All too often company leaders, employees and the like equate cool office perks with your workplace culture. What is a "perk" exactly? A perk is a nice to have, something cool and usually fun. A ping pong table in your office, a best sales person mug, comfy chairs, the ability to work from home the odd day... etc, are all examples of perks. Are perks cool? Sure. Do they mean that you have a solid company culture and your workplace is a great spot to work? No.
If you want to know how the two are different let's decide what culture is. Culture is simply "how we get things done around here." If we look into it at a deeper level, your company culture is the ecosystem which directs and supports you to achieve your personal and company led goals. Culture is transparency, communication and support from your coworkers and managers. Culture is delivering exceptional customer service because you are empowered and want to do so. Culture is an open environment where you want to go to work everyday. Culture is trust. It is part of your company strategy (or it should be).
This is not an anti-perk rant. Google, as an example, provides lots of awesome perks along with a great, supportive culture that ensures every employee is supported and empowered. I like perks, but I will take a great company culture any day. Perks only last for so long, your culture is an everyday occurrence.
Job seekers - don't get fooled by the bean bag chairs, open office space or cool cafeteria. Ask the hard questions like: what are the traits of the most successful employees in your company or what qualities in my application has lead you to think I might fit well in your company?
Look at it this way, perks are the responsibility of the HR department. Company culture is the responsibility of everyone. What would you rather have?