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How does culture affect our life our decisions and perspective?

Culture influences every aspect of our lives in both overt and subtle ways. From governing how we express emotions to establishing expectations for interactions, culture shapes our perspectives and impacts our decisions. Understanding how culture affects us is important in gaining a broader worldview and having more compassion toward those from different backgrounds.

How does culture influence our values and beliefs?

Culture heavily influences what we view as important, right or wrong, and normal or deviant. The values we hold shape our worldviews and provide a compass for our behavior and decisions. For example, individualistic cultures like the United States emphasize independence, competition, and personal achievement. More collective cultures like Japan prioritize social harmony, conformity, and group success over individual recognition. Neither approach is inherently right or wrong, but simply a reflection of what that society deems important.

Religion, economic ideology, and political systems are other major shapers of cultural values. Democratic nations uphold equality, liberty, and justice, while communist systems focus on equitable distribution of resources. Certain religions promote gender equality while others hold traditional gender roles as virtuous. Exposure to different cultural values can cause us to reflect on our own worldviews and why we believe what we do.

How do cultural norms influence behavior?

In addition to guiding principles, culture dictates manners, behaviors, and social expectations. Greetings, eating habits, gestures, notions of personal space, and conversation patterns are all heavily mediated by cultural norms. For example, burping after a meal is considered polite in some cultures and rude in others. Similarly, some cultures favor small talk with strangers, while others view such casual conversation as peculiar.

Cultural norms help foster a sense of community and provide social standards for acceptable public behavior. However, unfamiliarity with cultural practices can lead to misunderstanding or inadvertent offenses. Knowing cultural norms facilitates effective cross-cultural communication and helps prevent social blunders or accidental insults.

How does culture influence communication styles?

Communication norms vary enormously across cultures. Some elements of communication influenced by culture include:

  • High vs. low context – Some cultures heavily rely on contextual cues and nonverbal signaling while others favor explicit verbal communication.
  • Direct vs. indirect – Cultures differ on candor and directness in conveying information, dissenting opinions, or delivering criticism.
  • Verbal vs. nonverbal – The relative importance of spoken language compared to gestures, facial expressions, vocal inflections, and silence differs among cultures.
  • Personal vs. detached – Some cultures favor an impersonal, detached communication style while others prefer a warmer, more personal approach.
  • Formal vs. informal – Expectations around formality, structure, and adherence to hierarchy guide communication in some cultures more heavily than others.

Misapplied cultural communication norms can lead to misinterpretation, confusion, and unintended offense between members of different cultures. Adapting one’s communication style to align with cultural expectations and norms facilitates positive intercultural exchanges.

How does culture influence emotional expression?

Cultures vary in their norms around emotional expression based on factors like:

  • Individualism vs. collectivism – Individualistic cultures encourage open emotional expression while collectivist cultures discourage “losing face” and focus on emotional restraint.
  • Power distance – Cultures with greater power distance emphasize emotional restraint in lower status individuals.
  • Uncertainty avoidance – Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance discourage open displays of emotion viewed as indicative of weakness or vulnerability.
  • Masculinity vs. femininity – Masculine cultures expect emotional restraint and stoicism, especially for men, while feminine cultures accept more open emotional expression.

These cultural norms shape both how we emotionally respond to events and how appropriate we perceive expressing those emotions. For example, a Chinese athlete may view yelling and pumping one’s fists after winning as poor sportsmanship while an American views such emotional displays as normal. Neither approach is inherently right or wrong, but failing to adapt emotional expressions to cultural norms can lead to negative perceptions from those of other cultural backgrounds.

How does culture influence perceptions of time?

Cultures orient differently toward time. Key influences include:

  • Monochronic vs. polychronic – Monochronic cultures like the US prefer focusing on one task at a time. Polychronic cultures like India approach time more flexibly, with openness toward multitasking and schedule changes.
  • High vs. low urgency – Some cultures emphasize promptness and fast pace while others have a more relaxed orientation toward getting things done.
  • Short vs. long term – Norms around whether to focus more on immediate or future-oriented goals and planning differ among cultures.
  • Fixed vs. fluid – Cultures vary regarding the extent to which they view time commitments as firm and immutable vs. open to modification as needs and preferences change.

These differences in temporal orientation influence behaviors like punctuality, willingness to interrupt conversations, approaches to planning, and tolerance for deadline changes. When expectations around time clash interculturally, frustrations and conflicts can emerge. Adjusting one’s own time orientations to account for cultural differences can help prevent misunderstandings.

How does culture influence our relationships?

Human relationships unfold against a cultural backdrop that shapes norms around factors like:

  • Individual vs. collective identity – Some cultures promote individual identity and needs while others focus on the collective group.
  • Roles and hierarchies – Culture dictates seniority, gender roles, family structures, authority relations, and other patterns in social relationships.
  • Friendships – Factors like communication style, emotional expression, shared interests, and intimacy shape friendships, all influenced by culture.
  • Social rules – Cultures differ in norms around hospitality, etiquette, customs for visits, gifts, meals, and other social conventions.
  • Romance – Dating rituals, marriage traditions, public displays of affection, and expectations within romantic relationships vary cross-culturally.

Navigating relationships and social networks abroad requires adjusting to different cultural practices. Failing to recognize variances in cultural relationship norms can impede friendships, produce culture shock, and lead to inadvertent social blunders. Understanding cultural relationship patterns facilitates effective human connections across cultures.

How does culture influence food preferences?

Cultural background exerts enormous influence on food choices and eating habits through:

  • Tastes – Exposure to certain flavors and ingredient combinations from childhood establishes taste preferences.
  • Cooking methods – Preferred methods for preparing, cooking, and serving food develop within cultural contexts.
  • Mealtimes – Cultures vary around times of day and social patterns for different meals.
  • Etiquette – Cultures dictate etiquette around utensils, dining style, condiments, and table manners.
  • Special occasions – Cultures develop unique food traditions around holidays, ceremonies, and celebrations.
  • Religion – Religious beliefs lead to food customs like kosher preparation in Judaism or avoidance of beef in Hinduism.
  • Health beliefs – Views on food’s impact on health and the body differ among cultures.
  • Agriculture – Available crops, livestock, and agriculture practices influence cultural cuisine.

Given the intricacies of food and culture, favorite comfort foods often provide a touchstone to one’s cultural background. Appreciating different cultural food perspectives opens opportunities to discover new cuisines and flavors.

How does culture influence clothing choices?

From saris to suits to sombreros, clothing adopted within a culture often serves symbolic as well as practical functions. Cultural influences on clothing include:

  • Values – Clothing reflects cultural values like modesty, conformity, or expression of individuality.
  • Religion – Religious beliefs dictate clothing like burqas for Islamic women or turbans among Sikh men.
  • Climate – Cultures adapt clothing to suit local conditions, with light fabrics in tropical zones and thick coats in frigid regions.
  • Aesthetics – Notions of fashion, beauty, color, and texture shape cultural clothing styles.
  • Identity – Clothing signals social or ethnic identity, reflecting one’s roots and cultural pride.
  • Special occasions – Weddings, funerals, ceremonies, and holidays typically involve special cultural clothing.
  • Status – Cultural clothing norms dictate distinctions in attire among social classes and roles.
  • Gender – Cultures vary in clothing expectations and standards for men and women.

Apparel represents an easily visible manifestation of cultural background. Accepting and appreciating rather than ridiculing different cultural clothing practices facilitates constructive cross-cultural exchange.

How does culture influence gender roles?

Perhaps no domain illustrates the power of culture more starkly than gender roles. While biology determines physical sex differences, culture shapes nearly every other aspect of gender including:

  • Societal status – Cultures differ vastly in the rights, freedoms, and privileges accorded to men vs. women.
  • Family roles – Cultural traditions and expectations dictate norms around household labor division, childcare, leadership, and decision authority for each gender.
  • Employment – Cultural attitudes shape gender representation and treatment within professional and occupational roles.
  • Political power – Cultures vary in the degree to which they afford women equal legal rights, political participation, and governance authority as men.
  • Social behavior – Cultures impose different norms on socially acceptable behavior for each gender.
  • Sexuality – Cultural taboos regulate sexual activity norms differently for men and women.

Given these extensive cultural influences, gender parity depends greatly on promoting equitable cultural norms. Where culture dictates gender inequality, empowering marginalized groups and reshaping social narratives constitute critical steps toward progress.

How does culture influence medical treatment?

Culture affects healthcare preferences and practices through multiple facets like:

  • Stigma – Cultures differ in stigmas surrounding physical or mental health conditions, influencing treatment seeking.
  • Literacy – Cultures vary in health knowledge, often perpetuated through folk or religious beliefs about illness.
  • Communication – Cultural norms around doctor-patient communication, like patriarchal dominance or patient participation, shape care experiences.
  • Resources – Access to care depends heavily on a culture’s healthcare infrastructure and economic conditions.
  • Treatment options – Social, legal, and ethical norms restrict available treatments in some cultures, like reproductive services.
  • Compliance – Patients’ willingness to follow treatments stems partly from cultural values like fatalism, self-determination, or trust in modern medicine.

Understanding cultural healthcare beliefs and barriers helps clinicians provide more empathetic, compatible care for diverse populations.

How does culture influence beauty standards?

Culture deeply influences perceptions of beauty and attractiveness through:

  • Appearance ideals – Cultures develop unique aesthetics around features like body type, height, facial features, muscles, and body hair.
  • Grooming – Norms for use of cosmetics, hygiene routines, hair removal practices, and more serve cultural beauty standards.
  • Attire – Cultures dictate standards of beauty reflected in fashion trends and socially appropriate clothing.
  • Body modifications – Tattoos, piercings, foot binding, neck stretching, and other body alterations represent cultural beauty practices.
  • Status cues – Signals of prestige like suntanned skin, bound feet, or filed teeth mark beauty norms tied to social class.
  • Youth – Standards for beauty and vitality often align with youthful attributes among many global cultures.

Recognizing that ideals of beauty lie culturally constructed rather than objectively defined allows us to appreciate diverse forms of physical expression across cultures.

How does culture influence the arts?

Artistic traditions emerge within cultural contexts and reflect ethos through:

  • Subject matter – Culture shapes themes, characters, and motifs that artists explore.
  • Materials – Calligraphy, textiles, wood carving, precious metals, and other local materials appear commonly in culturally inspired art.
  • Purpose – Didactic, political, religious, commercial, or folk art purposes guide artistic cultural creation.
  • Style – Symbolic patterns, genre conventions, and production methods represent cultural artistic styles.
  • Standards – Techniques, forms, genres, and qualities constituting good art lay culturally defined.
  • Expression – Art communicates cultural values around gender, power, nature, and human relationships.

While art holds universal human appeal, understanding its cultural roots enhances insight into creator contexts and artistic visions. Immersion in diverse artistic traditions expands our aesthetic horizons.

How does culture influence educational approaches?

Key cultural factors shaping education models include:

  • Purpose – Cultures orient education variously toward classical knowledge, religious precepts, moral development, skilled trades, etc.
  • Methods – Didactic lecturing, apprenticeships, standardized testing, interactive approaches, etc. reflect cultural norms.
  • Discipline – Strict discipline versus more relaxed classroom management represent opposing cultural approaches.
  • Subjects – Cultures differ in emphasis on topics like sciences, humanities, vocational, language, history, theology, and philosophy studies.
  • Access – Education levels correlate closely with cultural wealth, gender equity, and ideologies around universal schooling.

Adapting teaching methods and content to align with cultural learning preferences and realities expands educational opportunities globally.

How does culture influence social change?

Cultural forces shape how societies evolve through:

  • Values – Cultures cope with change based on comfort with ambiguity, deference to authority, openness to innovation, and other values.
  • Cohesion – Strong social bonds and collective identity foster confidence adapting as a cultural unit.
  • Stability – Cultures disrupted by upheaval approach reform more cautiously than stagnant societies.
  • Diversity – Multicultural societies innovate through exposure to diverse ideas and practices.
  • Marginalized voices – Social justice advances through efforts to empower traditionally marginalized cultural groups.
  • Technology – Cultural attitudes toward emerging technologies like social media direct their social impact.
  • Government – State authority to regulate change and popular willingness to accept reforms sway the pace of progress.

Recognizing these cultural influences allows change agents to work sensitively within societal contexts to best improve collective welfare.

How does culture influence language?

Language inherently emerges from and reflects cultural conditions through:

  • Words – Vocabularies evolve to describe objects, concepts, and customs unique to a culture.
  • Structure – Cultural patterns like hierarchy and etiquette may shape linguistic syntax.
  • Meaning – Connotations and interpretations of words and phrases represent cultural understandings.
  • Nonverbal cues – Gestures, facial expressions, and vocal inflections used in communication differ across cultures.
  • Context – Cultures dictate norms around language use sensitivity toward audiences and settings.
  • Expression – Distinct dialects, artistic linguistic forms, and idiosyncratic phraseologies develop within cultures.

Given language’s grounding in culture, mastery of vocabulary alone fails to yield meaningful fluency. Grasping cultural nuances and practices enhances communicative proficiency.


Culture profoundly shapes identities, beliefs, behaviors, relationships, and nearly all aspects of human life in both overt and subtle ways. While cultural relativism suggests no culture is inherently superior, appreciating cross-cultural variances furthers global cooperation and social justice. Bridging cultural divides requires openness toward unfamiliar worldviews, adapting to different cultural norms, and celebrating our shared humanity in its rich diversity of expression.