One activity conducted in class is understanding how language conveys cultural meaning by examining words that are specific to a given culture. For example, Japanese language has a word "Komoreb" which refers to the way sunlight filters through the leaves of trees; the interplay between the light and the leaves. We discuss why these words exist in some cultures but not others based on the importance of specific values embedded in the culture.
Another activity conducted in class is examining the experiences of people who immigrate to the United States and the things that surprise them about the country when they first arrive. Examining these statements gives us clues to the cultural values that various immigrants bring with them. In addition, it highlights interesting things about American cultural values that we might not readily realize. Some things recent immigrants found surprising about the United States were:
"That bosses (and some professors) are addressed by some abbreviated variation of their first name. And that applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of how much older they are."
"Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children."
"In spite of the society being relatively openly liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences."
"That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18."
"The emphasis on strollers; that people don't mostly carry their children."
"The amount of food that is wasted."
"When relatives visit, they often stay in a hotel."
"The obsession with coffee."