Effective user research requires both observation and interviewing. When doing research we strive to get outside our own default expectations and perceptions, in order to better see the details of what we're looking at, in other words, to understand the cultural context. This third component is the most crucial to innovation. Interesting things happen when we leave our homes and our comfort zone, perhaps in another country where business, language, food, and more is beyond our own frames of reference.
Steve Portigal, founder of Portigal Consulting, offers expert tips in both observation and interviewing, and considers the challenges and opportunities in conducting research abroad. He believes that one way to better understand a different culture is to look at how things in your own culture are handled differently. He gives some examples of how some things are promoted differently in Japan than in the United States. He states that mundane observations reveal important cultural differences.