• What is culture?

    The first things we notice when we travel to a new place are easy to see. We notice the new language, the new music, and the new holidays. However, most of what makes us who we are as a culture is below the surface.  Culture is the shared assumptions, values, and beliefs of a group of people which result in characteristic behaviors. They are usually subconscious. As you adapt to life here, you may start to notice many differences from where you lived before. Do our meetings start earlier? Are our buses and trains less reliable? Do we use more eye contact? Are we less reverent of authority figures? Do we dress less formally? More modestly? If you're confused by anything we do here, you can talk to your child's English teacher about it. We might be able to help explain.

    American Cultural Values:

    Culture shapes everything we do. Here are three important American cultural values that you might notice influencing our educational system.

    • Independence - We believe that self-reliance and independence are worthy goals for all people. (We value helping each other less than some other cultures.) In school we work to educate each child so that they will need less and less help over time until they can complete tasks completely on their own. You may notice in conversations with your child's teachers that we often discuss whether the student can begin their work without being told, look for solutions to problems by themselves, and ask specific questions when they need it.

    • Innovation - We believe that creativity and change can be powerful forces for good. (We value tradition less than some other cultures.) American schools are frequently implementing new research-based programs and changing what we do from year to year. If you have two children in different grades, your younger child will likely have different assignments than the older child did in that grade. You may notice in conversations with your child's teachers that we often praise students for writing creative responses to essay prompts or solving problems in an unexpected way.

    • Individuality - We value the ways in which each person is unique. (We value community and uniformity less than some other cultures.) In school children are often asked to discuss or write about what makes them different from their classmates. Teachers often look to understand what is special about each student and may tailor their educational strategies to fit an individual child. You may notice in conversations with your child's teachers that they praise your child's differences and unique perspectives. They may also ask you questions about your child's interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes.

    Which values and beliefs are the same in your culture? Which are different? What else do you notice living here? Talk to your child about the changes they may be experiencing.

    Culture Shock:

    When people move from one culture to another, it takes some time to adapt. At first, everything about the new country may seem fun and exciting. Over time, you may feel frustrated that nothing happens the way it should. You might sleep too much or too little, get angry at small things, feel very homesick, become very concerned with cleanliness, or only want to spend time with people from your home culture. After many weeks, you will learn to adapt to this new culture (you don't have to like everything about it) and learn to switch between your two cultures depending on the situation. If you and your child have recently moved here together, you may both be going through culture shock at the same time. It's totally natural and will get better.