The term "cultural background" is a reference to any culture or subculture that an individual identifies as his or her heritage or background. Culture describes the beliefs, behaviours and traits of an ethnic, social or age demographic. Cultural background can also simply indicate a person’s nationality, even if they have no social ties or physical traits that identify with that group.
A person's cultural background refers to the environment and surroundings in which (s)he grew up in. It is the collection of influences in a person's life and involves much more than just geographic location.
Cultural background encompasses many aspects of society, such as socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity. Other factors that contribute to an individual's cultural background include gender, age, religion, traditions, language and hobbies. A person can belong to several cultural groups. For example, the person could be Asian, elderly, Christian and vegetarian at the same time. It is the combination of the person's various cultures that makes up his/her cultural background.
The term "culture" was first coined by English Anthropologist Edward B. Tylor. In his book, "Primitive Culture," published in 1871, he describes culture as a "complex whole" that includes everything that a social collective learns and passes along to its young. This "complex whole" includes language, food, customs, religion, art and government. Culture is also flexible and it adapts and changes as collective groups of people change.
There are also "subcultures,” which are cultures that exist within cultures. In the United States, many subcultures are ethnic. Irish-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Mexican-Americans are examples of ethnic subcultures with which some Americans identify. Individuals within these subcultures share the language, customs, food and identity of their subcultures while also sharing the language, customs and foods as Americans in an American culture. Many people identify with more than one culture in their cultural background, especially in a country that is as diverse as America.