What is Culture?


What is Culture? Culture means different things to different people.  Usually we think of material things that  may seem to stereotype people to a specific group or culture.  We might think about Chinese food or Indian headdresses, or Greek salads, or African drumming as culture, which are definitely part of those cultures.  Much more often, we tend to connect culture to the way people look – their outward appearance and dress.  When we meet someone for the first time, we judge them outwardly to decide what culture  they might be from.  Phenotypes or outside appearances can be clues to a person’s culture, but far from absolute.


The picture above illustrates how the first things we notice about others are the differences (phenotypes) in outward appearances.  No human being is the same as any other; and the outside appearance is not all that makes up diversity.  In fact all the young people in the photo above may all be Americans.  They may all have been born in America by parents that were also American born.  They may all look different, but they may all be culturally alike.

However, if each person in the picture was born and raised in a different culture region, he/she would be much more culturally diverse than what his/her appearance might indicate.  Diversity is so much MORE than outward appearances.  This is the primary reason everyone should study culture.  In order to embrace diversity, we must first embrace culture.


Culture gives us appropriate models for marriage and family structures; it teaches us what to eat or not eat; it is about the institutions we all frequent such as school, church, hospital, or Facebook.  Many people believe culture is about going to the opera or the ballet, or knowing which works of art depict what; but in reality culture is simply about everyday life.  It is about what time people awake in the morning and everything else each person does until he/she retires to bed each night. In fact, culture is also about what kind of bed individuals and families sleep in, and who they sleep with.

The anthropology genre is a scientific approach to learning about the human experience, particularly culture.  We will use this approach in these lessons about culture.  What is Culture? with four lessons, is a complimentary course.  It is an example of the procedures for all the other courses offered.

In other words, culture is about what activities we like, whether we are a participant or an observer.  Culture is about how people earn a living, where and how each of us acquires food.  It is how people do their laundry or get the water they drink.  It is also about those unspeakable topics like toilet facilities, and the hygiene practices that are part of such necessary daily routines.

Just For Fun

See how others’ make spaces and places for those unspeakable, and mostly unmentionable, cultural activities by clicking on the following link.

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Unmentionable Cultural Spaces


This short culture quiz helps students to understand how and where those activities take place 🙂  Click on the picture for a larger view.

Turn up the volume, to get the full effect!  This has been a very short introduction to culture.  The quiz illustrates how different spaces for such pan-human cultural activities can vary around the world.  The topics for this course are listed below.  After taking the quiz, go to What is Culture – Lesson 1.

What is Culture?

In other words our lives are all about culture.  Globalization forces continue to escalate cultural changes everywhere, which affect local communities.  Acquiring knowledge about culture is perhaps the most important course of study, which students need in the 21st century.  Some of the things you will learn in these lessons are: how culture is created, how culture distributes power within societies, and how globalization is making cultures more dynamic than ever before.

Get started now!  Click on the green links below to begin the free lessons.

Topics for this Course are:

1) What is Culture? Lesson 1

2) Functions of Culture – Lesson 2

3) Adaptation and Culture – Lesson 3

4) Language and Culture – Lesson 4

Sign up for What is Culture? to enhance your knowledge about culture and how it affects your life.


Course Materials

Computer, Internet service