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This assignment explores proper etiquette for the giving and acceptance of gifts.

To whom would a person give a gift: relative, friend, neighbor, trading partner, headman, government official, etc.? On what occasion would a gift be given? Are these occasions determined by the calendar [as birthdays] or by the course of events [as encouragement for good work done]? What is the motive for giving: love, concluding a business deal, influencing a decision, building up goodwill, etc.?

What types of gifts are appropriate for various occasions? What kinds of gifts are given in exchange? How long a delay between the receiving and the giving of a return gift is within the limits of appropriate behavior? Is the gift related to the status of giver or recipient? In what ways? Be careful to distinguish between a true gift and payment for services rendered, especially when the latter had been delayed.

How does one acknowledge the receipt of a gift? When is it proper to open a gift? On receiving it? Later, when the giver has departed?

How much sharing of excess farm or garden produce is done in the village? What is said when giving and receiving something? Is an equivalent exchange expected?


What trees are valued for their wood? How are they felled and brought in? Are the trees private property, or are the forests owned by the government? By a company? Or is all wood imported into the country?

What are different types of wood used for (e.g., charcoal, firewood, boards, house posts, shingles, carving, furniture, handles for tools). From where is the wood collected or bought? Is firewood augmented with dung or some other substance? Why?

Are houses made of wood, stone, or brick? What type of wood is used in house construction and how is it prepared? Is stone readily available? How and from where is it quarried? Are bricks made locally? What is the status of brick makers? bricklayers? carpenters? stone quarriers? Are these respected professions?

Are wooden objects considered more valuable than those made of other materials, as metal or plastic? What other objects are made of stone? Are these sold or bartered? Are these mainly decorative pieces or do they have utilitarian use as well?

Is bamboo available in your area? If so, are there different types with different uses? Where is it harvested or is it only available commercially? How is the bamboo cut and processed for use?

Investigate and talk about some of the following processes: making charcoal, sawing timber, splitting boards, brickmaking, preparation of stone, etc.

What objects are made of plastic? Are these made within the country, or are they imported? Is there provision for recycling of plastic items?


At what age do boys and girls become ready for marriage? Describe the method by which marriage arrangements are made. Are the arrangements made by the parents? If so, how much say do the boy and girl have in determining who their marriage partner will be?

What characteristics are looked for in a potential husband? in a potential wife? Ask about physical, educational, financial, religious, political aspects that need to be considered.

Is courting allowed? Do the boy and girl get to know each other at all before the wedding? What standards must they follow if this is allowed. How is courting initiated, and by whom? Are there different expectations if the prospective pair are from the same neighborhood or from another town? Is a chaperon needed?

Are there kinship restrictions as to whom a person can marry? Clan or tribal restrictions? Can two persons marry if they have nursed from the same woman even though they may not be related by blood line?

When marriage is considered, which side takes the initiative in making a formal proposal? Is there an engagement ritual? Who takes part in this? How long is the period between engagement and the wedding? What activities take part in each home (the groom and the bride) during this time? What preparations need to be made by the girl? by the boy? How binding is the engagement? What happens if the engagement is broken? Who takes the initiative in breaking the engagement?

Is a dowry expected? or a bride price paid? If so, what are the expectations? Who does the negotiations? Is the immediate family responsible for the payment (or preparation), or does the extended family also contribute?


When is a child considered to be a real person (from birth? by some physical change? by attaining a certain age? at a naming ceremony?) How does a child get its name? Why is a certain name chosen?

When and how is the child weaned? What happens if the mother’s milk is insufficient? Are there wet- nurses? What relationship does a wet-nurse then hold in the family? to the child? How does the child receive toilet training? By whom? At what age is this begun? At what age do children of either sex habitually wear lower garments?

Are children generally treated well? How is love shown to a child (by the father, by the mother, by siblings, by the grandparents or other relatives)? How are children instructed in the society’s customs and history? Is this done as a situation presents itself, or is a specific program followed? How can a child be protected from illness and injury?

How are children taught proper behavior? Are they told frightening stories to encourage good behavior? or are heroes held up as models to follow? How may they be punished? Are girls punished differently than boys?

Are children of either gender treated preferentially? If so, how and at what age does it begin? At what age are girls treated differently than boys? Are there different expectations for behavior in boys and girls? What qualities of character are considered desirable for each?

With whom does the child have the closest relationship? Does this change as the child gets older? Who seems to love the child most? Who helps care for young children?

At what age are children expected to begin doing chores? What type and are these gender- specific? When are they expected to take part in religious observances and rituals?


Are there local midwives? Are they trained? If not, how do they get their knowledge? Are they contracted beforehand to be on hand for the delivery? How much do they get paid for a successful delivery? for an unsuccessful one? How long after the delivery do they care for the mother? What are their services? What must the mother do after childbirth?

Where and how is the baby delivered? Who may be present? Who is in charge of the event? Who cuts the cord? How? What is done with the afterbirth? What must be done for the child physically and ritually? Who does this?

What is the father’s role before, during, and after the birth? At what point does he see the baby? Who announces the birth to the rest of the family? to the community? How is this done?

What is the meaning attached to events occurring at the birth of a child (guests present, cord around the baby’s neck, etc.)? What is done in the case of twins? What practices and beliefs are associated with death in childbirth?

Is the birth of a child, whether boy or girl, a time of rejoicing? Are gifts given in either case? To whom?

What religious or folk customs are observed at birth, as baptisms, charms, circumcision, etc.?


Make a chart of your own family tree and ask your language helper to help you put the kinship terms for each in your new language. Ask your helper to do the same for his/her family. Compare the charts. Make a combined chart, filling in the spaces from your two charts. Are there still relationships you do not have a kinship term for? Have your helper assist you to name those.

Ask three separate families or households near where you live about their families. Do some of their close relations live in the immediate neighborhood? How far do members of their families live? Are some still in a rural situation and supply milk, grain, vegetables to the family in town? Why have some chosen to live close together and others further away? How often and under what conditions do relatives come to visit? Are some of these visits obligatory?

What obligations do family members have toward the benefit of the whole? Which relatives help with work projects? Which family members borrow from and lend to each other? Who is called on to assist in raising orphans or caring for the elderly? Which are expected to help in case of illness? Who is responsible for making wedding and funeral arrangements? Who carries out ritual obligations for the family?

Who is considered the head (patriarch, primary decision maker, etc.) of the family. Does the oldest son automatically step into this position? At what point in time does this transfer occur (at the death of the patriarch, when the son reaches a certain age, etc.)? To whom and in what proportions does property pass as inheritance? Who controls the money in the family? How is it distributed? In any of the above, what part do women play?

Under what circumstances would a family member be avoided or thought ill of?

What is the status of daughters-in-law? the mother-in-law? girls over boys?

What is the cultural attitude toward adoption? Is it widely practiced within the culture? If so, who holds priority for adopting a child, as an orphan? Do adopted children have the same rights as children born into the family? What is the attitude toward foreigners adopting out of the culture?

Look further in your neighborhood and check if the three families you have studied are typical of the area. How are the households in the neighborhood related? Is there any pattern to the location of related households in the village or town? In what other villages do households have relatives?


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 animals do you see in your neighborhood? Are they free-roaming or tied to a hitching post in front of the owner’s home? Are they confined to a fenced-in pasture or a front yard? How do the people treat these animals (if they appear to own them, if they see them on the street, if they feel threatened by them?)

Are any animals kept as pets? Is this a wide-spread practice? What kind of animals are kept and for what purpose? How are they cared for? Are they shown warmth or affection? Are they given names? How are pet animals obtained? Are wild animals or birds ever tamed for pets?

If animals are kept as pets, are there any codes which owners should observe, as picking up after the pet, keeping them quiet, keeping them confined to certain locations, etc.?

Are dogs kept as pets or for some other purpose? Would every household have at least one dog?

Are certain animals or fowl status symbols? Are any of the animals involved in any kind of religious, local or national ceremonies? Are any of them used as icons for tribes, sports, or institutions?

What domestic animals are raised and for what purpose? How much do people pay for them? sell them for? Are any animals put out for hire? For what purpose? At what price? Whose job is it to care for the domestic animals? At what time of the day?


Take a walk down the street and take note of what you see people doing (children going to school or playing, women shopping, someone cleaning the street, people going to work or sitting in the sunshine, shopkeepers selling their wares, craftsmen doing their work, etc.) Other possibilities may be house building, rope making, car repair, blacksmithing, office work, beggars, or musicians. Take pictures if appropriate and use them as conversation triggers with your language helper.

Where are the activities taking place? in or by a home? in an office? in a store? on the street?

Are certain activities done by people generally (e.g., window shopping), by recognized craftsmen (e.g., blacksmith, shoemaker, silversmith), restricted by sex (e.g., embroidery, knitting), limited to a specific area (e.g., working with wool or with cotton, styles of caps), or to a certain season (grass cutting, tapping trees for resin, shoveling snow)?

Are any finished products for sale? For personal pleasure or for the benefit of others? Is the activity essentially individual or cooperative? If the latter, who does what? Is food or payment provided for workers or helpers? Try to join in one or another of the activities and tell about your experience. Note the people’s reaction and their instructions to you.


What things have you observed around the house and neighborhood that help the residents accomplish tasks? Find out what they are called and what they are used for (e.g., field or garden work, food preparation, weaving, hunting, home maintenance, car repairs)? Note especially tools which are new to you.

Who uses what tools when? Are there role expectations or restrictions on which sex uses which tools?

Try to use some which are appropriate to your sex and role. Are they easy to use? Mimic the instructions people give you while you are using the tools.

Are the tools bought commercially or home-made? Are some of them used for a quick job and thrown away? or are some of them permanent items? When they break, who fixes them?

Are there specialists available for certain jobs? What jobs do they do? Where are they located? How are they repaid for their labor? How is the price negotiated and by whom?

Do they only work in their store or shop, or will they come to the home to do work that is needed? How are they contracted? Who does the negotiations? What else needs to be negotiated besides the price?

Is there a period of time in the day when work is not usually done, as a “rest” time? What is the expectation of the local people? How graciously do they respond to an interruption? Would the request be acted on at that time, or put off to after the “rest period?”

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