This white paper aims to explore the different components of culture and behaviours, and how it impacts the way we see the world, from health outcomes and the perception of chronic conditions, to environmental concerns and the aging process. With insights from various experts, we looked into how industries are embracing different cultures and using culture as a tool to create a more connected world.
Experts with fantastic contributions:
- Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO & Founder, Cultural Infusion
- Jan Liska, Global Patient Strategy Lead at Sanofi
- Miyabi Kumagai, Brand Culture & Heritage Manager at Shiseido
- Chris Arning, Founder and Creative Strategist at Creative Semiotics Ltd
“It’s the culture we don’t see that influences the culture we see – this is an important point I often ponder on, and it occurred to me time and time again when I first read this paper. It is a fascinating exploration on the influence of culture on our individual behaviours, with such case studies focusing on healthcare, beauty and on language and the environment. Each case study demonstrates how every behaviour in so many spheres of life are interconnected with our cultures. We are reminded that we need deep dives and granular data on cultural diversity to best understand how culture intersects with cultural diversity. UNESCO reports that 75% of conflict has a cultural dimension. Surely, if we better understood culture, we could better understand behaviour, thus leading to more cohesive and harmonious global communities.” – Peter Mousaferiadis, CEO & Founder, Cultural Infusion
When we think of culture, it is easy to imagine the visual representations of culture that we see in everyday life. Yet culture and identity are much more profound. To explain this, we tend to think of identity like an iceberg; depending on your perspective, this could be personal identity, brand identity, or perhaps the identity of your organisation. The visible part of the iceberg represents external behaviour, out in the open for everyone to see. Yet the large bulk of the iceberg, the foundation below the surface, represents culture. If we take this metaphor, we can interpret culture as the bedrock on which our behaviours are formed, yet our behaviour is only a small part of our culture. Culture is therefore much more profound than simply what is portrayed on the surface. At an individual level, you may exhibit certain behaviours externally, but beneath the surface there is a much larger picture, made up of your views, opinions, biases or perceptions of the past, present and future. These have all been shaped by cultural factors.
The idea that culture can shape our perception of the world around us is also seen in the way we communicate and how different languages approach the future. For the purpose of this paper, let’s look specifically at how our use of language impacts our attitude towards the environment. In a paper entitled ‘Talking in the present, caring for the future: Language and environment’, researchers have identified a new source that may explain why certain countries are more environmentally aware than others: the use of the future tense in language. In English and in other future-tensed languages, we express future actions with a distinct future tense: “Next week, I will/shall do it”. In other languages, such as in Finnish and German, there is no distinct future tense: “Next week, I do it”. The study concluded that speakers of languages without a distinct future tense care more about the environment than people who speak with the future tense. But why is this? Language is a deep reflection of our culture. It plays a critical role in the way we perceive the world. In languages without a distinct future tense, rather than saying “I will” or “I shall”,the idea of tomorrow is expressed in the present tense “I do” and in doing so, speakers treat the future as if it were today. This makes the future seem closer, leading speakers of these languages to take more immediate actions.
Chris Arning, Founder and Creative Strategist at Creative Semiotics Ltd shares his insight. ‘Culture’ is an overused buzzword in colloquial discourse. People often take it as a synonym for the high arts or national identity. Semiotics, a technique of reading rooted in academia, but used as a strategic tool within the marketing industry, defines culture as a set of inter-locking codes that have meaning for people within a particular society. Codes can be visual (like a certain aesthetic), narrative (like certain stories), linguistic (like slang), or behavioural (like modes of behaviour). These codes bind people together in shared cultural norms and can be used by brands as shortcuts to convey mass meanings. To give a couple of examples, British humour can be used as a broad-based code, or forms of ‘cuteness’ in Japan.