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75. HUMOR – Specific

Are there humorous radio or TV programs? What topics are covered? Are these family or adult oriented? Watch or listen to one of these programs and isolate the humorous elements. Who did or said what to whom? Was one person or object the target? Why? Did the episode have teaching or merely entertainment value?

Are there people who make their living by entertainment? Is this gender specific?

What is their role in society? Are they respected? Are they all members of one tribe, clan, or family? Do they ply their trade only on the media, or are there local venues or spontaneous opportunities available? If so, who are the targeted audience—children? adults? men? women? anyone?

Is there a newspaper with cartoons or a comic section? What or who is their subject?

74. HUMOR – General

What makes people laugh? When they are embarrassed? When someone says something perceived as funny? Children at play? Other reasons?

Who do they poke fun at and when? children? adults? people they know well? people from another group? How does the target person or group react to this? What are acceptable methods of teasing someone?

What inflections or voice modulations are used to indicate a humorous statement in contrast to a serious one? What about accompanying body language?

Are there stories or legends about a comic person (as Don Quixoti)? Do these teach a lesson as well as provide an opportunity for a laugh? On what occasions are such stories retold? Look at or listen to one with a friend and retell it to another friend along with your understanding of its meaning.

Are there ethnic jokes about another tribe or nationality? Are these said with hatred? with sarcasm? in good fun?

As you investigate this topic, see if there are areas where humor would differ in your own country. Are there incidents in your new culture which are considered humorous or witty but would be regarded as insult or damaging in your native culture—and vice versa?

67. RELIGIOUS PRACTICES: Communication of Man to God (prayer)

Is it possible for a person to communicate with his/her god?

  • How is this done?
  • Do certain criteria need to be met before communication can be established, as ritual cleansing, certain clothing, etc.?
  • Do certain actions need to accompany the communication, as body position, bowing, closing the eyes, etc.?
  • Are certain objects used in communication, as rosaries, flags or banners, prayer wheels, etc.?
  • How and why are they used?

Are these communications ritualized? memorized? or is there room for prayers from the heart?

  • Do these prayers need to be made in any certain language?

Are there only certain people who can bring petitions before the deity, and does the ordinary person need to go through that intermediary?

Are there certain times of day or seasons of the year when prayers are more auspicious? When and why?

What are the repercussions, from the deity or from religious leaders, if prayers are not said or if they are not said at the proper time?

Listen to prayers as you attend services in your church.

  • What are some of the “standard” openings and closings, and some of the phrases used frequently?
  • Learn the Lord’s Prayer and become acquainted with “prayer language” so you would be comfortable praying extemporaneously.


Why are these important? As you progress in the language and interact in different conversational events, noting these points can help you emphasize your point in a cultural way, or help you avoid actions that can give a negative connotation to the local people. Learn to be sensitive to these signals and begin to use them when you enter a conversation

Notice what goes on as two people interact in a conversation. Many verbal and nonverbal signals will be given in addition to the actual content of the conversation.

Note the hesitation pauses (similar to English “uh, um, er”, etc.) and where they occur (before the speaker opens the conversation or before be makes a special point? while the speaker wracks his brain for the “right” word? used by the listener to let the speaker know he’s still listening?).

Note eye contact between speaker and listener. Does the speaker look the listener straight in the eye? When, and during what kind of interaction (in ordinary conversation, or when giving a command, explaining something, or issuing discipline)?

Do they glance away periodically? When? How does the listener indicate that he is paying attention? Where is his gaze?

How far apart do people sit or stand? Do these positions shift at points in the conversation, as perhaps when a change in turns to speak occurs? What does the distance between speaker and listener indicate about the intensity of the conversation? Is this distance different if speaking to a child?

How are head, eyebrow, lip, hand, arm, or leg movements used in the interaction, and what do these signal? Do any of these indicate boredom, interest, disagreement, embarrassment, or any other reaction?

What does voice volume indicate? Does a raised voice always indicate anger?

Notice how people express their emotions. When do people smile, frown, blush, cry, look blank, appear unmoved, giggle, etc.? There will likely be some significant differences between the way they express their emotions and the way you express yours. For instance, how do the local people express anger, grief, bewilderment, embarrassment, displeasure, happiness, love, etc.? Spitting, for example, in some cultures is an indication of anger or disgust. Learn to express your emotions in culturally understandable and acceptable ways.


What patterns of visiting do you observe in the village or around your neighborhood? When do people generally visit each other (time of day, slack times in the year, special occasions, etc.)? Which people tend to visit each other often? Are they friends, neighbors, relatives? Do they give prior notice before visiting?

Do people visit from out-of-town? Are they friends, relatives, strangers? Are they people of the same ethnic group? Do they give prior notice of their arrival? How often do they come? What do they come for (business, social call, visit a sick person, attend a ceremony, etc.)? How long do they stay? Do they bring their own bedding or food, or is it the duty of the host to provide those?

What is the host’s responsibility to visitors? Is there a difference if the visitor is a close friend or relative in the same village, a friend or relative from another village, a stranger of the same ethnic group, a stranger from a different ethnic group, a person with status no matter where he is from, a woman, etc.?

Looking at these same categories, what is expected of each type of visitor? Should he/she bring a hostess gift? If so, what kind is acceptable? Are these gifts given in kind (same kind of gift you received)?

What words of welcome are used? What are the first topics talked about with visitors? Is this dependent on the reason for the visit (funeral, illness, etc.)? How does a host indicate to a visitor that he is not welcome or that it is time for him to leave? How does the visitor indicate that he/she is ready to leave? Are there certain actions that indicate the termination of a visit?

How soon after arrival is something to eat or drink served? Are visitors ever left alone, or is there always a family member present?


Are newspapers available? In what languages? Who reads the newspapers? Are there special sections for different interest groups? What about magazines? Is there a variety, or is the choice limited? Are newspapers and magazines shared around the neighborhood? Where does one get newspapers and magazines? in a store, or are they delivered to the door? Find out what the subscription prices are for a few of these publications.

Is the news heavily slanted toward one viewpoint? Is the news government controlled or is there scope for dissent and idea sharing? Is there punishment for dissent?

Is there a library accessible to the public? What kinds of services does the library offer? Does one need a card to take out books, DVDs, etc.? Does the library offer educational programs? Who can attend these? Is membership mandatory?

Do schoolchildren have access to textbooks? Are these of good quality? Are they expensive? Are they passed down from child to child within a family? Are textbook publishers run by the government, or are they owned and run by private companies?


What part does media have in the every-day life of the people? Does this come through radio, TV, or computer programs? How “techy” is the population at large? What generations are involved with technological matters and which are not?

Is radio and TV programming monitored or censored by the government? What types of programs are aired? Which types of programs are censored?

In what language(s) are newscasts, dramas, talk shows, etc. given? Is this acceptable to your friends?

How readily available are radios, TVs, boom boxes, cell phones, or other electronic equipment to the local people? Where are these items obtainable? Would every family own at least one of these items?

Are cinemas accessible? Are they locally situated or only in central locations, as a downtown? Are they patronized? What types of films are shown? Are they foreign films or made within the country? What themes are most frequently targeted? How successful is the industry?

Do people own cameras? What type? digital or film? video? What type of pictures do people take? Do they like their picture taken? Are there any taboos about taking the picture of anyone? Where/How can you get your pictures printed?


How do the local people communicate with one another? How common is the use of iPods, tablets, smart phones? How up-to-date with modern technology is the common person? the younger generation?

How proficient are they with texting? Are there prohibitions on texting as to where it can be done or can’t be done?

How many people own personal computers?

  • In what way do they use them (educational use, research, e-mail, business, buying tickets to events, etc.)?
  • How expensive is it to buy a computer?
  • What brands are available?
  • How can it be repaired? Is there a high incidence of “crashing?”

How widely used are social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube)?

  • By all, or mostly by the younger generation?
  • What local or national social media is available?
  • What purposes does social media fulfill in society?

Do people use Internet Cafes? How “safe” are they? How crowded are they? Can they use a computer any time or is there a waiting list? a sign-up sheet?

For e-mail and the Internet, what service providers operate in the country? Is one preferred over another? Why? How does one open an account? How expensive is it and how is it paid for?


Note how people act when they talk to each other.

  • How far apart do they generally place themselves?
  • When people talk to you, how comfortable are you with the distance they keep?

Note the range of facial features used: raising the eyebrows, frowning, smiling, gesturing, etc.

Note head movements and how assent and dissent is conveyed through these movements.

Note body position and posture during conversations.

  • What position is taken for a relaxed conversation?
  • For a mother scolding her child?
  • For an argument between adults?
  • Are people seated comfortably? on the edge of their seats? leaning forward? looking down, or up, to the person being addressed?
  • What do these convey?

Note various positions of arms or legs during conversations. Do the gestures give an idea of what the conversation is about?

How are the eyes directed: where is the gaze directed while speaking? while listening?

Note differences there may be when:

  • Men are conversing with men
  • Women with women
  • Men and women conversing together
  • A child is addressed.

How does the listener communicate that he/she is listening?

Are there certain motions that convey a message without saying anything (like “come,” “go away,” “that’s enough,” “forgive me,” “thank you”)?

Compare the gestures and distance in informal situations with more formal situations, such as at a town meeting, a church service, or negotiations for a wedding, ceremony, purchase, etc. In public situations does everyone listen attentively or is there a certain amount of “murmuring” allowed?

After noting these, look at your own communication habits and evaluate whether any need to be changed so as to not offend unnecessarily.

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