Module One: Perceptions

cat039-s-pawHello! And welcome to an adventure in cross culture communication. On this journey across cultures, this workbook is your “map” that will help you to pass through valleys, over mountains and across bridges to great communication with anyone—no matter how similar or different they may be to you. In addition to the map, you will have expert guides on this trip—Culture Bump Experts—young men and women from around the world who have already traveled this path, who have developed certain skills, and who will share their experience and knowledge with you. Just as on any journey, you will need to have luggage— the only difference is that on this journey, you will be filling your suitcase as you go!!

The journey consists of six modules. By the time that you finish the six modules, you will have filled your suitcase with four basic communication skills and eight critical thinking skills. Each of these skills is a treasure that can be used repeatedly—not only in the classroom—but also in all areas of your life.

The four fundamental skills are:
  1. Being able to describe exactly what you expect others (and yourself) to do in any situation (describing expectations)
  2. Being able to identify and describe “culture bumps”
  3. Being able to find universal characteristics in “culture bumps”
  4. Being able to recognize and manage your emotional responses to “culture bumps”.
In addition to these four basic skills, you will also practice eight secondary skills
that are very useful. These eight skills are:
  1. Prediction
  2. Self-reflection
  3. Visualization
  4. Analysis
  5. Evaluation
  6. Classification
  7. Comparison
  8. Synthesis

When you have successfully completed each of the six modules, you too will become a Culture Bump Expert!!

This workbook comes from the idea that “culture bumps” or cultural differences can be used to help us form better relationships with people who are different from ourselves. In fact, “culture bumps” really help us to learn how to live better in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our schools and even in the world.

Ultimately, you will discover the answer to two questions:


  1. Why are people different from one another?
  2. How are people the same to one another?

In discovering the answer to these two questions, you will uncover treasures that will last a lifetime.

In each module, there are several activities to practice the skills as well as a reading selection that gives you more information. But, now, let’s meet the expert cross-cultural communicators who will be sharing their experience with you as Dr. Archer introduces the Toolkit.

Introduction to the Tool Kit

In this module, you will begin to understand that:

Your perceptions are different from other people’s perceptions.
You will also practice:
• how to compare
• how to analyze


First, take a few moments to answer the following questions:


  1. How many people do you know who come from different countries?
  2. Can you name those countries?
  3. What are some other things that make people different from one another?
  4. Make a list of those things.
  5. Do you think it is easy or difficult to be friends with people that are different from yourself?
  6. Do you know what a “perception” is? Can you give an example of one?
Now, let’s take a trip on a space ship named Perception.
                                                                                     An Activity

Welcome to the space ship named Perception. This special space ship will take you around the world in a very short time. Please visit each of the portholes and answer the questions about the view out of each one. There is no “correct” answer. Simply give your first perception of the photo. Now enjoy the views!

Porthole A:


Where is this place?

What do you feel as you look at this picture?

What is happening in this picture?






Now watch the video of the Culture Bump Experts (CBEs) as they visit this porthole.

Porthole B: Look at this picture

Korean wedding









What do you feel as you look at this picture?

What is going on here?

Now watch the video of the Culture Bump Experts (CBEs) as they visit this porthole.


Look at the image below in Porthole C:

elderly woman on four wheeler











What is this person doing?
Why is s/he doing this?
Name five adjectives for this person.


Now watch the video of the Culture Bump Experts (CBEs) as they visit this porthole.


What did you discover after viewing the portholes with the culture bump experts and their friends? Share your insights on the culture bump blog

                                               A Reading on PERCEPTIONS
Since each person is simultaneously an individual, a member of a family, and a member of a culture at large, no event-even if viewed by twin brothers-would be perceived in exactly the same way. Once individuals are from different cultures, the possibility of completely different perceptions of the same event increases a hundred-fold.

Culture, as well as other factors, impacts on:
The fact that we choose one event over another. Our culture teaches us to distinguish between noise and information,       to pay attention to this and to ignore that. When an individual goes into a new culture, there are many things that people in that culture “see” that the newcomer does not. Yet the newcomer will notice things that the people there do not.

Sensory response to events has been shown to be partially culturally determined. For example, Japanese and Americans have differing abilities to hear certain sounds.

Language, being a categorizing system determines how an event is organized. For example, gordo in Spanish can be a nickname while its translation in English, fat, is usually an insult when applied to an individual.

It is primarily our culture (and other factors) that teaches us the criteria we have for determining that which is good, bad, beautiful ugly, respectful, and so on.

It is again primarily our culture that teaches the various appropriate responses that we have for responding to any given situation that we confront in our lives.

                         Now, think of an example for each of the situations listed below.
Something I see that someone from another country might not see._______________
Something I taste that someone from another country might not taste._____________
Something I hear that someone from another country might not hear._____________
How might the following words be “viewed” differently in different countries?________


Name something that is good for you that might be bad for someone else_________
and beautiful for you that might be ugly for someone else__________
How might a student from China respond to a teacher entering a classroom at the beginning of a class?
How might a student from the USA respond to a teacher entering a classroom at the beginning of a class?
How might a student from China show disrespect to a teacher?

How might a student from the USA show disrespect to a teacher?
Now, watch the Asian Classroom Videotape.

Below are maps of the world drawn by some of the CBEs and their friends. Match the name of the person to the map. Eric from Taiwan, Mazen from Syria, Buki from Venezuela, Josh from the USA, Katie from Korea, and Jama from Somalia. 

Now watch the CBE’s with their maps and listen to the reasons for each choice.

Choose one of the maps. How does it reflect what you learned in this module? Share your answer

Now click on their names and read the stories of Tuk Bum and Lucy Mae.
Lucy Mae
Tuk Bum

Discussion Questions

1.  What are the common human themes in these stories?
2.  How do you do these things?
3.  Where is the special place that you go – as Mazen and Mubeen did with Mecca– to find peace, a place where you are the best that you can be?
NOTE:  It may be connected with religion or with nature or with something else.
Share your answers on the culture bump blog.


Phoebe the Culture Bump Cat sez: Congratulations!! You have completed the first stage of your journey. You have learned what a perception is and have begun to notice differences in perceptions.

You have also practiced comparing, classifying and analyzing.