Social Studies

Meaning and characteristics of culture

Culture is the total way of life of a group of people that distinguishes them from others. It includes people’s beliefs,  their works of art and craft, the language they speak, the tools they make, their ways of dressing, the technology they develop and the various institutions they set up to achieve societal goals. A society can have different cultures. In a rural environment, the culture is homogenous while in an urban area, the culture is heterogeneous.

Culture is not static, but dynamic. In other words, it does not remain the same forever but changes from time to time. It is a continuous process. It is transmitted from one generation to another. People learn their culture as they perform new roles as pupils or students in a school, a father at home or a president of a country.

When the cultures of other countries are adopted within one’s country, it is known as acculturation. No culture is superior or inferior to others. However, some people look down on other people’s cultures and use their own culture as the standard for judging another culture – this is called “cultural ethnocentrism”.  Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behaviour, customs, and religion,”
Wikipedia (August, 2017).

Components of Culture

There are two components or aspects of culture. They are:

  1. Material Aspect of Culture: This consists mainly of those things that are made by a society in order to satisfy the needs of its people. Examples are houses for shelter and protection; the tools for agriculture; the weapons for hunting and protection; the cloth and clothes made to suit the conditions of the environment; and the work of art and craft.
  2. Non-Material Aspect of Culture: This aspect of culture consists of those things we cannot see like religion, music, language, morals, values, folklores, literature, dancing styles, technology, etc.


  1. What is culture?
  2. List two components of culture.
  3. List the elements in the material aspect of culture?
  4. Give 3 examples of non material aspect of culture.
  5. What is acculturation?

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