What’s Up with Culture: A Guided Tour (Part 2)

Recently, I posted an introduction to the resource-rich What’s Up with Culture website. Today, in the second installment of the guided tour series, I will:

  1. give you an overview of what’s included in Module 1
  2. talk about how you can make What’s Up with Culture work for you

You don’t absolutely need to read part 1 of the guided tour before continuing with this post, but feel free to if you’d like a big picture overview of the website before focusing on the details of Module 1.

Let’s get this out of the way first.

There are several things I like about the What’s Up with Culture website:

  • It’s chock full of interesting and useful content.
  • It’s written in approachable language without being superficial.
  • There are numerous interactive and self-scoring activities.
  • There are many humorous stories illustrating how students applied intercultural knowledge and skills.
  • Even though it’s intended for U.S. study abroad students, the content is relevant to a wider audience.

But I really don’t like the site’s layout or navigation. I find it way too easy to get lost in the website, even with the left navigation sidebar. And I don’t like how much scrolling I have to do because the content window is so tiny.

I always refer my workshop participants to What’s Up with Culture for (convenient and free) further exploration of the concepts I present, but I always worry that the awkward layout and navigation might turn people away from such useful content.

That’s why I thought a guided tour of What’s Up with Culture would be helpful.

Now, about Module 1.

This is the module I most often use. Technically, it’s called What to Know Before You Go, but really this module just talks all about visible and invisible cultural elements and how to become more aware of them.

You don’t have to be preparing to study abroad to find that information useful.

Module 1 is long. It has 7 sections, each with subsections. But really, the sections can be divided into these 3 categories.

Note: I unfortunately just realized that I can’t seem to link to individual activities – so each link below will take you to the starting page for What’s up with Culture. Sorry. But please don’t let that stop you from taking a look at their great content.

What culture is and how to learn about it

Culture as an iceberg
How our values and beliefs influence our behavior
Culture specific or culture general? Stereotype or generalization?
Is this a universal, cultural or personal thing?
Reality or cultural perspective?

Cultural patterns and how they influence perspectives and behaviors

Personal-societal obligations
Linear-flexible time
High-low context
How values and beliefs are expressed in our speech
Are there U.S. cultural values?
13 categories for comparing and contrasting cultures
Sources of U.S. American culture

Non-verbal communication

Verbal communication

Cultural transitions

10 things that influence how intense an intercultural experience is
Culture shock and/or culture fatigue?
4 levels of cultural awareness
10 transition tips

3 ways to use What’s Up with Culture

Personal Reflection and Learning

Because What’s Up with Culture is completely online, free, and offers interactive and self-scoring activities, you can easily work your way through the website in a self-study type of way.

Keep a journal as you go through each section and record your thoughts, feelings, observations, and questions. If you prefer talking about what you’re learning, instead of writing, or need built-in accountability, why not find a colleague or two who will go through the modules together.

Prepare Students to Study Abroad

If you are taking a group of students abroad, take a look at the very first section of Module 1. This section helps students identify their goals , worries, and potential challenges related to their upcoming journey. Could be a great way to start an intercultural conversation.

You could also pick and choose a couple other activities to introduce before, during, and after the abroad experience — the cultural iceberg, stereotypes and generalizations, and categories for comparing/contrasting cultures, for example.

Raise Students’ Cultural Awareness in the Classroom

What’s up with Culture is also a fantastic resource for the classroom. Here are 3 activity ideas:

  • Project the iceberg activity onto a smartboard (if you’re fortunate enough to have one!) and have students move the cultural elements to their appropriate place above or below the water line.
  • After discussing the sections on verbal and non-verbal behavior, ask students to observe and document other students’ non-verbal behavior in various situations. Have them report their observations to the class. Then, talk about the concept of “universal, cultural and personal”.
  • Print out the idioms (or create the equivalent in another language) in the “how values and beliefs are expressed in our speech” section and create an interactive bulletin board display.

Do you talk about culture with your students? How?

About the Author: Dr. Cate Brubaker

Dr. Cate Brubaker is on a mission to make re-entry after living abroad a positive, transformational force (even when it’s not easy…especially when it’s not easy)! Cate is the author of the Re-Entry Roadmap workbook and the Study Abroad Re-entry Toolkit. Cate has lived in Germany, worked and traveled in 37 countries on four continents, and has helped all kinds of globetrotters successfully navigate global transitions for over 20 years.

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