Culture can be too big and vague a concept to comprehend, let alone explore in a short academic assignment. The trick is to establish limits within which you are going to operate. If your prompt has given you nothing to go by apart from the word count, fear not. We have created this quick primer to kickstart your paper writing process. It's super-short and general, but it should give you an idea of how to approach this task.
Writing College Essay about Culture
College essays about culture are as diverse as the culture itself. Let's break them into broad categories and give more focused tips for each type depending on its purpose and intended audience.
How to approach "What is culture" essays
This type of essay is less of cultural analysis and more of a definition. You will have to define culture. It may be your own original take, especially if the prompt asks you, "What culture means for you?" However, it also must ring true for others and be relatable enough.
- - Read several definitions and compare them. What is common in their understanding of culture, and what differs.
- - Choose the general approach. For example, will you be defining culture from aesthetical, anthropological, social, psychological, political, or some other perspective? Would you describe it as arts and intellectual achievements, as customs and social behaviors, as values and norms accepted by a group, etc.?
- - Come up with your own perspective, the one you think is the most relevant for you, your peers, and your colleagues within the context of your essay.
- - Accept limitations. You should understand that your definition may work wonderfully in some contexts but may be lacking essential properties in others. For example, your understanding of culture fits public discussions about cultural appropriation but would not necessarily fit archeological research. As much as we strive for universality, it's important to acknowledge those limitations.
Tips on writing a culture shock essay
Culture shock essay has strong elements of narrative and personal essays. Even if you are writing a definition of a culture shock, it begs some anecdotal evidence to illustrate those experiences. Here are some rules of thumb for essays on culture shock.
- - Don't just list the things you have found baffling in another culture and leave it at that. Although culture shock is by definition a conflict, your essay should be rooted in empathy and seeking to reconcile cultural differences based on shared humanity.
- - Contextualize things that induce the shock. Explain beliefs, history, or rituals behind those things. Do your research.
- - Use parallels or reverse the situation to elicit empathy and understanding from your audience. For example, "In his culture, sneezing in public is inappropriate, so he felt compelled to leave the classroom each time he felt he was about to sneeze. Not unlike us, when we have to, say, burp."
Writing culture identity essay
Cultural identity is one of the most popular topics for personal statements. For many young people applying to college, it's a touchstone for reflecting on who they are as a person in this big world. For some scholarships, a culture identity essay is a compulsory component. Here are a few tips on writing impactful culture essays about your identity:
- - Avoid clichés. Concentrate on unique experiences – childhood memories, family traditions, an aspect of identity that is particularly meaningful to you. Remember that your essay's purpose is to stand out among others.
- - Put an original spin on this topic by subverting the expectation and ending a seemingly predictable story with a twist. Alternatively, address one aspect of your culture, one issue that might not be widely discussed outside of it (for example, colorism within your community and your experience with that.)
- - End on a positive note. If you are talking about your struggles to fit in or difficulties with learning a new language, focus not on the challenges but on the ways you have conquered them, on things you've learned, the character traits that helped you triumph over the adversity.
Advice on approaching "My culture" essay
This essay is somewhat different from the cultural identity essay discussed above. It's less personal and more representative. Here, you act as a guide showing your friends around the place you know better than they do. There are several ways to approach this topic:
- - Highlights. Your short essay on culture cannot possibly give a comprehensive view of such a complex thing as lifestyle, folklore, and knowledge of the entire ethnic group. Concentrate on the several things you believe are the most interesting, lesser-known, misunderstood, or most representative of your culture.
- - One thing. Physical objects can be very relatable points of entry into other cultures.
- - Choose an object (alternatively, a ritual or a custom) and explain its significance in your culture. Of course, it's just one facet of your world, but it can reflect many things like a drop of water.
- - Debunk stereotypes. If your culture is routinely represented in media in simplified, reduced ways, addressing those depictions can be a great take on the topic. Debunk myths or explain historical context for how those misconceptions originated and proliferated.
Identity and Culture Essay Topics
If, after reading the guidelines above, you still struggle to come up with the topic, here are some suggestions for inspiration:
Indian culture essay
- - How appropriations of Indian culture by American yoga enthusiasts makes me feel
- - Caste bias in American Indian community
- - Mixing tradition and trends in the brown beauty industry
- - Arranged marriages, their role in a community, and personal dilemmas
- - Things about Bollywood people misunderstand
African American culture essay topics
- - Soul sisters: how race segregation split music genres in XX century America
- - The true meaning behind "black-sounding" names
- - Nourishing with love: health trends in soul food
- - Harlem renaissance fashion and its significance in contemporary culture
- - Misogyny in hip hop and the real tension of gender relationships in African American community
Asian American culture topics
- - Harmful real-life consequences of Lotus Blossom and Dragon Lady stereotypes in modern media
- - Japanese "picture brides" of the early 20th century and their role in community building
- - Healing narratives of Cambodian American authors
- - Chinese-American adoptees' struggle for identity
- - Vietnamese American war babies
Mexican culture essay topics
- - Spicy Latina fetishization in romantic comedies
- - Frida Kahlo's authenticity and constructed identity
- - The visual narrative of Mexican history in the Muralist movement
- - Indigenous languages of Mexico
- - Pre-Columbian elements in Dia de los Muertos
Art and Popular Culture Essay Topics
The word "culture" conjures up museums, symphonic orchestras, theaters, libraries, and universities. However, everything that surrounds us is our culture. How we dress, where we live, how we greet each other, how we entertain ourselves. Yes, arts and history often take center stage, but it doesn't mean you have to limit your culture essays to those! This time, let's start with topics for popular culture essays for a change.
Pop culture essay topics
- - The rise and fall of high school movies
- - The appeal of K-dramas: the secret of global popularity
- - How "Netflixing" as a consumer habit changes the narratives in the series
- - "Good" monsters vs. "bad": visual language in films
- - Quest for meaning in Neil Gaiman's "American Gods"
Art and music topics
- - Protest music of the 20 th century
- - Finding a contemporary divide between art and craft
- - Space-age discoveries and their influence on music
- - Transgression and reliability in performance art
- - Narrative techniques of fake-fiction documentaries
Culture history topics
- - Written word vs. spoken word: shifting perceptions throughout history
- - Gender and sexuality in cassone paintings of Renaissance
- - Baroque music and its role in the community
- - The part of book printing in witch hunt trials
- - Land attainment mythology in Irish culture