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By Jo An Song

Culture bump has been defined as a “cultural difference” (Archer, 1991). It consists of two components – which are emotional and rational. People are usually unaware that they are in a culture bump.

Culture bumps can be experienced as negative, positive or neutral. The emotional component happens at a particular time and in a special situation. For example, the first time I came to an American restaurant, I asked the waitress to give me a cup of hot water. Her first reaction was to feel surprised and she then told me they didn’t have hot water for guests. And I felt surprised and also that the American restaurant was strange. This is the emotional component. When you come into a particular situation and experience the difference, you’ll have an intrinsic feeling about the difference.

When you experience a culture bump. you may have a feeling of disconnection which is accompanied by a sense of not knowing – frequently accompanied by a loss of knowledge of a normal response. Then the person who is in the bump would like to figure out this uncomfortable feeling by asking “why?” Even though it may reinforce the feeling of difference between these two people, the discomfort and disconnection will be resolved.

For example, after I knew Americans would like to drink icy water rather than hot water, I felt surprised and strange. Because it was different from my country, I wanted to figure out why we were different about the water. I asked them why they just had icy water. They told me the answer. Even though I knew the reason, I felt we are so different. I asked more questions and wanted to know the original reasons. The more I asked, the more I know. I can understand them better. In this process, the primary difficulty, discomfort and disconnection have been resolved.

Archer, C. M. (1991). Living with strangers in the USA: Communicating beyond culture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

(May 31, 2014)

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