Top 28 Cultures of the World
By: Shahzad Bashir
Globalization and global expansion is the latest trend to have affected the world landscape of today. Not surprisingly, the one thing that makes this globalization possible is cross-border communication and correspondence. Along with language, a country’s culture, norms, and values play a significant role in making this communication possible.
A country’s culture is more than just the way its people practice their traditions—it’s a complete way of life, communication, norms, and values that shape up how society is formed. This is the reason why a person seeking to travel to another country needs to have ample knowledge about its culture and language for him to understand its people well. From the renaissance art of Italy to the traditional practices of India, these cultures reflect the way of life in these countries.
Here is a look at the world’s top 28 cultures that have shaped age-old traditions as we know them.
Famous largely for its renaissance art, Italy is a south-central European country with a border that extends well into the Mediterranean Sea. According to some estimates, about 40 million tourists visit the country every year, making it one of the top tourist spots of the world—the reason? Its historical sites and architecture attract enthusiasts globally and some big names such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli are just some to start with. The region is home to a vast number of migrants as well who have blended well into the architectural beauty that Italy is.
One other thing that Italy is particularly famous for is its cuisine. Italian cuisine is not only enjoyed but it is also celebrated across the world and chefs globally laud Italian food as the most delicious and unique food in the world.
Perhaps no other country has a greater influence on history than France, one of the oldest countries on the face of the Earth. Known majorly due to its historical significance, France is famous for its food, art, language, and locations and ranks 2nd on the list of Cultural Influence Rankings. Not only that, but it is also one of the countries which have a ‘romantic’ identity, and its city Paris is well-known as ‘the city of love.
France is not just famous for its historical sites, it is also appreciated for its cuisine and fashion houses. This is the reason why the name of France conjures up an image of fashion trends that are a class apart. The French people are polite people who prefer greetings and punctuality over everything else. Not only that, table manners are extremely important in France.
Ranked on the 3rd number on the list of Cultural Influence Rankings, Spain is a combination of independent nations that combined to form the Kingdom of Spain in 1492. The artistic heritage of the country sets it apart from other countries and is an essential part and parcel of its culture. Not surprisingly, it is the 4th most visited country in the world and 58 million tourists throng its architectural sites every year.
One thing that is unique and different about Spain is its festivals and celebrations. Although Spanish people celebrate religious festivals with zest, other celebrations also take place with pomp and fervor. Whether you are a tourist visiting Spain for a recreational holiday or a businessman securing a commercial deal, you are bound to be attracted by interesting festivals such as La Tomatina where people pelt each other with tomatoes!
4. United States
One of the most dominant economic and technological powers, the United States of America is a North American nation exerting a massive influence on the world economy, business, and politics. This is the reason the US scores a 10/10 on the modernity scale and is on number 4th in the Cultural Influence Rankings list.
The country is a combination of different languages, nationalities, and races intermingling with each other to form the States. With a population of 3.3 billion, the country has a lot to offer other than just its economic progress. It is the center of the modern world with its film and media industry that is a leader in the world landscape. Not only that, its traditions and people different from other countries as well. One interesting aspect of the US culture is the “eating-on-the-go” practice or taking meal takeaways since its people are too busy running from one appointment or job to another. This has given rise to the “instant-cooked” food industry, lauded and available nowadays in all countries.
When it comes to old, religious traditions, involving tales of yore, the name of India comes up in many people’s minds. India is a South-eastern Asian country that sits on a peninsula extending over the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Termed as the second most populous nation after China, it is a land of mystery, magic, and tradition, and has an interesting historical background as well.
The country is home to a number of diverse religions, with Hinduism and Islam as the leading ones. This is the reason why its people are a reflection of the religions that they practice. In India, it is a common practice to fast for days—as a means to gain salvation from certain evils. However, fasting here does not necessarily mean that the body eliminates all types of food—only certain foods are restricted along with quantity. The country also has a number of ancient tribes that still thrive in its folds, making it a rich mixture of cultures.
6. United Kingdom
Fixed on number 5 on the Cultural Influence Rankings list is the United Kingdom, a highly developed country that holds considerable global economic, scientific, political, and technological prowess. London is the world’s leading financial and economic hub, with an appreciative economic metric to prove it. The citizens of the country pride themselves in delivering creativity, work ethics, and innovative change—perhaps this is why they are known to ‘bring something new to the table’, be it in any field of life.
One of the greatest contributions that the United Kingdom has done to the world is lending its English language, which is the main language of communication globally. With over 2 billion speakers worldwide, English continues to dominate all languages in the medium of communication and business correspondence. In addition, the country offers a lot of other attractions in art, orchestra, theatre, media, and technology that are unique in themselves.
History resides in the architecture and its people and one country that has stood the test of time in Greece. Located in southeastern Europe, this nation holds a rich history and has its origins dating back to the 19th Century. This is the reason why it laid the foundations of art, philosophy, and politics that are practiced in the Western world today. The Greek culture itself has forged a separate and distinct identity in science that has made a mark globally, in addition to leaps in the world of art, such as in theatre and museums.
Greece we know now evolved from a group of about 150 independent states, each with its own governing systems, but with the same cultural practices. In fact, some of the creative art practices took root from these places, such as writing onto the clay. The earliest records of writing were engraved on clay tablets which are preserved to this day.
One of the largest countries in the European Union by landmass, Sweden is a Nordic state expanding across much of the Scandinavian Peninsula. The country scores high on the modernity scale and is also known as a nation holding a ‘prestigious’ position in world cultures. Sweden is a capitalistic state with a large part of its spending going on public service. This is the reason why it is also high in public service and aid services, with a large group of people participating in humanitarian practices. Advanced infrastructure and economy propel the nation towards greater tourism, which also grows owing to its cultural influence among the Nordic states.
It is commonly known that Swedish people are one of the most generous ones and donate about 1% of Gross National Product to humanitarian aid efforts and activities. Meanwhile, the culture and population of the country continue to evolve with time as more migrants join its folds.
One of the most interesting and fascinating of the cultures, the Mexican culture is influenced by ancient Aztec and Maya civilizations as well as European colonization. The culture of Mexico is a combination of a diverse number of cultures and is reflective of the country’s complex history. Moreover, with the gradual blending of native cultures and Spanish, the Mexican culture got the identity as we know it today. After the rule of the Spanish for nearly 300 years, the government of Mexico promoted a set of cultural traits to create a national identity.
The culture of Mexico is influenced by family ties, gender, religion, and social class, inclusive of other factors. In addition, the contemporary day-to-day life of the Mexicans somehow now resembles those of its neighboring countries of the United States and Europe, with its people taking care of conserving traditions that have evolved through the years.
Perhaps one of the most diverse cultures, the culture of Nepal is a mixture of various cultures belonging to 125 distinct ethnic groups. Nepalese culture is influenced by art, craft, music, dance, philosophy, and religion. This is the reason the culture of Nepal reflects the different religions present in it, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, and ancestor worship. However, all these religions have co-existed for a long time and continue to do so due to the harmonious traits of bonding and tolerance.
The Nepalese food is also unique like its culture. The people of Nepal do not eat beef as the majority of them are Hindus who worship cows. In addition, Nepalese food is influenced by the Tibetan and Indian styles of cooking and is popular throughout the world.
Some of the cultures are well-known to have existed for a long time. The Chinese culture is an example of these historic cultures, dating back to thousands of years. This is the reason this civilization is primarily considered the dominant culture of East Asia. With the Chinese culture possessing a rich history, it is no surprise that it has a profound influence on art, philosophy, etiquette, and traditional values. Moreover, the Chinese language, architecture, religion, and politics are different from those of its neighboring countries and have forged a strong place for the culture in the Asian region.
One of the unique qualities of Chinese culture is the strong emphasis on family life. Chinese people exert great importance on family bonding, which is why their elders stay with the family even in old age. Likewise, the children of the family are expected to take care of their parents when they grow old, instead of abandoning them.
The Japanese culture, one of the unique and prominent cultures of the world has witnessed a number of changes over the years. From its prehistoric period to modern-day contemporary style, the Japanese culture has evolved from the old ways. The Japanese culture is influenced by Chinese dynasties as well as other Asian civilizations. For example, the Japanese language has Chinese characters (called Kanji) for writing, but the Japanese language itself has no genetic resemblance with Chinese.
One distinctive factor of the Japanese culture is the way their people bow at greetings. This is done to show courtesy and respect to the other party, as well as to congratulate and extend a hand of friendship.
Australia, a country boasting of the 6th largest country by area, is a rich culture having roots in the Western culture. Although the culture of Australia is basically a Western culture, it is also influenced heavily by the unique geography of the country which has influence from Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander as well as other Australian native civilizations.
The culture and heritage of Australia have a significant Anglo-Celtic influence which has a dominance of the English language as well as the existence of a democratic government. These Torres and Strait Islanders are also the country’s oldest cultures with a set of traditions and values which make them unique. The Australian people themselves are laid back, open and direct, and are more outgoing than other countries’ citizens. Moreover, the culture of Australia possesses a strong influence of diverse food, lifestyle, and cultural practices of immigrants which have contributed to making the Australian culture that we know today.
One of the distinctive features of Switzerland’s culture is its diversity as the nation lies at the crossroads of many European cultures. In its traditions and customs as well, Switzerland displays a variety, unlike other countries. Interestingly, the Alps have contributed a great deal in playing the essential role of modeling Switzerland’s history and culture. Not only that, the mountainous areas of the country have a strong culture of skiing and mountaineering which have given Switzerland its characteristic cultural edge over its neighboring countries. The country is also termed as a multilingual country, owing to its national languages which are French, German, Italian, and Romansh. Other distinctive aspects of its culture include Swiss chocolates, Swiss army knives, and Swiss art.
The Kingdom of Norway is a Nordic state situated in Northern Europe and lies on the border of the North Sea. The culture of Norway is characterized by enlightenment by the elite intellectuals who laid the foundations of folktales, architecture, art, and writing. Later, this culture caught the interest and attention of writers, musicians, dramatists, and artists who shaped the intellectual culture of Norway. In the 19th century, this culture further blossomed to forge a separate identity in the fields of literature, architecture, theater, and performing arts, which are still popular today.
Another interesting aspect of Norwegian culture is the idealization by Norwegian people of the natural environment and rural life. This is why regional policies are aimed at encouraging people to stay in rural areas instead of moving to urban centers. In fact, the cities of Oslo and Bergen have lands of “natural” forests which are left as a means to provide recreation to its residents.
Derived from ancient Portuguese, the culture of Brazil holds some features of Western influences. Moreover, it displays a combination of ethnic and cultural mixing that has been present since colonial times. Due to the Portuguese rule on the land of Brazil for more than three centuries, the culture has most of its derivations from the Portuguese way of life. As a result, Brazilian culture inherited the Portuguese language, customs, traditions, and even cuisines.
However, this culture, so influenced by Portuguese traditions also holds elements of African and indigenous American traditions as well as other European countries. This is the reason why Brazilian culture has some distinguishing aspects such as the languages of Italian, Spaniards, German, and Japanese. Moreover, the people of Amerindian and African descent play a huge role in the formation of the Brazilian language, art, architecture, and music, and religion.
The Republic of Singapore is a sovereign, independent island state located in Southeast Asia. The country’s culture is characterized by a fusion of different cultures and traditions from different ethnic groups of Asian and European origin.
Although the Singaporean culture has changed a lot over the years, its contemporary modern culture still can be traced to the roots laid down by Asian and European cultures, such as Malay, South Asian, Eurasian, and East Asian influences. The social fabric of the country is a unique blend of different cultures and traditions with different origins such as Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other Asian countries.
Accordingly, the Singaporean lifestyle holds multi-cultural elements with people of different cultural backgrounds living together in a harmonious environment. Moreover, this fusion of cultures has influenced Singaporean traditions, customs, and most importantly language. This is why “Singlish” is considered the main and official language of the country. Singlish is short for Singaporeans and English and is considered the main dialect in the southern Malay Peninsula.
18. New Zealand
One other highly dynamic and unique culture is that of New Zealand, an island country on the South Pacific Ocean. The culture of the country is primarily a Western culture with influences from the unique geographical position of the islands. This culture can be traced back to the indigenous Maori people as well as migrants from other islands. To this day, the influence of Maori culture is still visible in everything, from cuisines to customs and language. This is evident from the art, taste, language, and even the accents of the New Zealanders.
Another thing that makes these New Zealand residents different and unique from those of other countries is their preference and taste for art, theater, sports, and recreation. Their love for outdoor activities makes their culture one of the most dynamic and rapidly evolving ones in the Pacific region.
Every country has its own culture and tradition to boast of. Not surprisingly, each country has a separate definition of the word ‘culture’ and what it really denotes. Denmark’s culture is defined by three aspects of Danish life—simplicity, equality, and politeness. These aspects not only shape the culture in this country but also defines the outlook and the attitude that the people of Denmark possess. This is why when you meet the people of Denmark, politeness is one of the first things you are likely to notice about these people.
The culture of Denmark emerges from a long history of discipline and virtue. The country focuses solely on working for the people, bringing them together, and increasing their safety and community health. This philosophy is reflected throughout Danish society and has resulted in giving the country a ‘sustainable’ edge in the world.
Ethiopia is a land-locked country situated on the African continent. It is a widely multi-cultural and multi-ethnic community with strong religious influences. Although half of the population follows the Ethiopian Orthodox church, a major chunk of the population is also Muslim. This comes as no surprise that Ethiopia has over 80 different ethnic groups, whose ancestors vary but their roots can be traced back to Bantu and Nilotic tribes of sub-Saharan Africa, while others belong to Cushitic tribes of the Middle East.
Like its multi-ethnic population, the culture of Ethiopia also exhibits a varied and unique set of cultural values that makes the country apart from others. Ethiopians are generally modest and conservative people who pride themselves on delivering a culture of hospitality and courtesy. This is why its people display traditional values which are an integral part of the country’s culture.
Finland, a Nordic country located in Northern Europe has a rich and highly indigenous culture to boast of. This is evident from the national languages of Finland—Finnish, a Uralic language, and Swedish, a Germanic language. Another aspect is the clothing of the Finnish people that reflects both Western and traditional looks.
The country of Finland is considered an individualist society and focuses more on prioritizing the needs of the individuals which include the provision of basic necessities and amenities. This also means that the societal framework is loosely knitted in which the individuals are expected to take care of themselves and their families only. This is the reason why its citizens enjoy the most freedom of expression. Other than this, Finland has a rich culture in which drama and theater hold paramount importance.
An island in the North Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has a rich culture of language, literature, art, folklore, and cuisine. Throughout history, the culture of Ireland has been influenced by the Gaelic elements, along with Anglo-Norman, English, and Scottish ones. In the country, religious ceremonies and celebrations are important and celebrated with zeal.
In Irish culture, language plays an integral role. Although English is the main language spoken in Ireland, the ancestral Gaelic language is still alive to this day. The interesting thing is that this Gaelic language is a dying one, but has a considerable number of speakers in the country. This means that Ireland’s people strive to preserve their language and commit to retaining its status. This is the reason this language is one of the official languages of the European Union.
23. South Korea
Chinese culture is a profound and widely popular culture throughout the world. This is evident from the culture of South Korea, a country with influences of Confucian principles. Confucianism is unique since it supports group harmony, courtesy, and respect for elders. These virtues also include prioritizing and putting friends, family, and relations first. Similarly, traditions hold equal importance in society, with many indigenous traditions still being celebrated in the country.
Another popular aspect of South Korean society is the Korean popular culture, a term that was first used to refer to popular songs, folklore, dramas, and movies which gained popularity over time. Although these things first gained popularity in China, they were adopted in Korea and Japan as well, spreading as far wide as Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.
24. South America
South America, also termed as the Southern subcontinent of the Americas has a rich and diverse culture that stems from a varied set of cultural traditions, which date back to old civilizations and indigenous tribes. Over time, these traditions of the old civilizations mixed with those of African slaves as well as Asian immigrants who combined to give South America the cultural traditions that it holds to this day.
Today, South America boasts of a highly progressive economy, with its cities being the hubs of economic and commercial activities. In fact, five out of the top 50 largest cities in the world are located in South America—Sao Paulo, Lima, Bogota, Rio, and Santiago.
25. Papua New Guinea
Although Papua New Guinea is a small country with a mere population of 7 million, its population belongs to over 7000 diverse cultural groups. Each of these groups has its own language and distinct cultural expressions, along with dance, food, body paint, and costumes which combine together to make up an interesting cultural mosaic of the country.
Papua New Guinea is renowned throughout the world for its abundant resources and warm-hearted people. Although it is a country where running water and electricity are still not available to all, the changing dynamics and rapidly-spreading technology are changing the present situation in the region.
Another Asian country that has an interesting culture to boast of is Kazakhstan, a country with a history of nomads who settled down in the country and gave their traditions and customs to it. Although these nomadic tribes had left their traditions and way of life behind, the Kazakh culture is deeply influenced by the Turkic nomadic lifestyle.
One interesting aspect of Kazakhstan culture is its history of independence. On its independence in 1991, its people, Kazakhs, did not form the majority of the population, nor can many native Kazakhs speak their own language. Still, Kazakh has been declared the national language of the country and is spoken by many.
Belgium, a country in Western Europe, offers an interesting and eye-catching experience for visitors ad tourists throughout the world. Having famous and world-renowned elements such as Belgian chocolates, waffles, etc., the country also offers a comic strip tradition that is popular throughout the world such as Tintin, the Smurfs, and Fantasio.
Belgian art and painting are accepted and lauded the world over, with Art Nouveau (the Mosan Art) being the most popular of them. Nevertheless, Belgium is mostly known for its delicious chocolates and some of the best music festivals in the world, which give Belgium the cultural edge over other countries.
The Netherlands, a country located in northwestern Europe is a diverse and varied nation having a culture that has both foreign and native influences embedded in it. The foreign influences are from the Dutch people who gave the country their traditions and customs. The Netherlands and its citizens have long played an integral role as the center-point of cultural liberalism and freedom, bringing together harmony, peace, and tolerance to the region.
Dutch paintings, art, and crafts are well-renowned throughout the world as one of the greatest ones that the world has known. In fact, the Dutch themselves take huge pride in practicing their cultural heritage and customs, with its government involved in subsidizing the art and restricting the artistic control of cultural enterprises.
The Last Word
The Culture of any country is a snapshot of the country’s history, language, and people. While it is true that every indigenous or nomadic tribe has its own customs, traditions, and culture, the place that they reside in also plays a huge role in the shaping of culture. Whatever the culture of the place or country is, one thing that cannot be denied is the recreational experience that it lends to a traveler or a tourist visiting that place. This means that if anyone is interested in finding out the temperament of the people in some country, all he has to do is to observe their culture and practices as these will give him an ample idea of what their norms and beliefs really are—and what makes them unique from others.