Do Different Cultures Have Things in Common?

Cultures around the world are all different. But, are there some things that ALL cultures have in common? YES! These are called cultural universals.

If cultures are so different, then why do cultural universals exist? This is because all cultures of the world face the same problems. For example, they need to communicate, obtain food, and have some sort of shelter from the environment. Each culture works out exactly how to do these things in different ways.

Here are some examples of cultural universals:

  • an economic system (a way of obtaining and distributing goods and services)
  • systems of marriage and family (involving mating and child-rearing)
  • an educational system (a way of transmitting cultural knowledge to the next generation)
  • a social control system (a system of rules and laws)
  • a system of supernatural beliefs (including things like religion, sorcery, witchcraft, magic, etc.)
  • systems of communication (ways of communicating, verbally and non-verbally)
  • tool making (creating tools of any kind)
  • kinship terminology (names for relatives)
  • food taboos (foods that are not eaten for some reason)
  • arts (including music, dance, and decorative art)

While there are many other examples of cultural universals, these examples give an idea of how many similarities there are across different cultures. Here’s an infographic showing the cultural universals mentioned in this post:

Thanks for reading!

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Written by

Keirsten E. Snover, Anthropologist. Anthropology 4U brings the 4 fields of Anthropology to everyone, through online& in-person courses.

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