The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Cultural Expectations and Social Behavior


Rockefeller Global Leadership Program participants take part in the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).


RGLP Session Facilitator, Amy Newcomb, Student Programs Officer & YALI Academic Director at the the Dickey Center.

Article Type 

The January 11th RGLP session kicked off with several metaphoric activities intended to get students thinking about perspective. Holly Lanagely '19 and Ashley Dotson ’18 share their reactions here.

“Everybody stand up and put on your jackets,” session facilitator Amy Newcomb said, soon after the session began. A bit confused, I stood up, as did everyone else, and zipped up my coat. I wondered, looking around at all my new friends from the program, if we would be walking outside somewhere, or if the action of everyone putting on a coat might be a complex metaphor. As soon as everyone had on their coats, Amy told us to take them off and sit back down again. I was a little annoyed and confused, not really understanding why we’d just done something so pointless. Then, Amy told us each to tape up our hands with the pieces of duct tape in front of us. “Oh dear,” I thought to myself, “is she really going to make us all try and put our coats on without being able to use our fingers? What if everyone else can do it and I’m the only one who can’t?” Just as I dreaded, Amy told us to stand up again and put on our coats. Throughout the room there was awkward giggling, as people were looking around to see how other people were managing to do up zippers without fingers. Eventually, everyone had a coat on, and we immediately had to take them off again. Sitting down, I felt slightly humbled, realizing how much I take for granted, and how much I let go by unnoticed. Our exercise left me wondering and eager to explore ways in which I, a student at Dartmouth and a Global Citizen, can better react in situations where cultural expectations and social behaviors differ." Holly Langely ’19, Rockefeller Global Leadership Program participant

"We were each given a sheet of paper with a behavioral trait and then asked to stand in groups to mix and mingle as if we were at a party.  My paper read 'It is impolite to be aloof from others.  Stand close to others until you nearly touch them. If someone backs off, keep moving closer.'  Reading this paper immediately made me nervous:  I am a strong advocate for personal space and cannot stand too close to others or I will become nervous.  However, I knew that I had to participate in the activity, so I did as the paper told me. Every time I walked up to someone, I would get strange stares and people would start slowly backing away.  I felt ostracized and different because of the confused reactions I was getting.  By the end of the activity, the instructional paper that was in my hands was crumpled, as a result of my nervousness.  When we came back to discuss the activity with the larger group, most people expressed similar, if not the same feelings.  We realized, that this could be a common feeling for someone entering a new culture where the customs are different.  This activity helped me to realize a goal I wanted to set for myself.  During the party game, I found myself having an easier ability to accept the different quirks of the other students, because I realized that we all had different "instructions" coming into the game.  My goal is now to accept and try to understand traits that I see in others that appear different to me because everyone comes from a different background and culture where their norms may be different than mine." Ashley Dotson ’18, Rockefeller Global Leadership Program participant

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences