by Tran Long Phi

A culture bump, which occurs when the expectations of an individual in a particular situation encounter different behaviors in another culture, are cultural differences. A culture bump is like a mirror and people from different cultures are the mirror’s constitutive materials in which we can see ourselves. Culture bumps occur whether people are aware of them or not. They usually have an emotional component and a rational component.(Archer, 2012)


The emotional component is the feelings of people toward culture bumps. They can be negative, positive or neutral feelings – depending on the point of view of the people. For example – seeing a kissing couple on the street – some people feel shy because of their beliefs, their religion or their culture. Others feel excited because they sympathize with the joy of love which they aren’t used to seeing in public. However, there are people who don’t pay attention, since they think it is an essential part of life and should be like that. Through reactions, people express their behaviors, their feelings and their attitude to what happens around them.

The rational component is considered as a difference in knowledge and is typified by two phenomenon which are: a sense of disconnectedness and a feeling of not knowing. The sense of disconnectedness happens when people don’t have enough knowledge to fit into another’s worldview. Because of the disconnection and not knowing feelings, people start to ask “Why?” and to try to discover the answer.


For example – looking at windows without open hinges in Texas, a Vietnamese student (who used to have windows with hinges in order to take more fresh air from outside, wondered why they don’t have hinges. Then he discovered that due to critical weather in Houston – which is too hot in summer and too cold in winter, in addition to having air conditioning, they don’t need hinges for their windows anymore. Finally, he recognized how different it is between his country and Houston – through each of similar experiences, he is getting to know who he is, and about the differences between him and people from other countries.

To summarize, emotional and rational components are like a mirror which reflects people’s behaviors, emotions and attitudes toward a diverse world. Moreover, they are a way of discovering oneself.



Archer, C. M., & Nickson, S.C. (2012). Culture bump: An instructional process for cultural insight. In J. E., Groccia , M. A. T. Alsudairi, & W. Buskist (Eds.), Handbook of college and university teaching: Global perspectives (pp. 406-423). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


(May 31, 2014)

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