As my interviewee for the SIS #2 assignment I chose KBTU student Meruert Telman, who spent one academic year in USA through the FLEX exchange program. I chose her because, firstly, she is a friend of mine, so I could expect her to be honest and give detailed answers to my questions, and, secondly, her perception of the world is somewhat different from other people, maybe because she is partly German and it given her an opportunity to consider all cultures critically and from the perspective of another culture. During the interview, I wanted her to be relaxed and not distracted by anything, therefore I invited her to my home for a cup of tea, considering that the best time for a long conversation for Kazakhs is the teatime.
I have prepared a list of interview questions based on material covered by this course, as well as the environment in which Meruert lived during her trip to USA, mainly asking questions on the subjects of host family, school and American culture in general.
Here is the interview itself:
Where are you from? How old are you? Can you describe yourself in 3 words. Meruert: I am from Uralsk, Kazakhstan. I am 19. Um, I think I am communicative, smart and fun.
Where have you been and for how long?
Meruert: I have spent one academic year in Florida, USA.
When you just arrived to USA, how did your host-family, and Americans in general, accepted you? Meruert: My first impression was not very good, since my host family was late to the airport for almost 40 min, but afterwards they all seemed quite nice. Comment: It’s quite not typical of the Americans, because they are very punctual. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the first host-family was Jamaican Americans.
What can you tell about your host-family? What amazed you the most? What did you like, what was strange for you? Meruert: I had 2 host-families during the year. So in the first one the cultural difference was very extreme, since they were Jamaican Americans and everything was quite strange. And in my second family thing I loved the most was the openness and the love my host family had shown me. Comment: Even though Meruert tried to be empathetic, she was not able to overcome the intercultural barrier between her and the first host-family. When I asked her why, she declined to answer, but said it was because from their part there was no action to meet her attempts to establish the contact. They were too closed-minded and ethnocentric. I suppose that the other reason why she didn’t like the first host family was a culture shock both from moving to a new country and dealing with people from another culture that was very different from hers.
Did you have any difficulties in communication at first time? Meruert: Yes, since in the beginning I had more of a British-like accent that was strange to the Americans. But it was a very minor difficulty and I adapted my accent in just couple of days. Comment: Language is a significant part of any culture. In this example we can see that even such a small thing as an accent can become a huge problem in intercultural communication.
Can you name some slang expression that wasn’t clear to you, was funny or surprised you? Meruert: Um-m, I can’t really remember now actually, but there was plenty of them.
Can you describe the prejudices and stereotypes of Americans about the Kazakhs? How did you react to them? Meruert: Ha-ha, the funny one. Well, almost everybody heard about Borat, so, I guess, you get the overall idea of what they thought about us. But in general they are mostly not even aware about KZ much. And about my reaction to it… Well, I was aware of this to happen, so I mostly just started explaining about KZ, giving the general info. Comment: Meruert behaved very civilized to the Americans and their stereotypes about the Kazakhs. Such a position and strategy are, in my opinion, the most suitable in this kind of situations, but many people just cannot cope with...
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