A Description of Cultural Patterns

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Cultural patterns are described as the preferred set of responses to different life situations. According to Kluckhohn and Strodbeck’s description of cultural patterns there are 5 dimensions or elements that address the manner in which a culture orients itself to activities, social relations, the self, the world and the passage of time. In the following reflection I will identify each one of these dimensions with the cultural patterns shown in my country.

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Starting with the activity orientation, which defines how the people of a culture view human actions and the expression of self through activities, we can identify the Puerto Rican culture as a “becoming” one. A “becoming” orientation refers to people who are predisposed to think of ways to change themselves as a means of changing the world. Although I do not fully agree on this identifying the Puerto Rican culture, I do agree on other views that the “becoming” cultures have toward work and play. For example Puerto Ricans do not have a “clear-cut” separation between work and their social lives.

Often you can go into an office and find employees chatting with each other, talking with relatives over the phone or talking about their private lives in a business meeting. The Puerto Rican culture is more relaxed in terms of work compared to the Mexican, Colombian or European American culture, we specifically work for a means to an end and appreciate every second of our leisure time. The social relations dimension describes how the people in a culture organize themselves and refer to one another.

In Puerto Rico the degree of importance we place on formality has changed through the years as different generations modify the way we address people. For example teenagers often refer to their elders as “you” instead of “sir” or they will say to someone who is serving them “give me” instead of “may I have”. The Puerto Rican culture generally does not give much importance to tittles, as they believe that relationships best develop when those involved can address informally to one another.

Another thing that cultural patterns prescribe are the social interactions people have between them. In the Puerto Rican culture we have African heritage so it’s no surprise when both our cultures prefer indirectness in conversations with other people of our country but do not require an intermediary to do so. Generally, people in Puerto Rico will “sugar coat” demands or favors in conversations as a way to ask for something but in a indirect approach so the person won’t perceive us as rude or ill mannered.

The self-orientation of cultural patterns describes how people’s identities are formed, whether the culture views the self as changeable, what motivates individual actions, and the kinds people who are valued and respected. Puerto Ricans can easily associate with each other, as our individual self-definition is very similar. On the contrary of the European American culture, Puerto Ricans make decisions for their children based on traditions, values and what they believe to be best for them.

Although individuals make their own decisions as they mature and grow up when we evaluate from a group perspective it can be said that there is a heightened sense of interdependence and what happens to the group happens to the person. An example of this can be shown in cultural linguistic tendencies, as individuals modify their usual language others do so as well; also the fact that when national catastrophes occur everyone feels identified with the loss or the pain of the others.

Because Puerto Rico is such a small island it is almost predictable that individuals can associate their identity with others from the same country even if there is a social status, age, town etc. aspect that differs between them. One of the most interesting dimensions is the world orientation, which tells people how to allocate themselves in relation to the spiritual world, nature and other living things. As we know Puerto Rico has different heritages because of the cultures that have influenced us trough the colonizing process, so it is not strange that our spirituality relates mostly to the European American beliefs.

The general belief in our culture is that human beings can prevent, postpone or overcome natural events such as earthquakes by making buildings stronger, finding cures for illnesses and prolonging the time of death of a sick person. As technology constantly “improves” individuals believe they have the power to control nature instead of nature controlling them. Despite the fact that we are most influenced by this belief we still have the Latino influence which leads us to believe that we will be measured by our actions in the spiritual world where our souls will rest.

The final approach of these cultural patterns is the time orientation, which can be defined as the way individuals conceptualize time. The cultural frame to which the Puerto Ricans relate is the Latino; even though we do not think time is endless we don’t take time as seriously. That is the reason why people are constantly late for everything, from a birthday party to work and even to Sunday mass. Time is mostly seen as ongoing and useful to maintain order, but not of the utmost importance.

Analyzing these cultural patterns one can have a more accurate sense of how culture determines the identity of a country and how things like the importance of work and social time can influence so deeply the way a whole culture behaves. Also it gives you the opportunity to compare and contrast with other countries and learn how other people can have a completely different share of values and see life in such a contrasting way. Most importantly I believe that by studying these cultural patterns one can be more sensible to other people’s needs and have more respect for their culture instead of wanting to impose ours.

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