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Cultural Leveling: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

With the rise of technology and travel, cultures are bound to adopt some of the customs, interests and practices of other cultures. Learn the definition of cultural leveling, how cultural leveling can be inhibited by isolated cultures, and examples of cultural leveling in this lesson.

What Is Cultural Leveling?

Hila is on a bus tour of her mother's home country of Israel. As the bus drives through the desert, she is in awe of the beauty of the reddish tint of the unscathed desert mountains as the sun is setting behind them. The bus tour guide announces that they will be stopping for a quick dinner. There, in what seems like the middle of nowhere, are two all-too-familiar golden arches--a symbol of the influence of Western/American culture on a country so rich with religion and history. The magic of the mysterious desert mountains is equipped with a McDonald's. Hila can't help but laugh.

Cultural leveling is the process of cultures becoming more and more alike due to increases in things like communication, globalization, technology, immigration and travel. Cultural leveling is often used to describe the influence of dominant cultures, such as Western/American culture, on other countries and cultures of the world. The influence of certain businesses in other countries is an example of cultural leveling.

The opening scenario highlights how the American love of the McDonald's hamburger and french fries has carried over to other countries like Israel. In this way, American and Israeli cultures are becoming more alike by means of this popular fast food chain.

The first McDonalds in Israel was established in 1993, and there are now more than 180 McDonalds restaurants in this small Middle-Eastern country.
McDonalds in Israel

Before the Rise of Travel and Technology

Before people could easily hop onto an airplane and fly across the world, or communicate with someone across the world via technology, a country's people usually interacted with only each other. For this reason, cultures were more homogeneous. Before travel and technology, the cultures around the world greatly differed and contrasted with each other.

There are some cultures that are still very isolated and homogeneous such as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea. Due to the totalitarian governmental rule in this Republic, the government has unlimited control of every factor in public and private life including education, healthcare, freedom (or lack there of) of speech, religion, access to technology and media. People in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea have very limited access to technology and communication with other countries. Tourism and immigration are low and, as a result, this country is known as one of the most culturally uniform countries in the world.

Pyongyang is the largest city and capital of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
Pyongyang North Korea

Examples of Cultural Leveling

Even if it's not the case for a few isolated areas of the world, signs of cultural leveling are seen in many countries and cultures. We will review some of these examples in this section.

Social Media

The popular social media platform Facebook was created in the United States in 2004, and in 2016 Facebook boasted 156.5 million users. That means that, in the year 2016, almost 50% of the US population used Facebook. Yet, Facebook has exploded as a social media platform worldwide. In 2016, it boasted 1.7 billion users worldwide.

Why is this an example of cultural leveling? People in other countries that are using Facebook and other social media platforms are becoming more and more similar in how they share information including news, pictures and personal information. In addition, social media increases homogeneity of cultures due to the increase of shared interests amongst users of various cultures.

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