(Inter)Cultural Experiences

Culture consists of language, ideas, beliefs, customs, taboos, codes, institutions, tools, techniques, works of art, rituals, ceremonies and symbols. One aspect that comes to my mind when thinking about culture is food. Countries have specific kinds of food, different ways of preparing meals and different eating habits. There are specific meals for different countries by names of restaurants, for example. There are Asian restaurants, Mexican food seems to be pretty popular in the U.S. and there is even a German restaurant, Imbiss, in Wichita. At the German Imbiss you can get meals called “Bratwurst,” “Kartoffelsalat,” “Sauerkraut” and “Wienerschnitzel” (a German dish, although it is named after Austria’s capital). But that is not unique to the U.S. In Germany, McDonald’s is very popular, people in the Netherlands like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Burger King is found all over the world. One could wonder if food is really something unique to a culture, or do we lose our “typical dishes” in a world that is growing together? In Düsseldorf, at one of Germany’s biggest airports, I had my first Starbucks coffee, in the U.S., I had well-prepared Mexican food and in Mexico, the German candy “Kinderschokolade” is available. This picture shows my family and me at the airport in Düsseldorf, but seeing the people in the background and the Starbucks coffee cups, one could not even tell that the picture was taken in Germany. Therefore, and because of a couple of other reasons, we might have to think about the definition of the term “culture.” Considering for example that one’s culture is connected to customs, drinking coffee at Starbucks is for sure not a German custom. So, can I not call myself German anymore? What should I consider myself? Are people who prepare German dishes in the U.S. no longer accepted as Americans? Due to globalization, immigration and emigration, the world is changing and so is the culture. One can go anywhere in the world in a rather short period of time. People are not separated by space any longer and it seems anymore that culture is not a thing that can distinguish people from each other.