The Mango Seller

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caseID: start
Mango Seller behind his cart

The Mango Seller

You've ventured out to one of the local markets in your neighborhood to do some grocery shopping. This particular market is a block from where you are staying and it's one of the better ones in the area. Since you intend to shop here frequently throughout your stay, you'll want to try to maintain good relationships with the vendors.
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caseID: q1
As you’re inspecting the mangoes, the shopkeeper recognizes that you’re American and he asks you a question.
Vendor with indifferent/inquisitive expression
Why do you Americans put your parents in nursing homes?
How do you respond?
go to case 3 Take a step back and say, “What?! Where did you hear that?”
go to case 4 Tilt your head and look away, saying, “I'm not comfortable answering that question, we really don't talk about that outside of the family.”
go to case 5 Shrug and say, “Americans value independence, and parents do not want to be a burden on their children.”
go to case 10 Look the shopkeeper in the eye and say, “Well, there is no way I could provide the quality of care that they would need.”
caseID: q1c1
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If you are not comfortable responding, you are not obliged to do so. However, by your response, tone of voice, and body language, you have likely offended the vendor.

A more polite response, still showing your unwillingness to continue the conversation, could have ended the conversation without offense.

Vendor with offended/frustrated expression
Apparently denial is something that Americans practice as well. Ha!
The shopkeeper clicks his tongue and wags his head. The conversation ends abruptly. It is clear you have offended him.

He hands you your mangoes and turns away. You now see that you have damaged the relationship, and this will cause awkward interactions in the future if you decide to return to this stall.

For tips on nonverbal and verbal communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Communication 101.

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caseID: q1c2
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Disengaging from a conversation initiated by a difficult question that makes you uncomfortable can often be the best way to handle the situation.

Most questions of this type come from a place of curiosity, as opposed to animosity or attack, so responding by simply expressing your discomfort will often successfully and politely resolve the situation.

Vendor with apologetic expression
I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.
The shopkeeper looks away and the conversation ends as the shopkeeper sells you mangoes. You continue on with your day.

For tips on when to engage or disengage from a conversation, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c3
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Responding by referencing traditional American values is a good way to take personal emotions out of a conversation.
The shopkeeper raises his eyebrows in surprise.
Vendor with skeptical/confused expression
Well, why is it a burden? Your parents raised you. Why wouldn't you take care of them in return?
How do you respond?
go to case 6 You shake your head and say, "Well, in the United States it is not that simple."
go to case 9 You shrug a little and say, "A lot of the time, parents would prefer to live on their own, as Americans value their ability to care for themselves."
caseID: q1c3c1
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Providing answers that reference American values without context, might not be clear to those unfamiliar with American culture.
The shopkeeper seems frustrated with your answer.
Vendor with offended/frustrated expression
For us it's very simple. Children should always take care of their parents. I don't see why it would be complicated!
How do you respond?
go to case 7 The United States is a big country, and I live very far from my parents. They don't want to leave their community and I am unable to leave my job.
go to case 8 For now, my parents prefer to live on their own and they are able to. Maybe we'll have to make a new decision in the future.
caseID: q1c3c1c1
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Your factual response, that the United States is very large, is intended to close the discussion.

Using data can be a good way to defend your position without sharing personal information or engaging in an uncomfortable conversation.

Vendor with indifferent/inquisitive expression
The shopkeeper nods and sells you your fruit. He opens up to further discussion of things that are different between his country and America.

For more data on the United States and its population, review section 02 – Culture: Understanding Your Own Culture.

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caseID: q1c3c1c2
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If you are comfortable being honest and open in the conversation, it can help diffuse the conversation and lead to closer relationships in the long term.
Vendor with indifferent/inquisitive expression
While the shopkeeper might not agree with your points, he appreciates your efforts to explain your position. This could lead to a friendly relationship in the future.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c3c2
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By showing how strongly Americans value independence you help clarify your position.

This approach provides context for someone who may be unfamiliar with this aspect of American culture.

Vendor with skeptical/confused expression
So your elders prefer to be on their own? I could never imagine that.
While the shopkeeper might not agree with your points, he appreciates your efforts to explain your position and your conversation could lead to a friendly relationship in the future.

For more information on American values, review section 02 – Culture: Understanding Your Own Culture.

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caseID: q1c4
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If you are comfortable sharing personal details, this can help explain your position.
The shopkeeper tilts his head and squints at you.
Vendor with skeptical/confused expression
Here, children are taught to take care of their elders and to provide for them in their old age.
How do you respond?
go to case 11 In my case, my grandmother was ill. She needed medication and equipment that we didn't have. We couldn't give her the level of care she needed to be properly treated and feel comfortable.
go to case 14 That's very interesting. How do you handle elderly care here?
caseID: q1c4c1
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By sharing a personal experience, you are remaining open and honest. If you are comfortable doing this, it can help diffuse tension and can lead you into more extensive conversations. In some cultures this might be off-putting, though.
The shopkeeper frowns.
Vendor with indifferent/inquisitive expression
Well, we would hire a nurse to come live with us.
How do you respond?
go to case 12 I wish I could afford to do that. In the United States live-in nurses are very expensive.
go to case 13 We thought about hiring a nurse, but after much discussion, we decided that my grandmother would be more comfortable in a nursing facility. We visit her frequently and feel reassured that she is being well cared for.
caseID: q1c4c1c1
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You used a common perception that household help in the United States is expensive. This validates the shopkeeper’s perception of American life.

Keep in mind though, reinforcing things that can be seen as stereotypical can sometimes result in larger issues in the long term.

Vendor with delighted expression
Yes, I have heard that life is very expensive in the United States.
The shopkeeper asks you more questions about stereotypical American culture the next time you come in.

For more information on American values, review section 02 – Culture: Understanding Your Own Culture.

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caseID: q1c4c1c2
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By continuing to share personal experiences, you remain open to further conversation.

Using a rational explanation but still showing affection and concern for your grandmother helps show the shopkeeper your perspective and solution.

Vendor with apologetic expression
At least you are doing the best you can do. Always make the best of your circumstances.
The shopkeeper nods. He leaves the conversation with a greater understanding of your personal circumstances and inquires about your grandmother when you come in again.

For more practical tips on how to respond to difficult questions, review section 04 – Engage: Get Out There.

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caseID: q1c4c2
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By turning the question over to the shopkeeper, you are inviting him to share information about his culture.
The shopkeeper shrugs.
Vendor with skeptical/confused expression
Well, my parents live with me. I would never abandon them to some nursing home.
How do you respond?
go to case 15 I really respect that. That is something that I really admire about your culture.
go to case 16 Abandon? That’s not how we see it. We just want to make sure that they are well taken care of.
caseID: q1c4c2c1
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Maintaining your composure and showing admiration for how other cultures address issues is generally a good tactic when dealing with difficult questions.

This approach reinforces an attitude of learning that can be beneficial in many situations.

Vendor with delighted expression
Yes, in my family we have taken in my mother-in-law and one of my aunts...
The shopkeeper smiles. You have begun to gain his trust. He appreciates your compliment and shares a personal experience of his own.

For more information on cultural awareness, review section 02 Culture: You and Other Cultures.

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caseID: q1c4c2c2
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By responding emotionally, you risk escalating the conversation and increasing the confrontation. It is always important to try to remain calm in these conversations to maintain a cordial, if distant, relationship.
Vendor with offended/frustrated expression
We don't need nursing homes here. We take care of our own.
The shopkeeper squints and frowns. By taking offense at his suggestion that you're abandoning your elders, you angered the shopkeeper. He waves you off dismissively.

For information on how your attitude impacts communication, review section 03 – Cross-cultural Communication: Overview.

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