Cultural Simulation - "Insiders and Outsiders"
Instructions: (10-15 minutes game time)
Ask for a specific number of male and female volunteers to step outside the room (one pair per group
inside the room). Inside the room, form groups of about 10-15 with at least 2 males per group.
Send outsiders out. Explanation to outsiders:
The insiders are part of a fictional culture. They have 2 cultural norms. Your task, as a pair, is to
discover what the norms are by:
A) Observing and asking yes or no questions only.
B) Asking questions directly to a specific person (don’t address a question to the entire group at once).
When you think you’ve figured out a norm go to a facilitator and ask them if it’s right. The key is to ask
lots of questions.
Explain "cultural norms" to insiders:
1) A man can only answer a man and a woman can only answer a woman.
2) If the person asking a question is smiling the answer must be yes, if the person asking a question is
not smiling or is frowning the answer must be no.
Give a number of examples so that insiders can practice the norms.
Bring outsiders back in
Allow 10-15 minutes for interaction. If your group figures out the norms keep it to yourself until the
game is over.
Discussion within group led by facilitator(s) - see below.
Have a participant identify the 2 norms. Tell everyone not to mention the norms to others
because we have more Living Abroad Orientations left.
Ask the foreigners/outsiders:
•How did you feel? (frustrated, annoyed, confused, unsure) Write answers on board.
•What did you think of how your host culture treated/thought of you? (helpful, cold, liked to see
you suffer) Write answers on board.
•How do you think you would have felt as an insider? (relaxed, less confused, etc.)
•What did you think of the foreigners? (felt sorry for them?) Write answers on board.
•How do you feel about how you treated them? (tried to help, wanted them to suffer)
•How do you think you would have felt as an outsider? (confused, annoyed, anxious)
Whole group discussion.
The assignment in this exercise was to learn about your host culture by attempting to communicate with
1) What was not realistic? [Insiders can only answer yes or no.]
2) What was realistic?
1) The feelings of frustration, isolation, etc. that the outsiders experienced. (Point to lists on board).
Get returnee confirmation.
2) That something other than the actual, verifiable truth would be a culturally appropriate answer.
Korea example: “Yes” to maintain the “han.”
France example: When offered food the first time, “No, thank you.” But accept on the second or
third time. The host must continue to ask.
U.S. example: “I’ll call you.” “Let’s get together soon.”
Ask: Given that the culture itself may make it difficult to understand the culture, what might you do to
learn about your host culture while you are there , and learn how to communicate competently within
your host culture?
- Look beyond verbal communication to non-verbal clues.
- Observe everything, carefully; learn from what others do.
- Talk with other "outsiders." What have they learned?
- Find a cultural insider who will help you make sense of the host culture and explain the elusive cultural
norms and expectations - especially someone who has spent time outside of that host country.
Mapping Your Host Culture: Start learning right away!
Something to do when you get there to get yourself oriented. Examples:
- Irvine Spectrum - we value entertainment
- Streets around UCI - named after universities = value academia
Explain culture shock curve - draw on white board (know what to expect to lessen stress/anxiety).
For further explanation of this and how to cope:
•Read the section in the EAP Guide on "Cultural Adjustment"
•Read Survival Kit for Overseas Living. We have several copies in the office.
Red Flags: It’s time to implement your coping skills!
Pay attention to these Red Flags as you are trying to figure out the cultural norms of your host country.
They often signal that a cultural difference has caused a misunderstanding or confusion. Keep this list
handy and refer to it when you find yourself getting frustrated by the funny new culture you are living in.
(We have an article in the office explaining the "Red Flag" concept in detail for any one who wants to read
Ask: Given that the feelings (frustration, etc.) are realistic, what might you do to cope (and be less
- Know/expect that you will encounter many differences - Expect the unexpected
- Have a high level of tolerance for ambiguity (not knowing what’s what and what’s expected)
- Expect to look stupid/silly at least part of the time!
- Know that having a high level of anxiety is normal
- Lower your goal-orientation (you are probably successful & a high achiever)
- Expect to have a decreased level of self-confidence
- Observe rather than compare or judge
Returnees – Any last words of wisdom?
Have a great time and learn, learn, learn!