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Lesson Plan: BAFA BAFA


I Learning Objective(s)

(1)    To help students come to understand the meaning and impact of culture

(2)    To demonstrate how one’s feelings of attachment to a given culture are learned though the processes of socialization, and that one’s tendency to judge other cultures is based on one’s own cultural perspective. 

(3)    To demonstrate the potential for misinterpretation that arises when one evaluates another culture solely from the perspective of one’s own values

(4)    To build awareness of the extent to which cultures can vary (cultural difference) and to help students work through these differences

(5)    To help students to come to appreciate cultural diversity and to examine their attitudes and behaviors towards others who are ‘different’ than themselves.


II Rationale for Objectives


By participating in this cultural simulation designed to foster cross-cultural awareness, students will come to experience the development and impact of stereotypes.  By developing a deliberately narrow and stereotypical view of a ‘foreign culture’, and subsequently examining their own reactions to this culture, and of the other culture’s steortypical reaction to them, students come to appreciate the negative impact of stereotypes and of the need to foster greater tolerance and understanding of others in all spheres of life. 

III Materials

BAFA BAFA Kit (Available from Simulation Training Systems

Kit includes all of the materials needed to facilitate the simulation including director and assistant training guides, audio tapes, and an orientation wall chart.  Workbook that contains all the cultural artifacts and discussion questions are also available from the vendor.

Tape recorder

Chalkboard or Pad



IV Procedures


(1)    Introduction

Randomly assign students into two groups to two artificial cultures:  “Alpha” and “Beta” cultures. Each group is introduced to a different set of cultural values and allowed to practice playing a card game according to these values. The Alpha culture is a relationship oriented, strong in-group out-group culture. It is patterned on closed "high-context" cultures where interpersonal relationships and physical closeness are prized values. As a non-competitive culture, its card game has no winners or losers.  The Beta culture is a highly competitive "time is money", "you are what you earn" trading culture. It has its own specialized "trading language". 

(2)    Activity

Participants are introduced or “briefed” about the rituals, customs and language of their culture and given time to practice and live in their new culture (Rules/instructions can be modified as appropriate). Observers and visitors are exchanged on a “tourist-like” basis for very brief periods of time.  It is forbidden to explain the rules of either culture to visitors so the only means of understanding is observation and trial and error participation.  Before the Alphans talk to each other, for example, they must first touch each other.  Thus, Betans will not be immediately aware that in order to speak with an Alphan, they must first touch the other person, and will be ignored by the Alphans when they try to speak to them.  Sanctions are imposed when cultural norms are violated.  After repeated attempts by the Betans to talk to the Alphans, the Alphans will offer the Betan visitor a card, which lets other Alphans know that the visitor has been sanctioned. 

(3)    Discussion

§         What does BAFA BAFA teach us about how we judge, represent, understand, and communicate with those who are different from us?

§         What assumptions about “others” are reflected in the design of the BAFA BAFA simulation?  What did you learn about yourself and others during the simulation?

§         What does it teach us about social processes and social structures? 

§         What is the impact of not knowing about another culture on your impressions of this culture?  How might this be changed?

(4)    Summary

George Herbert Mead spoke of the need for individuals to “take on the role of another”.  Having played BAFA BAFA, do you think that it is important to take on this role? Why or why not?

V Evaluation/Assignment

Students watch an episode of the situation comedy "Third Rock from the Sun" at home. (If students do not have a chance to watch it that night, they try to remember an episode they have seen before.) In the next class, students discuss why it is funny and what lessons it teaches.   Synopses of all the episodes are available from


Supplementary Reading Materials

Myers, D. J. et al. (2000).  Signals, symbols, and vibes: An exercise in cross-cultural interaction.  Teaching Sociology, 29 (1), 95-101.