How much does our culture influence our values?

I recently read Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World and it’s been rocking my world a bit. In the book, my friend Tsh recounts the time she and her family moved to Turkey, and how they adjusted to the slower culture there. As they moved back to the states, they wanted to maintain some of the values they had inadvertently adapted to while living there . . . cooking fresh foods, savoring meals, spending more time with family, moving at a more relaxed pace. She details the challenges of trying to swim against the current in our frenetic American culture, and offers some really good insight on how to do it.

Just as I was finishing this book, I went to see the play Light in the Piazza at South Coast Rep. I don’t want to give too much away (because SoCal folks, you need to go see it), but the play explores the differences in culture between the U.S. and Italy, and how a young girl who struggles to function in the U.S. finds that the European lifestyle mitigates many of her issues.

Both of these were timely, as Mark and I have been having some serious talks about where and how we want to raise our family. We’re not exactly ready to flee Orange County, but we are having some “come to Jesus” talks about whether or not this is where we want our kids spending their adolescence. We’re also talking about it for our own sanity, too.

We live in a culture that values productivity over personhood. We live in a culture that values appearance over intellect, conformity over creativity, and possessions over community. I’m stereotyping, of course, but people here move at a fast pace. Kids tend to be overscheduled. Parents tend to be overworked. Friendships are spread thin because everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses, and the Joneses aren’t known for their relaxed, community-centric lifestyle. Sometimes it’s hard not to let these values dictate how we live as well. And sometimes we wonder if moving somewhere with a slower pace (and a little less plastic surgery) might be good for our souls.

notes from a blue bike

On the other hand, there is the old adage: Where ever you go, there you are. I do believe this to be true. Any problems with balance, people-pleasing, competition, or chasing success will be present in a new location.

Still . . . it does seem like it could be easier to slow down in a culture where we don’t feel like we’re moving against the current. I don’t think we’re victims of our culture, per se. But I do think that it influences us, and I wonder if relocating to a place with drastically different norms, even if just for a season, could give our values a jolt.

Have you ever contemplated moving somewhere in the hopes that your cultural values will sync up? Have you lived in a slower culture, and then moved back? And do you feel like the place you live now is a good fit?


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