A symbol is anything that meaningfully represents something else. Culture could not exist without symbols because there would be no shared meanings among people. Symbols can simultaneously produce loyalty and animosity. and love and hate. TIley help us communicate
ideas because they express abstract concepts with visible For example, Rag!’:can stand for patriotism. nationalism, school spirit. or religious beliefs held by members of a group or society. Symbols can stand for love (a heart on a valentine), peace (a dove). or hate (a Nazi swastika). just as words can be used to convey these meanings. Symbols can also transmit other types of ideas. A siren is a symbol that denotes an emergency situation and sends the message to clear the way immediately.
Gestures are also a symbolic form of communication a movement of the head. body, or hands can express our ideas or feelings to others. or example, in the United States. pointing toward your chest with your thumb or finger is a symbol for “me.” Symbols affect our thoughts about cless. For example, how a person is dressed or the kine Of that he or she drives is often at least subcons n-vs’y used as a measure of that individual’s ecc non standing or position. With regard to clothing. although many people wear casual clothes on a daily basis. where the clothing was purchased is sometimes used as a symbol of social status. Were the items purchased at Wal- Mart, Old Navy, Abercrombie & Fitch, or Saks Fifth Avenue? What indicators arc there 011 the items of clothing-such as the Nike SwOOSh. some other lsgo,
or a brand name=-that say something about the status of the product?
Automobiles and their logos are also symbols that have cultural meaning beyond the shopping environment in which thcy originate. Finally, symbols may be specific to a given culture and have special meaning to individuals who share that culture but not necessarily to other people. Consider, for example, the use of certain foods to celebrate the Chinese New Year: Bamboo shoots and black moss seaweed both represent wealth. peanuts and noodles symbolize a long life. and tangerines represent good luck. What foods in other cultures represent “good luck” or prosperity?