3rd Station – Surface culture


You need to be online (with audio) to watch some short films and carry out some research. You will also need to have a pen and paper to hand to capture your thoughts, a copy of the Cultural Iceberg/ Cultural Tree Worksheet and – ideally – access to a kitchen and a range of cooking equipment and ingredients for the activity at the end.

Download worksheet here>


Each of us is the product of a broad spectrum of cultural influences. Some of the cultural references that influence our behaviours derive from our nationality, or the country in which we live. But others stem from our race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic situation, education, family, friendship groups, teams…. In fact every group of people that comes together regularly has a culture.

And every cultural group maintains certain customs that are unique to that group; those cultural norms you can easily identify. So how do we begin to distinguish and understand the cultural influences that form the basis for our social interactions? We start with what we can see.

Take a moment to think about the cultural influences in your own life, and the ways in which other people might be able to see those influences at work. What do you do, where do you go, what activities and pastimes do you participate in, what customs and practices do you observe? What are the tangible, material ways in which your own cultural influences are expressed in the activities of your everyday life? Note down some of your thoughts.

Watch and Learn:

Now watch these three short films about Culture and, as you watch, consider the following questions (and make some notes):

Why is Culture Important?

What is Culture? Rachek Eschete

Iceberg Model of Culture

In those short films we heard about the Iceberg theory of culture which distinguishes Surface (Visible) Culture from Deep (Invisible) Culture. This can be roughly translated as: The cultural norms you can easily identify in a foreign country vs the cultural norms not so easily detected. Sometimes this same concept is expressed as a tree, with visible trunk, branches and leaves and invisible roots.

We consider Deep Culture at Station 4 of this Challenge so for now let’s focus on Surface Culture: those cultural expressions and influences that are easily visible and apparent – often material or tangible things like Food, Clothing, Dance, Music and Art.

Choose the way in which you want to capture your thoughts in this section – you might want to use one of the worksheets provided or draw yourself an iceberg, a tree, a spider diagram or other graphic representation (examples below).

You are now going to explore your own surface culture through considering five tangible expressions of culture – Dance, Music, Dress, Arts and Food – and capture your thoughts using your iceberg or tree (or other graphic) diagram.

You might find some useful reference points for all of the topics that follow in these sources:

Click on each of the titles below to take a look at:

Once you have explored each of the five topics above and added your notes on each to the Surface Culture section of your worksheet, move on to:

Consolidate your learning

Look at the notes you have made on the surface culture section of your diagram and consider:

Creative Activity: Share a taste of your culture

One of the most compelling tangible expressions of culture comes from the food that we eat and the ways in which it is prepared and shared.

In this activity we would like you to choose once type of food that you feel is the best expression of your own culture and share the recipe, and a brief explanation of its cultural context. If you have access to a kitchen and the ingredients available, please make your dish and include a photograph with your recipe.

Sharing your recipe:

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