Culture in expressions

I just thought I’d share a worksheet I’m doing with my students tomorrow. It asks them to examine some common English expressions for the cultural values they reflect and then compare those cultural values to Korea.

A useful way to understand a culture is by examining the expressions people use in everyday conversation. These common expressions, after all, reflect what most people in a given society believe in or value. With your partner, discuss what these expressions suggest about American culture. From


He thinks he’s better than so and so.

She’s always putting on airs.

That person should be cut down to size.

It’s gone to his head.


1. Talk is cheap.

2. Put your money where your mouth is.

3. He’s all talk and no action.


4. She’s always beating around the bush.

5. Tell it like it is.

6. Straight talk, straight answer, straight shooter: that’s what we need.


7. She did something with her life.

8. Nice guys finish last.


9. Every cloud has a silver lining.

10. Look on the bright side.

11. Tomorrow is another day.


12. Where there’s a will there’s a way.


13. Stand on your own two feet.


14. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

15. All that glitters isn’t gold.


16. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


After checking your answers with the class, would you say that the same values/beliefs are highly valued in Korean culture? Support your answers with examples from Korean culture (for example, Korean expressions – use Korean and translate into English). Your comparison/contrast of these values/beliefs will be submitted for a grade.

1-3: Americans value action and doing over talking, especially if it’s talking instead of action.

4-6: Directness

7-8: Emphasis on accomplishment, achieving things, in addition to being a good person.

9-11: Optimism.

12: Self determination.

13: Self-reliance, independence.

14-15: Don’t judge or be fooled by appearances; look beneath the surface.

16: Risk-taking, experimentation.

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Comments (2)

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  1. priscila says:

    Hi, I’m Priscila, a Brazilian student.

    I thought your blog very interesting specially for English teachers as I am. I’m studying yet but I teach children for 2 years. I really would like you to send me a message with some tips of how to teach English for children in your opinion.

    Have a nice night!


  2. James Trotta says:

    I have no idea how to teach children. Sorry.