101 Cultural Factors Examples

cultural factors examples and definition, explained below

Cultural factors refer to the set of values, ideologies, belief systems, norms, and practices that are learned and shared among members of a group or society.

These factors shape people’s behaviors, perceptions, decisions, and interactions with others (Calhoun, 2002). We can use these factors to get a better understanding of cultural groups, individual and collective behaviors, and social outcomes within a culture.

Furthermore, it is important for individuals to understand cultural factors within cultures – particularly ones that are not their own – in order to effectively navigate cultural situations, avoid culture shock, and sufficiently acculturate within a cultural group.

Cultural Factors Examples

  • Language: In any society, language is the primary medium of communication, and it profoundly shapes our interactions and perceptions. Language carries cultural meanings, customs, and values; it’s intertwined with the society’s history, culture and identity. For instance, in France, where French is the dominant language, it’s used for government, media, education, and daily communications (Delaney, 2015).
  • Religion: Religion forms a basis for many cultural values and beliefs. It greatly influences the worldviews, ethical frameworks, and habits of individuals. For example, India boasts cultural diversity through its wide array of religions with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism originating in the subcontinent, and significant populations practicing Islam and Christianity. Each of these religions has distinct ceremonies, rituals, dietary stipulations, and norms, all of which are intertwined with the country’s broader culture (Nehring & Plummer, 2014).
  • Gender Roles: Different societies have diverse understandings and norms surrounding gender. These norms can dictate everything from attire to professional roles to family obligations. For example, in many traditional patriarchal cultures, women have historically been expected to take primary responsibility for raising children and maintaining the household, while men are often tasked with earning income for the family (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006). Note that these traditional roles are increasingly changing across the globe due to efforts toward gender equality.
  • Core Values: Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person, also known as the guiding principles, dictating behavior and action. Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide. For example, in Japanese culture, harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility are seen as the four virtues influencing social behavior and interaction (Korgen & Atkinson, 2020).
  • Social Organization: This refers to the various structures, networks, and systems that societies devise for interaction among its members, including family units, educational institutions, political structures, and economic systems. For example, the United States has a democratic government and capitalistic economy, which greatly influence the social structure and ways of life (Ritzer, 2015).
  • Cultural Symbols: These are objects, figures, or colors that represent specific aspects of a culture. They hold distinct meanings within each culture and can be seen in rituals, ceremonies, or everyday life. For instance, in Chinese culture, the dragon symbolizes power, strength, and good luck while the color red is associated with energy, happiness, and luck (LeVine, 2017).
  • Traditions and Ceremonies: Traditions and ceremonies are practices and rites that are unique to each culture. They can mark significant events or transitions in a person’s life, or commemorate shared historical and cultural experiences. For instance, in Jewish culture, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony marks the coming of age of thirteen-year-old boys (Korgen & Atkinson, 2020).
  • Food Culture: Food and the customs surrounding it play a crucial role in culture. What people eat, how they prepare it, when and how they eat are all culturally determined. For instance, the Italian culture places a high emphasis on food. Family dinners are a central aspect with home-cooked meals, including staples like pasta, olive oil, and tomatoes, playing a significant role in the social life of Italians (Delaney, 2015).
  • Cultural Norms: These are the unwritten rules and expectations for behavior within a culture. They dictate etiquette, appropriate conduct, and societal expectations for individuals. For example, in many Western cultures, maintaining direct eye contact during a conversation is considered a sign of honesty and trustworthiness. However, in various Asian cultures, direct eye contact can be seen as disrespectful or confrontational (Nehring & Plummer, 2014).
  • Educational Values and Systems: Education is considered a cultural factor as it varies significantly among cultures. Some societies emphasize rote learning for basic literacy and numeracy, while others promote critical thinking and creativity. For instance, Finland’s education system is globally revered for its less pressured environment, individualized instruction, and focus on student overall well-being rather than strictly academic achievement (Ritzer, 2015).
  • Arts and Cultural Expressions: These refer to how culture is expressed through arts, including music, literature, visual arts, and dance. These forms of cultural expressions often carry a wealth of historical significance and shared communal values. An excellent representative of this would be Flamenco in Spain. Flamenco is more than just a dance form to Spaniards; it’s a passionate and vivid expression of life drawing on a range of influences from Romani, Castilian, Islamic, and Sephardic traditions, serving as a testament to Spain’s rich cultural history (LeVine, 2017).
  • Fashion and Aesthetics: The Clothing styles, aesthetics, and standards of beauty vary from culture to culture. In South Korea, a high value is placed on appearance, resulting in the booming fashion and skincare industries influenced by the rise of K-pop and Korean dramas. Koreans’ preferences for a youthful, trendy, and sophisticated style and a clean, smooth, and bright skin appearance reflect cultural aesthetics that emphasise meticulous self-presentation and maintainance (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006).
  • Material Culture: This includes physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture. These tangible aspects of culture such as architecture, art, technology, and traditional clothing, reflect societal beliefs, values, and identity. For example, the pyramids of Egypt, as grand burial sites of ancient Pharaohs, represent the Egyptians’ robust beliefs in the afterlife and their respect for their rulers (Calhoun, 2002).
  • Folklore: Folklore refers to the tales, legends, and customs passed down from generation to generation within a culture. It serves as a reflection of societal values, fears, hopes, and collective experiences of a people. An illustration of this is the rich repository of Native American folktales that convey moral lessons, historical narratives and deeply rooted spiritual beliefs of various tribes (LeVine, 2017).
  • Attitudes toward Individualism: This pertains to the degree to which personal needs, rights, and independence are emphasized over that of a group or community. In cultures like the United States, individualism is seen as an essential value, with emphasis placed on personal freedom, self-reliance, and individual achievement (Ritzer, 2015). Conversely, in collectivist societies such as Japan, greater significance is given to harmony, group cohesion, and societal roles over individual needs or desires (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006).

Full List of Cultural Factors

  1. Language
  2. Religion
  3. Material culture
  4. Non-material culture
  5. Clothing and dress codes
  6. Cuisine and foodways
  7. Arts, crafts, and craftmanship
  8. Influential philosophies
  9. Influential literature
  10. Moral values
  11. Folktales and folk culture
  12. Family structures
  13. Marriage customs
  14. Social inequalities and tolerance for inequality
  15. Social institutions such as courts and schools
  16. Formal laws
  17. Informal social mores
  18. Death rituals
  19. Birth ceremonies
  20. Gender roles
  21. Rites of passage
  22. Social hierarchies
  23. Patriarchal and matriarchal belief systems
  24. Cultural taboos
  25. Attitudes toward elders
  26. Educational values
  27. Historical narratives
  28. Founding mythologies
  29. National symbols and symbology
  30. Proverbs and moral tales
  31. Social etiquette and niceties
  32. Time perception
  33. Communication styles (e.g. low context culture vs high context culture)
  34. Holiday traditions
  35. Attitudes towards work
  36. Attitudes towards punctuality
  37. Gift-giving customs
  38. Local customs
  39. Superstitions and spirituality
  40. Humor
  41. Levels of tolerance of dissent
  42. Traditional games
  43. Children’s upbringing and children’s culture
  44. Political views and the culture’s overton window
  45. Aesthetic and beauty standards
  46. Architectural styles and traditions
  47. Forms of celebration
  48. Cultural capital
  49. Ethical beliefs
  50. Body language norms
  1. Social conventions
  2. Conflict resolution methods
  3. Attitudes toward authority
  4. Attitudes toward conformism vs individualism
  5. Attitudes toward nature
  6. Standards for decision-making processes
  7. Modes of thinking
  8. Problem-solving approaches
  9. Attitudes toward mental health
  10. Attitudes toward physical health
  11. Attitudes toward traditional medicine
  12. Concept of self
  13. Concept of community
  14. Attitudes toward wealth
  15. Attitudes toward poverty
  16. Economic practices
  17. Concept of time (past, present, future)
  18. Norms around social gatherings
  19. Forms of greeting (e.g. kissing cheek)
  20. Traditional sports and sporting attitudes
  21. Attitudes toward comeptitiveness
  22. Sacred places
  23. Sacred texts
  24. Group affiliations (tribal, clan, etc.)
  25. Social obligations
  26. Respect protocols
  27. Concept of honor
  28. Concept of shame
  29. Rituals and ceremonies
  30. Sacred animals
  31. Use of color in ceremonies
  32. Agricultural practices
  33. Trade customs
  34. Traditional housing
  35. Human rights perspectives
  36. Attitudes toward other cultures
  37. Urban vs. rural values
  38. Attitudes toward technology
  39. Traditional calendars
  40. Attitudes toward age
  41. Attitudes toward disabilities
  42. Attitudes toward outsiders
  43. Traditional beverages
  44. Community leadership structure
  45. Status symbols
  46. Traditional jewelry
  47. Tattoos and body art
  48. Forms of entertainment
  49. Attitudes toward relationships
  50. Perceptions of destiny/fate
  51. Environmental stewardship practices

Cultural vs Social Factors

Cultural factors pertain to the beliefs, values, and practices that a group of people share. This can encompass aspects such as language, religion, customs, and traditions. These elements get passed down from generation to generation and contribute to defining a society.

On the other hand, social factors are elements that affect an individual’s way of living and opportunities within society. These can be aspects such as family size, education, economic status, or the neighborhood one lives in.

Cultural factors and social factors interact closely. Culture shapes social structures and norms, which in turn influence how individuals interact with one another and with society at large (Calhoun, 2002). In particular, the cultural values of the dominant culture in a multicultural society tend to also dominate social norms.

It stands, then, that cultural factors form a subcategory within social factors.

For example, attitudes toward education vary from one culture to another (a cultural factor), and this in turn can affect the level of academic achievement or the value placed upon it in various societies (a social factor) (LeVine, 2017).

Table Summary of Differences:

Cultural FactorsSocial Factors
DefinitionElements influencing the beliefs, values, norms, and behaviors within a society or region.Aspects related to society’s structure, relationships, and organization.
Examples1. Language: French in France
2. Religion: Buddhism in Thailand
3. Art: Renaissance art in Italy
1. Family structures: Nuclear families in the West
2. Class system: Upper, middle, and lower classes
3. Social networks: Connections made via schools or workplaces
Impact on IndividualShapes personal identity, values, and worldviewDictates one’s place, roles, and interactions within society
Change over TimeChanges can be slow, deeply rooted in history and traditionCan change relatively rapidly with shifts in societal organization
Influencing FactorsHistorical events, geographical location, ancestorsEconomic conditions, technological advancements, political shifts
Interactions with Other CulturesCan lead to cultural exchange, assimilation, or conflictCan lead to shifts in societal norms, practices, or hierarchies


Cultural factors are learned, not innate. They represent shared values and norms within a society (Calhoun, 2002). They can shape personal behaviors and societal structures. Depending on what is valued or deemed as acceptable in a society, the norms and customs guide individuals’ beliefs and attitudes. For instance, in some societies, deference to the elderly or to those in positions of authority is highly valued (LeVine, 2017).

They can have an influence at both micro and macro levels. They shape not just our day-to-day social interactions, but also the broader structures and institutions in our societies (Ritzer, 2015). They evolve over time and vary across cultures and societies (Delaney 2015).


Calhoun, C. (2002). Dictionary of the Social Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Delaney, T. (2015). Connecting sociology to our lives: An introduction to sociology. London: Routledge.

Giddens, A., & Griffiths, S. (2006). Sociology. London: Polity.

Korgen, K. & Atkinson, M. (2020) Sociology in Action. New York: Sage.

LeVine, R. A. (2017). International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition. New York: Elsevier.

Nehring, D., & Plummer, K. (2014). Sociology: An introductory textbook and reader. London: Routledge.

Ritzer, G. (2015). Essentials of sociology. New York: Sage Publications.

Website | + posts

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *