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Other pages in this series:
» What is "Culture"?
» "Culture" Metaphors
» 3 more metaphors
» Create metaphors
» Iceberg
» High and Low Context
» Culture "embodied"


Creating your own metaphors

Culture is like a ________________________ "

Here are some of the metaphors for culture people have sent in. Sorry, no graphics!
  • Spice Tray--engages 5 senses
  • Favorite pair of jeans--only fits you, you love them even though they may wear out or get out of style
  • Painter's palette--creating self (or group) from palette of several cultures
  • Covered Wagon--the sense of being a pioneer, new frontiers. Culture is your coping mechanism for previous situation, may not fit in new lands, new eras.
  • Window--you can see out the window to what's beyond, forget to look in, notice own side of window.
  • Fishbowl
  • Cloth, embellished textile, warp and weft are basic human needs and representation
  • The Universe: stars, moon, galaxies--vast. More than one culture. See light from other cultures long after it is first emitted. Internal universe also.
  • Handbuzzer--it still surprises me, even though I think I know the culture well. Glasses--perspective of events still that of an outsider.
  • Handcuffs--culture as limiting, controlling, shaping human minds, hearts, lives.
  • Elephant--messy, smelly, soft, loud, invigorating, different parts feel different: "I love them but who produced them?"
  • Forest --eco-interdependent
  • NYC Subway pass, go one stop or all the way out to Coney Island, thru train or local, 24 hours a day.
  • Culture to me is like tombstones. They come in many different shapes, sizes and styles. Just like the different people in the culture. But they are used as a marker for the dead. Away to identify the person who was buried. Just like culture, in some ways it cripples those who are marked by it.Tombstones define the situation that the person is in. Cultures are used to try to define the people in it.This is why tombstones are like different cultures. They both are supposed to fit the person that they are trying to define.
  • Culture is like a PIZZA -- everyone prefers different toppings or combinations of toppings, but all are necessary for a complete menu
  • Culture is like a Monet painting. There are different colors in the painting, but they all mix together at the edges and form a coherent whole.

Now it's your turn. Send us a metaphor that puts a finger on an important aspect of what "culture" is, and we'll add it to this list. Email

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