Culture can be viewed as the customs, arts and social interactions of a particular nation, people or other group to which people belong or identify. It can also be defined as an appreciation of the arts and human intellectual achievement. In both views, examples of culture can provide a good way to get a quick understanding of culture.
Culture Linked to Geography
Some aspects of culture are linked to a particular geographic area, such as a country or region.
National Identity (Country-Specific Culture)
You might visit a new (to you) country and marvel at the way people in that country talk, think or act, particularly in the context of what you’re accustomed to in your home country.
- A country’s languages impact national identity and allow for effective communication. Dialects and accents can help identify various subcultures that exist within a country.
- The way a country approaches their culture is often reflected in how they spend their collective time, money and energies and may be reflected in the legal system.
- The etiquette and customs of a country, such as fashion, family life and business dealings can play a key role in its culture.
- Nonverbal communication varies significantly among countries. The firm handshake expected in the United States can be viewed as aggressive in other countries.
- The beliefs of a country, both religious and historical, are often at the core of a country's culture.
These are examples of exposure to culture specific to a particular country or national identity. Of course, regional differences exist from one country to another.
The particular region you live in likely has a unique cultural identity, especially if you live in a fairly large culture. In the United States, for example, there are some nationwide indicators of culture, such as enjoyment of baseball and American football or a love of apple pie and french fries. However, there are many cultural differences between particular regions of the country.
- Speaking with a southern drawl or using southern dialect identifies a person to others as being native to a particular region of the United States (the South).
- In Canada, slang terminology varies significantly from one region to another.
- Different words can be used for the same things from one region of a country to another. For example, soda, pop and soft drinks are regional terms for carbonated drinks.
- Certain foods tend to be associated primarily with a particular region. For example, deep dish pizza is the norm in Chicago, while thinner crust is the preferred in New York.
- Weather events common in a particular region are definitive of that culture. Depending on the region, people may deal with hurricanes, fires, blizzards, tornadoes, or typhoons.
- Within many democratic countries, certain characteristics tend to be associated with regions based on how their populations tend to vote.
These are a few examples of cultural differences that can exist in different regions of the same country.
Culture of Diversity
You may live in an area (state, city, town, province, or country) that is very accepting of people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, national origins, or other dimensions of diversity. If so, that means you are part of an area that values diversity to the point where diversity is an important part of the culture and community.
- The community calendar may be filled with festivals and events that include community members from different races and national origins.
- The local library may provide informational seminars and research materials for citizens born in other countries.
- There might be multiple sports options for citizens of all genders, ages and ability levels, including those who are disabled.
- The agenda of the city staff, local businesses and religious organizations may promote a wide variety of exciting shopping, educational and religious experiences.
- Community education classes specific to foreign language learning may be readily available at affordable rates.
- Diverse areas with a lot of immigrants tend to celebrate cultural differences. New York, for example, hosts a unique Caribbean Carnival every September.
These actions would be examples of a culture of diversity in a community. Some communities are very welcoming of diversity and seek to be inclusive. This often leads to examples of cultural diffusion.
Identifying Examples of Cultures Around You
Examples of culture can be seen everywhere around you.
Culture at work can be shown in a variety of ways including how people dress, how the offices are designed, how the employees are treated and the way the company interjects its culture into its products services and how it projects itself to its customers.
- An office might be casual or formal in design.
- Employees may be encouraged to dress casually to encourage a feeling of equality and to encourage comfort and productivity.
- Management might project a caring and personable attitude by sending cards and gifts to employees on key dates in their lives such as birthdays, marriages, births, and deaths of family members.
- A caring culture may be projected through a high level of service, personal recognition of key customers and corporate involvement in community and charitable organizations.
- The design and location of the offices may relate to culture, with senior employees having larger offices or cubicles located the furthest from the door.
The attitudes and ways in which people act are an example of the corporate culture at your office.
The activities of the citizens determine popular culture. What you listen to, what you read, what you wear, and how you speak are all examples of your popular culture.
- The favorite music of the culture may include artists on the Billboard Top 100 or from the newest pop stars on YouTube.
- Social media influencers can impact which brands are in-demand and which activities or styles are the most popular.
- Best-selling books and popular films or television shows can play a big role in shaping the opinions and experiences of a culture.
- Interaction through social networking can provide the vehicle for people of all ages, races, interests and genders to quickly communicate and share their ideas.
- Fashion trends can be an indicator of culture. Casual apparel may reflect a relaxed culture while quick-changing trends may echo fast-changing cultural trends.
- Language is a key way to communicate experiences of popular culture. Multiple languages and slang expressions can work together to describe the current culture.
All of these things are examples of popular culture. Trends can change quickly; today’s pop culture phenomenon could be yesterday’s news in an instant.
High Culture and Sophisticated Taste
While one definition of culture relates to the attitudes and beliefs of a group of people as a whole, there is also another definition of culture as well. This definition refers to high culture. In this sense, culture refers to having what has come to be known as sophisticated taste in the fine arts or humanities.
Examples of this kind of culture include:
- an appreciation for opera
- a love of classical music
- enjoying the ballet
- attending and appreciating art exhibits
- reading fine literature such as the classics
- an appreciation for gourmet food
- sophisticated expertise with regards to fine wine
Individuals who appreciate such things are often referred to as being cultured. Ironically, people who embrace culture of this type might tend to look down their noses at popular culture. People who make up the so-called "cultural elite" may opt to separate themselves from popular culture or what is considered common in society.
Recognizing Examples of Culture
You may not think about being exposed to these different examples of culture every day, but you intuitively know that there are certain attitudes, feelings and ideas that exist when you go to a certain place.
You can also instinctually tell the difference between different cultures.
- Going to a stuffy and formal law firm is always going to have a different feeling than going to a casual tech start-up.
- Going to a progressive place like Amsterdam is always going to feel different than going to a very conservative country such as a Muslim country in the Middle East.
These attitudes, feelings, ideas and things that you perceive as you go about your day are all examples of culture. These examples relate to the type of culture defined simply as shared attitudes, values and beliefs of a people.
This type of culture is important because it helps you to learn how to think, act and feel if you want to fit in with the mainstream. It also explains why you might experience culture shock when you suddenly move to a new country or start interacting with a new group of people who have very different attitudes and beliefs from the ones you are used to.
Understanding the different meanings and types of culture is important. When you think about different examples of culture, it gives you a better understanding of the world around you and of the ideas, beliefs and values that you experience every day. To further understand culture and its impact, explore how slang affects the English language. To expand your ability to discuss or describe culture, review this glossary of key terms in cultural anthropology. If you’re wondering how to define your culture, just look around you to find the answer.