What is Culture?

What is Culture?

Culture is a tricky term to pin down. It’s been variously defined as:

  • “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
  • “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, 1871)
  • “the collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from another” (social psychologist Geert Hostede)

Culture impacts the way we live. It shapes all aspects of our lives. And yet, we often forget we have a culture. It’s only when we are confronted with different cultures that we realize it exists. With all of the differences in our perceptions of what culture is, it’s not surprising there are many different definitions of culture.

What is culture exactly? What is culture?

This is the first question I ask on the Cross-Cultural Twitter Interviews I regularly conduct with the people on my list: Cross-Culturall & International People On Twitter. The answers are short and limited to a tweet or two.

Here are some great definitions of culture taken from these Twitter interviews in answer to the question: “What is Culture?”

21 Definitions Of Culture

  1. Culture is the sum of a given society’s common history and its ability to reflect on itself.
  2. Culture is the HEARTWARE of the Soul and the SOFTWARE of the Mind.
  3. Culture is a country’s culture entails attitudes, beliefs & values. Those shape each generation & are influenced by a multitude of factor.
  4. Culture is the lubricant of daily life. A set of shared values & attitudes in a social group. An inherent code of communication.
  5. Culture is how we relate to each other with respect to our beliefs and values.
  6. Culture is created when the soul is rooted in tradition, the heart is learning by paradigm & action is influenced by society.
  7. Culture is everything we don’t talk about that we “know” is right.
  8. Culture is the ground over which we build our individual and collective behaviors.
  9. Culture is a way of life. The shared beliefs, attitudes&values of a group that are passed on, often without thought.
  10. Culture is the tapestry of our world. It contains our main points of reference and ways of relating to other people.
  11. Culture is the collective achievements and societal norms of humankind.
  12. Culture is the foundation of a society. Everything done, everything said is because of the culture… Culture affects language and business, family… every level of a society. You must know the culture to succeed.
  13. Culture is a collective of shared values, customs, and attitudes; beliefs expressed through action, artistic or otherwise.
  14. Culture is a lens which filters how we see the world.
  15. Culture is meaning making through shared values and patterns of behaviour .
  16. Culture is a set of human interactions & tangible creations, based on learned skills, knowledge, values and behaviors…shaped historically, geographically, economically, socially, and individually.
  17. Culture is a belief, a practice within a community without which nation will cease to exist.
  18. Culture is “the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.”
  19. Culture is the cumulative set of learned values and behaviors humans acquire, both intentionally and unintentionally.
  20. Culture is a shared way of living defined by the arts, communication, values, beliefs and history.
  21. Culture is shared, learned, invisible, dynamic, created, transmitted …I like the “software of the mind” idea when thinking about what culture is.

Whatever definition you subscribe to, it’s pretty clear that culture is all pervasive.