You are expected to interview someone who had been to another country/ies in a business trip or as a tourist, or an international student/person who visited or came to this country. You may interview a “Westerner” who did not travel but had interactions with “foreigners” in his/her Western country. Your interview will focus on the social and business interactions that your interviewee engaged in. After providing information about your participant and a rational for choosing him/her, you can ask questions similar, but not necessary limited, to the following:
1- When were you in that country?
2- How did you find your social/ business interaction similar/different from what you are used to.
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3- Can you relate the most shocking or strange incident(s) that you witnessed or been part of?
4- Did you have any orientation (including personal research) about the customs and traditions of that country?
5- How did your learning of the culture of the country affect your experiences?
6- Did you notice that the religion, attitudes, and beliefs of the people affected their interactions or the way they conduct business? How?
7- What things would you do differently if you are to relive your experience doing business in that country?
8- What advice would you give to a foreigner going in a trip to that particular country?
You may report your interview in any format you like (e.g. essay or question and answer). However, you need to conclude in a paragraph in which you link what your interviewee mentioned and what has been discussed in the class, the concepts of intercultural communication. Failing to include this paragraph will automatically drop your grade to half of the assigned grade for this assignment.
Please remember that the provided questions should serve as a guide or sample for your interview. Make sure to ask about comparisons between the country your interviewee visited and the common expected behavior in similar settings in the United States.
23 May 2020
Interview with [Name of Interviewee]
For this project, I interviewed my uncle, [Name of Interviewee], who has worked in and
traveled to numerous countries across the globe as a Human Rights Lawyer. In this interview,
[Interviewee] discussed what it was like to live and work in the country of Bhutan for five years.
While working in Bhutan, [Interviewee] and my aunt helped start up the royal law school, most
significantly the conflict resolution clinic.
1. When were you in that country?
[Interviewee] was in Bhutan from 2015-2020.
2. How did you find your social/business interaction similar/different from what you are used to?
[Interviewee] stated that the most contrasting aspect about his business experiences in Bhutan was disagreement. He said that, “people did not openly disagree”. In other words, they do not say what they disagree about to someone’s face. During the interview, [Interviewee] presented both a macro and micro example of Bhutan’s concept of
disagreeing. For the macro example, [Interviewee] stated that, “Bhutanese hire consultants to come in and write policy. These consultants may have 20 years of experience, and Bhutan will
send out a car to the airport, the king and queen will be there etc. The consultant will do
everything needed, write out the opinion, the Bhutanese will nod, put an official seal on it and publish the policy. It looks great.” Everything is all great, until the consultant leaves and the Bhutanese “chip it to death, make committees, and do studies their own way”.
The Bhutanese may have brought in this international consultant, however they “won’t accept someone from the outside’s opinion”. [Interviewee] views this somewhat as a positive, because, it is “important to have integrity in your own decisions”. He does however quote that this decision may be, “frustrating for consultant, because they
thought the idea was great”. They may be upset that their policy hasn’t been put into effect or their end of the bargain hasn’t been met. He said the consultant may feel like the whole decision was a “complete waste of time”.
With the micro example, [Interviewee] said that he was that consultant. He said that, “As a consultant you’re hired in to come and do something, you do it, and you change something, the Bhutanese nod, not openly communicating.” He said you may get frustrated that, “people won’t move forward with your decision/vision”. In Bhutan,
[Interviewee] ’s job was to teach law in a different way. Normally, a professor teaches law in the lecture style, students sit, take notes and have an examination at the end of the semester. Bhutan wanted something different. [Interviewee] said this job was very difficult because he had to attempt to tell the Bhutanese to, “change how to teach and
change what they teach”. His major obstacle was that he can’t just force people to do something, so he tried his best to work with the Bhutanese to come up with the best educational techniques for both students and teachers.
3. Can you relay the most shocking or strange incident(s) that you have witnessed or been part of? In terms of shocking strange incidents, [Interviewee] referenced Bhutanese tradition. He
said that, “Super traditional people have a strong belief in karma. Because of that, they have a different sense of ethics. You can’t get away with anything (ie. lying, stea ling etc.). Judgment comes at the end of life in terms of rebirth. It doesn’t matter when you do it.” [Interviewee] also said that the Bhutanese may be, “less trusting of someone who is an
outsider because they are unfamiliar with the value system”. It is important to note that though they are less trusting at this time, it doesn’t mean they could grow to trust that certain outsider at some point.
4. Did you have any orientation (including personal research) about the customs and traditions of that country?
While in Bhutan, [Interviewee] and my aunt facilitated a years’ worth of field research in the countryside, but for his answer he says that “Personal research is not the same as experiencing it for yourself”. Basically, someone can look up Bhutan all they want;
however, they won’t be able to understand the true scope of the country and the cultures within the land, without experiencing it firsthand.
5. How did your learning of the culture affect your experiences?
When learning about the culture of Bhutan, [Interviewee] said that it was an “incremental process” and that it was like “peeling back layers of an onion”. As [Interviewee] was learning about the culture he had to think if he should act “irrationally or rationally, logically or illogically”. Once he learned these things, he said the “Wisdom of culture
becomes more apparent”. In terms of a microculture he said he was part of many, being in an English-speaking neighborhood, and living in the capital city, Thimphu. However, he notes that one major struggle of being an expat in Bhutan was the language barrier.
6. Did you notice that the religion, attitudes, and beliefs of the people affected their interactions or the way they conduct business? How?
While in Bhutan, [Interviewee] noticed a major difference between the United States, and other countries he’s been to vs. how Bhutan conducts business. He said that, “I’m not sure if it’s because of a lack of experience with crime, but they have a very serious
currency of trust.” One example is, say someone in Bhutan wanted to purchase an item, they could take it one day and come back and pay for it the next. When I asked if people really do this, and don’t just steal, he said they really do. He also said that “If someone were to be at an ATM and accidentally leave their credit card, the person who found it
next would put it on top of the ATM with a sticky note saying it was left there.” The person could then go back and retrieve it, but if it wasn’t picked up for quite some time, the bank actually goes out with a bin and collects them and will return them to the owner at the bank. [Interviewee] said a main reason behind Bhutan’s currency of trust is to “try
and invest in communities”. By doing such business, it helps them create stronger bonds within the communities of Bhutan. To add, [Interviewee] filled me in on Bhutan’s different approach to tourism as well. In
Bhutan, a tourist must pay a fee of $270 a day to stay in the country. This came after the Bhutanese saw large amounts of sex tourism, harassment, gambling and other forms of “gross tourism” – as [Interviewee] calls it, in places such as Kathmandu, Nepal and Bangkok, Thailand. When the Bhutanese saw this, they didn’t want their youth to be
exposed to such behaviors, so they came up with the High Value, Low Impact concept. Many people around the world have heard about Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH), and this is where it comes from.
[Interviewee] also says that though Bhutan is not like the U.S. or other ‘developed’ countries in terms of modernization, the country is still considered high-end and developing. He says that the capital city where he lived, Thimphu, is actually heavily influenced by the Western culture. For an example as to how Thimphu is influenced by
Western culture, he cites the habitants of the city. Thimphu’s population is made up of the ‘one percent’. These individuals of the ‘one percent’ have inherited assets, for example hotel chains, which is how they can afford the luxuries of the top class. He said, despite the whole GNH philosophy and the country’s routes in Buddhism, Bhutan is
seeing “insidious materialism through the backdoor”. These wealthier individuals are purchasing goods which is resulting in people asking, “Where do you get that” and the person may say, “the store downtown has three pairs” or “oh I was in Bangkok”, which
turns into a nightmare. This nightmare is the “obsession with stuff”, when GNH was about having less stuff. [Interviewee] says that though this materialistic perspective strays away from GNH and Buddhism’s beliefs of not caving into your indulgences, Bhutan is a democracy and not authoritarian. Therefore, though it goes against those
beliefs, people can still make decisions on their purchases, how they would like. [Interviewee] also wanted to note that none of these one percent people are necessarily bad, in fact he and my aunt were close with many of them, this is just how they lived and dealt with consumerism.
7. What things would you do differently if you were to relive your experience doing business in that country?
[Interviewee] said, if he were to stay in Bhutan for forever [which was never the intention], “I would refrain from criticizing things I see. I would work behind the scenes, instead of openly confronting something”. The aspect of “working behind the scenes” was hard for [Interviewee] because as a Human Rights Lawyer, and a key player in
helping create the law school, he had to point out the flaws in Bhutan. However, the Bhutanese don’t necessarily like having those flaws pointed out.
8. What advice would you give to a foreigner going on a trip to that particular country?
In terms of tourists traveling to Bhutan, [Interviewee] says “Open yourself up to the seemingly irrational and enjoy it.” What [Interviewee] means by this is that, when learning about Bhutan, an American tourist may be shocked at how the Bhutanese lay out their history. Since Bhutan was built on the basis of Buddhism, a lot of their history
includes stories about figures such as Buddha Guru Rinpoche, and tales such as ‘108 fortresses being built by one man in one day’. This may seem perplexing to the American tourist, who is used to the stories about George Washington or other historical figures, where people lay out lots of facts in front of you. This is why [Interviewee] says it is
important to open yourself up to the irrational, because you may not be expecting a particular story in Bhutan’s history. [Interviewee] also adds that if a tourist travels to Bhutan “you should push your tour guide to take you off beaten trail. Don’t let them just show you stereotypical monuments, but mundane life.” He compared this scenario to
thinking a tourist may know everything about New York City after going to Times Square, the Empire State Building, eating a hotdog and seeing the Statue of Liberty, when there’s much more to know and understand about a particular location.
After having my interview with [Interviewee], I was able to connect his answers to
several concepts in Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach. To begin, in Question
#2, [Interviewee] stated that the Bhutanese “did not openly disagree”. This reminded me of the
example conversation on page 64 of the textbook, where businessmen from two different
cultures were speaking. Because one businessman was from a high-context culture and the other
was from a low-context culture, they weren’t on the same page. This same issue happened with
[Interviewee] in Bhutan, where the Bhutanese didn’t use a verbal code to express how they felt
about the changes he was making. For Question #3 and the ATM example in Question #6, I
thought about the section in Chapter 1 on The Five Approaches to Determining Which Behaviors
are Ethical. Here, I think an orientation like The Common Good Approach is blended with
Bhutan’s Buddhist belief system. In the textbook it states that, “The common good approach is
based on the idea that community life is, in and of itself, good and that people within the
community and their subsequent actions should contribute to the community good.” 1 With
karma, there’s no tolerance for stealing or committing crimes, and the example of the ATM,
shows that there is a lot of trust in the community. If you lose something, expect the community
to have your back.
In this sense, a community working together could lead one to believe that Bhutan is a
collectivist country. However, after doing some research, Hofstede Insights claims that Bhutan
“has an intermediate score of 52 in this dimension . A score in the middle like this does not
1 Neuliep, J. (2017). Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach (7th ed., p. 34). Sage.
indicate a strong preference to either end of the scale.” 2 Two reasons for this result could be
because, Bhutan holds true to their GNH beliefs, and they are still a democracy where
individuals have a right to their own decisions. For example, the one percent who are discussed
in Question #6 feeding into their indulgences, while still living in a Buddhist country. By this
happening, these indulgences could cause Bhutan to become influenced by the more globalized
countries of the world. Another concept I thought of while interviewing [Interviewee] for
Question #3 and Question #6, was uncertainty avoidance. I would say from [Interviewee]’s
interview, that Bhutan has a high uncertainty avoidance, especially amongst the more traditional
Bhutanese. This, however, could change as Thimphu gradually opens itself up to the rest of the
world, and if GNH ever dissolves. Overall, my interview with [Interviewee] was able to teach me
how concepts within Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach apply to the real
2 Bhutan* – Hofstede Insights. Hofstede Insights. Retrieved 4 June 2020, from https://www.hofstede- insights.com/country/bhutan/#:~:text=In%20Collectivist%20societies%20people%20belong,either%20end %20of%20the%20scale.
1. Neuliep, J. (2017). Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach (7th ed., p. 34). Sage. 2. Bhutan* – Hofstede Insights. Hofstede Insights. Retrieved 4 June 2020, from
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