Independent Preparation

What Do You Know About Your Host Country and Culture?

The questions below are intended to enable you to take control and responsibility of your study abroad experience. These questions should get you thinking about your host country and culture. Spending time finding the answers to these questions will prepare you for the challenges you will face abroad and help you get the most out of your experience.

Answers to these questions can be found from a range of resources—written materials, Web sites, former participants, questionnaires in the IP office and current international students at Puget Sound.

This list is not the end all be all of country and culture knowledge… what else do YOU want to know?

Politics

  • What is the political structure of the country?
  • How long has the structure been in place?
  • If there are elections, when was the last one held?
  • Is military training required and for whom?
  • What is the history of the relationship between this country and the U.S.?
  • What is your political position as a foreigner in this country? As an American?
  • What role does the U.S. play in the economy?

History

  • Who are important people in your host country?
  • Who are the country’s heroes and heroines?
  • When was the country founded and by whom?
  • What dates are significant in the history of your host country?
  • Recent conflicts and the role of the U.S. in those conflicts

Religion

  • What is the predominant religion of the country?
  • What are its sacred writings?
  • How are religious holidays observed and celebrated? Will you want to participate? 
  • How will people perceive your religion? Is your religion legal in your host country?
  • What is the attitude of people in your host country towards other religions?

Language

  • Are there other languages spoken besides the dominant language?

Family

  • How are marriage ceremonies performed?
  • What is the attitude toward divorce? Extra-marital relations? Pre-marital relations?
  • What age do most people get married?
  • How many children do people have?
  • How are children disciplined?
  • Who lives in the home? Grandparents? Aunts? Uncles?

Dress

  • What is the usual dress for women? For men?
  • What is appropriate dress for you, as a foreigner?
  • What is the climate like in your host country? Do you have clothing that will keep you comfortable?

Social Etiquette

  • What is polite? Impolite?
  • How closely should you stand to someone?
  • What are the privileges of age? Of gender?
  • How do people greet and signal departure from one another?
  • What are the social norms surrounding dating?
  • What is the attitude in this country towards alcohol?

 Leisure

  • What are the favorite recreational activities of adults? Students?
  • What sports are popular? Popular athletes?
  • What kind of television programs are show? What social purposes do they serve?
  • How are important holidays observed?

Transportation/Travel

  • How will you travel to your country? To your host university?
  • What types of public transportation are available? Where are they located?
  • Who has the right of way? Vehicles? People? Animals?

Health

  • Do you have health insurance?
  • Are you prepared to cover the cost of your health services upfront and wait to be reimbursed?
  • What health/beauty items should you take with you?
  • What kinds of health services are available? Where are they located?
  • Where can medicines be purchased?
  • What precautions should you take to remain healthy?

Living Arrangements

  • What options are available for foreigners?
  • Have I accpeted that living conditions in my host country may not be up to date with American standards of living?
  • What costs should you anticipate?
  • Where will you go upon arrival?
  • Am I prepared for the restrictions and house rules that come with family living?
  • Am I prepared for the family's expectations regarding the use of hot water, heating, and power consumption? Use of telephone and kitchen facilities?
  • Am I ready to adapt my eating habits to fit my famiyl?

Academic Considerations

  • Is education free in the host country?
  • What are common teaching/learning methods?
  • Which universities are important? Who goes to university?
  • What types of assignments/exam should you expect?

On being foreign

  • How do people perceive Americans?
  • How will your financial position/living conditions compare with those of the majority of people living in the country?
  • How do you retain your own identity while adapting to the new culture?
  • What are the visa requirements? What if you plan on traveling to neighboring countries?