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Culture is a pattern of ideas, customs and behaviours shared by certain people or a society as a whole. These patterns identify members as part of a group, and distinguish members from other groups or cultures.


Culture can include characteristics such as:


  • Ethnicity

  • Language

  • Religion or spiritual beliefs

  • Age

  • Socio-economic class

  • Gender

  • Sexual orientation

  • Geographic origin

  • Group history

  • Education

  • Upbringing

  • Life experience


Culture itself is ever evolving and dynamic, and is learned or passed on through generations. It is shared among those who agree on the way they name and understand reality, and is often identified ‘symbolically’ through language, dress, music and behaviours, and integrated into all aspects of an individual’s life. *


Everyone is influenced by his or her respective cultures.


The influence of culture can be vast on health because it can affect an individuals perception of health, illness and death, as well as beliefs about causes of disease, approaches to health promotion, how illness and pain are experienced and expressed, if patients seek help and the type of treatment a patient would choose.


© VM

* Nova Scotia Department of Health, Primary Health Care Section, 2005: A cultural competence guide for primary health care professionals in Nova Scotia



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