Defining culture

Australian society is made up of many cultural groups that exhibit a range of different lifestyles and patterns of interaction.

A culture can be described as the shared and learned behaviours that exist within the same cultural group. This shared and learned behaviour is acquired via a process of socialisation. In this process, the culture is acquired from our family, social groups, school and other social organisations, largely on an unconscious level. 

Everyone has a culture, although many people and communities suffer from cultural blindness. Ask them about the culture of their town or city and they are likely to respond: ‘What culture? We don’t have a culture.’ If everyone around you shares a similar culture, it may be less obvious just what culture is.

  • Ethnicity is not culture. Many Australians of ethnic heritage identify more with Australian culture than with the culture of their parents or grandparents.
  • Everyone within a culture is not the same. Our culture may also be influenced by our being part of a subculture – a group defined by shared characteristics and values, such as religion, age, particular needs or sexual preference, e.g. the Deaf community and baby boomers.
  • Culture is not synonymous with the arts. Sometimes people will say something like ‘I’m going to the theatre to get some culture.’ Often we think that we develop culture through doing ‘arty’ things or attending ‘elite’ events. However, this is really only expanding our experiences within our culture.

Discussion activity

Defining culture: Different definitions of culture

Section 1 discussion activities (Word Document 52KB)

Interactive activity

Cultural concepts: Common terms and definitions



Text version (Word Document 34KB)

Last modified: Thursday, 21 September 2017, 1:41 PM