Integrating Cultural Tools Into Your Curriculum

The following suggested discussion and videos can be added to any course curriculum to integrate cross-cultural learning.

Blended learning enables educators to integrate instructor-led classes with our proprietary, digital supplemental resources designed to speak with authenticity to technologically savvy students who see national borders as bridges and not barriers.

The syllabus below enables you to explore the framework and methodology of how we define and analyze cultures.

Exploring Cultures

Most people hear about culture and business and immediately think about protocol—a list of do’s and don’ts by country. For example, don’t show the sole of your foot in Saudi Arabia; know how to bow in Japan. While these practices are certainly useful to know, they are just the tip of the iceberg. We often underestimate how critical local culture, values, and customs can be in interactions and communications, particularly in the business arena. We assume, usually incorrectly, that business is the same everywhere.

Culture, in the broadest sense, refers to how and why we think and function. It encompasses all sorts of things—how we eat, play, dress, work, think, interact, and communicate. Everything we do, in essence, has been shaped by the cultures in which we are raised. Similarly, a person in another country is also shaped by his or her cultural influences. These cultural influences impact how we think and communicate.



What Is Culture and Why Does It Matter?

Culture is a shared set of attitudes, beliefs, values, mindsets, and practices of a group, including the behavior patterns and norms that are specific to that group. Gaining cultural awareness means having an understanding of another culture’s values and perspective—a key component in successful interactions.

Atma Insights What is Culture?

Culture is really the collective programming of our minds from birth. It’s this collective programming that distinguishes one group of people from another. Much of the problem in any cross-cultural interaction stems from our expectations. The challenge is that whenever we deal with people from another culture, whether in our own country or globally, we expect people to behave as we do and for the same reasons. Cultural awareness most commonly refers to having an understanding of another culture’s values and perspective. This does not mean automatic acceptance; it simply means understanding another culture’s mindset and how its history, economy, and society have impacted what and how people think. The goal is understanding so you can properly interpret someone’s words and actions in order to more effectively interact with them.

Atma Insights Why Does Culture Matter?

Atma Insights How Do Others See My Culture?


Understanding Ethnocentrism

When talking about culture, it’s important to understand that there really are no rights or wrongs. People’s value systems and reasoning are based on the teachings and experiences of their culture. Rights and wrongs then really become perceptions. Cross-cultural understanding requires that we reorient our mindset and, most importantly, our expectations, in order to interpret the gestures, attitudes, and statements of the people we encounter. We reorient our mindset, but we don’t necessarily change it.

Odds are that each of us has been raised with a considerably different set of values from those of our colleagues and counterparts around the world. Exposure to a new culture may take all you’ve ever learned about what’s good and bad, just and unjust, and beautiful and ugly, and stand it on its head.

Human nature is such that we see the world through our own cultural shades. Tucked in between the lines of our cultural laws is an unconscious bias that inhibits us from viewing other cultures objectively. Our judgments of people from other cultures will always be colored by the frame of reference we’ve been taught. As we look at our own habits and perceptions, we need to think about the experiences that have blended together to impact our cultural frame of reference.

In coming to terms with cultural differences, we tend to employ generalizations. This isn’t necessarily bad. Generalizations can save us from sinking into what may be abstruse, esoteric aspects of a culture. However, recognize that cultures and values are not static entities. They’re constantly evolving, merging, interacting, drawing apart, and reforming. Around the world, values and cultures are evolving from generation to generation as people are influenced by things outside their culture. As we study cultures, it is very important to remember that all cultures are constantly evolving.

Atma Insights Understanding Your Own Frame of Reference


What Kinds of Culture Are There?

When we say “culture,” we don’t always just mean people from different countries. Every group of people has its own unique culture—that is, its own way of thinking, values, beliefs, and mindsets. Explore how we describe cultures.

Atma Insights Culture Consists of Many Factors

Atma Insights Each Person Belongs to Several Cultures


What Are the Key Methods Used to Describe Cultures?

The study of cross-cultural analysis incorporates the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and communication. The convergence of cross-cultural analysis and business is a new and evolving field; it’s not a static understanding but one that changes as the world progresses.

Explore the analytical methods commonly used in cultural anthropology to describe cultures, including high-context versus low-context, verbal and physical communications, individualistic versus collectivist societies, and power distance. These Cultural Tools provide a comprehensive and enduring understanding of the key factors that shape a culture, which in turn impacts every aspect of doing business globally. Our common set of Cultural Tools enables us to compare and contrast cultures more objectively.

Atma Insights Me vs. Us

Atma Insights Hierarchy and Authority

Atma Insights High-Context vs. Low-Context Communications

Atma Insights Culture’s Impact on Body Language

Atma Insights Interpreting Eye Contact

Atma Insights Standing & Space

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Atma Insights complements a wide range of curriculums including:


Global Management

International Business

International Marketing

Organizational Behavior

Organizational Management


Cultural Anthropology

Cross-cultural Communications

Diversity & Inclusion



Global Cultures

Global History

Holocultural Studies

Human Geography

Media Studies


Polycultural Social



World Cultures