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What is Culture? Definition of Culture

Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. Today, in the United States as in other countries populated largely by immigrants, the culture is influenced by the many groups of people that now make up the country.

Kazakh Jazz
Jazz music, which originated in the United States, has spread to other cultures. In this photo, the Soil & Pimp Sessions band plays at the Jazzystan Festival in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Credit: Kristina Postnikova / Shutterstock.com

Western culture

The term Western culture has come to define the culture of European countries as well as those such as the United States that have been heavily influenced by European immigration. Western culture has its roots in the Classical Period of the Greco-Roman era and the rise of Christianity in the 14th century.

Other drivers of the Western culture include Latin, Celtic, Germanic and Hellenic ethnic and linguistic groups. Today, the influences of Western culture can be seen in almost every country in the world.

Buddha statue
Eastern culture was heavily influenced by religion. This giant statue of Buddha overlooks Hong Kong.
Credit: Konstantin Sutyagin | Shutterstock

Eastern culture

Eastern culture generally refers to the societal norms of countries in Far East Asia (including China, Japan, Vietnam, North Korea and South Korea) and the Indian subcontinent. Like the West, Eastern culture was heavily influenced by religion during its early development. In general, in Eastern culture there is less of a distinction between secular society and religious philosophy than there is in the West.

Latin culture

Many of the Spanish-speaking nations are considered part of the Latin culture, while the geographic region is widespread. Latin America is typically defined as those parts of the Central America, South America and Mexico where Spanish or Portuguese are the dominant languages. While Spain and Portugal are on the European continent, they are considered the key influencers of what is known as Latin culture, which denotes people using languages derived from Latin, also known as Romance languages.

El-Deir Monastery at Petra, Jordan
The El-Deir Monastery at Petra, Jordan, is an example of traditional Middle Eastern culture.
Credit: Zurijeta | Shutterstock

Middle Eastern culture

The countries of the Middle East have some but not all things in common, including a strong belief in Islam and religion is a very strong pillar of this society. The Arabic language is also common throughout the region; however, the wide variety of dialect can sometimes make communication difficult.

African culture

The continent of Africa is essential two cultures — North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. The continent is comprised of a number of tribes, ethnic and social groups. One of the key features of this culture is the large number of ethnic groups — some countries can have 20 or more — and the diversity of their beliefs

Northwest Africa in particular has strong ties to European and Southwestern Asia. The area also has a heavy Islamic influence and is a major player in the Arab world.

The harsh environment has been a large factor in the development of Sub-Saharan Africa culture, as there are a number of languages, cuisines, art and musical styles that have sprung up among the far-flung populations.

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