TEDxKrakówSalon: Redefining Culture

Contemplations on Culture: Generations Past, Present and Future

This month, TEDxKraków is redefining culture. So, we thought: What better way to debate and discover the meaning(s) of “culture,” than through pulling inspiration from a soon-to-be 150-year old country, formed and founded on the concepts of immigration and multiculturalism?

Welcome to Canada! We certainly hope you enjoy your stay in our beautiful, diverse country.

Now that you’re here, it’s time to meet people and make friends! Not sure how? Never fear, we’ve got a Conversation-Starter Pack ready for you! We’ve collected the top three tested-and-true questions, relied upon by the vast majority of Canadians on any given day, used in any given situation, and with just about anyone — be it a friend, associate, colleague, or a complete stranger. Are you worried about coming off as slightly inappropriate, disingenuous, or maybe a bit nosy? Well, we certainly don’t worry about that! So, just go for it!

Here you have the top three most widely used conversation starters among Canadians — feel free to use them individually, or successively (for best results!):

  1. How are you?! (Note: The answer is always “I’m good! And you?” And your answer will also be the same, minus the repeated question, of course — otherwise you’ll unwittingly get yourself stuck in a repetitive cycle alternating between one seemingly ultra-concerned question and one clearly overly-detailed answer…)
  2. What are you?
  3. What do you do?

So, there you have it: when in doubt, default to questions of well-being, background, and profession. But, these three questions are not just a testament to Canadians’ people’s globally-renowned habits of politeness, or to their relationship-forming values and techniques. These questions also reveal a lot about Canadians’ nature.

And by nature, we mean culture. And by culture, we mean — well, what do we mean? The answer to this question, of course, lies in another question — specifically, #2 from our Starter Pack:

What are you?

Synonymous with questions like “Where are you from?” and “What’s your background?” — this question aims to unpack two parts of the respondent’s identity. First, it considers their cultural/ethnic origin, or — as in most cases you’ll come across in Canada — the historical and geographical origin of their ancestors. Second, it uncovers with which of their multiple backgrounds, origins, or cultures they most identify.

And here is where things truly start to get interesting.

Ask this question to anyone who has even a 1% mix to their background (genetic or geographic), and watch them ramble, squirm, and eventually trail off as they attempt to provide you with a highly confusing (or confused) answer — and you’ll soon come to see that the reality of cultural identity has slowly (almost undetectably) begun to undergo some very drastic changes.

Culture is being redefined right in front of us, and we are the ones redefining it.

We live in a time of interconnectedness. Borders, time zones, and conceptualised country lines are becoming minor afterthoughts.

What happens when the moving parts of culture are introduced to (and, as a result, mingle with) other cultures? Globally, we are moving past what used to be geographic and linguistic limitations — either by making new friends while traveling, through sharing and engaging in content from different parts of the world, or by relocating, settling down, and starting up mixed families all over the world.

We are transitioning into a world full of global citizens, with multiple identities.

What used to be easily identifiable, ordered, and mutually exclusive — is becoming more and more complex, dynamic, and layered. Culture now has many moving parts. It’s not just comprised of your genetics, ethnic origin, geography, or family history. It’s affected by where you were born, brought up, and where you have lived — which, in many cases, can easily consist of multiple places. It factors in what languages you speak or have learned in the past; what citizenship(s) you possess; what people and traditions you’ve been surrounded by (or taken a liking to); and what cultural practices you have been exposed to, educated yourself in, and maintained over time.

Let’s consider some real-world examples to illustrate our point:

Exhibit A [Global Citizen: C.J.]

  • Family: Mother born in Montreal, Canada; father born in Manchester, UK, grew up in Cardiff, UK
  • Citizenship(s): Canadian, United Kingdom (inherited from father)
  • Places lived: Ottawa, Canada; Stockholm, Sweden
  • Spoken languages: English, French, Spanish* (kind of)

The story: C.J. moved from Ottawa, Canada to Sweden in pursuit of completing her MA in Global Health — and she never turned back. After a few years in Sweden, she’s learning the language, and has officially fallen in love with the country. She has local Swedish friends with whom she hits up the town on weekends; she goes about her daily Swedish life (like buying her groceries at the local market, or regularly enjoying fika, guilt-free) like it’s no big deal, and has generally (and may we add, comfortably) integrated into Swedish culture. Ask her “what” she is? At this point in time, she most identifies with her country and residence of choice — deep down, she simply feels Swedish.

Exhibit B [Global Citizen: X.R.]

  • Family: Mother born near Pamplona, Spain; father born and raised in Paris, France, but also of Spanish descent
  • Citizenship(s): Canadian, French, Spanish
  • Places lived: Paris, France (place of birth); England, and Canada
  • Spoken languages: French, English, Spanish (with fluency all across the board)

The story: By blood, he’s 100% Spanish; by place of birth, citizenship, and through childhood memories, he’s French. Having grown up in Paris, France, and spent most of his later-formative years in Ottawa, Canada, X.R. feels equally at home roaming the streets of Ottawa’s Byward Market (where he’s sure to randomly bump into everyone he knows on a daily basis), just as much as when he’s roaming the streets of Paris (where you wouldn’t count on him for complicated directions — since he barely knows how to get around himself), still he can’t possibly put to words the sense of belonging and familiarity he experiences there. Ask him “what” he is? Well, he’s all of it — everything. He’s a global citizen, son of the world.

Same Old Question; New and Improved Answer: The Global Citizen Movement

All things considered, we’d like to propose a new movement as a response to the ever-nagging “What are you?” question — a question which oversimplifies the true spirit of many, and irks just as many (if not more), purely by attaching the falsely based (and only lightly offensive) idea that people can “be” objects — or at least, be classified like them. While on the one hand, we can see the answer to this question has become increasingly complicated in its depth and personal meaning — on the other, it’s actually becoming quite simple. You see, more and more people across the world are now able to answer the same question in the same way.

So, What Am I?

Well, in response to your question, I can confidently say this: I am a Global Citizen.

And, I’m willing to take it even one step further — I’ll bet my money that somehow, in one way or another — you are a Global Citizen too — either by definition, or purely by feeling. Or, surely, as some sort of new and unique, ultra-intriguing, and never-before-seen crossbreed of the two.

So, what of our next steps in the progression of our newly forming, ever-changing, dynamic globalised identities? Well, obviously we have to start designing a Global Citizenship Passport.

Don’t worry world, we’ve got this.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.