Photo: Detroit Free Press
Page 4 explains why Americans often smile at strangers. Page 8 contains a handy tipping guide. And Page 35 offers some advice on asking someone out on a date.
questions - and 97 others - are gathered in a new guide aimed at
helping international students understand the U.S. and its people. The
guide was developed last semester by Michigan State University
journalism students and delivered on the last day of class.
Called "100 Questions & Answers about Americans," it's available for purchase online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
guide has its genesis in the class of Joe Grimm, the visiting editor in
residence at MSU's school of journalism. During his stint as ombudsman
of the Detroit Free Press, Grimm said he heard from Arab and Jewish readers about issues, which led to a guide of questions and answers about Arabs.
Flash-forward more than a decade. MSU's Office for Inclusion and
Intercultural Initiatives encouraged Grimm to work on the new guide.
Michigan State has more than 6,700 students from 131 nations, with the
most foreign students coming from China.
Grimm got the 16 students in his class involved.
"It forces students to talk to people across cultures and to learn how to ask awkward questions," he said.
The journalism students fanned out to find international students and gather the questions they had about America and Americans.
was really good training on how to talk to people and then how to find
answers," said student Michelle Armstead, who worked on a team looking
at race and social behaviors. "We knew that there were a ton of people
who didn't know much about America, other than what they had seen on
The journalism students compiled the questions and edited them down to a list of 100.
"The questions were framed by where the people were from," Grimm
said. "We had someone from Saudi ask why Americans work so hard. We had
someone from China who asked why Americans didn't work hard."
students then set out to answer the questions. Some led them to census
data. Other answers came from the journalism students' personal
The guide then went out to various MSU experts to vet the answers.
the process, students learned about marketing, including what people
were searching for online and how to make sure the guide popped up in
As for the answers to those earlier questions: Page 4
says Americans smile at strangers to be friendly; Page 8 says you don't
have to tip the grocery bagger and Page 35 says you should spend time
getting to know someone before asking for a date.
Detroit Free Press