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Games and Roleplay for Intercultural Competencies PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Corina Mihaela Paraschiv   
Monday, 02 March 2009 18:49

At the North American Rotary Youth Exchange Network conference that took place in Montreal in 2009, one of the most frequent questions I heard was whether there were any games or simulations to help groups develop intercultural competencies.  And altoguh this is useful for the RYE program, I would even add it can be useful for any Rotaract executives retreat, or a RYLA camp!  So I thought I would compile here a list of ideas to share. The ones with a star (*) indicate that they can be modified ot be done individually if you do not have access to a team training or preparation prior to your departure.



The Nature Walk
In this game, you conceive a list of statements of your choice on sensitive topics (things that may be taboo in certain cultures, or things that you think participants may relate to such as feeling of incompetence in a new culture, isolation, etc.) and have all participants stand at one end of the room.  Then, as you read the first statement, all students who identify to it cross over the line to the other side of the room.  They are then asked : "What would you wish others would know about you?" "What annoys you most?"  and "How could we best help you?"  Then everyone returns behind the starting line again and the game continues with other statements that follow in the same manner.


Drawing the Iceberg *
Ask participants (or yourself) what they think about their culture, and to name you different aspects of it.  Most likely, they will name things that appear at the "top" of the ice berg (such as how we dress, national dishes, what music we have in our folklore, etc.).  Then you can start discussing the ice-berg model and show all the "hidden" dimensions of a culture, and help them imagine how it could be different.  If you have the chance of having international students from various countries, have them do the exercises in small teams for each of their respective countries and then bring everyone together and compare what was under the ice berg. For an example of how this can be done, see this model, which was done for a community living and studying onboard a ship.


Inherent Leadership Values through games *
After doing the typical north american leadership games such as building the highest spaghetti tower in teams, doing the trust fall where someone falls from a high point and is caught on a cloth held tight by team members, the initiative skis where students are strapped together with each foot on one long ski, and must walk through a maze together, then you debrief on what you think the values of North American society might be judging on the leadership games you did on that training.  Then you can open up the floor to what other societies might do as leadership trainings and how those activities show that the traits valued in leaders differ from one society to another.  You can also simply reflect on this individually if you are preparing to go abroad and do not have access to a team preparation to culture shock.


You can have your participants (or yourself alone if you are not part of a group) work on the Intercultural Development Inventory.  This is a test that determines where on the scale you fall (from ethnocentrism to ehtnorelativism) and then coupled with the theory you can get to understand and anticipate what difficulties you might run into when traveling abroad.  It migt give you a vision, too, for what you wish to accomplish.  The nicest thing though is upon your return, you may take the test again and determine whether you have remained where you were on the scale or whether your experience abroad has tranformed you.  Click here to find out how to get a copy of the test and its interpretation key.


The Intercultural Conflict Style test is also great for you to find out what your communication style is (on the axis of direct or indirect, and expressive or restrained).  You can measure it approximately by simply reading the statements and finding where you fall (I made a presentation at the conference on the topic which will be available soon on the powerpoint for future reference for that purpose), or you can opt for the more accurate version by purchasing the official test and its key.  If you are working in teams on this, you can then have a scenario of a conflict with someone and assign each team with the task of solving the conflict.  However, the teams are dealing with a different profile of the person with whome they are having the conflict.  For team A, you tell them their friend is a dynamic communicator.  For team B you tell them they have to solve the conflict with a friend that is accomodation style.  For team C you tell them the person is Engagement Style.  And for team D you tell them the person is Discussion style.  Then when the exercise is over, the groups will have seen how the same conflict and situation can be approached and solved differently depending on the communication style of the people involved.  You can then extend the discussion by letting the participants know the style of communication that is most common in each of the relevant countries.  To purchase a copy of that test and its key you can check out this website, and when my presentation will be up I will post a link to the ppt here as well.


Uncover values through languages *
This works either for the country of origin or for the host country, to discover (or possibly contrast) the cultures with which the participant will interact.  You can use any model such as Hostede's dimensions for instance (or any other that you feel may fit).  First you give a little bit of background theory (like the five dimensions of hostede are time orientation, collectivism, etc.) and then you ask them to think of expressions in their own language that can match the dimensions and deduce from there what the 5 dimensions would rate as on the scale for their own culture.  Then you show them the actual results from Hofstede's dimensions. You can then give them each a collection of quotes or sayings in the language of their host country and ask them to sort them out regarding the dimensions and extrapolate what they think the culture might value for each of the five dimensions, and then compare their assumptions to the result.  This has the effect to teach them to listen for cues on the culture even if they are not always sure what the right way to behave or to say is.  You can extend this talk by looking at what each end of the spectrum implies for each dimension.  For the dimensions listed by country, have a look at this website


The International Team Simulation
This simulation gives partiicpants a slip of paper stating what their behavior and cultural values are during the game and then has them participate in a game (can be building a spaghetti tower, the plane crash simulation, etc.) with other participants who are unaware of the fact they have a "role" to play.  At the end, very interesting discussions can surface.  Click here for the script of the game.


Barnga is a card game where every team receives a distinct set of rules, without being aware of it.  When they play, participants may not communicate verbally - they are only allowed to use non-verbal cues.  As the game goes on, participants rotate tables and enter groups where the rules are different from the ones they learned in their own groups.  This can lead to discussions both about "hidden rules" in societies, about the levels of cultural competence (conscious uncompetence, unconscience uncompetence, conscious competence, unconscious competence) and non-verbal expression across cultures.  For the resources for the game, click here.


The Anthropologist
This great game which was suggested by the YEO resources website forms teams of people who have certain rules they must follow and has others who try to uncover the rules.  The exercise is great in dealing with unfamiliar situations and stress.  Click here for the instructions for the game.


Watch Movies *
Watch movies where a person gets into a foreign country for the first time, and encounters culture shock, trying to adapt to the new culture.  You can look then at the study guides posted by the YEO resources website to find out more questions on the movies to reflect on what you have seen and how this can relate to your own experience abroad.  Have a look at the study guides here.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 03 March 2009 11:40 )

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