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.




  • whitewolf

    “However, his ethnicity remains Hispanic or one having roots in Latin American countries like Spain or Mexico.”
    Spain is NOT part of “Latin America” because it is a European country. People from Spain are “Hispanic,” meaning “Spanish-speaking” or from the region of Hispania, now more commonly referred to as the Iberian Peninsula (aka Spain and Portugal). Latin Americans are also “Hispanic,” because they speak Spanish or Portuguese, and are largely of mixed heritage including from Spain and Portugal (Hispania).

    So the ‘ethnicity’ of people from Spain and people from Latin America, by your definition as “racial roots,” are actually quite distinct, as are the cultures. In Latin America, there are many more countries and cultures than in Spain, as they are largely a very diverse mixture of the multitudes of indigenous peoples’ cultures and that of the Europeans who conquered their civilizations hundreds of years ago.

    Racial affinities are also referenced, and are also mistaken. The race of people in Latin American countries, as I already mentioned, might be a mixture including American (North, South, or Central) Indigenous blood, which would not likely be in the racial profile of people on a western European peninsula. Much less recognized is that Latinos also frequently have African blood as well (because the Conquistadores brought a lot of slaves through the Caribbean islands (also Latinos) and to the Americas), which would also change their racial profile.

    To simplify, you could just adjust your statement to:
    “However, his ethnicity remains Hispanic or one having roots IN LATIN AMERICAN COUNTRIES *OR* SPAIN” though “Hispanic” is not really an ethnicity as much as it really just refers to people who speak the Spanish language. “Latino” is an ethnicity.