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?
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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. She is now being challenged to make friends in a new location and learning a new language. She …View Full Bio