What’s The Difference Between Race, Nationality, Culture & Ethnicity?

What’s the difference between race, ethnicity, culture and nationality? I explain all 4 concepts. Everything you need to know is in this video.

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What’s the difference between race, culture, nationality and ethnicity?

If someone asked you to describe your identity to them, where would you begin? Would it come down to your skin color, race or your nationality? What about the language you speak, your religion, your cultural traditions or your family’s ancestry?

This bewildering question often pushes people to separate their identities into two parts: race versus ethnicity, versus nationality & culture. But what do these terms actually mean, and what’s the difference between race, nationality, culture and ethnicity in the first place? 

These words are often used interchangeably, but technically, they’re defined as separate things. “‘Race’ and ‘ethnicity’ have been and continue to be used as ways to describe human diversity,” “Race is understood by most people as a mixture of physical attributes. Ethnicity recognizes differences between people mostly on the basis of language and shared culture.” 

In other words, race is often perceived as something that’s inherent in our biology, and therefore inherited across generations. Ethnicity, on the other hand, is typically understood as something we acquire, or self-ascribe, based on factors like where we live or the culture we share with others. 


Race is defined as the classification of humans into groups based on physical traits. 

Over the centuries, the expansion of empires and colonialism as well as population migrations have given rise to racially mixed individuals. However, this does not discount the scientific basis for the existence of different races. Thanks to genomic analysis, an individual of mixed heritage can now trace his or her genome, and assign each segment to, for example, an African or European ancestor. This would simply not be possible if race did not have a biological basis.

As scientifically proven, different races also carry and/or are more susceptible to certain illnesses or medical conditions. It would be irresponsible and devoid of scientific basis to negate these genetic characteristics in different races because it would result in those individuals not receiving proper treatment.


Nationality: refers to the country that a person belongs to either by birth right or naturalization. For example, a French national is someone who was born in France to French parents or was born abroad to French nationals or was born to non-French parents but was later naturalized as a French citizen.

Often times, race or ethnicity does not play a role in determining someone’s nationality. Multicultural countries like the U.S., Canada, and Germany have nationals of every race and ethnicity. However, countries with ethnically homogenous populations, such as Jordan, Japan, Korea, or Hungary, would have the majority of their nationals share a particular appearance based on the genetic pool predominant in that country.