Join the survey
We are educators and textbook authors based in Kyoto, Japan, with experience in language teaching and intercultural education. We wanted to create an accessible and inspiring English textbook with the basic aim of broadening the worldview of students living in Japan. To do this, we need real-life stories and opinions from people with intercultural experience such as yourself. That is why we created this survey.
The Ibunka textbook was finally published, based on this survey, in November 2021. But the Ibunka Survey is ongoing. We’ll be very happy to receive more opinions and experiences from people who have lived or are living abroad!
Please note that some of the responses we receive will be used to illustrate cultural experiences. By responding to this survey, you are giving permission for your responses to be published in the textbook and online, albeit anonymously and edited for clarity.
Introducing the Ibunka Project (Intercultural Communication in Japan)
Survey 1 – Introducing Yourself
The way we present ourselves is deeply cultural. In some cultures, people focus on their uniqueness, but in other cultures people emphasize what they have in common with others. There are also many differences in whether or not people downplay their own strengths or compliment others.
Q1. When you introduce yourself, do you focus on your uniqueness, or on how much you have in common with others? Have you noticed anything remarkable about the way people introduce themselves in the foreign cultures you have lived in?
Q2. Do you think you are usually modest when talking about yourself, or do you prefer to describe yourself in a positive light? How about people in foreign countries you have lived in?
Q3. Do you usually compliment people? How do you respond to compliments?
Survey 2 – Sleep and Rest
Is it better to stay at the office late at night and catch up on sleep where and when you can? Or to leave work early in order to get a good night’s sleep? The answer to this question rests in attitudes to commitment and to self-management.
Q1. What are your thoughts on how people sleep or deal with tiredness in foreign countries where you have lived?
Q2. In the countries you have lived in, would you say that it’s considered important to get enough sleep and maintain a regular bedtime?
Survey 3 – In the Classroom
If you have ever studied abroad, you may have noticed that classroom behavior varies from culture to culture. In your country, are classes usually interactive? Do students actively ask and answer questions, or are they usually silent? Who is doing most of the talking in the classroom?
Q1. In the country you grew up in, are classes usually interactive? For example, when a teacher asks a question to the whole class, do students volunteer to reply? Do they freely ask questions to the teacher?
Q2. Do students ever remain silent even after having been asked a question by the teacher?
Survey 4 – Having Guests in Your Home
In some cultures, people enjoy socializing in public places like cafes and restaurants. In other cultures, welcoming guests to your home is considered an important step in friendship, so houses are kept ready to welcome visitors at any time.
Q1. In the culture you grew up in, is it common to invite people into one’s home to socialize? How about in other cultures you have experienced?
Q2. Do you usually give a tour of your home to guests?
Q3. Have you ever experienced a communication gap or misunderstanding in a foreign culture, with regard to having guests in the home?
Survey 5 – In the Clubhouse
Being involved in a school club can be quite intense in terms of demands on time and effort. Or, it can be seen as a break from studies, and limited to a few hours per week. Both approaches have a deep influence on the way young people learn how to cooperate with others.
Q1. Were you in any clubs (sports, music, other activities) during your school years? If you were, how much time did you spend on clubs per week? Is that typical of the culture you grew up in?
Q2. Do you have any experiences related to clubs in the foreign country you are living in or have lived in?
Survey 6 – In a Shop
In shops and businesses in some cultures, customers are treated like royalty. In others, the relationship between staff and customers is more equal. Which feels more like good service to you?
Q1. In the country where you grew up, how do shop staff and customers greet and interact with each other? What about in foreign countries where you have lived?
Q2. How do you feel about customer service in your home country? How about in foreign countries where you have lived?
Survey 7 – Romance and Relationships
The definition of “romantic” is far from universal. What kinds of public displays of affection are OK? Is it better to discuss everything openly, or to be able to understand your partner’s needs without words? How important is it to have friends in common? The answers to these questions may seem natural, but in fact they are deeply cultural.
Q1. In your opinion, is it OK for couples to have public displays of affection?
Q2. Do you think it’s important that couples discuss everything, or should people be able to understand their partner’s needs without words?
Q3. Do you and your partner have friends in common?
Survey 8 – Having a Conversation / Discussion
When having a conversation with someone, are you upfront with what you say, or are you more focused on not offending others? And when discussing a topic, how comfortable are you with expressing disagreement?
Q1. Imagine that someone you don’t know well asks you the question, “Do you have a part-time job?” Would you naturally give a short answer (for example “No, I don’t.”)? Or would you volunteer a longer answer? (for example “No, I used to, but I don’t have the time any more. I’d like to work at a cafe again in the future.”)
Q2. Do you like to discuss abstract topics with others? If you do, are you comfortable with disagreeing with your discussion partner(s), or do you prefer to look for agreement and common ground?
Q3. What do you find most uncomfortable when having a conversation or discussion with others?
Survey 9 – Parents and Children
The first and most basic influence on the way a child relates to the world is whether they sleep alongside their parents, or are made to sleep independently. And what is considered the “right way” to raise children might be to nurture and support them, or it could be to teach them the rules of society as early as possible.
Q1. Until what age did you sleep in the same bed as your parents (if you did)?
Q2. In the culture you grew up in, would you say that the general attitude toward children is strict? How about in other cultures you have lived in?
Q3. Have you noticed any differences in parenting between your home culture and other cultures you have lived in?
Survey 10 – Asking a Favor
Asking someone for a favor is tricky even in your own culture, but when the person you are asking has a different idea of how this should be done, it can be even more difficult. In some cultures, the best way is to ask directly. In other cultures, it is considered more respectful to hint at your problem and wait for friends to offer their help.
Q1. An expert on American and French cultures* has observed that Americans tend to directly ask favors of their friends. In contrast, French people tend to indirectly hint at a problem they are having, and wait for their friends to offer help. These are two clearly contrasting styles. Does either of these resonate with your personal experience? How about in the culture you grew up in?
Q2. In your culture, or the foreign cultures you have lived in, how do people repay the social obligations that come with asking favors or receiving gifts?
Survey 11 – Interacting with Strangers
When you are sharing a space with people you don’t know, like in an elevator or while waiting in line at a supermarket, do you smile at them? Make some small talk? Or do you ignore them to create a comfortable distance?
Q1. What do you do when you share a space (for example being in an elevator to the 20th floor with one other person, or waiting in line at a supermarket) with people you don’t know? Which would you feel more comfortable with: making some small talk, or ignoring that person? Why?
Q2. Do you generally smile at people you don’t know, when you pass them in the street, or on campus, etc? Why or why not?
Q3. In the foreign culture(s) you have lived in, would you say it’s easy to meet new people? How about making friends? Do you find that easy or difficult?
For people who have studied abroad: Did you find it easy to meet people during your stay?