Characteristics of Culture – Characteristics of culture help us to examine cultural similarities and differences by comparing and contrasting. Characteristics of culture can be pervasive, learned, shared, adaptable, explicit or implicit, changeable, and ethnocentric. We can understand the culture by comparing and contrasting the characteristics of culture. There are several ways to know the characteristics of culture that will be discussed in this writing.

Pervasive Phenomenon

Culture is pervasive, it permeates all of society and encompasses virtually everything that is not biological. Culture combines visible and invisible things around us. The example of the visible things are highways, computers, buildings, automobiles, clothing, machines, books, pictures, and many others.

In contrast, the invisible things include the laws, rules, regulations, norms, customs, and other written or unwritten directions that guides our society. We hear “uncultured” individuals that refers to the people who lack of “culture””.

For addition, uncultured people hold little or no interest of art, classical music, drama,poetry, or great literature. They have no appreciation for what is beautiful and tasteful. Beyond that, however, the pervasive quality of culture implies a far wider range of human experience than just the aesthetic.

Learned Behavior

We learned early in life from our parents and other adults who are important to us. Heredity provides us with certain inherent human faculties. People taught the right way, the culture’s way, and to use them.

Eating, for example, is a biological necessity. We have to eat to live. Our culture, however, determines what we eat. We learn to consume beef if that is what our culture dictates and we learn that eating dog is offensive.

Another biological function is sleep. We have to sleep to live. Our culture determines how we sleep, on the floor, in a bed, or in a hammock.

Protecting our person also is a biological necessity. We have to shield our body from the elements. Our culture decides how we do this. We can wear kimonos, dresses, loinclothes, cheongsam. or jackets.

What we choose is what our culture teaches us to pick. Culture gives meaning to some of our physical reactions, and they taught what these mean. A lump in the throat means sorrow, a tightening of the skin means fear, a sinking feeling in the stomach means fright, a certain movement of the mouth, a smile, signifying pleasure or something good – at least in our culture.

As we learn, we sometimes learn traumatically what is right. If we derived from the culture, we pay in some ways. We pay through loss in comfort, status, peace of mind, safety, or in some other manners.

Shared Behavior

Shared cultural patterns bind us together as an identifiable group, enabling us to live harmoniously together. Although we disagree about some aspects of our culture, we agree about and accept most of it. We are not even aware of a lot of what we agree about. We do not realize that it s part of our culture.

Adaptable Behavior

The fourth characteristic of culture is adaptable behavior. Our culture is an adaptation to our surroundings. Cultures develop to conform to certain environmental conditions and to the available natural and technological resources. The culture of city differs from residents in rural area.

Inhabitants of cities have convenient transportation systems, stores and supermarkets, medical facilities and school. In contrast, country dwellers have no conveniences so they have to adjust their behavior. They also haveĀ  to satisfy personal needs and be prepared to travel greater distances to make purchases, go to school, and visit doctors.

Explicit and Implicit Behaviors

Cultures are made up of explicit ways of behaving, feeling, and acting. We learned them consciously. When we eat with knives, forks, and spoons, we know how to use them because someone took the trouble to instruct us in their use.

Another way is implicit of behaving, feeling, and reacting. No one teaches us the implicit ways. We are totally unaware of what we are doing. Most of us do not think that wearing trousers and shirts or dresses, eating at a table are culturally determined behaviors. They are habitual and customary. We tend to perceive them as the only way to behave.


Cultures undergo change constantly. The changes were slow and gradual. In the past century or two the rate has accelerated and today the pace is rapid.

Lifestyle are being altered too quickly in some cases, meeting with negative reactions. For example in farming societies, male children, who were expected to work the land after they grew up, left the farms and find jobs in factory. For addition, cultural changes are occurring all around the world.

Cultural Borrowing

Cultures borrow heavily from other cultures. For example, European countries play American football. Although they have their own brand of football which they call soccer. Another example is people throughout the world wear bikinis on beaches.

The North American use of deodorants is gaining popularity in Europe. In conclusion, we borrow many things from other cultures.

Disasters and Crises

Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and erupting volcanoes influences people’s behavior. Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines forced many villagers move to safer ground. It also changes their lifestyle. Forest fires in the the Western United States affect the lives of people living in those areas.

Another disaster is heavy rains wash away houses built on earthen mountainsides and strong winds blow away roofs and parts of houses.

Environmental Reason

In many countries population increases have reduced the amount of arable land. Cities have expanded. More people require more food, but less land was available on which to grow it.

Ethnocentric Behavior

Ethnocentric determines how we think, feel, and act. We use it as a mean for judging the world around us. Our culture becomes the center of everything.

The ways people in other cultures think, feel, and act are perceived as odd, amusing, or immoral. We compare them to our culture, and ours comes out on top.

Ethnocentric behavior is a common characteristic of culture and in intercultural communication it can prevent us from understanding other cultures.




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