Culture and its Characteristics

Culture is the totality of life which is comprised of knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, customs, and habits of the people. People receive culture as a part of heritage and may bring changes in the culture later on. There are two types of culture i.e. material culture and non-material culture. Material culture consists of buildings, roads, furniture, automobiles, weapons and uniforms etc. On the other hand, the ideas, customs, beliefs, habits, norms, rules and regulations of the society are non-material culture. For example, a man goes into the temple to worship; in this case the temple is the material culture while the act of worshiping is the non material culture of individual and society.


Significance of Culture


A man learns the total way of life with the help of existing culture. Culture is being transmitted from one generation to another. If the culture was not transmitted from the past, then it would have been difficult for us to survive in the society. Culture teaches us everything about the life and it makes an individual as the member of society. For example, the custom of marriage is a cultural heritage which has provided us the institution of family. Society and culture are interlinked with each other and without culture the existence of society is difficult.




Language is an important part of culture through which people communicate with each other. There are thousands of languages in the world. Animals can communicate with sounds, gestures, and touch etc. Human beings use the most developed form of languages to share ideas, beliefs, thoughts and knowledge with each other. Language is being learnt by the member of society in his/her family. Similarly he/she also learns language from his/her neighbors and classmates. Culture could not exist without language. Thus, we become cultured and complete human beings with the help of language.


Cultural Change


No one can say that culture is static. It always changes according to the time and circumstances. The new discoveries and inventions brought great deals of change in almost every society of the world. People use to give up old ways of life and adopt new ones. Today the world became global village due to which every society is related with each other. Media promotes the foreign culture and people adopt new things of foreign culture abruptly because of the higher influence of electronic media. Thus, it is concluded that cultural change is inevitable.


Culture as a system of norms


Culture is normative because every culture has its norms to be confirmed. Shaking hands is a common norm in all the societies. Norms are expected to be followed by the member of society. Nobody is permitted to practice the polygamy in the United States because it is one of their norms to be married with only one person at a time. Students have to confirm their norms in the schools whereas waiters are bound to follow the norms of restaurants. So, every group and community has to obey the norms of society which are the part of their culture.




Folkways are the common usages of life. Conformity of folkways is expected but violation of folkways does not harm a person or make him/her liable for any kind of punishment. Staring at the strangers, scratching in the public, and spitting on the roads etc are some of the violations of folkways in United States. These kinds of acts are considered odd in the society but laws do not punish the person who violates the folkways.




Mores are much stronger norms than the folkways. Every society has strict punishments for the person who violates the mores of the society. Wearing shorts in a street is violation of folkways while roaming naked in the street is violation of mores. Hence, one can say that norms, folkways and mores are important traits of the culture and individual is bound to follow these traits of society.




Ethnocentrism is the process of thinking in which the members of a group think that their culture is superior to the others. They think that their way of life is better than the others. The sense of ethnocentrism is common in the world. People are strongly attached to their own culture and always favor their culture as compare to the cultures of other people. For example the Mughals of Indo – Pakistan Subcontinent thought that their art, architecture, kingdom and way of living were far better than the others. On the other hand, the Russian thought that their culture is the best. Every group gives priority to their own culture because they are emotionally attached with it.




The word Xenocentrism is opposite of ethnocentrism. It is the process of thinking in which the members of group think that the foreign cultures are superior to ours. For example the people of Australia think that the French fashions, Japanese automobiles and Chinese food are superior. In xenocentrism, the people are attracted by the glamour and charm of the foreign cultures which bring cultural change within the society.  People adopt the lifestyles of other group in the form of their dressing, styles, housing and ways of living.


Are we prisoners of Culture?


Our personalities are influenced by the behavior, values and attitudes of the society in which we are born. Our culture teaches us about the reward and punishment of the society. It bounds us to do those things which are allowed in our culture and prohibits us from the things which are against our culture. Culture sets limitations on us but it cannot control us completely because culture makes us and we also make culture. Culture provides the total guidelines of way of life. Thus, some of the people follow their culture while others follow the culture of foreigners.




Culture is the total way of life. Knowledge, beliefs, ideas, art, buildings, rules and regulations are the culture of human beings. The culture of a society is being transmitted from one generation to the other. It would have been difficult for the survival of a society without culture. Language is an important part of the culture through which human beings interact with each other. Culture is not rigid and it changes according to the time. Norms, folkways, mores, and values of society influence the culture. Culture makes the people and people also make the culture, in this way cultural change comes with the change in human behavior.

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