The Perception of Culture
Ever wonder what it really means when they say a city has so much culture? I have and have thought about it a lot. Textbook definition culture of Dictionary.com:
- the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in arts, letters, manners, scholarly pursuits, etc.
- that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc.
- a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period: Greek culture.
Ah, so that’s what it means, but is that what people really mean when they say, such and such city has so much culture? I think more than anything they simply mean there are more people and there are opportunities to do more things. Isn’t it the same?
I grew up in New York City. If you were to ask a Manhattanite they would tell you I lived on Mars because I grew up in Queens, on the North side at that, so I might as well be living on Long Island. Most Manhattanites think much of themselves and I guess in a way they should for putting up with all the hassles of living in Manhattan, but what do I know of such a worldly place. Okay, don’t get your danders (sic) up, you know it’s true.
I use Manhattan as an example because I often hear the culture remark in my travels always by a native living in one city referring to another. Usually it comes right after the infamous line “There’s nothing to do here.” Maybe you have heard that one. I can remember saying it often when I was growing up and I had the best of many worlds right at my fingertips: Australia, China, Japan, Europe, Africa and South America, it was all there. I only had to hop on a bus or train and it would take me to a place that I could see those worlds, eat their foods and experience some of what those places are like. But I didn’t do that, I hung around the school yard playing Chinese handball, blackball, stickball, basketball, chasing squirrels and rats in the woods of Kissena Park or skipping stones in Kissena Lake. It was terrible, there was nothing to do!
Growing a bit older I ventured out and hung around with my friends in the local taverns chasing women, imbibing too much too often and there were only about 300 such establishments within a 30 minute walk from my house, call it 40 on a slow day. Still the cry would come, “There is nothing to do!”
Having travelled the world for over 40 years now I have heard that said in many languages, it is what propels, I believe, people to a wanderlust or at the very least to move to a new city in the hopes of finding something to do. Most people refer to it as a city having more culture. When I was young I always thought “Culture” meant a different lifestyle and a different way of doing things. Today I find it pretty much means the same thing all over: a city with restaurants, movie theaters and other amenities that allow us to get out of our houses, embellish our lives or in some cases distract us from our lives. I believe it is the grass is greener syndrome stated in another way.
So how is your city or town’s culture? Are you helping to increase that which is excellent in the arts, manners, etc., or is there just nothing to do in your town?
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