It is common for people to refer to society and culture as the same. This is because interactions between members of a society become the patterns of culture. The word society always refers to a group of people, whereas culture can include religion, food and entertainment. In the 18th century, the word culture was used to refer to the art and values prevalent in European civilisations. Primitive societies were considered uncultured. Sociologists no longer accept this definition.
A society is defined as a group of people who occupy a particular territory and who share a culture. Societies are organised according to a structure in which one person or a group of people is held responsible for the welfare of all the members. Societies have leaders, service providers and law enforcers. Societies have a political, social and educational infrastructure.
Culture is a set of learned behaviours and beliefs that characterise a group of people. It also encompasses the attitudes and ideals of the group. Our food, clothes and lifestyles are a part of our culture. So also are our customs regarding marriage and child rearing. Cultural norms define acceptable forms of behaviour within a society. These evolve over the years, so that a cultural practice today may differ greatly from one practised some generations ago.
Within the larger group of a society, there are groupings which are based on distinguishing features like religion, region and ethnicity. For example, in most countries there are groups practising different religions. They share a national culture but differ in their ways of worship.
In India, people living in large cities often seek out others who come from the same region as they do. It is common to find a residential area where most of the residents belong to a particular region. This is because people feel comfortable living among those having a common culture.
Food habits are a part of culture. People tend to follow a diet similar to their family cuisine. But when they re-locate, they often try different food. Students from all cultures seem to enjoy fast food. Also, when people of different cultures marry, their food habits are likely to change.
Society and culture both determine the language that people speak. When people live in a society, the language spoken is determined by the geographical area of that place. In Quebec, even people who do not speak French are likely to learn it. This is the effect of society. A Pakistani family living in Quebec may speak Urdu at home. This is a cultural effect.
Our tastes in entertainment and recreation are influenced by the society we live in, as well as our culture. In our childhood, we are exposed to music, art, drama and sports which take place in our vicinity. As we grow, we learn more about the culture of the larger group of our society. The opportunities afforded to us by our society may enable us to enjoy the cultural activities of other countries.
As the composition of a society changes, so does its culture. Traditional societies do not welcome members of other societies, because they want to hold on to their cultural identity. Progressive and liberal societies have assimilated people from other societies, so they are constantly exposed to different cultural traditions. Over time, the borrowed tradition becomes a part of the culture of the host country. This has happened in many societies.
Society consists of people. Culture emanates from all that those people think and do. Though they are not the same, they are interlinked.