Which culture believes that eating cheese late at night causes bad dreams? Who used sea shells as their official currency until 1933? What country boasts the world’s highest beer consumption per capita? Where can you be fined or arrested for shopping at a store not designated for foreigners? Find the answers to these questions and much, much more in the A to Z World Culture database!
This resource is produced by the World Trade Press and offers extremely in depth portraits of 175 countries, including information on trade and travel. 85% of the information in the database is proprietary to this company, and individual authors are recognized at the end of most articles. Biographies of the authors can be found under “Contributors” on the top menu bar. Citations are not provided if a large number of authors contributed to an article or if the information is part of the public domain (the remaining 15% of the data).
This database is extremely simple to use and is most effective when you have a country of interest to begin with. There is a simple search option in the upper menu bar, but links to all of the countries are displayed on the main page. If you click on a country, Denmark, for example, the main page provides some choice tidbits about cultural diversity, religion, and stereotypes (are Danes really “gloomy, silent proponents of minimalist design?”), but the real heart of the information exists within the categories along the left-hand menu bar. I think one of this database’s best attributes is its thorough treatment of each country- you will find the same group of categories for every country- no matter its size.
Here is a quick glance at the information available in these categories (through the Danish lens):
Overview: basics on culture and geography, brief history, and current conditions
Climate: details on each season along with regional variations (nineteen hours of daylight is common in a Danish summer)
Communications: dialing guide, emergency numbers, postal service schedule, and public phone availability (very helpful information for travelers!)
Country Profile: demographics, economy, government (organization and political parties), and a list of current government leaders
Culture: a fun section dealing with gift giving, conversation topics, holidays/festivals, a typical life cycle, and stereotypes. This last section comes with the requisite disclaimer, and expounds on stereotypes from both a foreign point of view and the perspective of that country’s citizens. Also find info on superstitions and folklore here.
Education: statistics, structure, cost, curriculum
Food: description of national cuisine, classic dishes, and step-by-step recipes. (This is a great resource for students who have school assignments to cook dishes from particular countries!)
Human Rights: reports on the state of freedom and civil liberties
Language: common words a traveler might need to know separated into categories like Numbers, Travel Services, and Essential Terms (“Hjælp!” means “Help!”)
Maps: includes political, physical, population, precipitation, blank outline maps, and more- all available as high-resolution PDF downloads
Money: description of currency with some beautiful images of bills and coins
Music: detailed history of music in each country (in Denmark it runs the gamut from long bronze horns used to rally troops in Viking times to the folk-inclusive heavy metal band Wuthering Heights)
National Symbols: lots of flag images for download and details about anthems, birds, flowers, and national days
Religion: description of the state religion, information about religious conflict, and protocol for foreigners
Travel: details on sites of cultural and historical interest, crime, threats to safety, and travel warnings
Business Experience: business travelers will appreciate this information on etiquette, attire, and relationship building (Danes favor open and direct communication; small talk is often postponed until a conclusion is reached at the end of a business meeting)
Teaching Tools: downloadable crossword puzzles!
Lesson Plans: topics are prepared for grades 7-12, with three versions of each plan (short, medium, and long). They correspond to U.S. learning standards and emphasize “rich tasks,” or those that require the use of many different skill sets.