Culture is the common denominator that makes the actions of the individuals understandable to a particular group. That is, the system of shared values, beliefs, behaviors, and artifacts making up a society’s way of life. Culture can either be represented in a material or non-material form. The definitions and specific traits of each of them are discussed below.
Material culture is a term related to the physical creations made, used, or shared by the members of a certain society. It is society’s buffer against the environment. The components of material culture are all the creations (objects) of the humankind and mind, for example, cars, faucets, computers, trees, and minerals, just to mention but a few.
The transformation of raw material into usable forms through the employment of knowledge is paramount in the achievement of material culture. For example, we make living abodes to shelter ourselves from the adversities of weather and for our own privacy at the basic level. Beyond this, we make, use, and share sophisticated, interesting, and essential items relaying our cultural orientation. For instance, the types of clothes one wears reflect so much into the culture we subscribe to, like school, religion, or where the last vacation was spent.
Non-material culture, on the other hand, is the abstract or unseen creations done by society and fashioned towards the behavioral influence of it. The components of the non-material culture include symbols, languages, values, and norms. For instance, the activities that society takes part in include things like cricket in India, social institutions, such as churches, schools, family, and so forth.
The use of language, the patterns of behavior, beliefs, and values shape the direction of a society over time. Language plays a crucial part when it comes to influence or perception, values guide and teach us what society should be like, while the existing norms form the customs of society.
Language itself is the combination of symbols expressing ideas that enable people to think and communicate with each other, either verbally or nonverbally. Language helps us to provide a description of reality, share experiences, feelings, and knowledge with other people.
The use of language enables people to create visual images, to differ from outsiders, and thus, maintain societal solidarity and boundaries. It also serves as a unique tool in the manipulation of symbols for the expression of abstract concepts and rules and, therefore, creating and transmitting culture between generations.
The aboriginals, for instance, in their use of language confine to their society, describing relationships rather than judging or evaluating. To them, language shapes the reality in perception and experience, indeed fronting the thought of neglecting some aspects of the world traditionally viewed as important. Most of the aboriginal languages do not abhor the use of personal pronouns used to describe gender like he or she, with some amused by the western debate over whether God is a He or a She. For this, the impact that the language has on the world is less intense and reflects the traditional acceptance of a certain region on the world map.
Through preconceived ideas, the language may reinforce perceptions about race and ethnicity in advancing the superiority of a certain group of people of the rest of the world. The diversity of language in some parts of the world shows how it can influence the culture of the societies in this or that country. Canada is an example of the diversities in language today with Aboriginal, French, and English speaking societies living there.
Language maintains cultural heritage and keeps a sense of identity in a culture. It also has the power of a social control booster with perpetuation of inequalities between people or groups of people. The existence of hate in Canadian society is one such scenario causing a lot of suffering in the country. The aboriginals tend to talk about the presence of the English language here and there as a source of power and prestige. They are also mentioning the lack of movies in their language.
Language contributes a great deal to the advancement of both – material and non-material cultures. Material is usually related to the movie business that is, in turn, geared at economical empowering of the culture, while non-material culture is more focused on things like heritage and national identity.
In every culture, symbols represent the basis of it and signify a lot of things that are an integral part of this or that society. Basically, a cultural symbol is known as a physical display that demonstrates the ideology of a particular culture, such as religious or ideology beliefs.
A symbol can be an action, object, or word that stands for a certain abstract concept or idea. Some good examples of symbols include colors, figures, sounds, and objects. For instance, people that live in Hawaii have a tradition to perform Lua. The latter is the symbol of their place, as well as heritage that is usually performed through dancing and singing. What is more, symbols are also represented by word interpretations and facial expressions.
It is important to mention that the same symbol can have a completely different meaning to different people or groups of people. For that reason, hypothesizing how this or that culture is going to symbolize something is impossible. The point here is that some of the symbols might be gained from culture, while others are gained from life experience.
Values serve as the other integral part of any society on the globe. They include judgments of what is desirable or undesirable, what is good and what is bad. The values that exist in this or that society shape its norms. For instance, in Japan, the key value is known as group harmony.
As a rule, values are acquired in early childhood years and are usually of a non-rational nature, even though people might believe that the values that exist in their country are pretty rational. All in all, the values that are part of our everyday life are the cornerstones of our cultural orientation. All of the existing cultural values share modern society, as well as influence every person that lives within this or that society. However, the truth is that differences in cultural values between a particular society and people living in one can become the main causes behind the problems like disagreements, wars, culture clashes, and so on. What it comes down to is that it is important to not only understand the importance of the existing cultural values as a whole but also realize how crucial is the role that they all play in the life of a certain community.
World cultures tend to differ greatly in their norms. As a rule, norms are divided into formal and informal ones. As for the formal norms, they are also known as mores and laws. The formal norms are related to the standards of behavior that are the most crucial in any country. For example, the US formal norms include criminal codes, traffic laws, and in an academic world, student behavior rules related to cheating. As for the norms of the informal kind, they are known as customs and folkways. They all are related to behavior standards that are considered not that important. However, informal norms do influence people of a certain society. A common example of informal norms includes table manners or the way we communicate with the cashier in our everyday life.
It is important to mention that a lot of norms tend to differ unbelievably from one society or the next. For instance, the best evidence of cultural differences can be seen in sexual behavior. While in certain areas in East Africa women can enjoy sex, the norms that exist in the other regions name getting pleasure from sex deviant.
When we try to understand the cultures that exist today or the ones from the past, it is important to take into account different factors that are an integral part of the society that is being examined. Languages is a highly important part of any community since it identifies its culture. Most commonly, cultural awareness refers to symbols as the visual identification, while discovering values and exploring norms is a defining characteristic of an active, free, and thinking individual. All in all, beliefs, values, norms, languages, and symbols shape the traditions, practices, and institutions of every culture on the globe. They tend to influence all kinds of social structures, social interactions, and social behavior. In order to get a better understanding of the world around us, it is important to neutrally observe the existing beliefs, cultural values, symbols, and norms that are an integral part of social behavior.
There are many cultures out there: educational, professional, national, corporate, religious, gender, and so on. Each of the cultures mentioned before influence the lives of people. Actually, the way we see the world mainly results from our cultural background. We live in a culture, and we learn from it.