This paper deals with an interview with a very interesting lady, her name is Suzanné Lakatos. When asked what Ms. Lakatos considered to be her ethnic background, she answered, “I am Hungarian, I am from Hungary,” (S. Lakatos, personal interview, September 12th, 2006). During this conversation with Suzanné it is noted that she is a very straightforward person and says what is on her mind, and uses as few words as possible to get her point across. When asked about the major religion in her culture, Ms. Lakatos’ response was, “Many people are in my country are Catholic, so I would say that is the major religion. Religion varies in Hungary though just like in the United States, so there are many different religious groups, but I think Catholic is what the majority of people practice there,” (S. Lakatos, personal interview, September 12th, 2006).
As the interview progressed Ms. Lakatos was asked more questions that she was more than happy to answer. The next question for Ms. Lakatos was, “Do you feel that you have barriers to deal with living in the United States?” Ms. Lakatos said, “Yes, I do. If I do not speak, no one can tell I am from another country because I look like everyone else, but as soon as I talk, people start asking where I am from, and if I understand what they are saying. They treat me like I am not as smart as them, and often talk louder as though I am deaf. I understand the English language just fine,” (S. Lakatos, personal interview, September 12th, 2006). Ms. Lakatos is a very colorful woman and said it really doesn’t bother her now like it used to, she just looks at the person and tells them she is neither deaf, nor stupid and they can lower their voice and speak plain English to her.
“What are some traditions of your culture that are not practiced in the United States,” the author asked Ms. Lakatos. “Well, the United States does just about everything that people in the rest of the world do, I guess I would have to say one of the biggest traditions is the way we cook, you don’t see many Hungarian restaurants in the United States and our cooking is different,” (S. Lakatos, personal interview, September 12th, 2006). When asked, “Do you feel there is something different about your culture that is that is seen as different here?” Ms. Lakatos iterated, “Well, let’s go back to our food, it is an important part of my culture. We have a dish that is made with pasta, cottage cheese, and sour cream. Many Americans look at this funny and I don’t think they think it would be good. In Hungary, it is a popular dish and is very good!”
“Do you feel there are many people in this area that you would consider part of your culture,” the author asked. “Yes, I am an American, so there are a lot of people that I consider part of my culture. I have lived here so long, this is my home, though I will never forget Hungary,” was Ms. Lakatos’ response. “How can one learn more about your culture and how can others become more educated about the Hungarian culture,” asked the author. “Well, go to the library, use the internet, and ask me, I love to discuss my culture, and I might even cook a traditional dish for you. I always feel that the best place to learn about something is from someone who is already familiar with it,” responded Ms. Lakatos.
Next the topic of what is the most important life factor to the Hungarian culture was discussed. Ms. Lakatos said, “I think the most import factors in life are family and health. Hungarians also put a large emphasis on income. We want a wonderful family, good health, and plenty of money to live a comfortable life. Even the Gypsies in my country must have strong family bonds and be able to make a decent living doing whatever they do.”
The author asked Ms. Lakatos, “Do you feel there are any communications barriers between yourself and those not of your culture?” She responded, “No, I do not. When I first moved here my English was not very good and I did have trouble communicating when I was younger. I now know English and even thought it is not my first language, it is the one I use in everyday life. This has removed the communication barriers presented to me when I was younger.”
“Do you feel that there are assumptions regarding cultural “norms” that impact your day-to-day behavior and do you recognize any challenges or disadvantages of being outside the “norm”, asked the author of this piece. Ms. Lakatos retorted, “I do feel that I try not to speak as much when around new people, and then I am treated no differently. I do not feel that there are any challenges or disadvantages to being outside the norm. Especially in our community, people embrace diversity and people can’t wait to try the traditional food of my country.”
The author’s next question was, “Do you feel there are any privileges or advantages to assimilating to the “normative” culture?” Ms. Lakatos said, “Yes, you are treated as an equal. Not like you are not as intelligent or deaf. It drives me crazy when someone starts talking louder as if I will understand them better if they do this. Like I said earlier, I usually ask them to lower their voice because I can hear and understand them just fine.” Finally, the author asked Ms. Lakatos what she felt was a source of strength or support for her. “My friends are my strength, they are like my extended family. Without my friends I would be very lonely as my husband has passed away and my daughter does not live in this area anymore,” (S. Lakatos, personal interview, September 12th, 2006).
Jandt (2005) tells us, Americans are very individualistic and are less family oriented than those of many other countries. This was seen first hand during this interview as Ms. Lakatos told us that Family and health is the most important factor in her culture. She did cite income as one of the most important factors as well, which sounded a lot like an important factor in the United States as well.
In order to effectively communicate with people of other cultures, one must take the time to learn about that culture. One must learn the way other cultures do business, what is important to the other cultures, traditions of that culture, and what would be offensive to someone from that culture. Many Americans feel as though everyone is or should be like us, but this is something that is not true. By learning about a culture that you plan to interact with you are more likely to succeed in clinching a business deal, making a new friend, or just being able to converse with someone from another culture without offending them.