Difference Between Ethnicity and Culture

Ethnicity vs Culture

The color of the skin and facial features has long been a basis of classification of human beings. No matter how much advancement may have taken place, it is natural for most of us to make stereotypes and base our behavior towards a person on his appearance and his racial affinities. This is more pronounced in the Western world or among whites, though discrimination based on color of skin is common in all parts of the world. Sociologists worldwide have always been fascinated by racial, cultural and ethnic differences between different people. The words ethnicity and culture have always been confused by people and often used interchangeably though there are many differences between the two. This article aims to set things right by highlighting the differences of ethnicity and culture.


We are born in one or the other country in the world, and that is our place of birth, but the race of our parents has become the basis of our identity, as our ethnicity is decided based on our racial roots. For example, a person may be born to a Hispanic couple in US and the person will have citizenship of US. However, his ethnicity remains Hispanic or one having roots in Latin American countries like Spain or Mexico. The word ethnic is derived from the Greek ethnos that literally means foreign people. In the modern world, the word ethnicity is used to refer to racial affinities of a person and not necessarily as a derogatory word.


Within each ethnic group, there are beliefs, values, norms, and practices that are learnt and shared. Even, thinking, decision-making, and actions within a particular ethnic group seem to be in a patterned way. This set of beliefs, values and customs are passed down from a generation to another and is thus preserved in a manner more complex than even the most modern electronic storage system. Shared practices and values provide a sense of identification and belongingness to the members of the group, which keep a culture alive, and allow it to survive. Culture of a race or ethnic group is reflected in the common heritage, which is personified in the art and artifacts, language, sense of dressing and eating habits of a people.


What is the difference between Ethnicity and Culture?

• Ethnicity of a person is related more with his racial affinities while culture of a particular people is a shared set of beliefs, morals, values that are reflective of way of life.

• The words Caucasian, Mediterranean, Hispanic, Asian, Black, and so on are used to refer to the ethnicity of an individual though he may have been born in another country.

• Thus, ethnicity has nothing to do with the place of birth and is closer to country of origin that may be the place of birth of one’s parents or ancestors.

• Culture is passed down from a generation to another and serves as a sense of identification. It is reflected in the art of a particular group of people.