I am writing a paragraph but I am not happy where I refer to "culturally specific virtues". Virtues are seen as almost universally positive human characteristics but a few are seen by some cultures as negative.

What do you call a cultural specific virtues that are not virtues universally but can be negative dependent on the culture/country you are in?

From Merriam Webster virtue meaning is

a : conformity to a standard of right : morality
b : a particular moral excellence
2 : a beneficial quality or power of a thing
3 : manly strength or courage : valor
4 : a commendable quality or trait :merit
5 : a capacity to act : potency
6 : chastity especially in a woman

I wouldn't say chastity is a virtue anymore as some cultures see it as positive e.g. Middle eastern and other cultures see it as positive. In Western society it has negative connotations e.g. loser, inexperienced.

In the move Gladiator Commodus says the following:

"You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but... there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn't want me for your son..."

Ambition is seen as negative in some cultures where that society values equality but seen as a positive trait in cultures.


(singing) When our habits are strange and our customs deranged, that's our mores. (singing off)

I think the word you want is mores (pronounced moh-rays), defined at M-W as:

the fixed morally binding customs of a particular group

Examples of mores include that in some cultures one must engage in some small talk in order to create a sense of comfort before getting to business, while in others such talk would be taken as wasting each other's time and therefore rude. Another example might be whether to bow, shake hands, or kiss on the cheek upon greeting.

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    Consider extending the answer by differentiating mores (BTW - no accent: it's Latin, not French) with folkways - a useful distinction made by sociologists in this particular respect. Cheers! – Rob_Ster Dec 22 '17 at 13:50

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