Ideal culture refers to the idealized system of norms and values that a society claims to believe. The ideal culture exists in tandem with the real culture, which involves the actual values and norms followed by a society. Ideal culture contains the standards that a society tries to live up to.
The values in an ideal culture are absolute and without exception. On a day-to-day basis, though, exceptions are made to the ideal values. There is a gap, then, between the ideal culture that a society says it has and believes in and the real culture that a society actually follows.
For example, the culture of the United States professes to value equality. However, examples of inequality are found all around. Another example is how marriage is perceived in American ideal culture. Ideally, marriage is a union of romantic love, monogamous and lifelong. In practice, though, exceptions are made. Not all marriages are based on notions of love, and not all marriages remain monogamous. More significantly, not all marriages are lifelong. The ideal value of marriage as a lifelong commitment is not followed. In real culture, exceptions to this ideal are made, as divorces are not only permissible, but commonplace.