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What is Culture?

Learning to Be Happy
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

Happiness for the current American culture seems to mean no risk, no inconvenience. Those who take that approach also have no excitement, no adventure, no thrill of success.  Young Americans are very benevolent, even idealistic. But they seem to be unrealistic, easily discouraged.  The current generation are not experienced in taking risks, in being uncomfortable, in accepting inconvenience.

Happiness and Culture
US culture is convenience-oriented  A high value of modern American culture is risk-avoidance.  Happiness is convenience.  Americans know how to be happy by an American definition.  A German has a German concept of happiness.  But how does a European "be happy" in Africa?  It helps if you know how an African is happy.

What is "happiness" to an African?  Well, I certainly can't serve as an authority to answer that question.  I'm not an African.  Why not ask some Africans what happiness is to them?  Also observe systematically and come to your own tentative conclusions.

Learning to Be Happy
But even then, that is only the first step.  You then still have to learn to be happy in the African way.  But can you do that?  To be honest, probably not.  But the process of attempting is necessary for an adequate adjustment on the road to effective relationships and communication.

The foreigner will always be foreign in some important and basic ways.   But it is important to develop an appreciation and affirmation of the African concept of happiness (or any other cultural concept of happiness) as valid.  Of course, no human culture is ever final or absolute.  Cultures change, and cultures vary according to environment and many other factors.

Work with one or more cultural informants to learn their concept of happiness.  Then work on the art of learning to be happy — in a new way!

Also related:
[TXT] Cognitive and Social Culture
[TXT] Comfortably Uncomfortable
[TXT] Language and Cultural Worldview


Original article published as a general article in Focus on Communication Effectiveness, September 1993
This version first written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 June 2002

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD

Copyright © 1993, 2002 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email: orville@jenkins.nu
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