What Is Culture?


According to merriam-webster dictionary culture is:

The customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. Alsothe characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time. Also: the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic.
Culture is learned from those around us. It includes a wide range of areas such as:
  • Food
  • Religion
  • Language
  • Music
  • Marriage
  • Clothing.

Culture is shared by individuals within a community. It provides members of the community with common experiences reinforcing what is, and what is not acceptable.

Where Does Culture Come From?

Culture Is Learned

When we are young, we don’t know the values, beliefs, or customs of the community we live in. We learn them over time from our family, friends, school, and media.

Culture is shared

Culture is shared through language and behaviors such as interacting with other people within our community. Although culture is a set of shared values and beliefs there may be some things that are shared between some groups and not others. This means that there is not one universal culture but many sub-cultures that selectively share some aspects of the overall culture.


Subcultures use some symbols, patterns, and traditions which are different to the dominant culture. These cultural symbols identify them as members of a particular subgroup.

Culture provides people with feelings of belonging and security. It provides a set of rules to ensure the cooperation of the individuals within a community. Culture provides a structure that meets the biological and social needs of its members including:
  • Shelter
  • Food
  • Reproduction
  • Relationships.

Western And Eastern Cultures

Western Culture
Western culture defines the culture of European countries and those countries and communities influenced by European immigration, such as Australia, Canada, and America.
The Core Values Of Western Cultures
  • Individualism
  • Personal responsibility
  • Free enterprise
  • Equality
  • Patriotism.

Western cultures are oriented toward individualism focusing on self-enhancement and independence.

Eastern Cultures

Asia is home to some of the world’s earliest civilizations and has many diverse races, cultures, and languages. Asia is the birthplace of many of the world’s major religions and has had a major influence on the culture around the world.

Asia is the largest and most populous continent, home to the largest (Russia) and most populous (China) nations. Asia is the largest of the world’s continents, covering approximately 30 percent of the Earth’s land area. nationalgeographic.org

East Asia generally covers the world that has been under the influence of Chinese culture. It includes China and all the countries in East and Southeast Asia. 
The Core Values Of Eastern Cultures
  • Social harmony
  • Collective well-being of the community
  • Loyalty and respect towards figures of authority
  • Preference for collectivism.
Asian/Eastern cultures generally have a very hierarchical social structure. Western cultures tend to be more democratic valuing independence and the individual.

Cultural Symbols

A cultural symbol is something that represents a culture including:

  • Languages
  • Music
  • Fashion
  • Holidays
  • Symbols
  • Art
  • Traditions
  • Gestures
  • Values
  • Norms.

An example of symbolic gestures and traditions is when people greet each other.

Cultural greetings:

  • Shake hands
  • Rub noses
  • Air kiss on the cheek
  • Put your hands together
  • Put your hand on your heart
  • Bow.

Cultural Diffusion

Cultural diffusion occurs when different cultures spread out and merge with other cultures. Thet then combine parts of other cultures into their own.  For example. In the U.K. Indian food is now the most popular takeaway.

Direct diffusion may be through individuals from different cultures living in other countries, international trade, intermarriage, or war.

Forced diffusion occurs when one group forces its customs on another.

Indirect diffusion occurs when cultural traits pass from one culture to another through a middleman without the two cultures having direct contact.

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Posted in Cultural Anthropology.