Bug ferrets usually live in family units of 15-45 individuals. A given family will usually all be in a single profession, operating almost like an individual– for instance, in public offices, a family will be nominated rather than an individual ferret. Having ferret ambassadors over on other planets is a nightmare, because you can’t just invite one ferret, or two, or eight, you have to have the entire family of 30 or so ambassadors (and their kids, and their picnic baskets and etc).
Ferrets, being unisex, have no concept of sex-linked gender or homosexuality. There are a couple of family-role ‘genders’ they can choose from and switch between, like caretaker, manager, and worker; but it’s nothing like bisex species. The closest thing they have to an LGBT scene is asexual communities, and some sex-positive communities living in the more ‘sex is only for babies’ type ferret cultures.
Culturally, they place a huge emphasis on collectivism over individuality. It can cause social clashes where ferrets will not trust a single sophont’s expertise or judgment, or other sophonts try to interact with ferrets by isolating an individual they’ve erroneously picked out as the group leader. The latter can lead to stress and confusion for the singled out ferret; because one ferret of a social group, family, or occupational committee is never responsible for governing all aspects of the group’s processes.
Bug ferrets in general do not cope well with being alone, but their society is built from the ground up to make it difficult to not be around other people. In cases where an individual ferret is isolated from communication other people, they become severely anxious. If the separation lasts more than a day or two, the ferret may start to have symptoms similar to those experienced by humans in extended solitary confinement, such as hallucinations, violent and paranoid outbursts, extreme hypersensitivity to sensory stimulus, self-harm, and worsening of their preexisting mental health problems.
In cases of pandemic/epidemic, families or districts are asked to quarantine rather than individuals– literally the government may shut off the area tunnels and switch them to isolated air ventilation. For day-to-day mildly infectious illnesses, it’s up to the family how to deal with individual sick ferrets. Usually, they are set up in the house’s medical room with limited physical contact but plenty of social interaction. A more strict family might put them in a room alone, but they would still generally be spoken to through the door and via instant messaging. That would still be a miserable experience for most ferrets, but it’s not true isolation.
Very generally speaking, ferret societies tend to have issues with devaluing the individual in legal and social systems, strict household role systems, and lack of treatment or tolerance for the mentally ill…
These issues also tend to stack. For instance, mentally ill ferrets are way more likely to be low in the family pecking order with very little control over the tasks and workload assigned to them. And if their illness severely affects their ability to do tasks for the family, they are likely to be divorced or disowned, and if you aren’t in a family you’re… kinda powerless, in addition to the toll loneliness usually takes on ferrets. In some places, an individual ferret can’t open a bank account or own property, they can only open it in either their married family or birth family’s name, giving anyone from that family joint control over the account/property. Predatory families in these cultures looking for some quick labor or worse will often snap up disowned ferrets desperate for basic legal protections. Sacrificing your individual needs and desires for the group you belong to is also expected in a lot of situations, a standard often exploited by predatory families to keep their abused members quiet and obedient.
What humans think of as typical schooling, ie, a teacher standing on a stage and lecturing a class, is virtually non-existent in bug ferret cultures. There is rarely a situation in which a young ferret is just being talked at by a teacher, reading plain text, or copying slides– nor is there a “school” location where pups are sent off alone for the majority of the day. Given ferret psychology, regular human public schools sound like a form of child torture!
Generally speaking, ferret youngins are educated by the caretakers in their families (which have up to 30 adults in various household roles), or in a group of nearby families’ caretakers and kids. Lessons are primarily taught in the form of hundreds of games and interactive objects. Most governmental districts have a standard set of lessons/games that must be taught to all pups, but many families supplement this with their personal favorites. In some areas, there are ferret families employed as government teachers, who go from neighborhood to neighborhood holding game sessions to teach state-required lessons. Field trips are also fairly common, usually as families taking their kids out for government-sponsored lessons at relevant locations.
Once the pups have grown up, they are ready to go out in small groups of peers to “colleges,“ where they can interact with more specialized teacher families. Colleges are basically just convention halls where teacher and trade families schedule meetings, and “lectures“ are a big educational moshpit where the host family and peer groups interact freely, usually with several learning games and interactive objects to keep everyone on topic. There is no strong equivalent to “homework“ in ferret schooling, but peer groups may be assigned projects or games to work on together in their off hours.
Ferrets have an incredible propensity for language, and pick up other ferret languages and alien languages with ease. Generally, all ferret cultures have at least one vocal language, one visual sign language, and one tactile sign language. Tactile sign is unique to ferrets, and is spoken by touching the arms, chin, and chest of the conversational partner. Humans have described it as “like the most intense and complicated game of pattycake you could imagine.”
Ferrets are capable of processing much more sensory data simultaneously than humans are, so their media and graphic design tends to be extremely visually busy.
Ferrets are not as interested in their individual self image as the other aliens are, and have different reasons for and attitudes towards body modification. A modification is usually used as a family identifier, so if a ferret has say, given themselves 6 pink ear piercings, it’s likely that everyone in their current family group has 6 pink ear piercings. Imagine if everyone in your birth family dyed their hair green, and then when you went steady with the poly-group you date, you all dyed your hair blue. Other such family body mods include ear-notching and small non-obtrusive rings around the eye stalk. Less permanent body decoration, like bracelets, makeup/facepaint and mandible stickers, are usually more up to an individual’s tastes, and mostly seen at fancy junctions and on special occasions. The only “real” article of clothing ferrets tend to wear is the butt cap, which is for decency and hygiene, but it is usually only worn for medical conditions or in more conservative cultures.
The ferrets are almost always naked! Clothes generally don’t agree with their sensitive whiskery hides, so they’re only ever worn when conditions make it necessary. Eg, in extreme cold and heat, certain cultural ceremonies, industrial environments, space, etc. In their day to day lives they may wear bags, pocket holsters, jewelry, and electronics (watches, phones, etc). The most clothed part of them at any point in time is probably their limbs, as many ferrets decorate with tight-fitting bracelets, pouches, and electronics in between the whisker nodes on their legs.
Ferrets are also big on auditory stuff, but in a much different way than avians. While avians like singing and pretty tunes, they love The Beats. Drumming with the hands is a common idle activity, and musical junctions will have everyone pounding on the floor and each other in time to the beat. In their opinion, the best kind of music is the kind where you can feel the base vibrating your brains to jelly; they have some fancy high tech ‘ballrooms‘ where the floor is specifically designed to bounce to the beat. It’s over-stimulation central for anyone who is not a ferret. They also have a huge emphasis on interactive art… flat paintings and pictures are rare, sculptures have moving parts, games and video games are high art, and they have bigger and weirder performance art than humans could ever dream of. Traditional theater thrives even after TV and the ensuing wave of chaotic ferret soap operas where everybody talks and signs at once and the camera has the attention span of a 3-year-old, because ferret theater is very interactive. Audience interaction in ferret theater ranges from audience poll on plot decisions, to the entire audience being free to interact with characters during the play… the play here being essentially a room you walk into with actors in it, but a handful of aspects in it out of the audience’s control to drive the plot (usually actors on balconies, “world events” being announced by loudspeaker, or backdrop changes.) It’s fucking nuts, yo. They’re also huge foodies and have a long history of culinary art.
Ferrets eat a lot of invertebrates (not so much bigger meats), chemosynthetic “plant” products, and they have a huge sweet tooth. It’s a fairly similar diet to ours, although they are more equipped to eat tons of sugar; the ferrets’ immediate ancestors were pollinators/predators. Typical snacks are sweets and bugs. Ferrets usually eat their bugs roasted, not live, because their guts are adapted to eat cooked and processed foods like us. Other methods of processing they use are smoking, canning, pickling, candying, and dehydrating. Most of the hard foods they create are intended to be rehydrated before consumption…. Although they can chew, they have no lips to form a seal with and not a ton of saliva, so grinding down on jerky or sucking on hard candies is slobbery and inconvenient. They also have a ton of sugary alcoholic beverages, but can’t get drunk. Alcohol is just a fun spicy flavor to them.
Bug ferret religions tend to have a huge amount of associated stories, multiple religious texts, hundreds of gods with dozens of roles within a pantheon, fantastic beasts of varying holiness and horribleness, and lots of squabbling over what of the many books and stories are canonical. Religious institutions are frequently more involved in media than government, and many playhouses, gaming halls, and libraries are run or sponsored by local religious groups. Holidays tend to be many, and frequently used as excuses to dance, socialize, and eat themed foods.
Breakaway sects from major modern religions that take faith more seriously are often just more pious partiers, but extremist groups are at risk of becoming cults. Bug ferrets are less inclined to violent us-vs-them psychology than humans, but abusive power structures tend to form within strict social groups. Because of the individual being devalued in favor of group health and strength, half or less of a group being bullied can sometimes difficult to address or even recognize by other ferrets.