Other cultures are not ‘weird’: Teachers talk interculturality on Valentine’s Day

Free classroom lesson plan

Talking about home life, relationships, and family during class time this February is easy with an introductory topic like Valentine’s Day.

And being able to interact appropriately with people from other cultures is quickly becoming a necessary skill, whether your students stick to their hometowns or become world travelers.

“Now, one of the things I tell my students to do is to take the word ‘weird,’ out of their vocabulary,” says teacher and author Paulina Carrión. “There are no ‘weird’ customs, ‘weird’ foods, ‘weird words’; they are just different, and hopefully students embrace this new world with interest and curiosity.”

Free Classroom Activity PDF: Valentine’s Day Around the World Scavenger Hunt

Spanish teacher, noted APSI instructor, and College Board Advisor Ann Mar agrees with Carrión.

“Students tend to perceive the objects, institutions, activities and beliefs that make up their world as somehow ‘normal’ and other products, practices, and perspectives as ‘weird’ or ‘exotic’ rather than understanding that they constitute a culture which is in some ways different and in some ways similar to their own,” Mar says.

When teacher and author Pamela Garcia teaches her class about what and when people eat in Spain, she asks her students if they could eat the 5-6 meals a day common in that country.

“They ask me questions like ‘Why aren’t they all fat?’ and I say ‘What don’t you see on their normal menus?’ They notice the lack of desserts and sweets and that fruit is eaten as a dessert,” Garcia says. “They are fascinated.”

The importance of cultural differences is seeing if you could put yourselves into the shoes of the other person, Garcia says. “Ask students what would it be like,” she adds. “No judgments.”

Click here for a free Valentine’s themed scavenger hunt to introduce your students to interculturality.

Interculturality is the growing aspect of language and cultural studies that focuses on learning how to behave and interact appropriately with those from other cultures—or while living in or visiting cultures different from your own.

Garcia, Mar, and Carrión are part of the author team for EntreCulturas: Communicate, Explore, and Connect Across Cultures, a Spanish Language 1, 2, 3 series from Wayside Publishing that focuses on interculturality. Learn more and request a digital sample here.

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