What Is Culture?


One of the definitions by thesaurus.com is “the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.”  Sounds sort of stuffy but it is an apt description. 

When we think of ourselves in a cultural context, we invariably think about our heritage, background, racial identity and those things make up the backbone of who we are.  I am a Canadian Trinidadian of East Indian descent, yes I know, quite a handle, but I identify with each aspect of that description.  I have been molded by those influences over the course of my life and I appreciate that plurality that resides in me.  Our cultural influences are what enrich us and allow us to identify with others. Culture helps us feel like we are part of a collective, like we belong.  As humans, we need to feel connected to something and culture does that for us.  

Think about the culture you identify with.  Is it because of your heritage?  Maybe it’s because of where you lived while growing up or the influences you’ve had over time.  There are so many ways to look at yourself culturally. 

Growing up in Trinidad and Tobago meant growing up in a multicultural society.  Because of the convergence of different groups of people through the island’s history like colonialism (which is a difficult part of the history of many countries), the country’s 2 largest ethnic groups are African and Indian, however there are many other groups who reside there as well, including those of Chinese and Middle Eastern descent.  The presence of so many different groups of people meant that we celebrated everything from Christmas to Eid and Divali and your neighbors could be of any ethnicity or a mix of them. 

Toronto has provided a very similar experience, except on an even larger scale.  The cultural diversity in the city is staggering – look anywhere and you will see West Indians, Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Pilipino, Greeks, Italians, Koreans…the list goes on and on.  We have so many people of different backgrounds who have chosen to live here and who feel free to display and be proud of their cultural identity.  It is a joy to behold and we at Shades of Influence consider ourselves fortunate to have the diversity and freedom that we do. 

So the next time you go somewhere, whether it is to the mall, church or out for an evening walk, look at the people around you and think about the fact that they probably have as rich a cultural background as you do and we live in an amazing country where celebrating your culture isn’t just welcomed, it is highly encouraged. 


Have a great day!