Foreign to Familiar

(Chapters 2-3)

the book Foreign to Familiar

After reading chapters 2 and 3 (pp. 23-39) in Foreign to Familiar, respond to one or more of the following questions based on 1) what you’ve read and 2) your personal observation, experience, and opinions:

  1. You’ve probably noticed in your time at Iowa State that when colleagues meet in the mailroom or kitchen or when they pass in the hallway, they generally ask one another “How are you?” (though they very possibly may not wait to hear their colleague’s answer!) You may also have noticed Iowans making small talk with cashiers checking them out at stores (or with bus drivers, neighbors, etc.) about the weather and perhaps local news. There’s also a very good chance that Iowans will respond to a store clerk’s offer of help by saying something like, “Could you tell me where the nails are?” vs. the more direct “I need nails.” According to Foreign to Familiar, these characteristics are all “hot-climate” tendencies; however, Iowa has cold winters! Using information from both chapter 2 and p. 17 of Foreign to Familiar, explain why you think cold-winter Iowans tend to demonstrate these hot-climate characteristics.
  2. As chapters 2 and 3 of Foreign to Familiar both describe, cultures vary in how direct or indirect people generally are. They also in vary in what’s okay to be direct about! For example, in Iowa (which combines cold-climate and hot-climate characteristics), it’s almost impossible to find someone who will directly tell another person (even a close friend!), “You’re fat.” Similarly, you’ll find that on the rare occasions when an Iowan may directly ask whether you’re married or not, they’ll be very obviously embarrassed about asking. Yet one English 101D teacher from the U.S. observed after two years of living in China and interaction with many Chinese friends that Chinese tend to be much less shy about mentioning these two topics than U.S. Americans are. From your experience living in the U.S., have you noticed people saying directly what in your culture would only be said indirectly (if at all!)? If so, what? Have you noticed people in the U.S. being more indirect about something compared to people in your culture?
  3. Based on your experience, do you think people in Iowa generally put a greater or lesser priority on time and efficiency than people in your culture? Give one or two specific examples where you’ve noticed people in Iowa apparently placing a different value on time and efficiency compared to the average person in your culture. (If you’ve lived in more than one place in the U.S. or more than one place in your country and can make within-country comparisons, feel free to do that, too, as well as to share your hypothesis — if you have any — for the reasons behind any differences you’ve observed.)
  4. If you have professors, colleagues, or close friends from outside your home culture or from a non-Iowa part of the U.S. and have observed differences in how these individuals behave compared both to Iowan and your home culture, describe the differences you’ve observed (and feel free to share your hypothesis about why these differences exist!).

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Foreign to Familiar — Chapters 2 and 3 — pp. 23-39 (Estimated time required: 2 hours) — No Comments

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