Key Things to Know
Can you provide a broad outline of the country's history including major eras and events? Can you name national heroes and heroines? What is the host country's relationship with the United States? What are the national holidays? Is it appropriate for you, as a foreigner, to participate?
What is the current political structure of the country? Who are the major current leaders? Is military service compulsory?
What are the dominant religions? Is there an official state religion? What are the sacred writings of the dominant religion? What are the important religious ceremonies, observances, holidays? Are there religious conflicts in this country?
Are there separate societal roles for men and women? If so, what are they? If not, are men and women considered equal in this country? What are the rules/norms for "romantic" relationships in this country? Do young people date? If so, do they date in groups, in couples? Do they need a chaperone? Are such relationships formal or informal? What is the norm regarding premarital sex? Is it appropriate to hold hands, touch, or kiss in public?
What is the common form of marriage ceremony and celebration? What are the attitudes towards divorce? Family planning? Contraception? Abortion?
What are the special privileges of age or sex? When is one expected to present or to accept gifts from people? What kind of gift is appropriate? How do people greet each other and how do they take leave of one another? Are there differences based on social status, age, or sex?
Is there customary attire for women, men, or children? Is there a traditional or indigenous style of dress? If so, describe it. Who wears it? What is the appropriate dress for you in this country as a foreigner? Are there special dress customs you should know about (ex. taking off shoes in certain places).
What are the favorite leisure activities of adults? Young people? What are the favorite sports? Is there a national sport? How available are television and radio? What types of programming are available?
What foods are most popular? How are they prepared? How and with what utensils, if any, do people eat (manners, customs, etc)? Are there taboo foods that are not considered edible or not permitted due to traditional or religious practices?
What health services are available? Where are they located? Are there common home remedies for minor ailments? What are the attitudes towards alternative or folk medicine? Is it common practice? Is the water potable? What immunizations are required to enter the country? Which are strongly recommended?
What are the taboos in the host culture? What might be taboo to talk about in common conversation? What type of moral code is commonly followed? How does this moral code influence attitudes toward drinking alcohol, gambling, and pre-marital sex? How does this differ from what you are used to?
Is education free? Is it compulsory and to what age? Is education available to all? Are children in schools segregated by age, sex, race, caste, or class? What kinds of schools are considered best: public, private, or religious? What style of teaching is most common in schools? What are the most common methods of evaluation? Describe the university system? What is the academic calendar? What is the grading system?
Are prices for merchandise fixed or is one expected to bargain? How is bargaining conducted? Is it okay to touch merchandise for sale? Does touching indicate your desire to buy? What is the normal workday? Is there a siesta time or break during the day? What is the customary time to visit friends? What is the currency? What is the current value to the dollar? Is it stable or does it fluctuate? Is it legal to carry local currency out of the country?
Being a Foreigner
How will your financial position and social status compare with the majority of people living in this country? Is the culture hospitable to foreigners? Americans? Are the major newspapers generally friendly toward the U.S.? Are you required to register with city officials or the police upon arrival? Will you need a visa to travel to neighboring countries? Do you know the local laws of the country?