Friday, June 19, 2009

The Culture Shock Game

Yesterday in class we played a card game, only it was MORE than a card game. The boys were included in this exercise, which made it particularly fun for me. To begin we were divided into six groups of four, and family members were not allowed to be in the same group. Each group had their own table, a deck of cards, and instructions on how to play the game Five Tricks. We had three minutes to read the instructions and practice the game before the instructions were taken away and the big tournament began.

The game is played with partners and after each round, the winners moved up a table and the losers stayed where they were. But when the tournament began, a gag order was put into place. No talking or writing was allowed, only gestures for communication. The first round, at our original tables went fairly smoothly. My partner and I won and we moved to the next table.

During the second round, things got very interesting. We still could not talk, and while the game began without incident, it was only moments before silent arguments were breaking out at every table over which team had won each trick.

You see, we were all playing Five Tricks, but each original table had been given a slightly different version of the rules. In one set of rules, diamonds were trump, in another spades were trump. Some had no trump at all. In some instructions aces were high, in others aces were low--minor variations, but they caused a great deal of havoc; especially since we could only communicate through gestures.

Responses were varied across the room. Some held vehemently to their own rules, some tried to comply with others' rules, assuming they had misunderstood the rules in the first place, and some just got angry. My response was different from any of those. My partner and I won the first round (where diamonds were trump) and moved to the next table--where we quickly learned that spades were trump. No big deal. Good to know. We can play that way.

But then we lost, and had to stay at that table. I realized right away that the people coming to our table were probably using a different set of rules, so using gestures, I tried to communicate the trump suit and the value of aces. I never knew if my gestures were completely understood, but it seemed as if the games at our table went fairly smoothly. My motive was just to be able to play, because, well, I like games. And even though in real life I am VERY competitive, I think I figured that winning the card game wasn't ultimate success in this scenario. So I wasn't as intent on winning the game as I was on figuring out the best way to play.

After about four rounds of the tournament, the game was over and we had a classroom discussion about the game as a representation of culture shock. I am sure you can see the parallels and all the implications, including the presence of a language barrier. It was an awesome experience.


  1. Good job at seeing the bigger picture quickly!

    I pray that you'll always have eyes that see clearly, a heart that obeys quickly and grace that is given lavishly.

    Thanks for sharing the game & your experience... it's a very tangible way to see how easy it is to misunderstand one another.

  2. Okay cool was that lesson. Love it. Language barriers, cultural differences and aggravation all rolled into one game. Clever.