Cultural Values: Overview, Examples & Importance
Cultural values vary between communities of people. Learn the definition and examples of cultural values, as well as their significance and ability to change.
What Are Cultural Values?
Usually, a Hindu man will let himself starve rather than slaughter and eat a cow. This is despite the fact that there are old cows roaming all over his village, blocking the streets for cars to pass. To the typical American man, who consumes over 50 pounds of beef each year, this seems illogical. You should consume the cow if you’ve been hungry for months. There are old cows roaming all over India. No one else owns the cows, and you already know how to slaughter a cow! Is something stopping the Hindu man from killing the cow?
The answer to that question is easy if you understand his cultural values. The Hindus, who make up over 80% of India’s population, think that cows are sacred and should not be slaughtered. From the exterior, a group’s cultural values are often difficult to understand. For members of the group, cultural values are the core principles and ideals upon which the entire community exists.
Values, Customs, and Culture
While the terms ‘culture,’ ‘values,’ and ‘customs’ are often used interchangeably, each is actually a distinct piece of the bigger picture. A custom is a ritual or further tradition that is an outward sign of the group’s cultural values. The group’s values aren’t always obvious right away – they run deep! Cultural values can be pieced together by observing the different customs that the people have passed down for generations. Culture is defined as all of a group’s guiding values and outward signs and symbols are taken together as one big whole.
In our instance, the cultural value that the Hindu man believes is to respect your ancestors and your gods. One of the customs that acts as an outward sign of this value is to allow cows to die naturally rather than slaughtering them. This custom, taken with all of the different customs that his community practices, represents a larger picture of Hindu culture.
Do Cultural Values Change?
Culture adapts and evolves along with the needs, wants, and opportunities of its members. Change can be the result of the group moving to a new geographical location or simply be due to the passage of time. Technological advances have largely been the driving forces behind changes in daily practices, shifting the framework within which humans operate.
Historically, numerous cultural values changed in response to the Agricultural Revolution, when human groups became sedentary farmers. In addition, we moved from the farm to the city.
Cultural Values Examples
The best method to understand cultural values is through the use of examples. Cultural values are displayed in the premises and values that a particular society displays.
Cultural values can be transferred across multiple cultures, regardless of geographical location. For instance, many countries in Asia have the same cultural values based on strong familial connections. This vision is shared in both Japan and China. Children are anticipated to take care of their elders, and respect is paramount. Children are taught to be stoic, respectful, and obedient to their elders. Cultural values can be shared regardless of geographical borders or different cultural backgrounds.
While cultural values can be shared amongst different cultures, they are also not absolute. For instance, some Asian cultures welcome stoic children who respect their elders without question. Western cultures are more relaxed regarding their children. While they do expect a respectful attitude from their younger generations, it is not expected to the same degree as the Asian countries do. American children are not as patient as Asian children and are known to rebel against their parents. They also have a greater say in their future and actions.