Supporting Article

Starter Questions to Develop Cultural Understanding and Build Relationships


In "China -- Here We Are", Andrea Klopper writes that "a good way to start building relationships is through asking questions." Here is a list of questions for getting to know people and understand their culture in greater depth.

  • Within the household, what are the responsibilities of family and extended family members?
  • When is it appropriate for people to get married? How does an individual find a partner?
  • How does the person perceive his or her own social standing or status? (Be careful how you ask this!)
  • What are considered to be status symbols?
  • What are the main religious practices/routines?
  • Who are the significant spiritual leaders?
  • Are there any superstitions in the culture?
  • What is the attitude towards suffering?
  • Are there any special practices associated with death and grieving?
  • What is considered bad behavior in the household?
  • What are the main forms of discipline?
  • What seems to make the people happy? Angry? Sad?
  • How are emotions expressed?
  • What are appropriate relationships with people of the opposite sex?
  • What is the attitude towards children? The elderly?
  • How do people relax or pass time?
  • How is time viewed? What about privacy?
  • What motivates people?
  • How is respect shown? What is considered disrespectful?
  • What are the ways people learn?
  • What goals do people have in life?
  • Who is considered a friend? How is friendship looked upon?
  • How important is gift-giving? When are gifts given? What are good or bad gifts and why?
Andrea Klopper

Andrea Klopper

Andrea Klopper has taught in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and China. She has mentored Mandarin language students and developed a cultural orientation and acquisition program which she used in two organizations. One of her passions is researching the lives of expats in her city pre-Liberation. She enjoys reading, cycling... View Full Bio