Entering a new culture

At some stage, the ethnographer needs to enter the target culture. In some cases, researchers choose the research problem based on their familiarity with a particular culture. In other cases, people choose the topic first, and must then enter the culture to start research.

When entering a new culture for the first time, choose a suitable location to live, make some friends, and build some acceptance with people in the target population. You can sometimes learn a lot from the initial adjustment, because everything is different and new. Follow cultural adaptation guidelines and start making basic social contact using simple greetings in the local language. At this stage, you'll learn how to use routine etiquette in normal social situations. Describe the process of personal cultural adjustment, such as the effects of culture shock on yourself and on your relations with others, and what factors seem affect to inter-cultural communication and impinge on personal relationships. People will generally be quite accepting if you take the role of a learner. During this stage, you can also describe major features of people's normal lifestyle, for example:

Keep a diary as a contemporaneous written record of your experiences; don't try to work from memory long after the event. In your diary, keep an outline of the timeframe and location (when and where) of orientation, and of your observations and converstations.

At this stage, you might be learning something about yourself, but you might simply feel the change intensely and not understand much. In reality, however, you will probably only understand many things in hindsight. At the time, you probably won't be able to identify aspects of your own culture that affect adjustment or your own cultural predispositions.