What Is Culture?
Generally, culture can be described as a pattern of human activity within a society or community. It includes many symbolic structures, such as law and customs, dress, architectural style, social standards, and traditions. UNESCO has designated culture as the Fourth Pillar of Sustainable Development. A community is a social unit of any size, both physical and virtual. Various elements of culture contribute to the unique identity of a community, including its customs, traditions, and values.
Despite these differences, most human societies have certain common elements. These elements are often referred to as cultural universals. They are patterns that are shared worldwide by all cultures. One such universal is the family. Every human society recognizes the family structure and responsibilities for sexual reproduction and raising children. The functions of the family unit vary from culture to culture, but they are universally recognized. In Asian cultures, for example, family members from all generations typically live together in the same household.
Western cultures are the cultures of countries in Europe and other nations heavily influenced by Europeans. Western cultures share many characteristics with North Africa, including geography, climate, and language. Traditional Sub-Saharan African cultures include the Maasai of Tanzania, the Zulu of South Africa, and the Batwa of Central Africa. Although these cultures have largely similar characteristics, they developed in different environments and share many traits. The Batwa, for example, live a forager lifestyle in the rainforest, while the Maasai herd sheep.
Generally, cultural differences are more apparent than cultural universals. Language is a common element among all cultures, but the linguistic structure and conversational etiquette of different societies show great differences. Middle Eastern cultures, for instance, stand very close to others when conversing, while North Americans tend to keep a distance. Similarly, food and drinking habits vary widely. North American professors probably drink coffee, while in the Middle East, people drink tea. In northern Europe, meanwhile, people may enter hot tubs or saunas naked.
The sociological perspective of symbolic interactionism is most closely related to face-to-face interaction. Interactionists view cultural as a system of meaning-making, where people create meanings through interactions with the environment. Objects, actions, and language all contribute to the meanings people associate with them. The latter is particularly relevant to everyday life, as it helps us define the meaning of a culture. And if it is important, cultural differences can shape our identity.
Despite all this, culture is constantly evolving. Every day, new things enter our world, influencing both the material and non-material culture. New technologies open up new ways to live, and new ideas and ideologies make them more vibrant and appealing. This dynamic helps us understand how our societies function. For example, the way we live our lives is largely shaped by our cultural environment. Similarly, the world we live in today is shaped by the values and beliefs of our forebears.
Other forms of culture involve arts and crafts. Some examples of these are theatre and cinema, which involve live performers and a range of instruments. Comedy, on the other hand, is a form of stand-up comedy. Music and dance are also forms of art, focusing on the movement of bodies to rhythm and music. Amongst these, the performing arts include the circus, which involves both live performers in addition to clowns. Lastly, there are many different types of art forms and subcultures based around various disciplines.