In-Depth Interview with a Cultural Informant

Find someone who is culturally different from you in a significant way. If you are a US American, find someone who either immigrated to the U.S.A. or is here from another country, or someone who is from a different religious or racial background than you.  If you are an international student, find someone who is from the USA or a country different from your own, or who is from a different religious or racial background than you. Remember, you must choose someone who has a SIGNIFICANT cultural difference than you (different world religion, different race/ethnicity, different nationality). This could be an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, a co-worker, etc.  You are encouraged to choose someone from the Concordia community, but the person may also be someone from outside Concordia. Choose 3-4 aspects of that person’s background/culture that you would like to learn more about (this may include family life, religious practices, cultural values, educational system & experience, etc.).  You can refer to the Target Culture Questionnaire (see below) for some suggested questions on various topics (not all of the questions will be relevant to this assignment and your purposes, but they are intended to just give you ideas for the interview). You are also encouraged to make up your own questions and are not required to use the questions from the Target Culture Questionnaire.

You should conduct a 1 hour interview and then write a 4-5 (more is OK) page typed, double-spaced paper which includes the following information:

INTERVIEW REPORT FORMAT:

BACKGROUND INFORMATION (approximately ½-1 page)

  • Explain how you know your interviewee and why you decided to interview that particular person
  • Describe where the interview took place
  • Briefly describe your previous knowledge about & experience with the person’s culture and any expectations of information you expected to find.
  • Provide a little background information on your interviewee, including how long s/he has been in Minnesota (or wherever, at CSP (if a member of our campus community), places s/he has lived, academic major/professional field, campus and community involvement, etc.

INTERVIEW – KNOWLEDGE GAINED AND INTERVIEW PROCESS REFLECTION (approximately 3 – 4 pages)

  • Discuss the information you learned from the interview (you may want to divide this section of your paper into separate topics based on your interview areas) and how the information compares to your expectations and what we have covered in class (values/beliefs/norms, components of culture, individualism/collectivism, power distance differences, high/low context theory, ascription vs. achievement based societies, communication styles, aspects of verbal and nonverbal communication, etc.).  As mentioned in class, you do not have to write about everything you learned, but rather focus on reflecting on what you learned… What seemed really interesting to you and why…
  • Discuss how the interview went… Were you comfortable?  How did your interviewee react to your questions?  How did the conversation flow?  What helped the interview go well?  What hindered the interview process? 

NEXT STEPS/NEW DIRECTIONS (approximately ½-1 page)

  • Discuss how some of the new information you learned has affected your thinking & explain at least 2 new insights you gained from the interview experience.
  • Based on your interview experience, explain 2-3 suggestions for next steps in your own intercultural competence development and in thinking about cultural sensitivity on a larger scale (applying your insights to help CSP create a more culturally-sensitive campus or to help the larger community be more welcoming, new motivations you have to learn more about other cultures, ideas on how these new insights will affect you in your professional life and as a world citizen, etc.).

GENERAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS… to get you started

1.  How do you feel you are perceived in the U.S. by members outside of your cultural group?

2.  How does your group perceive people in U.S. culture who are not members of your group?

2.  How are you treated as a result of how others perceive you?

3.  How much do you think people outside of your cultural/ethnic/national/religious group know about you and

your culture/ethnicity/nationality/religion?  How have they learned these things?

4.  What are some significant aspects of your culture/ethnicity/nationality that you wish people understood more?

5.  Is there anything else you would like to share about your culture/ethnicity before we get into more specific

topics?

TARGET CULTURE QUESTIONNAIRE

Suggested Topics & Questions

(These questions are included here to give you ideas on topic areas and possible questions to ask…feel free to select what you’d like to cover in your interview or adapt/create your own questions)

  1. HISTORY
  2. Give a broad outline of the country’s history (the major areas and events).
  3. Name the national heroes and heroines (explain why they are considered heroes/heroines)
  4. What is the history of this country’s relationship with the U.S?
  5. What are the national holidays? Can foreigners participate?
  1. POLITICS
  2. What is the current political structure of the country?
  3. Who are the major current leaders?
  4. Is military service compulsory? (if so, for whom and for how long?)
  1. RELIGION
  2. What is/are the dominant religion(s)? Is there an official state religion (which one)? What are the sacred writings of the dominant religion(s)?
  3. What are the important religious ceremonies, observations, holidays?
  4. Are there religious conflicts in this country (how do, for example, the members of the dominant religion feel about other religions?)
  1. FEMALE/MALE RELATIONSHIPS
  2. Are there separate societal roles for men and women? If so, what are they? If not, are men and women considered equal in this country?
  3. What are the rules/norms for “romantic” relationships in this country? Do young people date? If so, do they date in groups, in couples? Do they need a chaperone? Are such relationships formal or informal? Is dating allowed (can unmarried women and men have a “romantic” relationship?) Is it OK to hold hands, touch, kiss, in public?
  4. What are the rules/norms for female/male friendships? In what types of social activities do young women and men participate together?
  • FAMILY
  • What is the common form of marriage ceremony and celebration?
  • What is seen as the ideal family size? Is the typical family nuclear or extended?  Are there key family size differences based on socio-economic status or other factors?
  • What are the attitudes toward divorce? Family planning? Contraception? Abortion?
  • What is the legal age for… voting (if part of your culture’s system), marriage, driving a car, etc.? Are there differences for men and women?
  • SOCIAL ETIQUETTE
  • What are the special privileges of age or sex?
  • When is one expected to present or accept gifts from people? What kind of gifts?
  • How do people greet each other and how do they take leave of one another? Are there differences based on social status, age, and/or sex?
  • DRESS
  • Is there customary attire for women, men, and children? Is there a traditional or indigenous style of dress? Is do, describe it. Who wears it when?
  • What is appropriate dress for you in this country as a foreigner?
  • Are there special dress customs people should know about? (for example, taking off one’s shoes in certain places). What types of clothing might be taboo?
  • What types of clothing must people have for various occasions they might encounter?
  • FOOD
  • What foods are most popular? How are they prepared?
  • How and with what utensils, if any, do people eat?
  • What are the typical norms for eating meals? (where, time of day, with whom, preparation, service, process, etc.)
  • Are there taboo foods that are not considered edible or not permitted for traditional or religious reasons?
  1. LEISURE
  2. What are the favorite leisure activities of adults?  … of young people?
  3. What are the favorite sports? Is there a national sport?
  4. How much do different age groups and genders come together around different activities?
  5. How available are the internet, television, and radio…? What types of TV programs are the most popular? What do you think these popular programs can teach us about your culture – in terms of core values, interests, norms, etc.?
  • HEALTH
  • What kinds of health services are available? Where are they located?
  • Who has access to various health services?
  • Are there common home remedies for minor ailments? What are the attitudes towards “folk” medicine? Is it commonly practiced?
  • What are the main concerns related to health and well-being in your culture?
  • Are there immunizations that are required to enter the country or that are recommended? What can we learn about your country from knowledge that these immunizations are required/recommended?
  • VALUES
  • What are some of the core values of your culture/country?
  • What things are taboo to do in this country? Which things are taboo to talk about in common conversation?
  • What type of moral code is followed? (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, Confucian, etc.?) How does this moral code influence attitudes towards drinking alcohol, drug-taking, gambling, relationships?  How are people punished (either socially or legally) for violating these codes?
  • EDUCATION
  • Is education free? Compulsory to what age? Available to all?
  • In schools, are children segregated by age, sex, race, caste, class?
  • What kinds of schools are considered best: public, private, religious?
  • What style of teaching prevails in schools? (rote learning, importance of exams, lecture, interactive learning techniques, cooperative learning…)
  • Describe the university system and how it differs from the U.S. What is the school year calendar? Is there tuition? What is the grading system like?
  • Are there opportunities for “distance” education?  How are various educational delivery systems perceived and valued?
  • DAILY LIFE
  • When does the normal workday, school day, begin and end? Is there a ‘siesta’ time?
  • What is the customary time to visit friends?  Is it necessary to plan visits in advance or are visits appropriate without ‘warning’?
  • How often do people go shopping to buy necessities (food, clothing , etc.)?
  • What is the currency? What is the current value to the dollar? How has the economy affected daily life in recent years?
  • Are prices asked for merchandise fixed or is one expected to bargain? How is bargaining conducted?
  • ON BEING A FOREIGNER OR NEWCOMER IN THIS COUNTRY
  • As an immigrant/refugee/foreigner/visitor in this country, how will your financial position and social status compare with the majority of people living in this country?  How is that different from where you fit in in your own country?
  • Do members of your culture generally “like” U.S Americans? Other foreigners?
  • How many U.S Americans live in your country?
  • How is the U.S. portrayed in your country’s/culture’s news sources?  Are the major daily news sources (newspapers, TV, etc.) generally friendly to the U.S?
  • When people visit your country, must they register with city officials? The police? The U.S Embassy?
  • Are travel visas necessary to enter your country? What is the official process if foreigners wish to stay longer in your country? What regulations apply to foreigners?
  • Are travel visas necessary to travel to neighboring countries?
  • What should people do if they find themselves in legal trouble?
  • Are there special laws governing the activities of foreigners that people should know about?

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS

Consider asking these questions… they lead to interesting responses!

  1. If you could describe your culture/ethnicity/nation/religion in 3 words, what would they be?
  2. What are the main things you really want people to know about you and your culture/ethnicity/religion?
  3. Is there anything else you would like to share about your culture/ethnicity/religion?

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