50+ Pandemic-Friendly Cultural Activities (recommended by Cenet staff!)

Experiencing U.S. culture, people, and customs is a huge component of Cenet’s exchange programs. The pandemic and social distancing requirements can make that difficult, but not impossible. Below is a list of over 50 activities that can be done at home or at a safe social distance.


If you do any of these activities, let us know in your monitoring responses or tag us on social media (@CenetExchange).


At Home:

  1. Painting // take an online painting class or join a virtual community paint party!
  2. Bake treats and drop them off at the doors of friends and neighbors.
  3. Learn to code:
  4. Improve your English with an online class or pick up another language! Cenet also offers FREE conversational English classes during regular business hours. Contact cenet@cenet.org for more details!
  5. Read some great American novels. Reading is a fantastic way to improve your vocabulary and learn about the culture of any given era. Here is a list to get started: PBS Great American Novels List
    • You can also listen to audio books.
    • Sign up for a local library card. This will allow you to download digital copies and audio books for free. If safe to go in, you may also borrow physical copies of books (call your local library to check their pandemic policies first).
  6. Check out American shows on streaming services! Here are some Cenet staff suggestions:
    • The Office (U.S.) – the U.S. version of the beloved and biting British mockumentary about life as an office worker.
    • The Queen’s Gambit – the tumultuous coming-of-age story of an orphan chess prodigy.
    • Parks and Recreation – another mockumentary, but this one takes aim at government bureaucracy.
    • VEEP—while we’re on government bureaucracy…watch this political satire at your own risk. Life imitates art in this comedy series.
    • Saturday Night Live (SNL) – famous sketch comedy show (I mean, everyone knows SNL, right?).
    • American Horror Story – frightening anthology series for people who like to be very scared of people, places, inanimate objects, etc.
    • Queer Eye – Watch the Fab Five give fashion and lifestyle makeovers.
    • Breaking Bad – this show is about a teacher with cancer who starts cooking crystal meth with his former student. PROMISING PREMISE. But seriously, it’s one of the greatest American TV shows of all time.
    • Friends – I’m not going to degrade anyone by explaining what friends is. It’s Friends!
    • The Sopranos – a family business drama…if your family business is scary mob stuff.
    • Seinfeld – this follows a man and his friends in New York. I think it was Friends for people who were around before Friends.
    • The West Wing – this is a drama about the White House. Don’t worry, it’s not a scary show.
    • The Simpsons – I mean, this is kind of like Friends…It’s the Simpsons!
    • Project Runway – This is a competition show surrounding fashion designers.
    • Selling Sunset – this reality show follows gorgeous women selling gorgeous properties. And that’s basically it. But it works. If reality shows are your thing.
    • Top Chef – cooking contest where talented chefs compete for the top prize.
    • Nailed It – baking contest where untalented non-chefs compete for the top prize.
    • Survivor – contestants are sent to an island to outlast, outwit, and outplay other contestants. There’s immunity idols and they vote off people they don’t like and say dramatic things like “the tribe has spoken” as they extinguish the torch of the ex-communicated tribe member.
    • Game of Thrones – plot twist: GoT is written by an American author and produced by an American television company. It may not give you a glimpse of American culture per se, but it will help you engage with other Americans. Unproven fact: Americans love GoT. The source material was written by George R. R. Martin—shout out to Cenet if you ever win a trivia contest for this fact.
    • The Wire – I want to say this is about drugs. Or police officers. Or police officers investigating drugs but maybe they’re morally ambiguous. Disclosure: I have not watched The Wire.
    • Gossip Girl – this is about entitled rich kids in NYC. This is more ambient TV.  Disclosure: sadly, I have watched GG. And I am calling it “GG” now. I need to rethink my life choices in quarantine.
    • The Marvelous Mrs. Maisal – a delightfully clever period show about a female comic in the 1950s.
    • The Twilight Zone—I think the Twilight Zone is an anthology series about eerie weird sci-fi possibilities. So I don’t know, maybe too soon for 2020.
    • The X-Files – Aliens, maybe?
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer – a high school girl slays vampires. I’m just going on pure context clues now.
    • The Walking Dead – people become zombies and start hunting the regular humans to make them zombies.
    • House – medical drama about a doctor with unique skills (I mean, sounds right?).
    • Battlestar Galactica – Sci-fi space stuff…I don’t know, but this show has a cult following. I think it’s like blue cheese. You either find it totally amazing or utterly repugnant. There’s no neutrality with blue cheese or BattleStar Galactica.
  7. And movies on streaming services! A few staff suggestions:
    • Hamilton – The Cenet staff can basically do a full run through of this show. So if you prefer a highly tone-deaf, low-talent rendition, call us.
    • Shawshank Redemption – classic prison escape movie.
    • LaLa Land – dreamy drama about a pivotal relationship in the lives of the main characters.
    • Get Out – smart horror movie with a social message.
    • It’s a Wonderful Life — classic Christmas movie with a wholesome message.
    • A Raisin in the Sun – a famous play turned film about a black family who inherits a small fortune in 1950s Chicago.
    • Momento – if you like mind-bending movies or general self-deception, this is for you.
    • A Quiet Place – set in a dystopian society where predators hunt you by sound.
    • Forrest Gump – quintessential American movie about a man who lives through many major historical moments.
    • Almost Famous – a story of a young journalist touring with a rock’n’roll band in the 70s.
    • Silence of the Lambs – this is a terrifying movie about a serial killer. On a scale of 1-10 on “scary” level, I’d say it’s somewhere between a 9 and a person wears a human skin coat.
    • Rear Window – classic Hitchcock mystery thriller from the 50s.
    • The Breakfast Club – five high school students find out they have more in common than they thought during a Saturday detention—while rocking some serious 80s fashion trends and an iconic soundtrack.
    • Raiders of the Lost Ark – a famous installation of the popular Indian Jones movies.
    • Ten Things I Hate About You—a classic teen movie for 90s kids.
    • Fight Club—a person with less self-respect would quote the rules of Fight Club here…
    • Brokeback Mountain—a beautifully made epic western with a gay love story at its core.
    • Jurassic Park— I haven’t seen it since I was kid, but the dinosaurs are somehow alive and the scientists are in danger. Unintended consequences seem like a theme here…
    • The Shining—based on a Stephen King novel, this story is set at an isolated, historic hotel and things get creepy fast.
    • Silver Linings Playbook – a story of an unlikely friendship between two characters battling tragedies and mental illness. It’s more fun than it sounds.
    • Inception – sci-fi movie about entering dreams and planting ideas. It’s an enjoyable movie, and you’ll be able to make jokes about spinning a top to see if something is real…added bonus when outrageous things happen in life.
    • Superhero Movies (there’s tons, but we suggest the Christopher Nolan Batman series).
    • The Hunger Games—placed in a dystopian society where children fight to the death in an arena, based on the bestselling series by U.S. author Suzanne Collins.
    • Rolling Stone Best Movie Lists – in case you want more movies with actual reviews.
  8. Learn an instrument through online tutorials:
  9. Try knitting or crafting.
    • Personally, I hate crafts. But here is a link if you do not: Crafting Ideas
  10. View a virtual concert. Many major artists are streaming their concerts and tickets may be purchased online.
  11. Purchase adult coloring books or art supplies and make your own work of art!
  12. Sign up for a MasterClass. Theres so many topics available. You like it, they’ve got it: https://www.masterclass.com/
  13. Meditate – if you’ve never done this, check out various YouTube and free tutorials online.
  14. Set up a virtual game night with colleagues and friends. Many games can be played virtually. Examples: Pictionary, Charades, and Bingo!
  15. Host or participate in a virtual karaoke night. There’s apps you can download to make this easier! Tips & inspiration:
  16. Host or attend a virtual happy hour or cocktail hour. Even if you do not drink or you’re under 21, these are great opportunities to network, socialize, and sip a soda or virgin cocktail! If you are 21 or older, enjoy the real deal! Cons: we all miss bars. Pros: no worries about arranging a ride home + your bed and/or Netflix is only steps away!
  17. Sharp pivot: if cocktailing isn’t the best for you, use quarantine to practice a sober lifestyle: How to Stay Sober in Quarantine
  18. Take a virtual museum tour. Many museums are offering similar tours, but here is one to get you started: Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tours
  19. Try cooking or baking a new recipe. The New York Times publishes recipes frequently: NYT Cooking
  20. Write down the similarities and differences between your culture and US culture.
  21. Write letters to friends and family in your home country and in the U.S. Emails are great, but getting cards, letters, and postcards in the mail is always a treat!
    • Write yourself a letter each month about what you have learned and experienced, then send the letter to your home country address or to a friend to hold for you. After you are home from your exchange program, you can open the letters and reminisce about your exchange experience.
  22. Organize an indoor scavenger hunt with roommates. If you don’t have roommates, you could still do this, but it would be pretty lame. On the bright side: you don’t have roommates! Way to score that single bedroom place!
  23. Continue learning by taking an online course. Founded by Harvard and MIT, Edx is a trusted platform for education and learning. Check out free courses from leading institutions here.
  24. Decorate your space with seasonal crafts! Carve a pumpkin, dye eggs, make a holiday wreath.
  25. Learn a dance. Whether a short dance on TikTok or Reels or a proper dance, you can find tutorials online. Explore YouTube and other providers! If you’re good, send us a video. If you’re bad, please send us a video!
  26. Check out a comedy show online! Many comics share shows on YouTube and social media. There’s also shows streaming from various comedy clubs and providers. Second City is offering shows here.
  27. Join a virtual book club! Ask your friends and colleagues if they are in one or if they’d like to start one. If not, there are many to join online!
  28. Find a place of worship online; many religious organizations are offering online and/or outdoor options.
  29. Try writing. Keep a journal or write a poem or short story.
  30. Follow a national league sports team or check out local teams. Some sporting events may even allow small numbers of fans to attend the event in-person.
  31. If you are tidy, great. If you’re like the rest of us, use this time to cultivate good habits and keep a clean house. It may not be fun, but it’s a great use of time and could contribute to a better long-term lifestyle:
  32. Participate in online trivia nights.
  33. Try out online games, virtual reality, and/or video games. Many of these games have a social element. You can play with people you know or meet new people. The 26 Best Online Games to Play With Friends While Social Distancing
  34. Explore online and tele-therapy options.  Mental health is important and nearly all therapists are offering at-home options. Find a local provider or a larger service: NYT: The Online Therapy Services We’d Use
  35. Listen to Podcasts. You can download podcasts for free on your device or listen on a computer. Podcasts have become very popular and there’s so many good ones out there! The best part is that you can listen while doing other activities. Here are a few Cenet staff suggestions:
    • Serial
    • This American Life
    • RadioLab
    • Dirty John
    • Dr. Death
    • Invisabilia
    • Homecoming
    • Ted Radio Hour
    • Freakonomics
    • 99% Invisible
    • Still Processing
    • S-Town
    • Fresh Air
    • Arm Chair Expert
    • The DropOut
    • 2 Dope Queens

At a Social Distance:

  1. Go on a picnic in the park.
  2. Use a geocaching app:
  3. Join an outdoor fitness class or check out many online fitness courses. There’s countless online classes and apps and many have free trials. If you’re sitting too much, try to set goals for step counts each day! Use your phone, a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or buy a basic pedometer and get moving! Invite friends and colleagues to participate in step count challenges with you. Get quaran-toned! We believe in you.
  4. Get some house plants. Did you know house plants can reduce fatigue, enhance your mood, improve air quality, ease dry skin and respiratory ailments, boost pain tolerance, and improve performance and focus. Who knew? You do. You know now. Get a plant. Try not to kill it. It’s fun AND challenging.
  5. Check if there’s a drive-in movie theater or movies in the park in your area. Many communities are offering outdoor film options.
  6. Do a make-up and/or hair tutorial online! If it turns out great, take a selfie or video and tag Cenet! If it turns out awful, for sure take a selfie or video and tag Cenet! WE HAVE BEEN THERE.
  7. Pick fruit in the summer/fall at local orchards.
  8. Explore local farmer’s markets and support local farmers and vendors.
  9. See if you live near any state or national parks. Exploring parks and local trails is a great way to get exercise, take in some fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of nature.
  10. Participate in a virtual race. 5ks, 10ks, half marathons and marathons are still occurring. You can download routes or create your own.

American interaction suggestions in the event that making new contacts is challenging:

  1. Ask a colleagues or supervisor questions about themselves or the local community.
    • Suggestions: What is your favorite thing to do for fun? Do you know if any trails are close by? Is there a local place of worship for (insert religion)?
    • Questions to avoid: What’s your darkest secret? Did your parents love you? The house is on fire, which family member do you save?
  2. Ask colleagues or supervisor for socially distanced suggestions on things to do locally.
  3. Cook a traditional meal at home and ask a colleague or American friend to join you.
  4. Bring traditional food or candy from home to share with your colleagues.
  5. Share your country’s holiday traditions with your colleagues. This is a fun way to educate Americans about your culture and it will help fend off homesickness.
  6. Invite a colleague or American friend to go for a hike (or other safe activity).
  7. Invite a colleague or American friend for a movie night at home – you pick something from home and they pick something from home. You can use Hulu Watch Party or a similar service, or simply start the film at the same time.
  8. Get advice from a merchant at a farmer’s market for how to prepare a vegetable or other food item that’s not common at home.


If you need more tips or suggestions, do not contact Cenet. We just gave you over 50 suggestions! But sure, we’re here for you if you need us.


We wish all our participants a happy and safe experience on their exchange programs!

Cenet strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.