Module Three Cultural Values

Click HERE to go to the beginning of the Student Workbook


Now that you have learned about different perceptions and culture bumps, the next step is to:

COMPARE and CONTRAST ways of thinking and acting in different cultures

You will also practice:

  1. how to classify
  2. how to compare
  3. how to self-reflect
  4. how to synthesize
  5. how to evaluate


Please download the PDFs listed at the end of this module before beginning.


Let’s begin by discussing these questions:

  1. Why do people have different ideas about life?
  2. Where do our ideas about life come from?
  3. What do you think “life” is?
  4. What do you think the purpose of “life” is?
  5. Where did your ideas come from?


Now watch the Module 3 video.


A Reading on Cultural Values

One way of describing our selves is as “human beings who are born with individual characteristics and who have learned cultural characteristics”. We normally think that we are born an American or a Vietnamese or a Salvadorian rather than thinking that we have learned to be an American or Vietnamese or Salvadorian. For example, if a Vietnamese were dropped in San Salvador five minutes after being born, we know that he would speak Spanish. Yet, we rarely think that he would also have Salvadorian culture. He would, indeed, be “Salvadorian”.

Since culture plays such an important role in determining our personality and our belief system, it is important to understand what makes one cultural context different from another. Below is a list of cultural values that exist in all cultures. However, they receive more emphasis in one culture than in other cultures or perhaps they are interpreted as negative in one culture and as positive in another culture. When they are emphasized, they are a cultural value for that particular culture. In this Table of Cultural Values, the left side has values that are very important to many people born in the USA.

The values on the right side are less important for many people born in the USA. Either side may be important in other countries. Let’s take a look at one list of cultural values which are based on a list of cultural values in Intercultural Sourcebook by David S. Hoopes & Paul Ventura, published by Intercultural Network, Inc. in 1979, pp. 48-51.

                             TABLE OF CULTURAL VALUES

Doing, progress, change, striving external achievement  VS     Being, fatalistic, spontaneity

Fast, busy life                                                                                  VS    Steady, rhythmic, non-compulsive life

Individual responsibility                                                              VS     Group responsibility

Identity in self                                                                                  VS      Identify in role, group, family, society

People being affected make decisions                                        VS     Proper authorities make decisions

Rely on self and impersonal organization                                VS      Rely on superiors, patron, group

Planning to solve problems                                                           VS      Coping to solve problems

Student-centered learning                                                              VS      Passive students, rote learning

Equality, informality                                                                        VS      Hierarchical, formality

Sex equality, friends of both sexes                                               VS      Gender distinct, male/female superior, friends same sex

Society controls by guilt                                                                   VS       Society controls by shame

Social friendship                                                                                VS      Intense friendship

Motivated by achievement                                                               VS      Motivated by fulfilling role in group

Competition is good                                                                           VS      Competition within one’s group is not acceptable

Man’s nature is changeable                                                            VS      Man’s nature is fixed

Expect good health and comfort                                                     VS     Some material misery and disease is expected

A Group Activity: JIGSAW PUZZLE Download the PDF’s below


In small groups, discuss each of the values that are written on the colored “value blocks” that you are assigned. Make sure that each of you understands very well the meaning of each of the values. Be able to give an example of each value. If you are not sure, ask your teacher. You may need to use a dictionary for some of the words. Each of you will then go to a new group and teach all the members- thus completing the jigsaw puzzle.



Green Cards

Blue Cards



In this activity, you and a group of classmates will create your own cultural generator. In groups, choose one of the value blocks that you agree is very important for all of you in the group. Then try to think of a specific behavior that comes from that value. Then think of a third and fourth behavior. Write each of the behaviors on a separate piece of paper. When you have finished, “create” a generator using the value block, the pieces of paper and the string. An example of a cultural generator done by Chinese students is below.

EXAMPLE ONE of Chinese Cultural Generator

Identity in Role, Group, Family or Clan

This value leads

to this behavior > > Only call Uncle by “Uncle” never by his name (his role) AND this behavior reinforces the values of > >Identity in role, group, family or clan>> Which leads to other behavior of > >Addressing the teacher by the title “teacher” rather than by their name >>Which reinforces the value of > >Identity in Role, Group, Family or Clan .

EXAMPLE TWO of Chinese Cultural Generator

Passive Students, Rote Learning

This value leads ;

to this behavior > > Teacher just teach and student never comment about the way of teaching
AND this behavior reinforces value of > > Passive students, rote learning>> Which leads to
other behavior of > > Student always think teachers are always true and right >>Which reinforces the > >value of Passive Students, Role Learning

Alternative Activity:

Choose two values from page 20 that are important to you, or to your family or to your culture. Copy the values in the space provided below. Then describe at least one behavior that you or your family or people in your culture do as result of believing in that value.

  • Value Number One_______________________________>>
  •         1st. Behavior_______________________________________>>
  •                     2nd. Behavior_______________________________________.
  • Value Number Two______________________________>>
  •         1st Behavior______________________________________>>
  •                   2nd Behavior_______________________________________.


If you wish, share your answers with other classmates or on the culture bump blog. What did you learn from this exercise?


Another way to look at the difference between American culture and other cultures was developed by Pierre Cass. The difference can be visualized as a Staircase Model of Culture and a Roller Coaster Model of Culture.


staircase model of communication by Pierre Cassl

                                                                                                              ROLLER COASTER MODEL

Roller coaster model of communication by Pierre Cassl


 In the Staircase model (which typifies many American values), the individual begins at the bottom and by hard work, moves up. The beliefs associated with this model are that individuals have control of their lives, individuals are responsible for their lives and that upward striving is desirable. The individual in this model would be competitive and ambitious. In contrast, in the roller-coaster model, outside forces control the individual, and the individual has minimal control over his or her life. There is an emphasis on enjoyment of the present moment, and it doesn’t matter how hard the individual works—there is only certainty of peaks and valleys in succession in the future.

        Pierre Cass, Training for the Cross Cultural Mind, A Handbook for Cross Cultural Trainers and Consultants. Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research, Washington, D. C., 1980, p. 48.

Recall the mini-movie, “Brian and Aziz.”

  • Which of the cultural models do you think fits Brian’s life? Why? Give specific examples from the movie.
  • Which model do you think fits Aziz’s life? Why? Give specific examples from the movie.

How would people in each of the models feel about time? Which model would place more emphasis on:

The future____________ The past______________ The present____________

•What skills would people raised in each of these models develop?


STAIRCASE SKILLS                                                     ROLLER COASTER SKILLS

                                   Draw a model of “life” for yourself.

                                   An Activity: Walk Through the Valley of Values

Watch the CBEs as they do a partial walk through the Valley of Values

In this next activity, you will have a chance to clarify and discuss your own values. With a partner or partners, walk down the “valley” between the two sets of Value Blocks, and see where you stand in relation to the two points of view. You may stand in the middle or on one of the two Value Blocks or on either side of the blocks. You may even stand on one side but face the other side if you feel you are moving in that direction.




Go through the list of blue and green cultural values listed above and circle those values that are dominant in your culture. You may find some on the right side and some on the left side, or they may be equally emphasized in your culture. Go through the list again, placing an X by your personal values. What do you notice?

PhoebePhoebe the Culture Bump Cat says:

CONGRATULATIONS—You have completed the third stage of your journey.
You have learned about cultural values for yourself and for others and have begun to be able to describe the behaviors that come from those values. You have also practiced classifying, comparing, self-reflection, synthesizing and evaluation.