Culture Bump was created in 1978 and has a 40 year history of teaching people around the world to connect beyond their culture differences.

The Beginning of Culture Bump

The genesis of the culture bump theory and steps occurred to Dr. Carol Mae Archer in 1978 as a response to her grappling with her difficulties living in Algeria the previous year. As she writes,

           And upon my return to the USA, when I attempted to sort through my experience, the best advice of “respect differences” and have an open mind” offered me very little guidance. I sadly concluded that there was something terribly wrong with me because I didn’t  seem to know how to respect differences and, I seemed to have no control whatsoever on opening or closing my mind. I finally surrendered to my failure with other cultures.

          And it was out of this despair and surrender that the culture bump was born. I had reluctantly decided to leave the field of education – in fact, I was mentally composing my letter of resignation in October of 1978, walking out of the Roy Cullen building on the University of Houston campus, under a gorgeous blue Houston sky when I had an epiphany.  I suddenly intuitively knew that there was nothing wrong with the Algerians and even more importantly, there was nothing wrong with me – that I had simply had millions of culture bumps.   And the image of two large bubbles gently bouncing off of one another appeared in my mind’s eye. Furthermore, I understood that those culture bumps were actually the key to my comprehending – not only the Algerians  – but ESPECIALLY my own cultural being – and ultimately my own humanity.   

Thus, the eight steps of Culture Bump and its basic foundation were born. Over the past 40 years, Culture Bump has grown in understanding of that initial insight as many people have contributed and developed it.

Growing the Theory

While the eight steps and basic theory originated that day in 1978, the knowledge base of the Culture Bump Approach and its role in cross-cultural communication understanding has grown exponentially through research, publishing, teaching, and face-to-face training since that time. A unique combination of circumstances contributed to that growth. The two specific conditions arose from Dr. Archer simultaneously conducting intercultural communications trainings at the corporate level and developing cross cultural communication courses at the Language and Culture Center at the University of Houston.
After attending the Stanford University Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, Dr. Archer created the original theory and began to work alongside leaders in cross cultural training for the corporate world developing global Intercultural Communication Workshops. These workshops molded the Culture Bump theory into a well structured training methodology that focused on 5 key areas of Intercultural communication, which were perceptions, communication styles, cultural values models, cultural adjustment and culture bumps. Although new resources, research, and key topics have been added throughout the years, the basic structure and methodology created in the early 1980’s has been used in corporate and academic settings since then.
Corporate Training For Chinese Professionals
Corporate Training For Chinese Professionals
Language and Culture Center Class- 1994
Language and Culture Center Class- 1994
While the corporate background of Culture Bump helped transform the theory into a highly effective structured training, the theory was also grown during its time in the academic arena. The theory was interwoven into cross cultural communications courses at the Language and Culture Center, an intensive University level English program, at the University of Houston between 1978 and 2003. Dr. Archer, the creator and lead instructor of the courses, took the training design she had developed for the corporate workshops and used the freedom, resources, and research capabilities of the academic field to flesh out the intricacies of each of the topic areas of culture and communications within the designed trainings. This expansion of knowledge primarily came from working with students from over 50 countries as they learned and used the theory for the 24 year history of the courses.
Using the reflections and research garnered from the students’ use of the theory as well as other research conducted during this time, several early publications were written, including “The Culture Bump” published in Curriculum Clearing House in 1983, “Beyond Culture Bumps,” a chapter in Culture Bound, published 1986, which introduced the eight-step teaching potential of culture bumps in ESL/EFL classrooms. This was followed by several chapters in pedagogy textbooks including “Cross Cultural Communication: A Idea whose time has come” published in 1993 and “Managing a multicultural classroom” in Learning Across Cultures in 1994. These publications in academic journals and books along with Dr. Archer’s research dissertation into Culture Bump in 1996 helped cement the theory’s place among the academic research conducted in the field of Culture and Communications.
The book Living with strangers in the USA: Communicating beyond culture, an ESL reader published in 1990, interwove ethnographic stories of students from around the world with the five key topics covered in all Culture Bump’s trainings. This textbook was the primary resource used in ESL classrooms along with the training course materials until 2004.
As classrooms began using more multimedia resources to teach students, the Toolkit For Culture & Communication was released in 2004. This program aimed to help students develop cultural communications competencies using videos, pictures, activities, and stories. The Toolkit added two new topics - human commonalities and emotional intelligence - in order to guide people through their emotions that come with crossing cultures. Although created to be used in high schools, the Toolkit quickly became the primary training tool for Culture Bump Trainings in corporate, academic, and community building workshops since 2005.
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In 2011, Culture Bump began a partnership with Auburn University under the guidance of Dr. Stacey Nickson, Director of the Center of Educational Outreach and Engagement. Dr. Nickson created and administers the Cultural Insight Program as a home for training, research, publishing and product development using the Culture Bump Approach. The agreement between Dr. Archer and Auburn University has led to the development of the Culture Bump App for Global Classrooms, numerous national and international trainings, and three Train the Trainer certification courses. The collaboration has also refined many aspects of the Approach while publishing research documenting the impact of the Culture Bump Approach. Currently Auburn and the Program for Cultural insight is working with Culture Bump to expand the approach’s digital resource offerings.
For the past 40 years, the Culture Bump Approach has enriched and enhanced its knowledge base and practical application at each stage of its history. Today, the Approach’s focus is returning to its foundation- the eight steps- enhancing them in a new Step Centric Training design. This new design seamlessly incorporates the body of knowledge gained throughout Culture Bump’s history into an expanded and refined guide to each of the eight steps within the Approach. While earlier publications and the Toolkit introduce culture bumps and communication skills, the Step Centric training acts as a secondary level training that teaches people to use the Eight Step protocol to move beyond their varied culture bumps to find connection and meaning in their daily lives.

Educational Endeavors

Culture Bump Approach was birthed out of an academic and ESL related environment and has a long standing history of incorporating the theory into educational classes and trainings as well as providing resources for teachers.
Culture Bump’s first cross cultural class for begin in 1978 as a part of the curriculum for University of Houston's Language and Culture Center. For over 17 years, the class taught higher level ESL international students from around the world important cross cultural concepts as well as how to use differences they see in their daily lives to understand others around them.
Faculty development is another key area of Culture Bump’s educational endeavors. Culture Bump has partnered with Auburn University between 2010-2016 and the University of Houston between 2011-2012 to provide relevant trainings on dealing with cultural differences within the classroom and within various other disciplines. In addition, Culture Bump has provided teacher training in Longview ISD, HISD, Galena Park ISD, Pasadena ISD and Seminole ISD. Culture Bump was an integral part of graduate level courses taught at University of Houston Clear Lake campus and University of St. Thomas for bilingual and ESL teachers between 1996 and 2006.
Faculty Training Activity for Auburn's 2012 Workshop
Faculty Training Activity for Auburn's 2012 Workshop
Train the Trainers, Auburn 2013
Train the Trainers, Auburn 2013
In 2015, Culture Bump held its first “Train the Trainers” course at Auburn University. It was designed to train people from different work and life backgrounds to be able to facilitate Culture Bump trainings within their own groups of influence whether it be their workplace, place of worship, or community. Two other Train the Trainer courses have taken place in San Diego and at the University of Houston.

Corporate Training

Dr. Archer began using the Culture Bump Approach to train corporate employees in cross cultural communication competency since the late 1970’s. Since then trainings based on the Culture Bump Approach have been conducted for over 25 large companies from various industries as well as international companies and joint ventures with overseas governments. Some of the companies include:
State of Texas Refugee Program (1997-1999)
M. D. Anderson (2002-2004)
NASA (2007-2009)
Lanxess (2007-present)
AECOM Construction and Engineering Joint Venture with the Lybian Government (2008-2011)
Dow Chemical (2011 to Present)
Shell Oil-Pecten International Division (4 years)
Chinese National Petroleum (2014 to present)
Halliburton Oil (2005)
Esso Eastern (2008-10)
KBR (2008)

Other Events and Programs

The Culture Bump Approach has been used in unique ways to provide assistance to diverse populations learning to live together side by side. From 1997 to 1999, Dr. Archer worked with the State Department to provide cultural trainings that uses the approach as a foundation for helping refugees transitioning into life in the State of Texas. Culture Bump has also been used as a community building tool for international churches and diverse neighborhoods in the city of Houston since 1979. This culminated in 2006 and 2007 when Culture Bump collaborated with College of the Mainland to develop and implement the program, Building America’s Villages. This program brought together immigrant Americans and American-born Americans to strengthen their common community by jointly exploring the six topics in the Toolkit for Culture and Communication.