Resolving a Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding
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 try to resolve a cross-cultural misunderstanding in a constructive manner.
Note: To give students additional experience in resolving cross-cultural misunderstandings, use Voices From the Field, also available online. Have students read "Cross-Cultural Dialogue," by Roz Wollmering, and follow up with the lessons plan for that story.
Quote for Thought: Expect to feel embarrassed, foolish, and sometimes inadequate. It's all part of the experience. These trying times are what we eloquently call "adjustment." They're difficult, natural, and useful.
—Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Kenya.
- Students will understand that cross-cultural misunderstandings are common occurrences.
- Students will identify a solution to a cross-cultural misunderstanding.
- Tell students that they will now read about the way in which individuals in the Dominican Republic misunderstood an American Peace Corps Volunteer who was doing something that in the United States is perfectly normal.
- Give students a copy of Worksheet #8, Jogging Alone. (The anecdote describes an incident involving a Peace Corps Volunteer, who had one way of looking at a situation, and her neighbors, who interpreted the situation differently.) Ask students to read the Peace Corps Volunteer's account. Ask them to think about how they might solve the dilemma as they read. Then ask students to work in pairs to respond to the questions on the worksheet.
- When students have had sufficient time for discussion, elicit responses to each question. Allow time for differing responses to be considered.
- Ask each of the students to pretend they were the Peace Corps Volunteer in the jogging incident. Have each student (in the role of a Peace Corps Volunteer) write a letter home to a parent describing the incident and how it was resolved.
- Provide students with a checklist of what to include before they begin writing their letters. Have students exchange the first draft of their letters with another student for peer review and feedback. (The review and feedback should be based on the criteria in the checklist.) Then have students revise and polish their letters.
- Have students share their letters with a new partner. Then ask for volunteers to read their letters to the class.
- Students have just had practice in trying to see the world from another culture's point of view. Ask them in what ways developing this skill might lead to greater understanding right in their own school.
Frameworks & Standards
- It's easy to misinterpret things people do in a cross-cultural setting. To keep from misunderstanding the behavior of others, you have to try to see the world from their point of view, not yours.
- How can I learn to see things from another culture's point of view? Why is this important?
- If you did develop this skill, how could it lead to greater harmony and understanding right here in our own school?
Help your class develop a project to foster better understanding and communication among the students in your school. Conduct a survey to determine what communication difficulties, if any, exist among students of different cultural backgrounds within your school. Invite students to devise ways to resolve these difficulties. Examples:
- Students facilitate a cross-cultural communications workshop with the help of interested teachers and community members.
- Students role-play a cross-cultural misunderstanding and its thoughtful resolution at a school assembly.