How To Plug Your Participants Into The Local Culture

By Joy Lo


As our exchange participants from across the world arrive in the U.S., they are eager to see what the country has to offer. Hosts of these young people -- whether host employers, camps, or families -- play an essential role in helping them learn about American culture.

Showcasing U.S. culture doesn't need to be complicated. There are two main ways you can do so: hosting cultural events and promoting events in the community.

Climbing.

Image courtesy of Sutida W., 2018 Work & Travel USA Program participant

Hosting Cultural Events

Take the time at least once per month to throw an event for your participants that is specifically focused on cultural exchange.
  • Karaoke: Encourage participants to sing their favorite American songs.
  • Explore nature: Go hiking, kayaking, or take a nature walk.
  • Food events: Host an American-style barbecue or picnic.
  • Employee birthday: For many participants, this may be their first birthday away from home. Help make it unique by organizing a party and singing different versions of "Happy Birthday" from all over the world.
  • Trivia night: Host a trivia night! See how much participants have learned about American culture by using these questions.
  • American holidays: One of the strongest insights into a culture is its holidays, like the 4th of July in the U.S. Picnics and potlucks work well for these celebrations.
  • Volunteer event: Get students together for a day or an hour of volunteering! Partner with a local organization for more interaction with Americans.
  • Movie night: Organizing a movie night showing a classic American film is a simple way to enjoy U.S. culture.
  • Cultural scavenger hunt: Organize this fun game to help students learn about one another.
  • Game night: Bring classic board games like Monopoly, Pictionary, or Scrabble.

Promoting Events in the Community

Community events are the perfect way to showcase U.S. culture and interact with Americans. Make a calendar of the below happenings in your area and encourage participants to attend as many as possible. Remind them that as students, they'll often get a discount!
  • Visit a museum, theatre, or concert hall.
  • Cheer on the home team at a sporting event.
  • Attend a festival or holiday parade.
  • Hit up the farmer's market.
  • Join a local sports team.
  • Try a meetup group.
  • Explore the local library.
  • Take advantage of activities that are hosted for international exchange participants and their hosts by local Community Support Groups.

Want more resources? Check out this guide on Cultural Exchange and the Cultural Compass, a state-by-state guide to activities, culture, and sites in the U.S., which you can share with your participants.

Joy Lo

Joy is a huge advocate for cultural exchange. She's lived across the U.S. and various countries around the world including the UK, Australia and Indonesia. She has a unique perspective on working and thriving in other cultures. She's been a contributing author on Au Pair USA program.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation