CultureDude is an online platform that provides cultural tips and tricks to avoid awkward intercultural encounters.

Imagine this scenario: you are in Peru, and you’ve been invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Do you bring wine or something non-alcoholic? Once you have arrived, should you offer a hug, a handshake, or a peck on the cheek? Or perhaps you’re in Australia. Is it culturally appropriate to enjoy a relaxing moment in the sauna naked? Well, avoid unnecessary embarrassment (and possible arrest), as unlike in Finland, the answer is no, you should always wear an item of clothing when you visit a public sauna Down Under.

CultureDude is an online platform consisting of more than 6,000 cultural scenarios for over 100 countries worldwide. After registering online, you can use the tool – which is, conveniently, in the form of a game – to learn practical scenarios you might come across while traveling. Although it does not provide extensive cultural training, it will provide you with tips about common cultural conventions that will help you to avoid awkward moments, and help you to better cope with intercultural communication.

A moment of silent inspiration

The company, a startup based in Helsinki, was founded by Siva Kumar, an entrepreneur from India who has been living in Finland for many years and holds a degree in engineering from Aalto University. As an immigrant in Finland, Siva’s inspiration for developing CultureDude stemmed from his experiences on the Helsinki metro. “You sit on the metro, and no one makes eye contact, no one talks, so you begin to think that they don’t like foreigners,” he recalls. But Siva soon understood that Finns appreciate silence, privacy and one’s own space, which made him think that it would be good to have a service that could teach people about cultural differences between many other countries as well.

Since the goal of CultureDude is to cover as many countries as possible, Siva compiled a team of people from all continents to help with the task. The international team includes the Russian-born Natalia Koryakina, who is in charge of business development, as well as cultural expert and Nigeria native, Ablodun Adabi.

The platform took two-and-a-half years to develop, and the process of acquiring cultural scenarios and information involves in-depth research, fact-checking and focus group research that serves to provide information about changing cultures and ensure that the cultural scenarios are up-to-date.

The platform also collects metrics on the data by asking the users whether the information provided was useful or not, and the team adjusts the game accordingly. The CultureDude website also includes a so-called Cultural Perception Dashboard. This service was envisioned as a tool that companies can use to increase cultural awareness. It measures the cultural knowledge of each user regarding a specific country or culture, and provides useful data on the cultural pitfalls of the company.

So next time you travel, play the game first and learn what you can about the culture you are about to immerse yourself into.


Tijana Stolic