Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Hege Library & Learning Technologies

Study Abroad at Guilford College

Library tools and services for students studying abroad. All of our library guides are mobile-ready, so navigate to this page and bookmark it on your phone or tablet device.

Welcome

This page is designed to provide viewers with online resources in order to explore different facets of cultural subjects such as food, religion, and language. Here you can access videos, hands-on information such as recipes, and info pages related to multiple cultural topics.

Guidelines for Adding to the Page: This page works as a wiki for students to add information. You can add information including pictures, videos, topics, and sources. To add information, follow the guidelines below….

Author’s Note: When looking through these resources, please keep in mind that culture is messy and complex in a way that cannot be captured through any one format. People are at the centers of these cultures, and people are complex. For example, though Shinto and Buddhism were included under Japan’s religion topic, the topic doesn’t shed light on the complexity of the people. My host family was Christian, my calligraphy teacher was Catholic, and I ran into Jehovah’s Witnesses in Hiroshima.

So while browsing through this site to please think critically of it as well. Think of “why” when exploring culture in addition to how culture is represented.

Guidelines for Submissions

We greatly encourage students to add information to this page. Please be considerate to the fact that this page is designed as an educational resource so the sources added must be informational. If they are not informational then they will be removed.

We like sources from articles, videos, photos, to blogs.

Use studyabroad@guilford.edu to submit content as well as comments, questions or concerns relating to this site.

Asia & The Pacific

China (中国), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a sovereign state located in East Asia. It is one of the world's most populous countries.

Language Sources

  • Spoken: There are as many as 292 lagnuages still used in China. The languages most commonly spoken belong to the Sintic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family, which contains Mandarin (spoken natively by 70% of the population).
  • Written: Chinese characters are logograms used in the writing of Chinese and some other Asian languages. In standarn Chinese they are called hanzi (simplified Chinese: 汉字; traditional Chinese: 漢字). They have been adapted to write a number of other languages including: Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Chinese characters constitute the oldest continuously used system of writing in the world.

Language Links: learn chinese, ancient Chinese writing,

Food Sources

  • History: The history of Chinese cuisine stretches back for thousands of years and has changed from period to period and in each region according to climate, imperial fashions, and local preferences. Over time techniques and ingredients from other cultures were integrated as well.

Food links: Chinese food in America versus Chinese food in China, Chinese cooking, recipes, eating vegetarian in China

Entertainment Sources

  • Sports: Basketball is currently known as one of the most popular sports in China. Badminton, football, and table tennis are also very popular. Traditional sports with distinct Chinese characteristics include martial arts, tajiquan (shadow boxing, Chinese chess, and qigong (deep breathing exercises).

Sports links: Basketball info, table tennis info, play online Chinese chess, how to play Chinese chess, Kung Fu Martial Arts Competition video

  • Movies: Cinema was introduced in China in 1896 and the first Chinese film, "The Battle of Dingjunshan" was made in 1905, with the film industry being centered on Shanghai in the first decades.

Movie Links: "To Live" (1994), Chinese Cinimatic History

Other links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: China

Japan (日本 (ni-hon)), also known as "Land of the Rising Sun" is one of the most densly populated countries in the world.

Language Sources

  • Hiragana: Hiragana is used to write native words for which there are no kanji. This alphabet is the best to use when starting to learn Japanese.
  • Katakana: In contrast to the hiragana, which is used for Japanese words and grammatical inflections which kanji does not cover, the katakana usage is quite similar to italics in English; specifically, it is used for to change foreign language words into Japanese and the writing of loan words.
  • Kanji: Kanji are the adopted from Chinese characters. Around 2,000 to 3,000 kanji characters are in common use in Japan, but the Dai Kan-Wa Jiten, which is considered to be comprehensive in Japan, contains about 50,000 characters!

          Language links: Hiragana lessons, Katakana lessons, Learn Kanji

Food Sources

  • Rice: In most of Japan, rice used to be consumed for almost every meal. Rice has been the staple food for the Japanese historically. Its fundamental importance is evident from the fact that the word for cooked rice in Japanese is gohan and meshi (which literally means"meal").
  • Noodles: Japanese noodles often substitute for a rice-based meal. Soba (thin, grayish-brown noodles containing buckwheat flour) and udon (thick wheat noodles) are the main traditional noodles, while ramen is a modern import and now very popular.
  • Dining etiquette: It is customary to say itadakimasu (lit. "I [humbly] receive") before starting to eat a meal and go-chisō-sama (It was a feast) when you have finished eating. The proper usage of chopsticks (hashi) is the most important table etiquette in Japan (see chopstick etiquette link below).

          Food links: Basics,Sushi, Alcohol, Chopstick Etiquette, Bento (lunch boxes), Vegetarian Food, Recipes

Entertainment Sources

  • Sports: Many of Japan's popular sports are imported, the most popular being baseball and soccer. There are also sports that are believed to have originated in Japan such as sumo and a variety of martial arts such as kendo.

          Sports links: Sumo, Baseball, Martial Arts, Soccer, Kendo

  • TV and Movies: Japan is rich in television series and cinema. Perhaps most well-known outside Japan are anime shows and movies such as Hayao Miazaki's animated films.

          Movie links: "My Neighbor Totoro" by Hayao Miazaki, "One Piece" anime TV show

  • Books: Early Japanese literature was influenced by cultural contact with China, so early literature was written in Chinese Eventually, Japanese literature developed into separate styles, creating the hiragana and katakana used today. Also popular today is manga, Japanese comics that come in a large variety of genres.

          Book links: Manga, Haruki Murakami,- famous writer, "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" by Mishima Yukio, "Out" by Natsuo Kirino

  • Video Games: Video gaming is a major industry in Japan. Their companies such as Nintendo are well-known around the world. Arcades are also very common.

          Video game links: Arcade Documentary,

Arts Sources

Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media. It has a long history, ranging from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan.

Arts links: Origami, Tea Ceremony, Calligraphy,

Religion Sources

  • Shinto: While it has been arguable among scholars whether Shinto can be defined as a religion, it is a part of many people's lives in Japan. Shinto revolves around kami (English translation: gods, spirits, divine essence) which take many forms (places, animals, people, rocks trees) and exist in the same world as people.

         Shinto links: Basics, Kami, Shrines, Festivals

  • Buddhism: Buddhism had a major role in the development of Japanese society and is still lives as a beating heart in Japanese culture. It is common for there to be a combination of practices of both Shinto and Buddhism in Japanese religion. This dualistic religious tendency is so prevalent among the Japanese that which religion they belong to may seem confusing. The variety of Japanese religiosity cannot be comprehended as an “either or” situation, as in the case of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, but rather as an “as well as” situation.

          Buddhism links: Basics, Guide, Temples, History

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Japan

South Korea

African Continent

South Africa

Cape Town

Brief History

Early Inhabitants

  • The earliest inhabitants of South Africa were the San, who were hunter-gatherers, and the Khoekhoe, who were a pastoral people. Together, these two groups are known as the Khoisan, and they lived on the Southern tip of Africa for thousands of years. Other early inhabitants were the Bantu-speaking people, who had arrived from the north.  These people settled and lived in South Africa for hundreds of years before the first European colonists arrived.

Colonization

  • In 1652 Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape of Good Hope, intending to establish a rest station for ships on their way to East Asia.
  • These colonists did not want to enslave the local South African Khoisan because they wanted to maintain a positive trading relationship. Instead, they brought over slaves from elsewhere on the African Continent and the East. The descendants of the Khoisan, slaves, and white colonists formed the basis of what would later become known as the racial category of “coloured”.
  • South Africa evolved from a simple trading post to a true colony. White colonists began to expand and take over the land that had been held by indigenous South Africans for hundreds of thousands of years.
  • Warfare broke out between the groups vying for land, but by the end of the 1600s, most of the Western Cape was under Dutch control and the Koisan were forced to move north to less fertile land.
  • The British arrived in 1795, and the Cape of Good Hope traded hands between the Dutch and the British multiple times. Throughout this time, more British, Dutch, German, and French colonists were arriving.
  • The Angl-Boer/South African War began in October of 1899, with black South Africans being dragged into the conflict by the Dutch and the British. The war ended at the Peace of Vereeniging in 1902. 

Mining, the Union, and the ANC

  •  Diamonds were discovered in 1867, and Gold was discovered a short time later. This led the government to create laws that forced black people to leave their homes and families and come work in the mines in horrible conditions, and prevented them from permanently settling in urban areas.
  • The Union of South Africa formed on May 31st, 1910. The Union was incredibly racialized, and black South Africans were barred from representative government.
  • The African National Congress (ANC) formed as a resistance to this oppression. In April of 1944, the ANC Youth League was formed, with Nelson Mandela as the secretary.
  • The National Party won the election in 1948, and apartheid became official government ideology.

Apartheid

  • The Group Areas Act of 1950: people were forced to only live in certain areas based on their race
  • The Population Registration Act of 1950: People were forced people to register with the government as a specific racial classification.
  • Defiance Campaign of 1952: led to thousands being put in jail
  • Freedom Charter signed in Soweto on June 26, 1955.
  • 156 ANC leaders and allies were charged with high treason and an extremely long trial ensued. All were acquitted in 1961.
  • Pan-African Congress (PAC), founded by Robert Sobukwe, broke away from the ANC
  • An anti-pass campaign turned violent in Sharpeville on March 21st, 1960. The Government declared a state of emergency, and the ANC, PAC and other organizations were banned and forced to go underground.
  • Several senior ANC leaders were arrested in July of 1963 and were all sentenced to life imprisonment and taken to Robben Island.
  • June 16th, 1976, the Youth of Soweto marched against being taught in the language of Afrikaans, resulting in violence.
  • New Movement emerged known as Black Consciousness. Its founder, Steve Biko, was murdered by police brutality in 1977.
  • February 2nd, 1990, De Klerk lifted restrictions on the ANC and the PAC. Nelson Mandela was released from prison after 27 years.
  • South Africa’s first democratic election was held in April of 1994, with the ANC gaining victory, and Nelson Mandela becoming president. 
  • Click here for a list of South African Government acts passed from 1850-1970

The New Constitution

  • Often regarded as the most progressive constitution in the world.
  • Human rights specified (examples: equality, freedom of expression and association, political and property rights, housing, health care, education, access to information, access to courts)
  • Sexual orientation is included as something that cannot be discriminated against.
  • Promotes non-racialism and non-sexism
  • Constitution is the new law of the land
  • Democracy is a universal adult right.
  • Lists 11 official languages
  • Although the constitution itself is incredibly progressive, the attempts to address racial discrimination and other forms of injustice have not all been successful.

Racial Classifications

  • Although Apartheid has officially ended and people no longer have to register their race with the government, the Apartheid system of racial classification still prevails in the ideology of the country.
  • The official racial classifications were: White, Black, Indian, and Coloured
  • These terms are still commonly used in South Africa 

Languages

  • There are 11 official languages in South Africa: Afrikaans, English, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, and isiZulu. Click here to view common greetings in each language. 
  • English is often seen as the language of business, politics, and media, and is the lingua franca. According to a 2011 census, however, isiZulu is most commonly spoken throughout the country, followed by isiXhosa, then Afrikaans, and English coming in as the fourth most common.
  • ​South Africans whose first language is an African language tend to be multilingual, while South Africans whose first language is English or Afrikaans are more likely to be monolingual or bilingual. This is because Afrikaans and English hold more power and status in South Africa, so people whose first language is an African one are likely to learn both Afrikaans and English in addition to their first language
  • Click here to view some language diversity maps 

Click here for additional information collected on the 2011 census 

Specialty Food and Drink

  • Bilton and Droewors: dry curing of meat usually made from beef or game. The meat is cured with a mixture of vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices, then hung to dry.
  • Boerewors: Traditional South African sausage made from beef, mixed with either pork or lamb and a mix of spices. It’s usually served in a coiled shape.
  • Cape Malay Curry: Curries with a mixture of spices and cooking methods from Indonesia, India, and Malaysia.
  • Malva Pudding: sweet sponge pudding made with apricot jam and covered in a hot cream sauce
  • Chakalaka: vegetable dish made of onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans, and spices. It is often served cold.
  • Pap: means “porridge.” It is often used as a conduit for sauces.
  • Bunny Chow: hollowed out loaves of bread, stuffed with spicy curry, commonly eaten in Durban.
  • Bobotie: a minced meat dish baked with an egg-based topping, and full of spices.
  • Springbokkies: An alcoholic shot made of Amarula Cream and peppermint liquor. It is a very patriotic drink, as the colors are the same as the South African national rugby team.

Entertainment

  • Braai: A staple pastime for South Africans. It is a barbecue held on an open outdoor grill, includes the braaing of meat.
  • Sports: The three most popular sports are soccer, cricket, and rugby. Preferences for each sport are often broken down along racial lines. White South Africans are most partial to rugby, Indian South Africans most follow cricket, and black 
    South Africans favor soccer, although any given person from any racial classification may enjoy or play each sport. 
  • Music:
    • Kwaito: Originally grew from US house music, and became popular in the townships in the 1990s. It is often played on the radio and in clubs. Examples: Wololo, Soweto Baby, Love Colour Spin, Umsindo, Naughty Dance 
    • Iscathamiya: Traditional Zulu music style is a call and response style of choral music performed by South African men. Examples: Shosholoza, Mix of Choirs
    • South African Jazz: influenced by South Africa’s black township population in the 1930s as well as the black population in the United States. Examples: African Jazz Pioneers, Way Back Fifties
    • Kwela: Influenced by African American jazz and swing. This style of music is primarily played on a pennywhistle and has simple harmonies and repetitive rhythm. Examples: Thaba Bosiu, Clarinet Kwela
    • Raggae: Links to reggae from the Caribbean, but it has African drumming and is always conveyed with intense emotion. Examples: Who's Gonna Care, Jose Carlos Tribute
  • Art: Cape Town and Johannesburg have incredibly vibrant art scenes. Cape Town is home to a great number of art galleries, and Johannesburg is known for its medium of street art and is seen as the Graffiti capital of Africa. First Thursdays Cape TownJohannesburg Street Art

Religion

Current Political Climate

  • South Africa is a constitutional democracy with a legislative, executive, and judicial authority.  It has 13 political parties represented in Parliament. All South African citizens age 18 or over are eligible to vote, and elections are held every five years. The current president of South Africa is Jacob Zuma, a member of the ANC. 
  • Structure and function of the South African Government
  • Overview of South Africa's main political parties 

Recommended Reading

 

 

Middle East

Central & South America

Argentina

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Argentina

Ecuador    

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Ecuador

Nicaragua

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Every Culture: Nicaragua

 

Peru

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Peru

Europe

Czech Republic

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Czech Republic

England

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: England

Germany

Language Sources

German is mainly spoken in 3 countries: Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. It is also spoken among groups of people in various European countries, the USA, Central and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Hochdeutsch (High German) is the official written language of Germany and is what one learns in language class. Martin Luther's translation of the Bible from Hebrew & ancient Greek to German was the beginning of the formation of a standard written German.  There are many different dialects throughout Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and even a southern dialect in Northern Italy (part of the Tirol). Sweitzerdeutsch (Swiss German) is very hard for Germans and Austrians to understand. In the south of Germany, the Bavarian dialect is common. It is occasionally written phonetically in Hochdeutsch (High German) in poetry or fairy tales, but is primarily only spoken. 

http://www.omniglot.com/writing/german.htm

https://www.deutsch-lernen.com/learn-german-online/german_language.htm

https://www.studying-in-germany.org/learn-german/

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Germans are predominantly Catholic and Protestant. The country also has a variety of other practiced religions and faiths: http://germanculture.com.ua/germany-facts/religion-in-germany/

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Germany

German Student Visa and requirements

German Health Insurance for Students

Master's Degrees in Germany

German EU Blue Card

 

Ireland

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Ireland

Italy

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Italy

New Zealand

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: New Zealand

Spain

Language Sources

Food Sources

Entertainment Sources

Arts Sources

Religion Sources

Other Links

Hofstede Culture Comparison

Every Culture: Spain