The social environment consists of the sum total of a society’s beliefs, customs, practices and behaviors. It is, to a large extent, an artificial construct that can be contrasted with the natural environment in which we live.
Every society constructs its own social environment. Some of the customs, beliefs, practices and behaviors are similar across cultures, and some are not. For example, an American traveling to Britain will find many familiar practices but not so much if traveling to China.
This social environment created by a society-at-large in which a business functions can be referred to as its external social environment. If a business operates in a multicultural society, then the social external social environment is even more complicated because the environment will consist of diverse sub-populations with their own unique values, beliefs, and customs.
A business also has its own social environment. We can refer to this as its internal social environment, which is simply the customs, beliefs, practices, and behaviors within the confines of the business. A business has much more control over its internal social environment than it does with its external social environment.
Nature of social environment
The social environment, social context, socio-cultural context or milieu refers to the immediate physical and social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops. It includes the culture that the individual was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom they interact.
The physical and social environment is a determining factor in active and healthy aging in place, being a central factor in the study of environmental gerontology.
The interaction may be in person or through communication media, even anonymous or one-way, and may not imply equality of social status. Therefore, the social environment is a broader concept than that of social class or social circle.
A cultural environment is a set of beliefs, practices, customs and behaviors that are found to be common to everyone that is living within a certain population. Cultural environments shape the way that every person develops, influencing ideologies and personalities. Cultural environments are determined by the culmination of many different aspects of culture that influence personal choices and behaviors.
Religious beliefs are an important building block of a specific cultural environment. For many cultures, a certain religion has been a critical part of everyday living for generations. Outsiders need to be aware of the customs and traditions related to specific religion in order to respectfully navigate a certain cultural environment.
Family and the relationship within the family are additional factors that determine a cultural environment. Many cultures are structured around families, while others promote individuality and self-sustainability. Like religion and family, language is the third most important element of a cultural environment. Outside of these components, educational and social systems affect the structure of a cultural environment. Social systems may determine customs or taboos that are important to a particular region, while education may determine what types of ideologies are publicly shared. When visiting a new country or region, it is important for visitors to understand the cultural environment in order to protect themselves from shame, embarrassment or the act of offending a stranger.
Characteristics of Culture
(1) Culture is social
Culture does not exist in isolation. It is a product of society. It develops through social interaction. No man can acquire culture without association with others. Man becomes a man only among men.
(2) Culture is shared
Culture is not something that an individual alone can possess. Culture in sociological sense is shared. For example, customs, traditions, beliefs, ideas, values, morale etc. are all shared by people of a group or society.
(3) Culture is learnt
Culture is not inborn. It is learnt. Culture is often called “learned ways of behaviour”. Unlearned behaviour is not culture. But shaking hands, saying thanks’ or ‘namaskar’, dressing etc. are cultural behaviour.
(4) Culture is transmissive
Culture is transmissive as it is transmitted from one generation to another. Language is the main vehicle of culture. Language in different form makes it possible for the present generation to understand the achievement of earlier generations. Transmission of culture may take place by imitation as well as by instruction.
(5) Culture is continuous and cumulative
Culture exists as a continuous process. In its historical growth it tends to become cumulative. Sociologist Linton called culture ‘the social heritage’ of man. It becomes difficult for us to imagine what society would be like without culture.
(6) Culture varies from society to society
Every society has a culture of its own. It differs from society to society. Culture of every society is unique to itself. Cultures are not uniform. Cultural elements like
customs, traditions, morale, values, beliefs are not uniform everywhere. Culture varies from time to time also.
(7) Culture is dynamic
No culture ever remains constant or changeless. It is subject to slow but constant change. Culture is responsive to the changing conditions of the physical world. Hence culture is dynamic.
(8) Culture is gratifying
Culture provides proper opportunities for the satisfaction of our needs and desires. Our needs both biological and social are fulfilled in the cultural ways. Culture determines and guides various activities of man. Thus, culture is defined as the process through which human beings satisfy their wants.
Conclusion- From the above discussion we are clear that each and every society has a culture of its own. Culture is not only diverse but also unequal, but is found in societies throughout the world.