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Try to encourage your friends to identify the characteristics, activities, philosophy that identify them as the member of a nation, tribe, clan, group, club, or any other kind of organization.

What are the most important things that identify a person as a national of your host country? Dress? Language? Civil involvement? Religion? Property ownership?

Of these, which are the most important to maintain? How does one know that a person who might look the same outwardly is a foreigner?

How important is it for a person (a student overseas or in another city, an immigrant) to maintain this identification in his/her new environment? If the individual or family returns to their native country for a visit, what would the expectations of their relatives be concerning their fitting back into the cultural picture?

What would be the expectations of the visitors in regard to acceptance and understanding?

What are the important factors in identifying members of nearby tribes or clans? What makes them different? What factors are at work to erase some of the identification boundaries? Some ideas to research: urbanization, education, national pressure, environmental factors, etc. How concerned are people about these?

When outsiders come to their area for a visit, what things do they sometimes do that offend residents? What important “do’s” and “don’ts” would be helpful to tell them so they could fit in better?

Are there various groups or clubs in the society at large, as community service, charitable organizations, those with an occupational or common interest focus, as hunting, needlework, cooking, etc. ? How does one become a member of such a group? How does one maintain membership (pay dues, attend so many meetings, etc.)? How do “outsiders” identify them as members?

78. CULTURAL EXPECTATIONS: Change? or Keep the Status Quo?

What is the local attitude towards change and progress? This assignment will focus on attitudes regarding outside ideas, values, goals, and attitudes, and their adoption or rejection.

How threatening is the prospect of change? Is there a difference in the way older people view changes in their society and the way the younger generation views them?

Is all change viewed as progress? Why or why not? If so, what kind of progress is envisioned? Is there a general feeling concerning the kind of progress that would be desired? Is there a goal for the community? for the nation? How many are for it, and how many against? Why?

How much change would be tolerated? At what rate could productive change happen without sparking objection and confusion? Think about issues concerning air pollution control, mechanization of agricultural machinery, compulsory education through high school, etc.

Try to set up situations which would elicit information from people about the following topics:

1)     What things are different now than they were when you were a child? Which changes have been good? Why? Which   things should not have been changed? Why?

If you could, would you return to the old ways or not? Why or why not?

2)     What are the main problems in this community? What should be done about them?

What could or should the government help with, and what should the people themselves do? If government help was accepted, what would the obligations be for the community in the line of taxes, military conscription, etc.? Would this be a deterrent? Would it give impetus to the community to do it themselves? Would this promote a community spirit?

3)     If an outsider came to the village and said he could help you to have better farming methods, cash crops, health services, living conditions, education, etc., what would he have to demonstrate or guarantee before villagers would change to his way? If you thought his suggestions were good, would you change even though most of the village decided not to? Why or why not?


How do people identify themselves?

  • By citizenship? By ethnic origin? By clan membership?
  • By language or dialect? By caste or occupation?

In view of this,

  • What do they call themselves?
  • What do they call outsiders?
  • What do outsiders call them?

Do groups have a tendency to stick together in the larger society or do they integrate?

What certain traits that identify their “membership”—dress, body markings, piercings, etc.?

What stories and anecdotes that bind the “members” together in a common history?

At what age are children initiated into full rights as a member of their society? How is this done?

What, beside sex and age, are the main divisions in society? These could be based on kinship, occupation or skill, religious orientation, educational standard, financial holdings, etc.



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?



What objects are carried rather than transported in another way? How are they carried (baskets, plastic bags, in the arms or hands, slung in a cloth, in a suitcase, on the head)?

What are the cultural expectations as to the type of receptacle that a child, a man, a woman, an elderly person might use or not?

  • What kinds of “stuff” would local people expect people to be carrying?
  • What kinds of things are unusual for them to carry?
  • What would be expected of you as a foreigner?

Does the length of time items need to be carried determine the way they are carried?

Get the terms for the different methods of carrying (on the head, by the handle, with a carrying pole, under the arm, slung between two people, etc.).

Other transport

What other methods are used to transport items from one place to another? Are these specific to different geographical areas? different ethnic groups? gender-specific?

How much cooperation is involved in their use?

  • Are these privately owned and used?
  • Can they be borrowed if needed?
  • Are some available for public use?
  • Who owns them?
  • What is the fee charged for their use?

Learn the names of the various contrivances. Are these ones you can use? If so, find out how you can access them.

Are there certain times during the day when particular things are likely to be carried? Is there a peak time when demand is high for transporting of goods?

Listen for the greetings or questions used when people or drivers pass each other on the way or as they enter or leave the village or building. Observe expressions and body language as well.


Living areas

How are the rooms arranged? around a courtyard? in a linear fashion?

How many rooms are there in this house? Are they interconnected? Does one key give you access, or does each room need a key?

How many people live in the house? are they a single family unit, or an extended family?

What kind of furniture is in the room in which you are seated? Note floor covering, curtains, and other decoration on the floor, walls, or ceiling. Is there anything that surprises you?

What other rooms are in your host’s home? Are there rooms that are off-limits to a visitor? If you can see into other rooms, what other furniture is there? Does the furniture tell you what the room is used for? Do rooms seem to be multi-purpose or have a specific use?

Do the furnishings in the house give you a clue as to the economic status of the occupants?

Where do the children play? indoors? outdoors? Is this a secure area?

Working areas

Where is the kitchen located? What kind of stove is used for cooking? What kind of fuel is used for cooking? Where and how is this available?

Where are the dishes, utensils, pots and pans stored? Where are supplies like flour, sugar, onions, etc. stored?

Where do the dishes get washed? What is used to scour pans? Are spotless pans a thing of pride? Are the dishes drip-dried or dried with a towel?

What do you think their standard of cleanliness is in comparison with yours?

Where is cleaning equipment kept, like brooms, sweepers, etc. What kind of equipment is used for cleaning? Does the type of building determine this?

Is there electricity? For how many hours a day? Hot and cold running water? Otherwise, how is water heated? Is this done only when needed, at certain times of the day?

Where is the laundry done? Are bigger pieces (sheets, etc.) sent out to be washed? Is the laundry at home done by hand or by machine? What kind of soap is used? Where are clothes hung out to dry?

Is there a special area for chopping wood? for preparing vegetables or meat for cooking? for keeping seedlings for planting in the garden? for keeping animals?

When you return home:

Draw a diagram of the house with any special observations about the various rooms and use of space. Add to this as you visit more homes.


Look at how space is used in your neighborhood

How much space is there between buildings?
Do buildings usually face in a certain direction?
How are boundary lines designated?
Is there a fence around the yard? Is it a gated area? If so, how is an outsider admitted inside?
What types of out-buildings (garages, storage sheds, granaries, barns, chicken coops, toilets, etc.) do you see and where are they located in relation to the house?
Are there different out-buildings in an apartment setting?
Are other buildings located near homes or apartments? What are they used for?
Does it appear that some kind of building code is observed? Explain.
Are there places where people sit around to talk? What might this tell you when you try to make friends with your neighbors?
Are there empty spaces between houses or shops? How are they used? Are they clean?
What other space is used besides what you see on ground level? the roof? stair wells?

Communal space

Is there a central well, pump, or faucet where people draw water?
If you noticed a central green area, how is this used? by whom? At what time of the day, week, or month? Is it more busy some times than at other times?
How much of the space in front of a house or shop is maintained by the occupant of that building? Are there things in that space that declare ownership?
Is there any other use of space that you can see at this point, as a special place for butchers to slaughter animals, for traveling entertainers to set up their tents, or for itinerant salespeople to set up their wares?

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