As You Approach a New Culture

Observation Questions To Ask Yourself and Others

Listening, learning and asking questions will help you understand the people in a different culture so you can build authentic relationships with them.

As you ask questions of the people in your new culture, you need to remember that what people say about themselves and what people really are may be 2 or 3 or 4 different things. (The same thing is true of us and our own culture!) So listen to people and keep your eyes open and your mind engaged.

Family and Relationships

  • What is important for a child to learn from his/her Mother? Father? Other relatives?
  • What roles do men and women play in the religious life, home, society?
  • Who has the final word in decision-making?
  • What rituals does each family member perform for others?

Spirituality and Religion

  • Are there distinctions between public and private spirituality & religious practices?
  • What are the barriers that keep human beings from knowing God?
  • What does one have to do to have favor with God? . . . with people? . . . with family?
  • What happens after people die?


  • What would the "Ideal world" look like, according to this philosophy/religion?
  • What about this philosophy/religion is attractive to outsiders? To women? To men? To other social groups w/in the society?
  • What social evils do you see? How does the local religion/worldview address these?
  • What's the best part of this culture and way of life (according to nationals)?
  • What's the most important advice anyone has given you (according to nationals) ?
  • What historical people are mentioned frequently? What about them seems important to nationals?
  • Why do people do___________; say it this way____________; wear__________; etc..
  • How do nationals define or describe their life goal/purpose? i.e. "What is your life about? What do you hope to accomplish with your life?"

View of Foreigners

  • What could westerners learn from this culture?
  • When westerners do________or say it this way_________or wear_________ etc., how does that make nationals feel? What would other people think of me by how I dress/act/talk/etc.?

Adapted from the InterVarsity LINK Handbook, 1999.


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