History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Culture Building

The Cultural IcebergI came across this graphic (rendered at larger than my normal graphic size here to make it more legible) related to the aspects of culture that are easy and difficult to see. It was originally posted by a music teacher talking about multicultural classrooms. But on Twitter, Fonda Lee pointed out how useful it could be to writers in her tweet here.

If you’re working on a project that involves a culture, whether real or fictitious, this graphic shows you the myriad things that you should learn about for depicting a real culture, or think about for a fictional culture. Getting the details right about a real world culture is respectful and helps represent that culture accurately. Figuring out these sorts of details for a fictional culture makes the culture feel realistic and fully formed, rather than just pulling from an existing culture. This isn’t to say that you can’t have a fictional culture inspired by a real-world culture, but you can have a more realistic fictional culture when it’s got solid reasons behind the culture.

Here’s a transcription of the graphic:

Title: The Cultural Iceberg

Easy to see:

  • Language
  • Folklore
  • Fine arts
  • Dress
  • Literature
  • Holidays and Festivals
  • Food

Difficult to see:

  • Beliefs and assumptions
  • Family roles
  • Self-concept
  • Relation to authority
  • Core values
  • Biases
  • Body language
  • Manners
  • Concept of cleanliness
  • Interpretations
  • Beauty ideals
  • Family values
  • Attitude toward school
  • Gender roles
  • Approaches to health and medicine
  • Humor
  • Rules of conduct
  • Notions of modesty
  • Concept of justice
  • Pride
  • Competitiveness
  • Attitude toward the environment
  • Expectations
  • Childrearing practices
  • Work ethic
  • Thought patterns
  • Gestures
  • Personal space
  • Aesthetics


About The Author


Leave a Reply