cross cultural interactions


With only a small amount of information about your partnered refugees, it is important to avoid assumptions. There may be some common values and cultural practices that refugees share, however they are as unique and diverse as we all are. Here are a couple general tips to start: 


Gender Boundaries 

Gender Boundaries


Be aware that many cultures and religions have an invisible wall between male and female. Please try to avoid one-on-one situations with someone of the opposite sex.  Avoid PDA (public displays of affection) with your spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner when in public.  

Male Volunteers: Men can greet the men with a handshake. Do not shake hands with or hug a Muslim woman. Place your hand on your heart when you greet her as a sign of respect. It is best during the initial stages of your relationship to not have direct eye contact with the Afghan women, especially if they are more conservative. 

Women: You can shake hands with a Muslim man if he initiates the handshake. Women can greet the women with 3 kisses, cheeck to cheek.  



Many religions express godliness in part by what they see on the outside. It is wise for us to err on the conservative side (cover shoulders and knees). 


Entering a Refugee's Home 

Hospitality is likely an important value to your partnered refugees.  

  • When you enter the home take off your shoes. 

  • They will likely guide you to sit in the living room and may ask you if you want tea. They may also bring out nuts and other treats. Leave enough time to sit and enjoy a cup of tea.  

  • If you were invited for a meal, be prepared to eat A LOT. This is one common way that refugees (especially from the Middle East) show you hospitality. It is likely they will want to serve you first. This is a sign of respect and hospitality. Be prepared to eat multiple helpings.  

  • If you have food restrictions, you may have to let them know multiple times. You can simply say, “No thank you, I am not able to eat ____ but I’ll take more of the ______.”  

  • Make sure you set aside plenty of time for the visit. After you eat dinner, you may all watch T.V. together or look at pictures, or sit and talk.  


Inviting Refugees to your Home 

Inviting your partnered refugees to your home is a great way to show hospitality and to teach them about your culture.  

  • Pets: If you have a dog please consider keeping them in a back room or outside. The religious traditions that many of our refugees follow do not allow animals, especially dogs, for pets.  

  • If you are serving meat, purchase Halal. See below.  

  • Alcoholic beverages: Both our Muslim and Slavic refugee families will likely not drink alcohol because of religious and cultural values. 



If your partnered refugee is Muslim, keep in mind they eat food that is Halal (permissible within Islamic law). They will not eat anything that has pig meat or lard in it. If you are having them over for dinner and cooking meat, consider buying the meat from a Halal market.   



Remember that your partnered refugees also want to act in a way that respects and considers you. You will have a more authentic relationship if you are genuine.