Difference Wiki

Enculturation vs. Acculturation: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 3, 2023
Enculturation is the process of learning and adopting the cultural norms and values of one's own society, while acculturation is the process of adopting the cultural norms and values of a different society or group.

Key Differences

Enculturation is the process by which individuals acquire and internalize the cultural norms, values, beliefs, and practices of their own society or social group. It begins from early childhood and continues throughout one's life. Enculturation is a fundamental part of human development, as it shapes an individual's identity, behavior, and understanding of their cultural heritage. This process is typically subconscious and occurs naturally as individuals grow up within their cultural context, learning language, customs, traditions, and social norms. For example, a child raised in a specific country will undergo enculturation by acquiring the language, social etiquette, and cultural values of that society.
Acculturation, on the other hand, is the process through which individuals or groups adopt and integrate cultural elements from a different society or social group. It often arises due to interactions with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, either through migration, colonization, or globalization. Acculturation can be voluntary, as individuals consciously choose to adopt elements of a foreign culture, or involuntary when it results from external forces. For instance, immigrants moving to a new country and gradually adopting the language, cuisine, and social norms of their host society are experiencing acculturation.
When comparing enculturation and acculturation, a key distinction is the direction of cultural influence. In enculturation, individuals embrace and internalize the cultural norms of their own society, reinforcing their native identity. In contrast, during acculturation, individuals or groups embrace and integrate foreign cultural norms, which may lead to a blending of identities or a shift in one's sense of self. While enculturation occurs naturally within one's native environment, acculturation often involves conscious adaptation to a new cultural environment.
Another crucial aspect is the mutual exchange of cultural elements. Enculturation typically involves limited or no mutual exchange, as it pertains to an individual's upbringing within their native culture. In contrast, acculturation inherently involves a two-way exchange of cultural practices and ideas when individuals from different cultural backgrounds come into contact. This exchange can result in a fusion of cultural elements, creating unique hybrid cultural practices and identities.
In summary, enculturation is the process of internalizing one's own culture's norms and values, which happens naturally and reinforces one's native identity. Acculturation is the process of adopting foreign cultural norms and can lead to a blending of identities, typically occurring through contact with a different culture and involving mutual cultural exchange.

Comparison Chart


Learning and adopting one's own culture.
Adopting a different culture through contact.


Embracing native cultural norms.
Embracing foreign cultural norms.

Inherent or Learned

Inherent, happens naturally as one grows up.
Often learned through contact with others.


A child in their home country learning local customs.
Immigrants adapting to the culture of their host country.

Influence of Identity

Reinforces one's native identity.
May lead to a blend of identities or a shift.

Enculturation and Acculturation Definitions


The process of learning and internalizing one's own cultural norms and values.
Through enculturation, children in Japan learn the etiquette and customs of Japanese society.


The blending of cultural elements from multiple societies.
New art forms often emerge through the acculturation of diverse artistic traditions.


The process of developing a shared worldview within a cultural context.
Indigenous elders are instrumental in the enculturation of tribal spirituality.


The process of learning and integrating foreign cultural practices.
Acculturation may involve celebrating holidays from a host country while maintaining one's native traditions.


Cultural socialization within one's native community.
Enculturation in the Amish community involves learning traditional agricultural practices.


The process of adopting the cultural norms of a foreign society.
Acculturation among Chinese immigrants in America may involve adopting American holidays.


The transmission of language and cultural practices from one generation to the next.
Family gatherings play a crucial role in the enculturation of Navajo traditions.


The exchange of customs and practices when different cultures interact.
The acculturation of spices and ingredients in global cuisine results in fusion dishes.


The gradual assimilation into the cultural norms of a specific social group.
Enculturation into a military unit involves adopting its values and discipline.


The adaptation to a new cultural environment, often due to migration.
Acculturation can be challenging as individuals navigate new languages and social norms.


The process by which an individual adopts the behaviour patterns of the culture in which they are immersed.


The modification of the culture of a group or individual as a result of contact with a different culture.


The adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture;
The socialization of children to the norms of their culture


The process by which the culture of a particular society is instilled in a human from infancy onward.


A process by which the culture of an isolated society changes on contact with a different one.


A process by which a person acquires the culture of the society that they inhabit, starting at birth.


The adoption of the behavior patterns of the surrounding culture;
The socialization of children to the norms of their culture


All the knowledge and values shared by a society


The process of assimilating new ideas into an existing cognitive structure


How does enculturation affect identity?

Enculturation reinforces an individual's native identity by shaping their language, customs, and worldview in alignment with their own culture.

Are enculturation and acculturation one-time events?

No, both processes are ongoing and can continue throughout an individual's life.

Can enculturation and acculturation coexist in a person's life?

Yes, an individual can maintain their enculturated identity while also acculturating to a new culture.

How do scholars study enculturation and acculturation?

Researchers use various methods, including ethnographic studies, surveys, and interviews, to analyze and understand the dynamics of enculturation and acculturation in individuals and societies.

What is enculturation?

Enculturation is the process of learning and adopting the cultural norms and values of one's own society or social group.

What is the primary difference between enculturation and acculturation?

Enculturation involves learning and internalizing one's own culture's norms, while acculturation entails adopting foreign cultural norms.

Can acculturation result in a blend of cultures?

Yes, acculturation can lead to a blending of cultural elements, resulting in hybrid cultural practices and identities.

When does enculturation typically occur?

Enculturation naturally takes place as individuals grow up within their cultural context, absorbing cultural elements from their environment.

What is acculturation?

Acculturation is the process of adopting the cultural norms and values of a different society or social group, often through contact and interaction.

Are there potential challenges associated with acculturation?

Acculturation can pose challenges such as language barriers, cultural adjustment, and identity conflicts.

How does acculturation affect identity?

Acculturation may lead to a shift in identity as individuals incorporate elements of a foreign culture into their own.

Can an individual undergo both enculturation and acculturation?

Yes, individuals can experience both processes in their lives, especially in multicultural or diverse environments.

What role do families play in enculturation and acculturation?

Families are significant influencers in both processes, as they transmit cultural knowledge and values.

Is acculturation always a positive experience?

Acculturation experiences can vary; they can be positive when cultural exchange is enriching or challenging when it leads to conflicts or identity struggles.

What is the impact of globalization on enculturation and acculturation?

Globalization can facilitate both processes by increasing cultural interactions and the exposure to diverse cultural influences.

Can enculturation be voluntary?

Enculturation is typically an inherent process that occurs without conscious choice, as individuals grow up within their cultural environment.

Can societies undergo acculturation on a broader scale?

Yes, entire societies can experience acculturation through contact with other cultures, leading to cultural changes and adaptations.

What can trigger acculturation?

Acculturation is often triggered by migration, globalization, or cultural exchange, leading individuals to adapt to a new cultural environment.

What are some common examples of acculturation in daily life?

Immigrants adopting the language, customs, and traditions of their host country is a common example of acculturation.

What role do families and communities play in enculturation?

Families and communities play a significant role in transmitting cultural knowledge and practices during the enculturation process.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons