Concepts of Culture

Culture is a broad umbrella phrase that encompass all the learned behaviors and norms observed in various human cultures, and the shared understandings, beliefs, arts, behaviors, cultural beliefs, and customs of the people in these cultures. These shared understandings and customs help to define the different facets of culture. For example, some people may value certain practices or rituals, such as those of certain religions. The core meaning of culture, therefore, is that it is a shared set of values, knowledge, norms, behaviors, and knowledge that members of a specific culture share.


The core norms of culture are not fixed but vary across societies and cultures. Most of these cultural norms are considered universal, while others are considered to be deeply rooted in each culture. These are also referred to as traditional norms, folk notions, or ritual norms.

A key concept of culture is ethnicity. Each ethnic group in a society has its own cultural norms, values, and experiences. Thus, the norms may be quite different for members of the same ethnic group in different societies and cultures. The difference in cultural norms among ethnic groups can be quite wide. For instance, there are differences in religious practice between Muslim and Christian societies, or between Irish and Welsh people in Ireland or Scotland.

A key feature of culture is language. A number of different languages dominate the societies of the world. Different languages may be strongly influenced by cultural norms, or even be used to separate people. This is especially true of languages used in societies that are highly multicultural, such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The varieties of languages that dominate a society are thus a significant aspect of culture. A number of studies have confirmed that the language used to identify one’s own culture can vastly influence other aspects of societal interaction.

A variety of other aspects of culture are affected by culture, including attitudes towards different types of norms. For instance, there are huge differences in attitudes toward sexuality between societies and even within single countries. Differences in attitudes toward violence and gender relations also reflect a significant cultural divide. Thus, Africa and the Middle East have some of the most radically different attitudes regarding sexual identity and gender norms than any other part of the world.

The major part of African culture, however, relates to religion and ethnicity. A number of ethnic groups across the continent have different religions and beliefs, while some have significantly different ethnic identities. While Christianity is the most popular religion in northern Africa, Islam is the most popular religion in sub-Saharan Africa, where it also has the strongest presence. The two are also separated by political power, with the former ruling over the latter throughout the history of the continent.