Running Across Cultures
Since running is often a passion for current Peace Corps volunteers and may not be understood in the host countries, how do volunteers answer the question, “why are you running?” How do Volunteers negotiate the cultural divide over jogging or running?
- Students will consider how running is perceived in two other countries.
- Students will gain insight on and discuss a cross-cultural dilemma “Jogging Alone” from the Dominican Republic.
- Assign Letter from Turkmenistan to half students and Letter from Bulgaria to other half.
- Ask students to summarize what they learn about how running is perceived in Turkmenistan or Bulgaria.
- Ask students to find both countries on a world map
- Have students explain what they learn about Turkmenistan or Bulgaria as countries from the articles.
- Have students read the “Jogging Alone” cross-cultural dilemma below.
- Form pairs of learners; one person who has read each article.
- Have each group of 2 answer 6 questions regarding "Jogging Alone" (see below).
- Thinking back on articles they read, ask students to come up with a way,for the Dominican Republic Volunteer to solve the jogging dilemma.
- Share those solutions in a co-written paragraph or verbally in a class discussion.
“When I first arrived in my village in the Dominican Republic, I began to have a problem with my morning jogging routine. I used to jog every day when I was at home in the United States so when I arrived in my village in the Dominican Republic, I set myself a goal to continue jogging two miles every morning. I really liked the peaceful feeling of jogging alone as the sun came up. But this did not last for long. The people in my village simply couldn’t understand why someone would want to run alone. Soon people began to appear at their doorways offering me a cup of coffee; others would invite me to stop in for a visit. Sometimes this would happen four or five times as I tried to continue jogging. They even began sending their children to run behind me, so I wouldn’t be lonely. They were unable to understand the U.S. American custom of exercising alone. I was faced with a dilemma. I really enjoyed my early morning runs. However, I soon realized that it’s considered impolite in Dominican villages not to accept a cup of coffee, or stop and chat, when you pass people who are sitting on their front steps. I didn’t want to give up jogging. But at the same time I wanted to show respect for the customs of the Dominican Republic – and not be viewed as odd or strange.”
- What was the Volunteer's point of view here?
- What was the Dominicans' point of view here?
- What U.S. cultural norm, or custom, did the Volunteer think would be viewed as perfectly normal in the Dominican Republic?
- What was the reason for the Dominicans' point of view? What cultural norm did the Dominicans have that made them view the Volunteer's behavior as strange?
- Describe a way that you think that the Volunteer could respect the Dominican need to show hospitality to a stranger and, at the same time, not have to give up jogging.
- How might the Dominicans begin to understand and respect U.S. cultural norms and, at the same time, satisfy their own need to show hospitality to strangers?
Framework and Standards
- Finding a balance between your own cultural norms and those of the culture you are trying to adapt to is very important when it comes to integrating into a new community and feeling comfortable when things are different than what you are accustomed to.
- Why is it so important to find a balance between your own cultural norms and those of the culture you are trying to adapt to?
- What are some techniques to creating a balance between your own cultural norms and those of the culture you are trying to adapt to?
Contributed by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). Author: Angene Wilson