The problem with trying to understand another culture is that we do not even know what the differences are between people. It is a great idea to ask questions, but if you ask the wrong questions, you won’t be much better off in your understanding. If you travel internationally, or someday want to do so, these 11 questions are a great way for you to begin understanding people from other cultures.
Use these questions with a person from your host culture, do not use the questions to ask a fellow visitor or expat – the whole point is to find out our unknown assumptions. Go to the source. Ask someone from the local culture directly!
1. Who wears shorts in your home culture?
2. What is appropriate “finger food”? Why?
3. Who should you sit with? Who not?
4. When do you smile? Why? When is a smile appropriate?
5. What does it mean when someone belches?
6. What does it mean when you laugh in public?
7. What does it mean when you are not asked to sit down?
8. What does it mean when the agreed time to meet arrives and there is no one there but you?
9. What significance would you attach to a face-to-face conversation when you find yourself constantly backing up?
10. Why do people stop talking in a crowded elevator?
11. Who else should I talk to about this? Introduce me!
Got any more questions you like to ask?