Do people these days even care about it? Is it something that you ultimately learn? Or something you inherently are? Does it make you a better person?
Cultured. Something that I would LOVE to be – but have always felt that I don’t quite fit the bill.
Being cultured has been defined by the Daily Mail, (I know right – getting off to a fabulous start by using such a reputable source) as possessing characteristics as insignificant as “owning a library card, watching sub-titled films and being skilled in the use of chopsticks”. They go on to give the reader, (who’s feeling a tad inadequate at this point) a definitive list of what makes a person cultured – watching Question Time, hosting dinner parties and knowing your cheeses make the cut.
Since starting University a year and a half ago, it’s become crystal clear that my entire life and way of thinking previous to uni can only be described as a bubble. A safe haven in the deep, dark depths of the countryside where kids like me are wrapped in cotton wool, going to a major city for a shopping trip would be deemed a special outing and watching anything other than TOWIE or reading Fifty Shades or anything remotely away from the norm was.. weird.
With the power of hindsight, I don’t think I was encouraged enough to read widely or often – just the bare minimum of George ‘tending the rabbits’ in Of Mice and Men was just about enough to get by with a decent mark in the Literature GCSE exam. None of my friends continued reading after becoming ‘free readers’ and the days of learning about Biff, Chip and Kipper’s escapades with the Magic Key were over. Can you blame them though? The library was NEVER open and it seems that the pittance of government funding we actually get in tiny Herefordshire seems to go towards filling in potholes rather than funding creative outlets which CAN I REMIND YOU THERESA MAY – ENRICH PEOPLE’S LIVES???????? I mean, my 70 year old neighbours love nothing more than campaigning about these local ‘issues’ – they even made the local newspaper because they took selfies with as many badly tarmacked roads as HUMANELY POSSIBLE and actually got a huge reception because of it.
Equally, train tickets from the middle of nowhere cost a BOMB and it’s not even worth mentioning the other forms of dire public transport. How are we supposed to go and explore and learn if it cost outweighs the appeal? How can I POSSIBLY go and admire art kept in faraway cities and watch Shakespearean theatre productions when my friends would rather spend their money on a night out in Hereford every weekend – going to the SAME club with SAME bloody 2013 playlist blasting over the speakers?
Honestly, until uni I thought I was happy plodding along in my very content dream world. I was quite happy spending my Friday nights gossiping in the pub about who was getting with who, Keeping up with the Kardashians (quite literally) on every social media platform going – because, of course, not knowing would be missing out. I’d avoided the 7’o’clock news like the plague because it ‘didn’t concern me’ and ‘made me depressed’ – the only news I’d ever been interested in up to this point was twitter updates on One Direction members’ whereabouts and whether or not Justin Bieber was going to be releasing an album anytime soon.
My very limited knowledge of the world and reliance on Popular Culture couldn’t be more obvious when I moved into a flat with 7 people from all across the country who were, quite simply, a lot more worldly than me and did not fully appreciate my extensive Kardashian knowledge. Conversations of Made in Chelsea storylines had changed to Brexit debates and lying about what books I have read became a regular thing because it would look super bad on a Literature student to have not read Romeo and Juliet, right?
It was a massive shock to the system.
But can I really blame it on where I come from and who I used to hang around with at school? Yes, I grew up in a small village, and in the grand scheme of things, was surrounded by people who had a ‘small-minded’ way of thinking – however I could’ve made more effort to look things up on the internet if I really, really wanted to (even if it took DAYS to load on my ancient computer and below satisfactory BT internet connection).
My journey (if you will) to become more of a cultured person has been a gradual process. I’m trying to watch more critically acclaimed films with my housemate who constantly reminds me how shit my taste is and how “uncultured” I am. I’ve recently got into vintage music and don’t feel ashamed about blasting a little bit of Etta James on the speaker when I’m tidying up the house after a big night out. I even went on a very spur of the moment jolly to Paris in January with my Friend Libby and went exploring the French capital for a few days (when I should’ve been doing uni assignments, #YOLO).
Is it a truly big deal if I still don’t watch the news because I’d rather just block out how messed up the world truly is? and more importantly, IS IT BAD THAT I STILL WATCH THE KARDASHIANS?
What does being cultured even mean in 2017? Because I’ve clearly got a lot to learn.
I shall be embarking on this passion project of mine over the coming weeks to answer the overarching question we all want to know – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ‘CULTURED’?
I’m going to make it my duty to educate myself a bit more and soak up a whole lotta culture – so if you wanna see how I get on, stay tuned!
Tilly Turnip xox