Student Handbook - Adjusting to Your Host Culture
The term culture refers to the values, beliefs, customs, and other forms of behavior shared by members of a social group over a period of time. Culture acts as a sort of filter through which we perceive reality. The way we communicate is conditioned by our culture. Understanding your culture and the way it affects your attitudes and behavior will help you get along with people abroad and allow you to appreciate their culture.
It will be helpful to prepare yourself for the questions you are likely to get about your home country by reading up on current issues, domestic affairs, international policies, and important public figures. You may also want to know what ideas about your home country are common in your host country. Additionally, learn as much as possible about the culture and social, economic, and political situation in your host country before you depart. When you get there, try to understand how the local culture influences the way people act.
Below are some helpful approaches that anthropologists use when they observe another culture.
- Observe, listen, and describe rather than try to prove your preconceived notions.
- Try to be objective, but recognize that the filter of your own culture will always affect what you see.
- Be persistent in asking questions and learn to ask the kinds of questions that elicit answers. Listen actively to the answers you get. Ask for feedback if you are not sure you understand.
- Try to maintain a certain detachment. Practice being a participant and an observer at the same time, taking part in an activity while you stand back from it to observe others and your own reactions.