Separated into two hypothetical “cultures,” Shawnee State University students and faculty struggled to overcome culture shock at the BaFa’ BaFa’ cultural inclusion program on Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the Sodexo Ballroom.
Brought to the university by Cross Cultural Inclusion Coordinator Carla Daniels and overseen by International Service and Peace Corps Prep Program Coordinator Tracey Henderson, Ph.D., the BaFa’ BaFa’ experience allows participants to become personally aware of the issues surrounding culture differences.
Guided by several coordinators, the 16 participants broke into two groups — the “Alpha” and “Beta” cultures — and individually learned about their culture’s specific traits.
For example, one culture communicated without making contact, while the other stressed touching other members as much as possible. After learning about their own culture, each group sent observers to analyze the other group’s customs.
Following the observers, increasing numbers of participants went over to the other culture, attempting to fit in with the other culture’s norms while exemplifying their own. Confusion and culture shock ensued as the groups insulted each other via cultural inside jokes, failed to communicate whatsoever and, in the case of one patriarchal culture, escorted offending males from the room.
At the end of the event, both groups reunited to discuss the experience as a whole. Several participants remarked on how they felt “alienated” and “shunned” by the other culture, while others mentioned that they had “little to no clue what was going on.”
As the groups discussed one another’s customs, there arose stereotypes, assumptions and misunderstandings, elements indicative of our own human cultures as a whole and how we relate with one another. BaFa’ BaFa’ works differently depending on the specific simulation. Sometimes, the simulation is used to train a person to interact or travel to a different culture. At other times, the simulation emphasizes diversity in order to better orient participants to understand ethnic differences.