Culture Navigation

You are about to embark on what may turn out to be the experience of a lifetime. Living and studying abroad and experiencing a culture that is quite a bit different from yours can be a challenging, yet extremely rewarding event.

Culture has been aptly compared to an iceberg. Just as an iceberg has a visible section above the waterline and a larger, invisible section below the water line, so culture has some aspects that are observable and others that can only be suspected, imagined, or intuited – or actively explored. Also like an iceberg, the part of culture that is visible (observable behavior) is only a small part of a much bigger whole.

Can you come up with a few examples of what is visible in a culture and what isn’t?

Watch the following video. Do you find your examples in it?

While we should always be careful with making general assumptions because cultures are not just that one homogeneous thing – there’s plenty of subcultures in every culture – you will notice some larger patterns that have an effect on people’s behavior.

Have you, for example, ever thought about how different cultures perceive time?

Some cultures have an approach to time which is polychronic while others are more monochronic.

Polychronic cultures tend to do many things simultaneously, so it’s basically a culture built on multitasking. Generally speaking, people from polychronic cultures manage interruptions well and are more flexible when it comes to change.

Monochronic cultures prefer to focus on one thing at a time and without distractions or interruptions. Schedules and sticking to them is hugely important, as are previous commitments. Once a plan is made, it’s followed through and changes to those plans will be taken very seriously and viewed as an inconvenience.

Where would you place yourself and the (sub)culture in which you live?

As you can see, cultures in the Arab world are generally considered to be polychronic. Now this may be an aspect you should keep in mind when you come to Jordan and try to understand behaviors related to time. Of course this is only one aspect, and often the various aspects below the waterline of the culture iceberg are interrelated. Prepare yourself to discover some of these aspects during your time in Jordan and use them to understand how people think and behave, act and react, what is important for them and what is not.

Never judge someone by the way he looks or a book by the way it’s covered; For inside those tattered pages, there’s a lot to be discovered. (Stephen Cosgrove)

And by the way, you will also discover so much about yourself and your own culture as you dive into this adventure!

A program mentor sand-surfing during Wadi Rum trip