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What are cultural norms?

Cultural norms refer to patterns or behaviours that are typical of a certain group. These norms are often invisible to those who grew up in the culture. Canada has its own set of cultural norms that are different from other countries.

Four basic types of norms:

  • Folkway. This relates to conventions or customs, such as saying “hello”, when you see a friend on the street, or saying‚ “Excuse me”‚ after sneezing.
  • Mores. These are norms that usually define a cultural moral standard. Examples of this include racism or sexism.
  • Taboo. These are very strong negative norms, these result in extreme disgust from society. For example, in Muslim cultures, it is taboo to eat pork because the pig is seen as unclean.
  • Laws. These are inscribed by the government and police. Laws differ around the world, for example in Canada pedestrians have the right-of-way, however in many countries they do not.
  • Important consideration – Time. Canadians are normally quite literal about time and schedules. Scheduling to meet at 6:00 PM means you should arrive at 6:00 PM or a few minutes early. Some cultures have very different norms, for example showing up at 8 PM for a dinner party scheduled for 6 PM maybe the cultural norm.