Ethnography is a distinctive subject that seeks to understand diverse cultures. In essence, the world is a collection of people with different ways of life. Consequently, they exhibit behaviors that vary geographically. People feel uncomfortable when they come to a region that is very different from their place of origin. It is because of the diverse reactions from people. Moreover, the inability to speak the local language acts as a hindrance to their communication. Needless to say, the language barrier is a definite hurdle to interaction between people of various walks of life. This paper presents an ethnographic observation during my visit to the “Orinoco” restaurant. It focuses on an Indian family that visited Orinoco, which is a Spanish restaurant.
Background: Venezuelan cuisine restaurant “Orinoco”
My ethnographic study is based on a visit to one of the restaurants in town. It is called Orinoco. It is located in the city center. It is a place that serves a variety of different foods. However, most of its customers are Spanish speaking. Nevertheless, I also noted that it other people, from various cultures, such as the Chinese or Indian, are also frequenting the place. The restaurant has no visible limitations based on social class of the customers. Anyone can visit the place freely. I was able to get into the restaurant without any problems, with me being a student and thus having no high status. It is critical to note a lot of people visit the restaurant at weekdays. In fact, during my first visit, most of the tables were full. The attendants were friendly and communicated with me. However, on Sundays, there is a time limitation. For example, when I visited it for the second time, I could not finish my conversation with one of the customers because they had to close.
The differences in the cultural backgrounds are the backbone of my ethnographic research. In other words, the customers who seek services at the restaurant generally come from dissimilar ethnic backgrounds. It is, therefore, critical to admit that they have a distinct manner of communicating, eating, as well as diverse reactions and expectations regarding the provided services. For example, families that visit Orinoco usually have a Spanish speaking background. However, those who come from other countries or cultures, for example, China or India, may find difficulties in communicating with the staff. It is also important to note that styles of linguistic expressions vary geographically . Communication techniques, such as non-verbal techniques are never identical. For instance, the way a Chinese person may emphasize a point may different from that of Spanish one. The variations regarding the culture of food consumption is also a critical point. Spanish staple food may be not pleasant to a visiting African or Indian. Therefore, Orinoco is as a place where there is a chance of occurrence of conflicts based on cultural differences. These discrepancies lead me to two vital research questions:
How do customers react on other people’s displeasure at Orinoco
In essence, owing to the cultural variations, it was interesting to determine the various ways in which people reacted to an instance of dissatisfaction. For example, what would be the reactions of a person with Spanish background, who is a regular customer, and a visiting Indian person? Moreover, would the impact of the services be the same? Answering the research questions would expose some of the cultural differences.
- Does the cultural background have an effect on how someone communicates with the staff at Orinoco?
Ethnography puts a lot of weight on the ethnic origin of an individual. Consequently, I sought to note how this factor could influence communication with Orinoco’s staff. In other words, whether a Chinese or Indian person would feel as comfortable in communicating with the restaurant’s management as did the Spanish speaking people. It would be very important for explaining the cultural impact of individuals who find themselves in an unusual environment. Moreover, the message would influence my compression of the role of culture in the globe. Therefore, the two research questions forced me to hypothesize that it is a responsibility of every traveler to culturally adapt to the new environment. One needs to understand and respect the culture that he or she lives in.
Observation and Findings
My observation at Orinoco made me draw a few claims to support my hypothesis. First, people of different cultures have distinct reactions to the same situations. During my visit I witnessed an Indian family that visited the restaurant. It was a family of three: the father, the mother and their son. They were a part of the customers that ate lunch at the place. However, I noticed that the parents seemed very upset. They spent an unusual amount of time reading the menu. After some time, it became apparent there was a disagreement between the father and his son, which manifested itself when the father yelled at his son. The entire restaurant threw an angry look at the family. As a result, they left the restaurant without ordering anything.
It is important to note some of the factors that forced the family to leave the restaurant. First, the reaction from the other people was unpleasant. For example, there was a girl who sat next to the family. When she noted the father shouting at his son, she sneeringly looked at the father. He then felt uneasy and embarrassed. In essence, the issue did not concern the girl and the father did not expect such a reaction from her. The incident suggests a cultural difference in approach to the matter. It is apparent that the family in question upheld principles of authority over their children. They felt justified to react when the child made a mistake. They viewed it as an ordinary occurrence that does not require interference from the outside. On the contrary, the other visitors saw it as unethical to shout to the child in a public setting, such as a restaurant.
There was also a young couple that made negative remarks regarding the Indian family. They whispered something while pointing at the family. In essence, they most likely expressed discomfort at the behavior of the family. The Indian family failed to consider the fact that they were in a new place with certain cultural practices, which were different from those of their native culture. Moreover, they should have expected a difference in the type of served food. Understanding uniqueness of every ethnic group and culture promotes peaceful coexistence.
The second piece of evidence that observed regarded the behavior of a couple of Chinese kids to the waitress. They were not polite in the manner that they addressed her. They did not make a polite request for food. Moreover, they expressed anger when the food came later than they expected. It is very important to point out that a type of behavior that may be ordinary for someone with a Chinese background might be very unusual for a person from different background. It is because they have been trained to express their dissatisfaction. In other words, they should have the liberty to express their views. Age is not a limiting factor in such cases. The fact that the waitress was a woman also points out to the possibility of gender being an important factor in their culture. It is because there are people who do not esteem women. Consequently, children grow up showing no reverence for a female. However, the action is unique to the native. The young people who attend Orinoco have been taught to show respect to the adult. In fact, there is no point an individual is justified to show disrespect to an adult. In other words, obedience is paramount irrespective of gender or status of the adult in the society. The incidence illustrates the rigidity of people in adapting to different cultures .
The third piece of evidence regards the style of communication between an English speaking woman and one of the waiters. In essence, the lady wanted to order a particular dish. She believed that Orinoco was a restaurant with a global image. Moreover, she insisted on speaking English with the waiter. However, there was an evident communication breakdown between the two parties. The waitress did not have a good command of English. She called one of the managers to attend to the customer’s needs. However, the lady was impatient and left the restaurant. I believe Americans have generally a high-pace lifestyle. Moreover, Americans have a wide scope of view regarding various issues. It is because of the international recognition that they receive from other states. However, the lady should have behaved in a way that would be appropriate in the environment. She should have sought to know the situation of the local environment. She should have been flexible enough to adapt to the situation and eat the food that could have been served. It is because the staple food of a country may not always be available in every instance.
Dissatisfaction of individuals from other cultural backgrounds contrasts the fulfillment of the Spanish speaking customers. It was the fourth evidence in my ethnographic study. During my second visit, I had an opportunity to conduct an interview with one of the regular clients. She was a welcoming lady, and we talked for quite some time. She expressed her satisfaction with the offered services. She even applauded the waiters for their commitment to providing the services. She was contented with the quality of the food that they did serve. Moreover, she did appreciate the interior design. I did confirm her sentiments during my second visit. While the Indian family was uncomfortable with the Orinoco restaurant, the rest of the Spaniards were at home. They took their meals with much joy. In fact, their eating was marked with intermittent laughter. It is apparent that individuals find rest when they are within a community that they feel a sense of belonging. In essence, they know how to behave and carry out themselves with limited or no criticism at all. They are also at home with the local dialect. In essence, language is not a communication barrier.
The discussion points to the hypothesis that I formulated at the beginning. It is the responsibility of every outsider to ensure that they culturally adapt to the new cultural environment. In other words, when one relocates to a new area, he/she should be flexible enough to change his/her habits. It does not mean disregarding the native culture. However, it promotes interaction with the immediate environment. It also helps an individual define his scope of behavior. Cultural conflict becomes an underground subject. However, my observation has a limitation. It does not consider other social aspects that could define the behavior of people in a public setting. For instance, somebody who has had a rough day may be insensitive in his/her reaction. There are possibilities that the observed father of the family may have had some emotional stress. Consequently, the yelling may have been necessitated by the related factors. However, such factors can be considered in explicit research. The findings of this study therefore, reaffirm three distinct points. First, people of different culture behave differently in various situations. It means that individuals of ethnic background are unique in behavior and mannerism. Secondly, everyone has a responsibility to adapt to a new locality. It helps in management of cultural conflict that emerges at the setups. It also facilitates the comfort of people of as they interact in their daily activities. The ethnographic study therefore, reaffirms the role of cultural background in defining the interaction of people. It forms a fundamental aspect of co-existence. Moreover, with progress of globalization, there is a need for more flexibility and adaptation. The world has become a rather small connected village. There is an increased interdependence. A rigid community is bound to stagnate in its progress. Consequently, cultural backgrounds should act as guidelines for defining our behavior.