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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?


Why do people hunt? What proportion of the food supply is obtained through hunting? How is the meat or bones divided? What is done with the hide?

What weapons and what methods (e.g., tracking, lying in ambush) are used in hunting? Are baits or decoys used? Traps? Is hunting an individual or group activity? Who participates in the hunt? Are there any restrictions (e.g., abstinence from sex or certain foods) on individuals before a hunt? Is there a particular territory within which a person or village may hunt?

Which animals are hunted? Is hunting a regular or intermittent activity? Is any type of game conservation practiced? Is this locally monitored or regulated by an outside agency?

Which birds are considered edible? How are they hunted? Are the eggs of any birds collected and eaten?

Do some make their livelihood by fishing? Are fish caught for home consumption alone or are some sold or bartered?

Describe all methods of fishing and sketch or photograph nets, traps, and other fishing equipment. Is fishing done from a boat or from the shoreline? What bait is used?

Is fishing done by both men and women? Are some methods used more by one than the other?

If possible, go fishing with some of your new friends. Have someone tell you about their fishing experience. Do they tell tall tales about the “one that got away?”


What wild animals are found in the country? In your immediate neighborhood? Do people fear them? Are there stories about them? What traits are attributed to various animals? Do certain animals have special significance for the clan or ethnic group?

Do animals have souls? What happens to their souls at death?

What birds are found in your area? Are any harmful to crops? How are they frightened away? Are some birds bad or good omens? Are people aware of birds that are not detrimental? Do they know where nesting sites are? Are there organizations to protect birds and preserve their habitat?

Is fish available for eating? Is it river fish or ocean fish? Is it caught locally, or is it bought in the market place? How is it transported to local markets? Would it be safe to eat?

Find out the names of various fish found locally. Are there different names for the live fish and the same fish prepared for market or for eating? Which fish are especially valued for food?

Are various types of fish prepared in different ways? Are they eaten at different times of the year or times of day?

What insects bite or sting? Which are poisonous? What remedies are used for bites or stings? Which insects are ruinous to crops or possessions? How are they controlled or eliminated?

What insects are edible? How are they obtained and prepared for consumption?

Make a list of the local names of these creatures. Supplement your descriptions with sketches or photographs wherever possible.


For what occasions do groups of people gather on a social basis? Where do they gather? Are these local, or a localized branch of a national event? Are these initiated by an individual or by a committee?

Inquire about these, and attend one or two if appropriate. Take notes and discuss the activities with your language helper or a local friend. Possibilities: weddings, funerals, religious fairs, art fairs, community dinners, senior centers, any community activity held in a central place like a plaza or community center. How are personal and group social needs met through these events? Note things like the selling of snacks, telling stories, dancing, exchange of gossip, playing of games, etc.

Remember that an event may have several purposes. A gathering for a funeral, for instance, not only is an opportunity to pay one’s last respects but also to show group solidarity in a time of crisis, to bring family and friends together, to provide an opportunity for young people to flirt or court, etc.

What city social activities are you aware of? Are there parades or activities that center around a certain region of the city, to remember a local historical event, or to honor a local hero or pioneer? Who are considered heroes or pioneers? Get information about one or two of them.


Do people plant gardens (or herbs in pots near their houses) in addition to their field crops? Are the gardens near home, near the fields (or in both places), or in a different location altogether? Are there public gardens near apartment buildings where people may plant? How are the gardens or herb pots protected from animals or people?

What types of things are planted in gardens? Note the relative amount of each. Is the garden produce grown only for family consumption and enjoyment or is some sold or traded? Are the same things planted each year, or does the mix vary from year to year?

What types of plants are gathered to supplement the diet? Where do people go to gather these plants? Note the time of year each can be gathered. Are there special tools used in the gathering process? How is the harvest prepared for consumption? Do the people find the gathered plants tasty or do they eat them from necessity?

What non-edible plants are gathered? What are they used for? How are they gathered and processed?

How much time is taken in gardening? in gathering?

What other substances are used as dietary supplements? Vitamin pills? Herbs? How often are these taken? Where are they available?


Of course, one of the places you can go to eat is as an invited guest for a meal in someone’s home.

  • Try to get the polite phrases to use when invited to a meal, when urged to eat more, and when finishing a meal. Is it appropriate or necessary to finish everything offered or better to leave something on your plate?
  • When you are invited as a guest, is it appropriate to bring a thank-you gift? or send a thank- you note afterward? Find out what words or items would show your appreciation.
  • Is it good to praise the cook? Are there stock phrases that are used for this? Learn some of these and begin to use them!
  • When you are invited to a home for a meal, is it expected that you would return the invitation? How and when is this done?
  • Another option for eating out is the restaurants, tea stalls, and hotels in the area. Find out where your friends go to eat, and as you walk about your neighborhood, observe the small eating places the locals patronize. Is there special seating for families? for women eating alone?
  • What kinds of restaurants are there? Are they well patronized? Do they serve only local food or is Western cuisine or food from other countries also available? How expensive is it to eat out? Are there eating establishments that specialize in only one or two types of food, like noodle dishes, steak, etc.?
  • If there are restaurants from the West, like McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, is their menu similar to the original? Or have they added some ingredients or items that are more culturally enjoyed?


  • What is the staple food which is found in nearly every meal (bread, rice, maniac, potato, etc.?)
  • How are meals cooked (open fire, gas or electric stove, oven, etc.)? Is there a way to preserve meat, vegetables, or fruit for future use? Describe hearths or stoves and how they are constructed and used.
  • How many meals a day do people ordinarily eat? What is considered the main meal of the day? When is it served? Is breakfast served in most homes? What kind of food is served?
  • Is the main meal served at noon or in the evening? Do men and women eat together? Who is served first? When do the children eat?
  • Is any kind of ritual observed before or after eating? Learn a simple table grace (prayer before the meal).
  • How is the food served (buffet-style, family-style, pre-served portions)? What utensils and dishes are used at meal times? for various types of food? How many dishes are served at a typical meal? for guests?
  • What is served for the main meal? How many times a week is meat eaten? Is the food spicy or bland? What seasonings are used for taste? How does the food taste to you?
  • How much of it is gathered, grown in family gardens, or bought at the market? Who does the gathering or buying?
  • How are people called to come to eat? Do people converse while they eat? Note the sounds which accompany eating (smacking of lips, belching, etc.). Do people drink during a meal or after?
  • Are there breaks in the day for drinking tea or coffee or snacking? What types of things are eaten for snacks? Are they salty or sweet? Should there be a mix of the two?



  • How far is the closest market or store where you can buy fruit and vegetables? meat? flour and sugar?
  • Find out how food items are sold—by the pound? by the dozen? by the kilo? by some other measure? Think of eggs, milk and other dairy products as well as meat, vegetables, and fruit. How are items packaged?
  • Are there supermarkets where everything is under one roof, or do you have to go to different stores for food items? Is there a farmers’ market with many vendors offering their produce or products? Is fresh produce sold in a different store than dry goods like flour and sugar?
  • Do you have to bring your own bags or are bags provided to carry your purchases home?
  • Are prices fixed or is there room to bargain? Does the type of shop determine this, as a kiosk on the street, an open shop, or a shop with an entry door? How is bargaining done?

For other items needed generally

Note: Going to a mall or to another central location for “fun” shopping will be covered in another assignment.

  • Do these same stores offer stationery items? textbooks? clothing? tablecloths? crockery? If not, where can you buy these types of things? How far are these stores? Are some of them locally run or are some run by a chain? Are the chain stores nationally run or from outside the country?
  • How are items packaged? Are some items sold separately and others packaged? Which ones?
  • Do stores selling the same thing tend to group together or are they scattered around the city? How many specialty stores, like department stores, hardware stores, or automotive stores are in your area? Do you have a choice or are your options limited?
  • Inquire as to what items can be bought at the hardware store in your area? the variety store? the department store? the medicine shop? the stationers? What are these shops called?
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