Culture is a phenomena that can be very hard to describe. I attempted to take a communications class, “defining culture,” and admittedly, dropped after the first week. I like to think of culture, when it must be defined, as things that make people stand apart. That’s the most mainstream reason we use it anyways. In highlighting differences that make people special, good or not.
Many times when people describe a culture, they use food and customs, which is very easy for us to comprehend because they are visible. What’s less visible are values of a culture, what matters and what doesn’t across people.
I have very much taken into notice how gender and sexuality is expressed differently here. I’m not too sure if it differs from country to country in Europe, since I haven’t seen much of other countries, so this will mostly be insights in Germany.
First off, the hypermasculinity is miniscule compared to that of America. American men are easily offended in the slight premise that they are not super-macho all of the time. You see that a lot in the south, with big trucks, apparent misogyny, and the masculinization of everything from food to tissue paper. In Germany, it isn’t uncommon to see a group of guys sitting at the beach in their underwear, sitting on each other and singing songs. They’ve been mates since they were boys. They are more comfortable with themselves, in who they are, and don’t feel the need to prove it everywhere. Another concrete example of this is what I like to call “man-spreading.” It’s the phenomena of when on public transportation, you’ll notice it’s the guys trying to prove their masculinity the most that take up almost two seats and spread themselves out, while normal people just take up their own seat. This was much less of a problem in Germany.
Another welcome cultural difference is how little women’s bodies are sexualised, which becomes very apparent in advertising. TV commercial and bus ads are so… normal here. Someone smiling with a tube of toothpaste. Someone just driving a car, talking about how great of mileage it gets. In America, they have women in swimsuits advertising fast food. You walk through a mall, and everything is advertising with fake women everywhere. It’s incredibly detrimental. You can see how this affects the women in their attitudes, too. Women here aren’t too worried about showing skin at the beach, because they feel comfortable that people aren’t sexualising them, which is amazingly freeing. I often feel uncomfortable if I have to run errands after going to the beach or something, worried that I’m dressed “inappropriately.” I felt a lot safer abroad.
Lastly, there is less of a judgemental attitude. Nobody cares what you’re wearing, what language you’re speaking, what book you’re reading. They are only worried about themselves. The women in Berlin especially may come off as tough and intimidating, and they definitely are, but they are also super friendly. They are tough and you shouldn’t mess with them, but I have made some close friends from simple bathroom line chats! The men are friendlier, too. Just because you guys are talking doesn’t mean you’re hitting on him or he is hitting on you, it’s much more open and friendlier, which I think is healthier.
So, overall, there are cultural reasons for these differences. These stem from values that we can’t see with the naked eye, but bleed into our everyday experiences and are notably very interesting.
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<p>Hi! I'm Veronica, and I'm a communications/creative writing major from the University of Southern California. I love comedy, writing, and meeting new people! I'm a self-identified cat person, yet love dogs too.</p>