What is culture?

We’ve discussed the definition of culture in previous posts, and the history of this definition.

To sum up: Culture is the shared values and norms of a group of people which result in characteristic behaviors.

But, wait…

If culture involves characteristic behaviors of a group of people, must the word encompass an entire nation? Must all of Mexico, all of Brazil, all of Russia, all of Australia be colored with the same shade of culture?

No. Absolutely not.

Although we implicitly assume that culture involves national identity, this is an oversimplification. Every country in the world is divided into dozens of subcultures and regional cultures.


According to Kimberly Moffitt, a teacher of Sociology and Criminal Justice, “Subcultures are those groups that have values and norms that are distinct from those held by the majority.”


Punks. Hipsters. The Beats. Cosplayers. Hippies. Goths. Nerds. Emos. Gamers. Hackers. Jocks. Even Third Culture Kids, like me.

The examples are endless. And each group shares its own set of values and norms, resulting in extreme diversity across a single nation.

Regional Cultures

Moreover, visit any country in the world, and you’re sure to find regional cultures, as well.

Take America, for example.

“Biscuits and grits, y’all.”

Southern culture is unique. Southerners in America eat differently, speak differently, and dress differently than those on the East or West Coast or even the Midwest.

“The way I talk is, like, way important.”

Head to California, and you might find this so-called “Valleyspeak.” But you’re unlikely to find it anywhere else in America, because upspeak is not unilaterally culturally ingrained.

Regional cultures only narrow further. Put the Big Apple under a microscope, and you’ll find a different culture in the Bronx than you’ll find in Manhattan, a different culture in Soho than you’ll find in Harlem or Brooklyn.

Regional cultures are prevalent all over your nation, all over my nation, all over the world. It’s no wonder national politics can be so discordant: diversity explodes within the 304.6 mi² of New York City, so imagine how varied shared values must be across the national scale of 3.797 million mi².

Grouping = Culture

Whenever people are grouped together, they build a culture, in one way or another. Whether a national culture, a regional culture, a subculture based on specific likes/dislikes, or a company culture, which we’ll talk about next week, each grouping shares a set of values and norms specific to itself.

Whatever the case, being part of a culture makes you feel as though you belong to something bigger than yourself.

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