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Know Your Host Country

Basic Information

  • What type of government does your host country have? Who do the majority and minority parties represent and who are their leaders? What are the distinguishing differences among these parties?
  • What is the geography of your host country like? How about the climate?
  • Do you know a brief history of your host country? How long has it been independent? Was it a colonizer or a colony? Was it a major power in the region at some time? Did it win or lose any important wars? How long has the current governmental structure and/or system been in operation?
  • What is the education system like? How much education is compulsory? Does the government heavily subsidize higher education?
  • What languages are present? Are these official or unofficial? Do these languages represent any geographical, economic or other divisions?
  • What religions are present? Are these official or unofficial? What do you know about these religions (e.g., beliefs, practices, holidays)? If the country is mainly Christian, does it have a patron saint?
  • Who are the service workers of your host country? Did they come from somewhere else and why? Who are the elite of your host country? Is there an indigenous population? How do these groups relate?
  • Who are the national heroes/heroines? Who are the celebrities?
  • What kind of relationship does your host country have with the USA?


General Attitudes

  • Are the roles of men and women in your host distinctly different? How are these difference manifested? How should you respond to this while in the culture?
  • What is appropriate school dress for men? For women? How about social occasion dress for men? For women? How should you dress in order to be appropriate in your host country?
  • Is your host country culture formal or informal when meeting new people? How does the culture respond to personal questions?


Customs

  • What is the formal way of greeting someone in your host country? The informal way? Do they use gestures like handshakes, kisses, hugs, etc.?
  • What is a "typical" home visit like?
  • What familiar "western" gestures are used in normal conversation? Which gestures might be considered inappropriate or insulting?


Lifestyles

  • What is the place of family life in your host culture? Is most entertaining at home or away? Is it formal or informal?
  • What are the dating and marriage customs of your host culture (e.g., typical age? Do couples live together before/instead of marriage?, Are there church or civil ceremonies?)
  • What do the people of your host country eat (i.e., what are the typical foods)? Which meals are eaten at home or outside the home? By whom?
  • What are the popular sports and entertainment activities of your host culture? What do these reflect about the people in your host country? About the age groups?
  • What are normal business hours? What are the major holidays and what determines these holidays (religion, state laws, politics, etc.)?
Xavier University of Louisiana Center for Intercultural and International Programs