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									                        Office of Service-Learning
                     Cultural Competence Fact Sheet
                Working with People from Different Culturesi
Please remember that these guidelines are just that – they are not set in stone RULES and if you
have questions about specific situations, you should always ask your site supervisor or another
staff member at your site. However, we hope that these guidelines will assist you in addressing
the specific needs of the people with whom you work in a culturally appropriate way.

1. Learn the culture and don’t assume you know what you need to know. Learn as much as
    you can about the culture(s) in question. Learn about social and behavioral norms within the
    culture.
2. Be inquisitive but reserve judgment. How do people relate to each other? How does a
    cultural group make decisions and explain traditions?
3. Understand the role of the elderly in the society.
4. Understand how formal and informal address is used.
5. Don't assume everyone will speak English.
6. Be aware of different values and lifestyles.
7. Pay attention to personal space. For example, Arab people tend to be comfortable with
    standing close to you, but Asian people may prefer a wider space.
8. Run humor through a “cultural scan.” If you’re really looking to dig a hole, tell an Irish
    joke when you’re in Dublin.
9. Understand that body language is far from universal. Pointing with the index finger is
    considered impolite in most Middle Eastern and some Asian cultures, where speakers use a
    fully extended hand or closed fist to indicate direction. The “thumbs up” is considered a rude
    gesture in Australia; in Greece and Bulgaria, a head nod indicates “no” rather than “yes.”
10. Change your eye-contact habits – to a point. Direct eye contact, a key to establishing
    credibility in the United States, can be considered an invasion of privacy in Asian cultures.
    And smile! It’s a form of communication understood by everyone.

                                 SPECIFIC POPULATIONSii

These guidelines are developed on the basis of TRADITIONAL beliefs and activities of specific
cultural groups. However, please be aware that not all people from cultures different from yours
observe cultural traditions.

African Americans

1. An extended family network may provide emotional and economic support.
2. There may be adaptable family roles, strong kinship bonds, a strong work and achievement
   ethic, and a strong religious orientation.
3. Children may be encouraged to develop career and educational goals at an early age.
4. Youth may demonstrate an animated, persuasive, and confrontational communication style.
5. Female adolescents may display higher self-confidence, lower levels of substance use, and
   more positive body images than other cultures.


Updated 7/28/08
Arab Americans

1. May be Christian or Muslim (both are popular religions among this group). Muslims may
   engage in prayer five times a day and fast during Ramadan.
2. May be forced to deal with increased stereotyping and prejudice in light of world events.
3. Family obligations and interdependence among members may be very important. This may
   lead to pressure for conformity.
4. Children may be expected to behave in a socially acceptable manner and parents may remain
   part of their children’s life for an extended period of time.
5. The oldest son in the family may be trained to become the head of the extended family. Men
   may serve as providers and head of the family, while women act as caretakers.
6. Hospitality may be viewed as very important.

Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders

1. Families tend to have a group orientation, and may show little interest in individual
   viewpoints. Activities may be done in relation to what is best for the group as a whole, not
   necessarily for the individual. There may be emphasis on adherence to “correct” values.
2. Traditional families tend to be hierarchical and patriarchal in structure, with males and older
   individuals occupying a higher status.
3. Strong emotional displays in public may be considered signs of immaturity or lack of control.

Hispanic/Latino Americans

1. Family unity, respect for adults and elders, strict child rearing, religiosity, and loyalty may be
   seen as very important.
2. Extended family may also include non-blood relatives.
3. Each member of the family may have his/her own role to play, including grandparents
   (wisdom), parents (responsibility), children (obedience), and godparents (resourcefulness).
4. Men may be expected to be strong, dominant family providers, whereas women may be
   nurturing, submissive, and self-sacrificing.
5. There may be a strong belief in the importance of prayer and religious views.

Jewish Americans

1. May follow religious traditions, including special holidays (Yom Kippur or Passover) or
   eating only Kosher food (blessed by a rabbi and observing certain humane and sanitary
   standards). Religious traditions include Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform Judaism.
   (Different forms of the religion may dictate different cultural norms, including roles of
   women, men, and children.)
2. Conversely, they may NOT follow any religious traditions. Many people consider themselves
   Jewish because of shared cultural and historical experiences and not religion.
3. People who observe Kosher laws may not be comfortable being around non-Kosher food.

i
   Sources: Toastmasters International Website (www.toastmasters.org)
John Pearson, “Excuuuuuuse You!: Tips for Studying Abroad” on Education.com
(http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Excuuuuuse_You_Be/)
ii
   Source: Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory & Practice, 5 th ed. (Sue & Sue, 2008)

Updated 7/28/08

								
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