where you live; there are norms in every household that shape our self images too.

    I'm trying to keep my characters realistic; but it might be too overwhelming to a lot of readers who haven't lived within that environment. My beta readers either love the story for its realism; or hate it because they can't imagine a woman putting up with that treatment. Its a quandry trying to find the right balance.

    I suppose that's why I've taken to writing fantasy instead . .


  11. Fascinating. As I embark on novel #3, I may need to return here and read all your posts. You provide some amazing insights for writers. Your thoughts are inspiring and informative at once. Thank you.


Comments are what help us all learn together.

Friends Meetup Party - the perfect line