An ethnographic study is one in which the researcher studies a given culture in a particular community (Tsvetkova and Karastateva; Malley and Hawkins). To conduct an ethnographic study, the researcher has to be a part of the community and participate in the activities that they are taking so that he or she can understand their culture and the activities that they are taking part in (Lichterman and Reed 1). There are diverse cultures across the world, and while they are mostly different, they are similar in several ways. Notably, when people are exposed to other cultures, they easily adapt to them, and this makes it even more interesting to study the culture. For my ethnography research, I have selected McDonald’s. This is because it is a busy fast food restaurant, which is famous to all people in the country and therefore gives a good overview of the country’s culture. The location of the McDonalds is located at 1611 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. ______________kindly choose the McDonalds which you can access physically. I entered the McDonalds on Friday 22nd November 2019 and observed the area from 11 am to 2 pm. At the fast-food joint, I observed the consumers’ actions, clothing, customs and also the employee culture of the store.
Field Notes: Note-Taking
I entered the store and ordered a soda then chose a seat that was convenient enough to observe all the activities in the store. I decided to note down my observations:
At first, there was a short queue, and most of the consumers were ordering coffee.
They were serving on the first come first served basis
All the employees were dressed in McDonald’s labelled t-shirts and had head coverings.
All the people communicated in English
The service was quite first as it took at most two minutes
Most of the consumers at that time paid using their cards.
Employees kept cleaning the floor every twenty minutes.
The average time that the customers used to take their meals was twenty to thirty minutes
Most of them ate as if they were in a hurry
Half of the customers ordered their meals as takeaways
At 12 pm there was an influx of the consumers, and the line quickly reached outside of the store
The employees heightened the speed of their services and urged the consumers to tell them their order faster.
Some of the consumers were agitated because their order was gotten wrong and this delayed the service of other consumers
I noted that one employee was specifically trained to deal with the angry customers
By 1 pm, all the seats were taken, and most of the customers were aged between 16 and 30 years old. I wondered why the age group.
I also observed that people of all races were present, and they were mostly in groups. Their orders were served on trays.
Consumers with laptops sat on one corner of the restaurants
Others that came in big groups occupied another part. From their part, there was a lot of noise ad they talked and giggled.
Some of the employees appeared to be exhausted but tried to put a happy face to the consumers.
At 2 pm, the number of consumers had significantly reduced, and some of the employees disappeared, probably their shift has ended.
Field Notes: Note-Making
Through note-making, one is able to understand the culture in a particular setting. I made some notes about my observations.
Most of the consumers who came between 11 am, and 1230 pm wore casual clothing and appeared to be more relaxed.
Consumers who came between 1230pm and 2 pm had official clothing and appeared to be in a great hurry.
When making orders from the employees all the consumers used the English language.
When in groups, I observed that some of the consumers did not communicate in English.
Some of them had note pads and computers and continued to work on them while taking their meals, and they seemed too eager to leave the place.
There were only a few children who were accompanied by older people.
The employees seemed to be trained on how to handle consumers even if some of the consumers were very rude.
The employees did not make any mistakes, such as spilling coffee.
They, however, did into seem very jovial when doing their work.
Consumers were of mixed ethnicities which included Asians, African Americans and European Americans.
The McDonalds is located at 1611 N Meridian St, Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA. The McDonald’s building is surrounded by a parking lot and has a drive-through which is located at the back of the store____________________________________. (Kindly use the McDonalds which you can physically access for the correct description of the surrounding)
Once I entered the building, the first thing I observed was the counter, which had a big McDonalds signage. Below the signage, there were nine screens which displayed the meals that were available and offered that the consumers could get. The screens kept on flashing, and this took the attention of all the consumers who first glanced at the screen before taking their orders. Behind the counter, there were many apparatuses which I assumed were meant to process the orders and to prepare the food that the consumers have ordered. There was an area designated for a line where consumers were expected to wait in line. The flow was made of dull tiles which also had the McDonalds sign. The building had a large door, which could be more of a wall because the front side was all opened up for consumers, and they could enter from any direction. The walls were branded the McDonalds sign. Moreover, there were black plastic seats that were arranged neatly across the restaurant. The seats surrounded the tables which had a brochure showing the offers that the store has and the food that is being served at the restaurant. At one corner, where most people with computers favored, had some seats which were more of coaches making them more comfortable. There were also sockets aligned, meant for use by consumers in the restaurant. At the left corner, there was a tap and a blower where consumers could wash their hands before proceeding to eat their meals. There was some background music that one could not really understand until they listened keenly.
The population of a given setting is defined to be a definition of people in the general population. Culture, on the other hand, can be defined to be the customs and behavior of a particular group in society. Culture can be observed by understanding how the populace is carrying out their services, such as the food they eat, the way they interact with other people, how they dress and how they address each other (Cronk 36). At McDonald’s, I was lucky to observe different cultures and the fact that most people came in groups, I was able to understand more of them characterizes by differentiating between the groups. To further understand the culture, I observed the clothing, age difference, interaction with each other and with other people, the use of technology, the food ordered and the food they took.
One major observation is that the majority of the people were young, assumedly between 16 years and 23years old. They appeared to be in school, mostly college and they had come for a quick lunch. They seemed to spend less than 5 dollars on their orders, possibly because of the financial constraints they were having as students. I also observed that the culture of the students in that area was casual dressing, as most of them had jeans and casual sweaters. It was a particularly cold day, and this would explain why most of them had boots. The other population I observed in the restaurant was that of young employees. They seemed to have a heavy workload that they had to take it with them during lunchtimes. Most of them wore formal clothing, although one could easily tell that they had just started their careers. This could be attributed to the fact that they spent the least they could do, and they were more focused on their work rather than on the food they were eating.
There was a fairly large population of African Americans and Asians. Most of them were in groups, and it seemed to me that they were accustomed to coming to the restaurant and therefore, part of their culture (Gill 1). I also noted that the African Americans were very friendly to the employees, and they did not give the orders, but the employees seemed to know what they wanted (NPS Ethnography). One of them gave the employee a tip, and the employee seemed to appreciate them. I also saw a large group of Asian students in the restaurant. Unlike other assumed students, they seemed to be more serious, and while one got the orders, the others quickly secured a sitting place and commenced a discussion, presumably about their studies.
There were ideal behaviors that I noted in the restaurant. According to Cronk (36), a behavior is related to a culture and this depicts that one’s behavior can be influenced by the culture in which they live. One of the behaviors I observed is that there was little interaction between people who did not know each other. It, therefore, appeared to me that the restaurant was not focused on interaction rather than taking food and eating. However, people who knew each other conversed happily while they ate. Once the food ended, they usually exited the restaurant with extreme urgency, and this depicted that they were having busy schedules such as school at work. I also observed that people were kind to each other as they did not take seats without confirming if it was already taken, especially when there was someone else sitting at the table. They also apologized if they got into the way of another consumer.
Cultures have different forms of communication. While some are considered to be preservative, others are considered to be outgoing. In the restaurant, I observed that most of the people tend to keep to themselves (Mcleod 1). However, some were talkative and kept engaging the employees who appeared too busy to engage with the people. When almost all the other seats were full, a young man approached my table and politely asked if he could join. I nodded in agreement, and they appeared to be relaxed as if it was the only option he had. He then looked surprised at what I was having and asked if I was taking soda for lunch. I lied that I had already finished my course, and I was only passing the time. He looked at me astonishingly but then again continued eating his meal in silence. I continued observing other people in the restaurant, and I noted that most of them communicated using body language. To the employees, they smiled politely as they waited to be served. To other customers, they did not even maintain eye contact, and it would be even hard for them to know who was there and who was not. Through body language, I observed that most people were hesitant to interact with each other, but they were kind to each other. Moreover, I thought that they were too busy to exchange pleasantries as McDonald’s is not the ideal place to interact.
My culture is ______________________________ (Write where you are from. The other information will interact well with any culture). One thing I observed is that most of the people in the restaurant did not pray before eating their meals. In my culture, it is very common to see people bowing their head for thanksgiving before taking their meals. This is considered to be a good fortune to be respectful to God. I noted that people just dug in their foods with no preparation either. In our culture, we usually wash our hands before eating for hygienic purposes. I observed that most people also washed their hands, and this made me believe that the culture in that area is more similar to my own. While it might seem bias and unequal, the woman in the group usually serves the food in my culture. I was challenged with the fact that it was the men who took the orders, especially when there were females involve. This, to me, seemed to be a positive advancement of the culture, and it was something that I could take back to my culture. Also, it was common for young people to give a seat to more elderly people. However, the fact that there was barely any contact with the consumers, one elderly woman was stranded for a bit before an employee offered her a seat. This behavior in my culture would be considered to be rude. Eating is considered to be a special occasion in my culture. Food is deeply respected, and people rarely talked when eating unless they are commenting about the food they are eating or asking for something more. Moreover, they tend to eat slowly with no rush or essence of time flying. This was contrary to what I experienced at McDonald’s. At the restaurant groups of people chewed and even talked with food in their mouth, something that actually disgusted me. Some of them, especially young people, were eating hurriedly and carelessly, something that could not be fathomed in my culture. There are different cultures across the world, and it is important to respect the differences (Mcleod 1). From the experience, I learned that most of the practices in my culture were based on good behavior, and this made me respect my culture even more. However, I observed that my culture was gender-biased as people expect that it is women who should take orders for the rest of the team.
The physical setting of McDonalds largely affected the interaction between people and the eating habits. Notably, there was an aura of urgency, from when the customers gave orders, to how the waiters served them in a hurry, and how the people hurriedly found their seats, ate quickly and left the building in a rush. In my opinion, this meant that McDonald’s is only preferred by people who are hungry and have only a little time to spare. This seemed to be understood well be the employees who were quick to take and deliver orders to the customers. It could be described as a beehive of activity and therefore, not the ideal place to interact with one another.
In conclusion, ethnographic research is ideal in studying the culture of a given populace. Through it, one is able to interact with the people without them changing their behavior and therefore reducing the risk of bias. In this study, I observed the behavior of people in a restaurant and recorded their behavior. I note that there are different cultures, and there are ways through which my culture differed from the people in the restaurant. However, I observed that the physical setting of the surrounding could largely affect the interaction of people in the culture.
Cronk, Lee. “Culture’s influence on behavior: Steps toward a theory.” Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences 11.1 (2017): 36.
Gill, Grandon. “Culture, complexity, and informing: How shared beliefs can enhance our search for fitness.” Proceedings of the Informing Science and Information Technology Education Conference. Informing Science Institute, 2013.
Lichterman , Paul, and Isaac Ariail Reed. Theory and Contrastive Explanation in Ethnography. Sociological Methods & Research, 2015, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/ 0049124114554458
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Mcleod, Saul. “Attitudes and Behavior.” Attitudes and Behavior | Simply Psychology, 21 May 2018, www.simplypsychology.org/attitudes.html.
NPS Ethnography: African American Heritage & Ethnography.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/ethnography/aah/aaheritage/ERCb.htm.
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