19 Cultural Diversity Examples

cultural diversity examples and definition

Cultural diversity refers to the variety of cultures existing together in a place or community. This place of community may exist in a setting as small as a workplace or as large as a continent.

Sometimes, cultural diversity can also be referred to as multiculturalism, especially in larger settings.

Many countries in the Global North, such as the United States and Canada, are culturally diverse as a result of migration.

In the Global South, the presence of different local communities make countries such as China and India culturally diverse.

Definition of Cultural Diversity

Diversity refers to the plurality and variety of identities and/or belongings in a social setting.

“A group is diverse if it is composed of individuals who differ on a characteristic on which they base their own social identity” (O’Reilly et al., 1998, p. 186).

One of these important characteristics is culture, or cultural identity, which refers to one’s system of beliefs, values, traditions, norms, and shared meanings (Cox, 1994). This system can be based on one’s ethnic, racial, religious, regional, or political affiliation.

Therefore, cultural diversity can be defined as:

“…the representation, in one social system, of people with distinctly different group affiliations of cultural significance”. (Cox, 1994, p. 4)

Cultural Diversity Examples

  • Languages: A society with diverse cultures may contain a wide range of spoken languages, while usually having one common language that all members speak either as a first or second language. For example, in Canada, French and English are both spoken as first languages in the nation and share official status.
  • Religion: Different religions or spiritual beliefs, such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism, often exist within a multicultural society.
  • Food: When people migrate, they bring their culinary practices with them. This helps to develop amazing food cultures in cosmopolitan nations around the world.
  • Holidays and festivals: Nations with great cultural diversity tend to celebrate the holidays and festivals of each culture, proudly showing-off the nation’s diversity and rich tapestry of traditions.
  • Clothing: Clothing styles, traditional dress, and adornments are often unique to a cultural group. A culturally diverse environment will often encourage and accept people’s different modes of dress.
  • Art and architecture: Different styles of art and architecture emerge from different cultures around the world.
  • Music and dance: Music and dance exist across all cultures, but styles vary significantly. When cultures merge, we often see fusion of styles to create new hybrid styles.
  • Family structures: Different family structures, such as nuclear, extended, or communal families, exist across cultures. In a diverse society, we’ll see people from a range of different types of families.
  • Education: In the education systems of multicultural societies, we often see teachers explicitly taught strategies to teach students who respond to different learning styles. (See: multicultural education).
  • Gender roles: We often see that different cultures have different cultural expectations and roles for men and women. You may notice, therefore, that in a culturally diverse society, your neighbors may have different ideas about gender norms than you.
  • Sports: Culturally diverse societies often embrace a range of different sporting traditions, from traditional Indigenous games to world games such as soccer.
  • Cultural norms: All cultures have a set of behaviors it considers to be normal or acceptable, and taboos that should be avoided. In a culturally diverse society, there may also be a set of social norms that are agreed upon across the diverse cultural groups within the society or nation.
  • Marriage and relationships: Different cultural groups have their own attitudes and expectations towards romantic relationships and marriage, which may mix and even at times clash in a culturally diverse society.
  • Communication styles: Slavic cultures are known for their abruptness, South-East Asian societies for their highly hierarchical expectations of how to talk to and greet others, while the West is known for its low context approach to language.
  • Humor: Different styles of humor can cause clashes in situations where a mix of cultures are in discussion. This may be true, for example, if one society considers a type of joke to be taboo while another considers it humorous.
  • Housing and living arrangements: Many cultures live in multigenerational households, while Western culture tends not to. Interestingly, there are other subtle differences in living arrangements, such as whether children sleep in the same room as their parents and whether they have early or late bedtimes.
  • Attitudes toward time: Germans are known for their punctuality while Spaniards are known for their tardiness. These attitudes can make culturally diverse workplaces hard to manage and require clear rules for all to follow.
  • Social stratification: Different levels of social stratification and hierarchies exist within different cultures. Whereas communist societies tend to want to break down stratification, there are also some societies with social stratification that is so codified that we consider them to have caste systems.
  • Taboos: Different cultural taboos can clash in diverse cultural situations. For more about taboos, see our piece on American taboos.

List of Nations that are most culturally diverse

While Canada is often cited as the most culturally diverse country in the world, this is challenged by key studies, such as Erkan Gören’s (2013) cultural diversity index.

(The constant citing of Canada as the most diverse nation may reflect a Western bias in reporting on cultural diversity).

According to Gören’s study, all top 10 most culturally diverse nations are in Africa, as shown below.

RankCountryRegionDiversity Score
1ChadAfrica0.85
2CameroonAfrica0.84
3NigeriaAfrica0.83
4TogoAfrica0.81
5DR CongoAfrica0.81
6KenyaAfrica0.81
7Guinea-BissauAfrica0.79
8Republic of the CongoAfrica0.78
9Ivory CoastAfrica0.77
10LiberiaAfrica0.77

It’s also interesting to look at where some of your countries sit on the cultural diversity rankings. So, I looked at this website’s analytics to find out the top 10 nationalities that visit this website.

The most common readers of this website are from, in order: United States, Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Malaysia.

So, here’s where your countries rank:

RankCountryRegionDiversity Score
3NigeriaAfrica0.8306
15South AfricaAfrica0.7289
19CanadaNorth America0.6924
22PakistanAsia0.682
36IndiaAsia0.6367
40PhilippinesAsia0.5894
41MalaysiaAsia0.5877
106United StatesNorth America0.278
147AustraliaOceania0.0929
148United KingdomEurope0.0901

Cultural Diversity vs Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are terms that often can be heard or seen together. However, these two concepts are different. While diversity is a fact about the plurality of cultures and identities, inclusion is an act.

In other words, inclusion refers to steps that are taken to include historically marginalized, excluded, or minoritized identities, cultures, and groups in organizational and institutional settings. As a result of inclusion, an organization can better reflect the existing diversity in the society.

For example, affirmative action and anti-discriminatory policies can be applied to include women, sexual minorities, and racial minorities in a workplace, to increase its organizational diversity (Mor Barak, 2015).

Types of Cultural Diversity

Culture is a very broad term corresponding to a range of identities, traditions, and affiliations. As a result, there are many different identities and affiliations shaping cultural diversity.

These include ethnic, national, racial, linguistic, religious and generational identities or affiliations.

Differences in language, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, social background and age can also manifest as different types of cultural diversity.

For example, a workplace can be racially diverse by including Black, European, Hispanic and Native Americans, but at the same time it might lack national or religious diversity if all of its employees and staff are non-immigrant Christian Americans.

Strengths and Criticisms of Cultural Diversity

Here at Helpful Professor, we’re very supportive of cultural diversity. But, for academic prudence, it’s worth exploring all perspectives.

Strengths of Cultural DiversityCriticisms of Cultural Diversity
Enriches and improves social life in areas such as art, literature, technology, and cuisine.May allow some unethical cultural practices if it ends up at a position of cultural relativism
Improves the touristic value of a country, contributing to its economy.May undermine the strength of the indigenous culture if it is no longer the hegemonic or dominant culture.
Enables organizations to represent and understand their clients better, serving a larger demographic.Can lead to communication barriers between members of an organization or community who approach issuse in culturally different ways.
Teaches mutual respect and coexistence.

Strengths

Preserving and celebrating cultural diversity has many advantages both for the society as a whole and for specific organizations.

In human societies, cultural diversity is very important for enriching and improving different areas of social life ranging from art and literature to technology and cuisine.

For example, synthesis of different regional, racial and ethnic cultures inspired many popular musical performers in pop and hip hop music, including Shakira and Rihanna.

In addition, preserving cultural diversity improves the touristic value of a country, therefore contributing to its economy. For instance, many regions that illustrate multicultural heritages, such as the Andalusia region in Spain, draw tourist attention from all around the globe due to their diverse characteristics.

Cultural diversity also has various advantages for organizations and institutions. For example, being culturally diverse can enable commercial and public organizations to represent and understand their clients better, therefore to better serve a larger demographic.

Also, it can benefit organizations and the broader society by teaching people mutual respect and coexistence.

Criticisms

While encouraging and celebrating cultural diversity has many benefits and advantages, there are some criticisms against it.

For example, some individuals and groups criticize the encouragement of cultural diversity in the society, by arguing that it allows some cultural practices that are unethical (Onsongo, 2017). In these situations, criticism of cultural diversity often manifests as criticism of immigration.

Similarly, some people criticize policies of sve action that are used to encourage diversity, arguing that these policies provide unfair advantages to minority individuals and groups (Herring & Henderson, 2012).

Another critical argument against cultural diversity is the view that it creates communication barriers between members of an organization or a community.

Case Studies

1. Diversity in Multinational Workplaces

Workplaces are one of the key settings in which we see cultural diversity. These cases range from large multinational workplaces such as Apple and McDonalds, to small businesses or companies working internationally.

Cultural diversity in workplaces can manifest as ethnic diversity, religious diversity, national and racial differences, or social variety.

Many workplaces in the United States and around the world adopt policies of affirmative action and inclusion to further reflect the existing cultural diversity in the society (Herring & Henderson, 2012). These workplaces include educational institutions such as colleges.

Also, in workplaces with multicultural staff, it is common to have policies about a variety of holidays and religious observances which are inclusive of multiple cultural backgrounds (Herring & Henderson, 2012).

2. Diversity in the American Metropoles

The term metropole refers to very large cities with a large population. In the United States, large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago are known for their culturally diverse populations.

In these cities, cultural diversity manifests through a variety of linguistic, racial, and social backgrounds which are the result of immigration and racial diversity that shapes the American population.

As a result of this cultural diversity, the American cultural and social setting is known to be a melting pot, which refers to the synthesis of different cultures (Reisch, 2008).

3. Diversity in British Politics

In some countries, the political scene also reflects the cultural diversity present in the society.

An example can be the United Kingdom, which has a very diverse population due to its geographical scope, history of colonialism, and immigration trends.

With the recent election of Rishi Sunak as the United Kingdom’s first prime minister of color, it has been argued that the representation of diversity gained success in the British political scene (Alsaafin, 2022).

However, some others argued that Sunak’s success did only reflect racial diversity and failed to reflect the social diversity of the country, as he comes from a wealthy background (Alsaafin, 2022).

This debate is a good example of the complexity of cultural diversity which has multiple dimensions.

4. International Sports Events

International football competitions and other sports events are important cases of cultural diversity.

Examples include FIFA World Cup Organizations or the World Olympics. In these contests, performers from a variety of cultures come together to compete.

Often, these contests are seen as an opportunity to introduce and celebrate the host country’s culture to the world. The types of cultural diversity that are seen in these events are often multilayered, including national, ethnic, racial and social diversities.

5. Fusion of Foods in Canadian Cuisine

Canadian food culture is a strong example of cultural diversity. It reflects the influences of various Indigenous cultures, European influences, as well as its diverse immigrant food cultures.

While the country’s national dish is Poutine, which reflects French European influences, different towns and districts have their own culturally influenced dishes. An example is the Middle Eastern dish donair being famous in Halifax due to the influence of the immigrant communities there.

In cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, one can find examples of various different types of cultural cuisines in a single neighborhood. This is also the case regarding the East Asian diaspora and its cuisine in Canada, which deeply influenced the mainstream food culture through recipes such as sushi.  

Conclusion

Cultural diversity refers to the plurality and variety of cultural identities and affiliations in a social setting. There are many different types of cultural diversity which are based on ethnic, racial, national, generational, social and other aspects of our identities.

Cultural diversity has many advantages for organizations and societies, including improving art and tourism, and contributing to mutual understanding. However, some critiques of cultural diversity argue that it can lead to cultural communication barriers or to toleration of unethical practices.

Still, cultural diversity is an essential characteristic of contemporary society, especially due to migration and mobility. Examples of culturally diverse settings and cases include global sports events or multinational corporations.

References

Alsaafin, L. (2022, October 25). Diversity debate rages as Sunak, a British Indian, becomes UK PM. Al Jazeera. Retrieved February 14, 2023, from https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/10/25/uks-sunak-win-for-diversity-or-continuation-of-majoritarianism

Cox, T. (1994). Cultural diversity in organizations: Theory, research and practice. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Herring, C., & Henderson, L. (2012). From affirmative action to diversity: Toward a critical diversity perspective. Critical Sociology, 38(5), 629-643.

Mor Barak, M. E. (2015). Inclusion is the Key to Diversity Management, but What is Inclusion? Human Service Organizations, Management, Leadership & Governance, 39(2), 83–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/23303131.2015.1035599

Onsongo, N. (2017). Female genital cutting (FGC): Who defines whose culture as unethical?. IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, 10(2), 105-123.

O’Reilly, C. A. III, Williams, K. Y., & Barsade, S. (1998). Group demography and innovation: Does diversity help? In D. H Gruenfeld (Ed.), Composition (pp. 183–207). Elsevier Science/JAI Press.

Reisch, M. (2008). From melting pot to multiculturalism: The impact of racial and ethnic diversity on social work and social justice in the USA. British Journal of Social Work, 38(4), 788-804.

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Sanam Vaghefi (BSc, MA) is a Sociologist, educator and PhD Candidate. She has several years of experience at the University of Victoria as a teaching assistant and instructor. Her research on sociology of migration and mental health has won essay awards from the Canadian Sociological Association and the IRCC. Currently, she is am focused on supporting students online under her academic coaching and tutoring business Lingua Academic Coaching OU.

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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

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