Esperanto speakers can access an international culture, including a large body of original as well as translated literature. There are over 25,000 Esperanto books, both originals and translations, as well as several regularly distributed Esperanto magazines. Esperanto speakers use the language for free accommodations with Esperantists in 92 countries using the Pasporta Servo or to develop pen pal friendships abroad through the Esperanto Pen Pal Service.
Every year, 1,500-3,000 Esperanto speakers meet for the World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso de Esperanto) . The European Esperanto Union (Eǔropa Esperanto-Unio) regroups the national Esperanto associations of the EU member states and holds congresses every two years. The most recent was in Maribor, Slovenia, in July-August 2007. It attracted 256 delegates from 28 countries, including 2 members of the European Parliament, Ms. Małgorzata Handzlik of Poland and Ms. Ljudmila Novak of Slovenia.
Historically, much Esperanto music has been in various folk traditions, such as Kaj Tiel Plu , for example. In recent decades, more rock and other modern genres have appeared, an example being the Swedish band Persone .
There are also shared traditions, such as Zamenhof Day, and shared behaviour patterns. Esperantists speak primarily in Esperanto at international Esperanto meetings.
Detractors of Esperanto occasionally criticize it as "having no culture". Proponents, such as Prof. Humphrey Tonkin of the University of Hartford, observe that Esperanto is "culturally neutral by design, as it was intended to be a facilitator between cultures, not to be the carrier of any one national culture." The late Scottish Esperanto author William Auld has written extensively on the subject, arguing that Esperanto is "the expression of a common human culture, unencumbered by national frontiers. Thus it is considered a culture on its own." Others point to Esperanto's potential for strengthening a common European identity, as it combines features of several European languages.
Esperanto has been used in a number of films and novels. Typically, this is done either to add the exotic flavour of a foreign language without representing any particular ethnicity, or to avoid going to the trouble of inventing a new language. The Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator (1940) showed Jewish ghetto shops designated in Esperanto, each with the general Esperanto suffix -ejo (meaning "place for..."), in order to convey the atmosphere of some 'foreign' East European country without referencing any particular East European language.
Two full-length feature films have been produced with dialogue entirely in Esperanto: Angoroj, in 1964, and Incubus, a 1965 B-movie horror film. Canadian actor William Shatner learned Esperanto to a limited level so that he could star in Incubus .
Other amateur productions have been made, such as a dramatisation of the novel Gerda Malaperis (Gerda Has Disappeared). A number of "mainstream" films in national languages have used Esperanto in some way, such as Gattaca (1997), in which Esperanto can be overheard on the public address system. In the 1994 film Street Fighter , Esperanto is the native language of the fictional country of Shadaloo, and in a barracks scene the soldiers of villain M. Bison sing a rousing Russian Army-style chorus, the "Bison Troopers Marching Song", in the language. Esperanto is also spoken and appears on signs in the film Blade: Trinity.
In the British comedy Red Dwarf , Arnold Rimmer is seen attempting to learn Esperanto in a number of early episodes, including Kryten . In the first season, signs on the titular spacecraft are in both English and Esperanto. Esperanto is used as the universal language in the far future of Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld stories.
In a 1969 guest appearance on The Tonight Show , Jay Silverheels of The Lone Ranger fame appeared in character as Tonto for a comedy sketch with Johnny Carson, and claimed Esperanto skills as he sought new employment. The sketch ended with a statement of his ideal situation: "Tonto, to Toronto, for Esperanto, and pronto!"
Also, in the Danny Phantom Episode, "Public Enemies", Danny, Tucker, and Sam come across a ghost wolf who speaks Esperanto, but only Tucker can understand at first.
In 1921 the French Academy of Sciences recommended using Esperanto for international scientific communication. A few scientists and mathematicians, such as Maurice Fréchet (mathematics), John C. Wells (linguistics), Helmar Frank (pedagogy and cybernetics), and Nobel laureate Reinhard Selten (economics) have published part of their work in Esperanto. Frank and Selten were among the founders of the International Academy of Sciences in San Marino, sometimes called the "Esperanto University", where Esperanto is the primary language of teaching and administration.
Zamenhof's intention was to create an easy-to-learn language to foster international understanding. It was to serve as an international auxiliary language, that is, as a universal second language, not to replace ethnic languages. This goal was widely shared among Esperanto speakers in the early decades of the movement. Later, Esperanto speakers began to see the language and the culture that had grown up around it as ends in themselves, even if Esperanto is never adopted by the United Nations or other international organizations.
Those Esperanto speakers who want to see Esperanto adopted officially or on a large scale worldwide are commonly called finvenkistoj , from fina venko , meaning "final victory", or pracelistoj , from pracelo , meaning "original goal". Those who focus on the intrinsic value of the language are commonly called raŭmistoj , from Rauma, Finland, where a declaration on the near-term unlikelihood of the "fina venko" and the value of Esperanto culture was made at the International Youth Congress in 1980. These categories are, however, not mutually exclusive.
The Prague Manifesto (1996) presents the views of the mainstream of the Esperanto movement and of its main organisation, the World Esperanto Association (UEA).