The Cultural Atlas
The Cultural Atlas is a collaborative project between SBS, International Education Services (IES), and Multicultural NSW. Created in 2016 as a supplementary resource to the Cultural Competence Program (CCP), it aims to inform and educate the public in cross-cultural attitudes, practices, norms, behaviours and communications. The goal is to enhance social cohesion in Australia and improve outcomes for individuals and organisations operating in an increasingly culturally diverse society.
All published content in the Cultural Atlas is the result of a collective effort between researchers, editors and members of the Australian community that have cross-cultural identities or familiarities. We would particularly like to acknowledge the contribution of many of Australia's multicultural community members, who took the time and effort to provide relevant information about their culture.
By gathering such knowledge into one resource, the Cultural Atlas provides a unique opportunity for users to gain a broad understanding of the norms and behaviour that would generally be familiar to people from the culture of description. The cultural observations are contextualised with up-to-date statistics about Australia’s migrant populations and information on their trends of arrival and settlement. At a personal level, we hope the Cultural Atlas offers its users the chance to inform their judgements of cross-cultural experiences with a deeper understanding.
The Purpose of Cultural Profiles
Cultural profiles should not be relied upon to form expectations or stereotypes of an individual’s behaviour based on their country of origin. This information is purposed to give you an understanding of the dominant culture within a country so that you may gain insight into the kind of cultural and social environment a first-generation migrant from that country is likely to be familiar with.
Please remember that descriptions of dominant cultures are not representative of all individuals and should not be strictly applied as such. Countries contain many microcultures that differ from the mainstream culture in identifying characteristics, and people’s behaviour varies on a personal basis. Furthermore, although many features of societies are persistent, cultures continue to evolve. This resource can only provide a general guideline.
The information contained in the Cultural Atlas is most relevant for describing the cultural familiarities of first-generation migrants who were originally born in the country of the profile in question. As cultural tradition diverges and transforms with every generation, such information tends to be less representative of second-generation migrants. Furthermore, it is important to note that those migrants who have been settled and acculturated in Australia for decades may have a different understanding of their country’s cultural and social climate from those living there today. This varies depending on how frequently they have visited the country since their migration as well as other factors.
Determining Culture and Identity
The Cultural Atlas itemises cultures by country. Using national cultures as the point of reference allows for consistency and provides contextual history. However, it is important to acknowledge that cultures are not confined by national borders, nor are they homogenous within them. People may come from the same country of birth, but they do not always have the same cultural background and experiences as others from that nation. Many people from minority groups have cultural practices, traditions or beliefs that differ from that of the dominant national culture. As an example, the cultural lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people diverge from the western cultural mainstream of Australia. In some cases, people belonging to minority groups may feel misrepresented by their official nationality and prefer to be culturally identified in another way altogether - perhaps by their ethnic, religious, linguistic or social identity. Apportioning a cultural profile to every minority identity is beyond the scope of Cultural Atlas. Nevertheless, we recognise these real and legitimate positions and have sought to acknowledge their presence in the places they occur.
Representing Opinions and Positions
The Cultural Atlas is purposed to give the most relevant advice on how to interact with a particular migrant community more sensitively. This will sometimes involve providing the social, political and cultural opinions of a particular group in order to offer the reader an understanding of their context. In some cases, one cultural group's opinions or position within a debate may challenge another's. Any political opinions described are representative of those that have been expressed by migrant community groups and do not represent the positions of the Cultural Atlas, SBS, IES or Multicultural NSW. It is important to note that each cultural profile is written from the vantage point of those who identify with it, as every cultural profile is the product of a collaboration with people that share cross-cultural familiarities.
An Australian Context
The Cultural Atlas and the Cultural Competence Program have been designed for an Australian audience. Therefore, information on cultural communication alludes to an Australian norm to describe verbal and non-verbal behaviours. For example, measurements are made in comparison to the Australian standard. You can visit our profile on Australian Culture here to understand what this is. However, we do not suggest that Australian culture presents the ideal model by which other cultures should be judged.
A Migrant Context
As the Cultural Atlas is aimed to improve social cohesion in the Australian (Western) context, some of the information in the Cultural Atlas may give particular attention to certain groups that have access to migration pathways. The opportunity to migrate to Australia (and the English-speaking West more broadly) tends to be available to specific social or economic demographics within countries. This is because only certain groups of people meet the conditions to gain the necessary visas and/or practical means to migrate. One may find that the majority of migrants from an economically impoverished country belong to the highest social strata, whilst most of the population is in a lower socioeconomic bracket. In such circumstances, the information in the Cultural Atlas may give particular attention to the common migrant backgrounds that Australia receives, despite these lifestyles being a minority among the general population of the original country. This concentration is not intended to give a disproportionate view of the culture or ascribe any superior value. Rather, it reflects the fact that Australians are statistically more likely to interact with people of certain social and economic backgrounds.
Where Is My Country?
Presently, there are over 50 countries published on the site. These cultures comprise some of the largest migrant populations settled in Australia. Altogether, over 90% of Australia’s first-generation migrant population has been born in the countries published in the Atlas (Census, 2016). Subsequent cultural profiles appear on the site in order of the size of their migrant population in Australia. While this schema provides a clear development strategy, some cultural profiles may be published sooner than others as cross-cultural organisations and community members facilitate fast-tracked development of the relevant cultural information. If you or your organisation would like to similarly help develop information for a particular cultural profile, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Is the Cultural Atlas finished?
The Cultural Atlas is a work in progress. The information is constantly being reviewed, updated and expanded. We invite our readers to be part of this process. While all published content has been reviewed by researchers, editors and community members that identify with the culture in question, we acknowledge that culture is deeply subjective and also constantly evolving. Therefore, content is subject to change upon feedback and verification. We encourage you to contribute your thoughts regarding the site’s content by visiting the Feedback page.
The Cultural Competence Program
The Cultural Atlas was developed to supplement the Cultural Competence Program (CCP). While the Cultural Atlas will provide users with meaningful insights into the cultural norms of other countries, undertaking the Cultural Competence Program will support a more structured knowledge of cultural features. The program develops understanding around key elements of cultural communication, and emphasises the importance of effective cross-cultural relations. It features real life stories, engaging learning activities and provides practical support in working within Australia’s diverse cultural landscape. For more information about the course, please visit the Cultural Competence Program website.
Project Leaders: Nina Evason & Chara Scroope.
Consultant: Robert Bean of Cultural Diversity Services Pty Ltd.
Team: Robert Macias, Leon Coningham, Linda Karlsson, Arun Malik, Justin Endacott, Luke Latimer & Nicole Sorensen.
The following are a selection of people that assisted in contributing their knowledge to the Cultural Atlas:
Adam Cauchi & the Cauchi family, Adbul Celil Gelim, Ahmad Shuja, Aleks Milinkovic & the Milinkovic family, Amir Bukic, Andrea van Doore-Nave, Andrew Bolton, Anneke Mackay-Smith, Anurodh Khana, Arahat Sundar Tuladhar, Archford Kahondo, Arliss Adou, Arun Malik, Behrooz Farahnakian, Brody Willys, Bunu Gautam, Chan Then Chap, Chen Shuyu, Christian Froelicher, Christophe Mallet, Cuthbert Kahondo, Daniel Grima, Daria Karasyova, Dasha Moskalenko, David Forde, Dimitrija Krstevski, Efthymios Kallos, Elizabeth Willys, Elsa Tsang, Emily Scroope, Emily Westmoreland, Emma Minami, Gottfried Dorweiler, Holly Qi, Hayan Mezher, Humaira Gul Saeed, Huyam Hamid, Isaac Salisbury, Iti Memon, Imane Belayachi, James Vongdara, James Yu, Jean-Noel Ducasse, Jeff Chau, Jimena Escobar, Joey Owens, John de Bhal, John Deng, Juanita Ochoa Villamizar, Juliana Santos Abrao, Katherine Méndez González, Kane Malsen, Kaylee Brussow, Ketsada Soysouvanh, Krystallia Tragouda, Kulasegaram Sanchayan, Kumud Merani, LiLi Zhou, Linda Karlsson, Lucila Renya, Macarena Muru, Magdalena Kuyang, Malgosia Zlobicki, Mandy Brussow, Maria Bui, Maria Schleicher, Marie Myssy, Marie Salisbury, Marina Gendy, Marta Bartovak, Martina Vuckovac, Maxime Jaulin, Mehdi Zakerhossein, Merry Ha, Mersija Mujic, Michael Ngatama, Michael Willys, Michelle Pyae, Michelle Willys, Miriam Rivas, Moe Hasani, Monika Andrew, Nila Achia, Nontaporn Kukuntod, Oli Stoj, Omar Ibrahim, Paola Realpe Meneses, Pratish Moloo, Radica Bojkovska, Raghull Morty, Raquel Leiva Velasco, Renata Buziak, Richard Bent, Ricky Onggokusumo, Robert Macias, Ronald Manila, Rose Rillera, Sahib Nazari, Sam Finerty, Santiago Vargas Perilla, Seng Long, Shad Ali, Sikshya Rajyalaxmi Rana, Simon Chap, Somphong Sihaphonh, Sonet Chap, Sonia Caton, Swaleha Ali, Takuya Katagai, Tatiana Murasheva, Terrell Oung, Veta Taufu & the Taufu family and Yang Joong Joo.
In addition to the support received from SBS, SBS Radio and Multicultural NSW, we would also like to particularly thank the Queensland Intercultural Society, Latin America Community of Australia (QLD), Syrian Australian Association of Queensland the University of Queensland South Pacific Islander Association, the UQ Nepalese Society, 4EBFM Ethnic Community Radio and the Federation of Indian Communities Queensland for their cooperation and input.