University of Minnesota
Office of Human Resources

Cultural/Ethnic Disparity in Advising

The following are suggestions for what cultural differences advisers and advisees might discover. Please use the list as an opportunity to discuss possible differences throughout your relationship.

Different rules of conversation

  • eye gaze timing
  • how to show interest (e.g., constant nodding, constant "yes," looking, silence, smiling)
  • loudness
  • proximity (how closes to stand or sit)
  • touch
  • directness of comment or questions
  • content (feelings, opinion, problem solving or supportiveness)
  • confrontation: what it is and how to handle it

Different rules of privacy

  • touching certain areas of body
  • exposing certain areas of body
  • disclosing/attending to feelings
  • discussing family matters
  • discussing finances
  • discussing needs
  • discussing their community

Different understanding of self and self-esteem

  • directed to family harmony or role fulfillment
  • directed to personal aspirations
  • differences in future aspirations

Different orientation to others

  • individualist or collectivist orientation in different arenas
  • in-group versus out-group strength
  • who is in-group member varies
  • how others are viewed in the context of history

Different understanding of time

  • being on time means going with the flow versus being on time means going with the clock

Different understanding of human activity

  • when people are together, they always help each other
  • when people are together, they always communicate
  • when people are together, they interact in a lively way

Different orientation as to sources of Truth

  • the elders know our traditions which are based on truth (not science)
  • religious traditions show us what we should do
  • science and "the experts" provide information which helps us make decisions

Different commitment to schooling

  • family needs come first
  • follow impulse first
  • "if it's too hard I give up"
  • follow peer group and get their help
  • male vs. female role expectations
  • different role expectations for different generations

Different rules for self-control

  • follow your feelings
  • be reserved
  • express your feelings to get self under control

Different understanding of getting and giving respect

  • respect is earned not given
  • respect is for any adult
  • respect is for people like me