Physical vs. Cultural Geography

Physical vs Cultural Geography

Geography is divided into physical geography and cultural geography.

Physical Geography

Physical geography is the study of the physical characteristics of the Earth, how those characteristics interact with and relate to each other, how they are formed, and how they develop. Different aspects of physical geography include climate (what kind of weather we have in an area), land (what kind of landforms are in the area, how does the land react with each other), and water (what different kinds of waterways or standing water are in certain areas), as well as how they affect human populations.

All of these are aspects of physical geography, but different landforms in combination with various climates and other physical conditions determine characteristics of individual cultures. Even though physical geography has to do with the land, it does tie into cultural geography. In addition, cultural geography will affect the physical geography, because people can make an impact on land as well.

Knowing that physical geography is going to have an impact on cultural geography, and includes such things as the climate or weather in an area, what kind of landforms, and what kind of water is available, let’s look at cultural geography.

Cultural Geography

Cultural Geography Definition

Cultural geography is also called human geography, since it does have to do with how humans interact with environments.

It is the study of how the various aspects of physical geography affect individual cultures. Cultural geography is simply how the physical geography is going to impact the humans that live there. Cultural geography also compares various cultures and how their lifestyles and customs are affected by their geographical locations, climate, etc., as well as how they interact with their environment.

How is their environment influencing them? How are they interacting with their environment and in turn influencing their physical geography? Cultural geography includes, just to give you an idea of what we mean by cultural geography and how the land and the weather and the water, all the physical characteristics, can affect the way cultures live, these include language, religion, medicine, cities, economies, government, art, music, other entertainment, and more.


People are going to develop a language that includes talking about what goes on around them. If they’re located close to other people, they’re going to have a language similar to those people most of the time. If they’re located far away, their language is going to develop independent of other languages and it will be very different.


Their religion can be based on what they live around. For instance, early cultures would worship what they found near them. They could worship trees if they had really tall trees there, or water if they lived near the ocean.


Medicine is going to be made by what you have nearby in a primitive culture. Now, we have airplanes and boats that can ship things where we need them to go, but in primitive cultures, the medicine that you had was going to be made from what you had nearby. What plants do you have available to you to use as medicine? What other elements from the ground do you have that you can use as medicine?


Cities are usually going to develop in an area that can hold a larger population. Somewhere that’s well-irrigated so it can sustain plenty of food for people, or cities where you have a port where lots of things can be shipped in by boat, or train, or eventually plane. Cities are going to build up around those kinds of things.


Your economy is going to be based on what you have to sell and what you need to buy.


Your government is going to be based on what’s important to you in your area.


Art is going to be based on what you have available to create with.


What you have available that you can make into an instrument and what your songs or music is going to be about or the purpose of it can be based on where you live. People made up songs to their gods and they would be like a “thank you” or a “please help me.” If they were praying for rain, then they would be playing music that would be an appeal to the gods for rain. If they were thanking them for a good hunt, the music would be thanking them for that.

More into today’s life, people would write music about maybe where they are. They’ll write about the Great Smoky Mountains, or being down by the beach, or being in a hot dusty desert. The music is sometimes based on what land they’re in, what their physical geography is.

Other Entertainment

What kinds of games or sports are played there and what else people come up with for entertainment. It can go on and on, because it’s going to be any way that the humans in an environment are interacting with that environment or being affected by it. If we look at rural vs. urban, rural populations are going to live out away from big cities and they’re going to be more in touch, usually, with their natural environment, because they’re going to live closer to it. They’re going to have more open land around them. They’re not going to be as clustered together, where urban societies are going to be bigger cities. There’s not going to be as much grass. There are not going to be as many trees. You’re going to have more sidewalks, more streets, and they’re not going to be in touch with their natural environment as much as the rural communities in most situations.


Physical geography is the study of the physical characteristics of the Earth and how they interact with each other. Cultural geography is the study of how the physical geography affects human cultures.



by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: August 3, 2023