A Fundamental of Culture—Cultural Context
Building Bridges - Unit II
- Africa, Asia, Central America and Mexico, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, Pacific Islands, South America, The Caribbean, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe
- Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12
- Cross-Cultural Understanding
Students will examine how the unwritten rules of culture depend upon the context in which an event or behavior takes place.
- Students will be able to explain cultural context.
- Post on the board the enduring understandings of this lesson.
Discuss with the class the meaning of "context." Generally speaking, context means the circumstances in which a particular event or action occurs. In reference to culture, context refers to the often unwritten rules or norms that have evolved and become a part of a group's expected behavior in various situations. Provide some examples:
- In an American movie theater, people are expected to line up quietly to buy their tickets. It is considered rude to cut into that line.
- In public transportation, such as on buses and subways, people rarely talk to others they don't know. This is considered to be a way of respecting people's right to privacy.
- Teens behave differently when they are at home with their families than they do when they are with friends at school.
- Unwritten rules about behavior in a movie theater
- Unwritten rules about behavior in public transportation vehicles
- Acceptable behavior at home vs. acceptable behavior with friends
- Ask students for some examples of things they would never want their friends to do in the presence of their parents. Ask why a particular behavior would be considered unacceptable. Ask if this rule is written down anywhere, or whether one just knows it.
- Ask students for examples of things they would never want their parents to do when they were in the presence of the students' friends. Ask why a particular behavior by their parents would be considered unacceptable. Ask again if this rule is written anywhere, or whether they and their friends just know it.
- Explain that if you "just know" a rule, it is a cultural norm. This norm guides behavior and lets everyone know what's right and what's rude, for example, when one is in the presence of someone's parents.
- Explain that just as there are cultural norms at home, in school, in the community, or in the country, there are cultural norms in other countries. Stepping out of one culture and stepping into another one is called "crossing cultures." Crossing cultures is not an easy thing to do. It's a complex process where understanding the context is fundamental to getting along effectively within the new culture.
Frameworks & Standards
- There are aspects of culture that are fundamental but subtle, yet important to grasp if one is to function effectively within a new cultural context.
- Crossing cultures isn't easy. It's a complex process where understanding the context is everything.
- What is meant by cultural context, and why is it important to understand?
Ask students to develop a poster, multimedia presentation, or radio spot that illustrates how misunderstanding the cultural context of a situation at school or in the community can cause problems. Have students include strategies in their final products that might help those trying to understand the cultural context of a situation.