Difference Between Enculturation and Acculturation (With Table)

The terms enculturation and acculturation are terms used in the study of sociology. Specifically, these two terms are related to the cultural section of sociology, to study deeply about the various values, belief, language, and practices of a culture.

Enculturation vs Acculturation

The main difference between enculturation and acculturation is that the former is the practice by which individuals attempt to learn about their culture through self-exploration and acquisition, while the latter deals with intermixing the traditions of two different cultures.

Enculturation is the process by which one learns about his/her culture on their own and with the help of their acquisition. The individual here learns about their culture’s practices and the various other characteristics of it.

Acculturation is the process by which one simply mixes components of two different cultures. In sociological terms, this is called cultural interchange, and here the individual learns and adapts to the practices of the culture which they are not familiar with.


Comparison Table Between Enculturation and Acculturation (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of ComparisonEnculturationAcculturation
DefinitionThe practice by which an individual learns the various values, belief, language, and methods of their culture on their own.The process in which individuals attempt to learn a new culture, or where a cultural interchange takes place.
Cultural familiarisationEnculturation is the first stage when it comes to familiarizing yourself with culture because one starts with their own culture.Acculturation is generally regarded as the second or third stage when it comes to cultural familiarization.
EssentialHaving sufficient knowledge about one’s own culture grants them an essential ability to survive in a society.Acquiring knowledge about another culture is beneficial, but not essential or a necessity for survival.
RegionsAn individual experiences enculturation as they grow up within the region, or their place of birth.It is done by a person when they migrate to another region or reside in a place different from their native place.
InfluenceNo other culture plays any role in the process of enculturation.Here, generally the dominant of the two cultures involved is the one with the most influence on the person.


What is Enculturation?

The term enculturation best describes a practice where a specific individual takes it upon themselves to learn the traditions, language, beliefs and values of their own culture. The person here only depends on their acquisition and no external source.

This process is the first step when concerning cultural familiarisation, and is a necessary step that must be taken before moving onto any other cultures. In the process of enculturation, one learns to blend with their exterior surrounding and make it part of their interior environment. The person adapts to their environment and understands the ways or the lay of the land.

Enculturation is an automatic process, as it usually takes place when a person is born and brought up in a region, which is their native place. The child grows up, surrounded by the traditions of the land. Also, a significant factor when talking about enculturation is that it is a way of becoming a part of the society you are surrounded by, and hence why it is essential of the survival of the individual.

By learning how to behave, by learning the characteristics of others in society, the person manages to live among them and flourish. One thing to note about enculturation is that the culture that is in focus isn’t interfered by any other cultures, and only the individual’s perception is studied under a microscope.


What is Acculturation?

The term acculturation refers to the process of either adapting to a new and foreign culture or mixing the premise of a known culture with that of an unknown one. It would commonly be referred to as culture intermixing.

Acculturation is generally a second step when it comes to getting familiar with cultures, as it is the practice of figuring out and adapting to new cultures. A person is typically acquainted with their own culture before they go on and learn any new ones.

A person generally goes through the process of acculturation when they have migrated to another region that is entirely different in terms of the traditions followed and languages spoken. It is not an essential process that one must go through to survive, but it does prove beneficial at times when an individual wish to reside permanently in a new country and wishes to blend in.

And one central point to be noted here is that when dealing with acculturation, we see collisions between two cultures, and an individual is allowed to mix the various practices of both cultures. Still, in the end, the more dominant culture is the one that the person will abide by and follow.

Main Differences Between Enculturation and Acculturation

  1. Enculturation focuses on the culture of the individual, and they learn all about it on their own. Acculturation is the practice in which the individual tries to learn a different culture and their traditions, or combine two different cultures.
  2. Enculturation is the first step in cultural familiarisation, while acculturation comes long after, and is a second step.
  3. Enculturation is essential and necessary for surviving in society, while in acculturation, acquiring knowledge about another culture is beneficial, but not imperative or a necessity for survival.
  4. An individual experiences enculturation as they grow up within the region, or their place of birth, but acculturation is practiced when residing in a foreign nation.
  5. In the process of enculturation, no other culture plays any role while in acculturation, the dominant of the two cultures involved is the one with the most influence on the person.



The terms enculturation and acculturation provide a notion that an individual can soak in the rich history, traditions, languages, and beliefs of different cultures, and even including their own. Enculturation allows an individual to take matters into their own hands and learn everything about their own culture. It allows one to experience everything first hand and form their own views and opinions about the culture.

Acculturation provides a person with the ability to intermix two different cultures, and also adapt to a foreign culture. Generally, one would have to go through this process when in a foreign country and wish to blend in. Both the cultural practices enhance an individual’s sociological understanding and are beneficial for them in the long run.


  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147176708001004
  2. https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/11842/1/nq35180.pdf

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