Difference Between Culture and Ethnicity

Culture and Ethnicity are the two common words that most people find synonymous and use interchangeably. However, there is a technical and spark difference between these two terms.


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Key Takeaways

  1. Culture encompasses shared values, beliefs, customs, and practices of a group; ethnicity relates to people with a common ancestry or cultural heritage.
  2. Culture can change and evolve due to various factors; ethnicity remains relatively stable as it’s tied to heritage and ancestry.
  3. People from different ethnicities can share a common culture, and individuals from the same ethnicity can have diverse cultural backgrounds.

Culture vs Ethnicity

The difference between Culture and Ethnicity is that Culture is a social behaviour or standard form people follow. At the same time, Ethnicity is a fact of belonging to a group of people having a common ancestry, food habits, Culture, or physical attributes.

Culture vs Ethnicity

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However, the above is not the only difference. A comparison between both the terms on specific parameters can shed light on subtle aspects:


Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonCultureEthnicity
MeaningCulture is the social way of behaving among human beings. This can include social or traditional practices passed on through generations or backgrounds, habits, etc.Category of people with common similarities such as caste, nationality, and origin.
How identified?Lifestyle, food habits, customs, ways of social behaviour, traditions, values, art, music, beliefs, knowledgeReligion, physical appearance, way of dressing
How acquired?Through interaction with close ones and societyBy birth
Can it be learned or acquired?Yes, because Culture is passed from generation to generation, it is more of a learning.No, as Ethnicity is related to certain similarities in people based on caste/nation/physical attributes.
Are you related to a country?No, but it may depend as people from certain countries may have a specific Culture.Yes, this is more to do with the nationality of a person.


What is Culture?

Culture means a racial, religious, or social group’s customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits.

In simple terms, Culture means the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as habits or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time.

Culture also indicates arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively.

Culture means something which is taught to us and that we have learned from others over some time. Those others indicate those with whom we have close contact; hence they remain able to impact us profoundly.

For example, society’s behaviour varies from person to person and from group to group, and this trait has been learned from our near and dear ones since childhood.

Culture is subject to change as people come in contact with other individuals and try to imbibe their practices. This may happen due to an influx of people from one country to another or competition.

For example, in India, people have slowly and gradually moved towards western Culture over the last five decades.

Cultural ideas and doctrines are prone to shift from one society to another resulting in either removal or replacement of existing cultural mindsets.


What is Ethnicity?

Ethnicity means the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.

In other words, it means a social group with an ordinary Culture, common language or nationality, typical diet, or similar aspects. Ethnicity is a collective noun; however, from a singular perspective, Ethnicity denotes an ethnic group.

The ethnicity of a particular person or group is identified by the type of language spoken, preference for food, and physical characteristics.

For example, it is easily possible to identify an Indian Punjabi man due to their heavy muscular build, turban, beard and moustache, and preference for delicious and spicy food.

However, Ethnicity may differ from person to person based on their Culture.

Ethnicity also denotes a group belonging to a specific geographic area or living in a particular place—for example, an ethnic group of Assam or Indonesia.

Viewed from this perspective, Ethnicity indicates a sense of nationhood where people have common patterns in lifestyle and similar customs. This can also mean people have standard skin colour, language, or religion.

Ethnic groups may be further subdivided into smaller yet distinctive common ethnic subgroups. They may be further categorized into family tribes or clans, each of which may have its Ethnicity.

Ethnicity may be subject to adverse actions or other restraints by the government of a country. This may happen when a particular ethnic group is in the minority in a state.

However, from a balanced view perspective, the majority of the countries in this world acknowledge the existence of ethnic groups and strive for their presence and upliftment.


Main Differences Between Culture and Ethnicity

  1. Culture denotes the behaviour, lifestyle, and customs among people. Ethnicity refers to the state or fact of people belonging to a particular group.
  2. Culture is passed from one generation to another. Ethnicity is not passed over from one generation to another.
  3. Culture doesn’t include Ethnicity. Ethnicity includes Culture.
  4. Culture is synonymous with terms such as customs or habits. Ethnicity is similar to terms such as nation or nationality.
  5. Culture may or may not be established by a people speaking a common language. Ethnicity can be found in a sect of people speaking a common language.
  6. Culture can be acquired by learning about other people’s cultures. Ethnicity is challenging to achieveas it is almost impossible to inherit someone else’s physical characteristics or religion.
Difference Between Culture and Ethnicity
  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2001-00118-006
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