After watching this video, you will be able to describe some distinctive aspects of European culture and describe the make-up of European languages, ethnicities, religions, land-use and education. A short quiz will follow.
European Customs and Culture
Summarizing European customs and culture in a single video is impossible. Europe is a huge area, similar in size to the United States, but containing approximately 50 countries. And each of those countries has its own individual customs and culture. But there are still certain generalizations and summaries that can be made, especially when comparing European cultures to other parts of the world.In general, European culture tends to be relatively laid-back, with greater emphasis on time with family.
This becomes increasingly true as you travel further south in Europe and approach the Mediterranean. Time not only passes more slowly in the sense that life is slower-paced, but Europeans also have a greater sense of historical time. A building that is 100 years old is old in the United States, but new in Europe, because this is a continent where people walk past older buildings every day of their lives.
Since Europe is more densely populated than the United States, their sense of distance is different, too. Driving 100 miles is a much bigger deal to a European, because everything is so close together. Yet at the same time, Europeans are generally well-traveled, because they have many countries on their doorstep.European social culture is much less individualistic and materialistic. American phenomena like Black Friday aren’t generally seen in Europe, and most parents spend much less on their children on special occasions. Taxes are higher, though often hidden in the forms of sales tax that are included in listed prices by law. But, taxes are not hated to the same degree they are in other parts of the world – there is more of a sense that working together for a common good and common societal protection is worth the price.
Related to taxes, politics is in general much more liberal in almost every regard, with the exception of gun control, which is much stricter in Europe, and driving (young people drive much later). Guns aside, Europe focuses heavily on human rights and protects many rights that are ignored or left undefended in other parts of the world.The cultural attitude to alcohol is a big difference between Europe and other parts of the world. Underage drinking in a family setting is the norm in most countries in Europe from a young age. With alcohol so freely available, and parents educating their children about it so openly, alcohol abuse tends to be paradoxically lower, particularly in mainland Europe.Europeans are less patriotic, probably because of the history of war in the region.
The police are generally less aggressive than in the United States, and many of them don’t even carry guns under normal circumstances. The list of cultural differences continues – enough to fill five video lessons like this one, especially if we discussed the cultural patterns of individual countries. So, let’s focus on a couple of the most important demographic aspects of European cultural patterns.
Language ; Ethnicity
Language and ethnicity is important to discuss when talking about Europe, because with 50 countries, there are countless languages and ethnicities, even if certain ones are more dominant. There are at least 87 distinct ethnic groups: 33 dominant ones and 54 minorities.
The largest groups are Russians and Germans. This could be said to be followed by British, French, and Spanish ethnicities, though these countries have so many subgroups that defining ethnicity there is difficult.In terms of language, there are languages from many different families, including Germanic languages, Romance languages, Baltic, Slavic, Albanian, Greek, Turkic, Mongolic, Uralic and Celtic. And within those branches are many individual languages themselves. The most commonly spoken first languages are German, French, English and Italian.
But the language that most people speak (including as a second language) is English.
Europe is far more secular than other parts of the world. Only 51% of Europeans in European Union countries believe in God, with a further 26% believing in ‘some sort of spirit or life force.’ But other polls have suggested that as many as 76% identify as Christian, perhaps partly for cultural reasons. When it comes to religious people, Christians are by far the most dominant group, and 48% of the EU population identify as Catholics, with 12% Protestants and 8% Eastern Orthodox. Eastern Orthodox, unsurprisingly given its name, is far more common in Eastern Europe.
Islam, while hugely significant worldwide, counts for only 2% of the population of the European Union.
Land Use ; Education
Europe is extremely densely populated and is one of the most fully used continents on Earth, with a very large proportion of the land used for housing, production and infrastructure. The land use that takes up the largest land area in Europe is farming: pastures and crops, though there is still a lot of forested land in Scandinavia.Traditionally, education in Europe involved a lot of differentiated branches. At a young age, children would be tracked down certain paths that decided the schools they were sent to, and the future of children was known early.
But in modern day Europe, these systems have largely disappeared, with only a few countries (most notably Germany) holding to them as young as age ten. Generally, modern European countries follow either a single structure or common core curriculum, with all students following the same path until at least age 14. Depending on the country, sometime between 14 and 18, students start to get more options about what they learn, how they learn and where they learn. In the UK, for example, at age 16, many students choose to go to a separate ‘college’ and leave their high schools. But like most things in Europe, it varies significantly by country.
Trying to summarize European customs and culture in a single video is impossible. Europe is a huge area, similar in size to the United States, but containing approximately 50 countries. And each of those countries has its own individual customs and culture. But there are certain generalizations and summaries that can be made.
European culture tends to be relatively laid-back, with greater emphasis on time with family. Europeans also have a greater sense of historical time. A building that’s 100 years old is old in the United States but new in Europe. Europe is more densely populated than the United States and is one of the most used continents – most of the land is used for agriculture, housing and infrastructure. Thanks to this density, driving 100 miles is a much bigger deal to a European, because everything is so close together.European culture is much less individualistic and materialistic compared to American culture.
Taxes are higher but aren’t hated to the same extent as they are in some countries because there is a lot more emphasis placed on the common good. Politics is in general much more liberal in almost every regard, with the exception of gun control, safety laws and driving. Europe focuses heavily on human rights and has strict human rights laws. The cultural attitude to alcohol is much more laid-back, and underage drinking in a family setting is common. Europeans are less patriotic, probably because of the history of war in the region.
The police are generally less aggressive than in the United States, and many of them don’t even carry guns under normal circumstances.Europe contains at least 87 distinct ethnic groups and numerous languages in many language families. The most commonly spoken first languages are German and French. But including second languages, the most commonly spoken language is English.
Europe is far more secular than most parts of the world. Depending on how the question is asked, between 51% – 80% are religious. Among religions, Christianity is the most common, with 48% of the EU population identifying as Catholic, yet only 2% identifying as Muslim.Traditionally, education in Europe involved a lot of differentiated branches.
But these days, most European countries follow either a single structure or common core curriculum, with all students following the same path until at least age 14.
Learning about the cultural patterns of Europe could enable you to:
- State some general characteristics of European culture
- Recall the number of ethnic groups in Europe
- Name several European language families
- Examine the religious culture of Europe
- Outline the structure of European educational branches