What is Culture?

I post these thoughts as a pause before I hit the motorcycle road again. Much of my travels are to enjoy another culture and learn from what is different from my culture. Sort of a "sharing best practices" approach to it, but knowing that unfortunately you can’t have it all. For example, one of the reasons I enjoy Latin cultures and Asian cultures is the importance of families and community. However, I must admit that to change in this direction would mean giving up some of my independence.

During my time in Hue, I visited two classes. One was a class in American culture Img_2756taught by Julie, one of Doug and Cindy’s teammates. It seems that understanding culture is important to understanding the language, and so they are asked to teach culture classes as well. Walking into the class, I hadn’t really thought about how to teach a culture or even how to define a culture, so in the interest of sharing the experience with my readers, at the bottom of this post is the exam Julie gave to the class at the beginning of the period. I looked it over while serving as "assistant proctor" and laughed when I realized I would find it hard to answer some of the questions. It started me down the road of trying to figure out what is culture and what is unique about the American culture and why. Note: I love the picture of the class because it shows how all the guys are in the back row (click for bigger image). Not unlike the U.S., right?

For example, one of the students wanted to know why the American police are not corrupt. Good question. Other than stating that some are corrupt, all I can say is that we believe that officials should be honest. Now honesty can be a relative term depending on the person, but I definitely would argue that American officials are some of the most honest in the world. I know there are folks that will argue that, but the U.S. is definitely up there in the rankings. So why is that? I leave my readers free to ponder that.

Other qualities such as independence are harder to define, but still amazingly unique as a whole in this world. Some may consider traits such as competitiveness a negative, but our culture still attracts many people from around the world. I’m sure many folks from other countries would like to comment on this, so I’ll leave the better educated experts and people outside the American sphere of influence to continue any discussions.

Note: There are two versions of the test, mainly to prevent cheating by the students. Maybe another area where cultures influence what is appropriate and what is not? And also, thank you to virtual-doug’s mystery blogger for re-typing this in for me!

Quiz #3A    Name___________________________________
15 poínts
Read each question carefully, give a short answer and do not look at your neighbor’s paper.

Values & Beliefs
1. For the following situation, tell me what cultural value the American person’s behavior reflects and tell me what you would do to get the American to ask appropriately in Viet Nam.
SCENARIO: Your American friend tells you, “I want to practice my Vietnamese.  Let’s go to the market.”  At the market, she struggles to ask for something so you assist her by speaking for her.  She seems angry. Why? (2 points)

Families
2. What is the purpose of a family in America? ________________________________________________

3. What value is illustrated by the fact that most American children have their own room and never sleep in the same room or bed with their parents? ___________________________________

4. Give three possible explanations for the following situation and then put a star next to which explanation is probably correct.  Brian and Jenny Ault’s son asks them if he and his wife and two children can live with Brian and Jenny for a while because he has just lost his job.  Brian and Jenny agree, but after 2 months of living together, they tell their son and his family they must move out.  Why?  (4 points)

Sports
5. Why do Americans like to play individual sports so much, like swimming, running, and mountain biking?   What American value(s) do your reason(s) illustrate?  (2 points)

Education
6. True or False.  There is no tuition to attend public schools from Kindergarten to 12th grade and it is compulsory for students to attend school through the age of 16.

7. List two specific differences between college campuses at an American university and at a Vietnamese university.  (2 points)

8. Explain how students are able to pay for such expensive college tuition in America.  Then explain what American value that represents.

Quiz #3B      Name___________________________________
15 poínt Read each question carefully, give a short answer and do not look at your neighbor’s paper.

Values & Beliefs
1. For the following situation, tell me what cultural value the American person’s behavior reflects and tell me what you would do to get the American to ask appropriately in Viet Nam.
SCENARIO: You invite an American tourist to visit your school and you’re embarrassed when he shows up wearing shorts.  You say, “Here, people usually don’t wear shorts to school.”  However, during his second visit, he’s wearing shorts again.  Why? (2 points)

Families
2. How has the relationship between a husband and wife changed over the last 60 years?

3. What cultural value is illustrated by the fact that many children get to choose whether they want to live with their mother or father when their parents get divorced? ___________________________________

4. Give three possible explanations for the following situation and then put a star next to which explanation is probably correct.  Mr. Brian Ault’s mother’s health is now failing because she is 85 years old.  Brian has decided to put her in a nursing home (a special type of hospital where old people live, so they have nurses nearby) Why did Brian make the decision?  (4 points)

Sports
5. Why do American parents want their children to play on organized sports teams, like basketball, football, and baseball teams?   What value(s) do your reason(s) illustrate?  (2 points)

Education
6. True or False.  The goals of public schools is the U.S. are determined by the federal (national) government.  The federal government also pays money to operate public schools.

7. List two ways studying in an American college classroom is different that studying in a Vietnamese college classroom.  (2 points)

8. Describe where American university students live and explain what American value that illustrates.

Advertisements

Categories: Travel

1 reply »

  1. Yikes! You can’t just put those questions up there and leave it at that! I haven’t been able to sleep. Where’s the answer key?

Please Leave a Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s