How does culture shape the way we see ourselves, others, and the world?
Why is it important to understand culture?
What are some things that define a culture? For example, music, language, ...
What do you think is interesting about your culture?
Do you know much about your own culture?
When people from other countries think about your culture, what do they usually think of?
In your culture is it polite to be straightforward and direct when you talk to someone?
What has surprised you when you've met people from other countries?
Have you looked at Internet pages from a different culture? If so, how were they different from those of your own culture?
What do you like about your culture?
What don't you like about your culture?
How do young people in your culture behave differently from older people?
How do young people in your culture behave differently from people in this culture?
Are there many people of different cultures in your country? Are you friends with any?
Have you ever felt confused by the actions of someone from another culture? If so, tell me about it.
What your culture are you most proud about?
Why do you think culture is important?
If you could change one thing about your culture, what would it be?
Would you ever consider marrying or dating someone from another culture?
Would you ever consider living permanently in a country other than your home country? Why or why not?
What does it mean to be polite in your culture?
What is considered rude in your culture?
Is there anything in this culture that is considered rude that may not be considered rude in your culture?
If a group of people just came to your country from overseas, what advice would you give them?
Do you think "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" is always good advice? Why or why not?
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you had to "do as the Romans do"?
What culture besides your own do you admire and why?
What is the best/most important thing your culture/country has adopted from another culture?
If you could choose three aspects of your culture to put in a "time box" for the future, what would you put in it?
What is culture shock?
Have you ever experienced culture shock?
To open the lesson write the proverb “When in Rome, do as Romans do” on the board. Ask students what they think it means. The slightly irregular grammar might throw students so you might have to translate it for them or field questions about the dangling “do”. Note: it means that when you live in another country or another culture, you should follow their rules and norms. Once the students have guessed the meaning, ask them if they agree or if it is better to keep your own cultural rules.
Now warm up to the discussion questions by asking students how they give a gift. Try to elicit concrete behavior, like “We wrap it.” or “We only hand things to people with our right hand,” or “We give gifts before dinner.”
Then ask how they greet someone at their house, again looking for concrete behavior. If you are from a different culture, you can tell them about greeting in your country and anything you find particularly odd or surprising about customs in the students’ culture.
Next turn it around by asking about ask them in what situations they might kiss on the cheek, when they might shake hands, or touch a stranger.
Note: you might adapt the situations and behavior to the students’ culture or country or you might ask about something you don’t understand. It can also be motivating to the students if they think you are curious about their culture or tradition, so you might feign ignorance about anything you do know.
Now hand out the discussion questions and have students work on them in small groups. Then when each group has decided on its answers, review the questions as a class. Focus on any areas where students disagree and try to encourage students to think about why there are disagreements. Are there regional differences? Family or personal differences? You might also talk about stereotyping and whether it is fair to say that everyone always does the same thing (Check out about.com’s lesson on National Stereotypes as a follow-up to this lesson).
In My Culture It’s Normal
In my country it is normal/polite/impolite/rude/strange:
To shake hands when we meet someone for the first time.
To kiss on both cheeks when we greet or say goodbye to a friend
To take someone out to dinner (pay for dinner) for his birthday or when he gets a promotion
To be a little late to meet friends
To be a little minutes late to work or to business meetings
To spit in public
To call most people by their first names
To ask people their ethnicity or nationality when you meet them for the first time
To sing in public
For women in the family to make important decisions like which school to send children to, how to spend money, etc…
For men to cook, clean or do other household work
To interrupt people when talking
To give gifts to teachers, doctors, government officials, bosses for students to wear suits or dresses or formal clothing
To invite people to your home
To ask guests to leave when it gets late or if you are busy
To serve guests only drinks and chips or small snacks
To disagree with older people or people who are more powerful than you
To give up your seat for older people or women
To get promoted to a much higher position than your family or friends
Culture Role Play
Clear some space in your classroom for students to mingle. Explain to students that Divide the students into two groups and send them to opposite sides of the room. Explain that each group is from a different culture or society and that both groups are going to meet each other at an international students’ party. Hand out the role cards below to each group and give them time to read and understand everything. They should think about how they will act. Go between each group clarifying things. Make sure that neither group can hear the other get ready though. Once the students are ready, tell them that they are at an international students’ party and there are two different groups of students. Tell them to interact according to the rules of their cards. Give them a set time limit–20 minutes is usually enough.
Once students are done interacting, have them sit back down and debrief. Ask the Pandyas to guess what rules the Chispas follow and ask the Chispas what rules they think the Pandayas had to follow. Now ask them what they thought of each other. Did one culture find the other rude? Or polite? Or interesting? Or strange? Ask the students if they think these cultures are based on real cultures or not (Note: The Chispas are more of a Western, modern style culture and the Pandyas are more of a traditional culture but they are not directly copied from any one culture).
Now ask students if it would have helped them to know about the other culture before they began interacting. It might be interesting to also discuss how much students describe other cultures as weird or strange or bad or good, instead of using neutral terms.
Instead of just a party, you can give students some sort of task. For example tell students that you all work for the same company and you must decide what to do about a scandal in the company. Or imagine that the Chispas have come to the village of the Pandyas in order to build a hotel and now you are discussing this proposal. By giving students a concrete goal, they are less likely to just begin playing around. However there is also the danger that they will forget their cultural role.
You are a Pandya
1)You prefer to talk to people from your own culture instead of people from other cultures
2)You only speak when spoken to. You do not like to start conversations with outsiders
3)You are always very formal. You say ’sir’ or ‘madam’ and never use first names only. You always use ‘please’ ‘thank you’ ‘excuse me’ and so on.
4)Women have more status than men. Women should always accompany men
5)Men do not talk directly to women from another culture. They talk through the woman who is with them.
6)Men also do not make eye contact with women from other cultures and if a women touches a man, it is scary. Your woman companion should take you away quickly.
7)It is scary when a woman from another culture tries to talk to you.
8)Men do talk to other men.
9)Among your own people, you can speak to men and women freely.
10)You like to have very short conversations. You do not like to talk for a long time. If someone tries to talk to you for a long time, you will walk away.
You are a Chispa
1)You are an informal and friendly culture. You like to talk to new people.
2)You call everyone by their first name
3)You use a lot of slang and informal expressions.
4)Men and women are equal in your culture and there are no separate roles
5)You are very outgoing. You like making friends and talking to people from other cultures.
6)You like to talk for a very long time. If someone walks away, you follow them and keep talking.
7)You believe it is good for women to talk to men and men to talk to women, especially from outside cultures. That way everyone learns something.
8)You like to touch people, shake hands, touch the shoulder while you are talking to someone.