Ten Years of Building Respect, Understanding, Justice and Collaboration!

P1110373Thank you for joining us on the journey to build respect, justice and collaboration across cultures!

A group of our authors recently gathered in Mazatlán, Mexico to celebrate the tenth anniversary of this collaborative project, Cultural Detective. We held three days of work meetings and a facilitator certification workshop; we hosted a wonderful party that included the indigenous Yoreme Deer Dance; and we played—on the beach, in the water, at restaurants, with music, and all around town!

Our community members will have more celebrations around the world throughout 2014; contact us if you’d like to join one!

Below is a slideshow of just some of the many authors and community members who have contributed to making Cultural Detective such an amazing tool, and to using it to transform the world in which we live, bit by bit.

Are you curious about how Cultural Detective came to be? You might want to read this short history of our project.

We have received quite a few greetings from customers and community members—their videos show the breadth of application of this toolset. Take a look at the anniversary playlist on the Cultural Detective YouTube channel.

Want to become more active, transforming the communities in which you live and work? Join us for a free webinar and three-day pass to Cultural Detective Online, or join the conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Third Anniversary 3•11

3-11

AFLO / MAINICHI NEWSPAPER / EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Today in Japan marks three years since the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster in the Tohoku area of Japan—the 3/11 triple disaster. Japanese society marks services for the passing of the dead at specified intervals, including one at the third anniversary of death, making this year especially important. I would like to join my heart and prayers with all those honoring the death of loved ones, and the loss of so much history and heritage.

I occasionally worked in Soma, with some wonderful people. On 3/11 I was so proud that they were able to evacuate hundreds of people in LESS THAN FIFTEEN MINUTES, all of them getting to safety and out to help their families and communities. Most of the facility itself was inundated, much of it lost. Not all were so fortunate. On this third anniversary, 2,636 people are still missing. The official death toll stands at 15,884 in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, according to the National Police Agency. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 people still live in ‘temporary’ dwellings, three years later.

For many communities, anxiety over radiation poisoning remains high, as many in Japan discuss either re-opening the nation’s nuclear plants or closing them entirely. National planners wish to get Tohoku areas rebuilt but often there is a sense of disjunction between the views of bureaucrats based in central cities and those of local Tohoku dwellers living in affected communities. The Seattle Times has run an excellent article entitled, “Recovery isn’t in sight 3 years after Japan’s tsunami.” I also found an article about the technological advances that are occurring because of this disaster. I have long been opposed to nuclear power, and pray the Japanese people will find other workable power sources for their needs. Last year at this time many Japanese were wearing masks, as chemical pollutants from China had drifted their way. We need to be better stewards of our planet, and what stronger call has there been?

iejiFor those of you who love movies as I do, this month the first Japanese film on the Fukushima nuclear disaster hit theaters. Entitled Homeland (Ieji or “The Road Home” in Japanese) — it features scenes shot in areas once declared no-go zones by the government due to high radiation levels. The film is about a farming family forced to leave their ancestral lands and live in temporary housing. I know I for one can’t wait to view it.

A college friend of mine who is a long-time personality on Japanese television, Dan Kahl, has been wonderfully responsible about keeping all of us informed about developments in the area of Japan in which he has lived for decades. You can follow Dan on Twitter if you are interested (he often posts in Japanese, and in Tohoku dialect at that).

The 3•11 area is really gorgeous. In closing, I thought it might be a fitting honor to share with you a timelapse movie of the natural beauty of Fukushima Prefecture.

View last year’s anniversary post here.

Venezuela: We Want to be Heard!

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Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

One of my oldest and dearest friends is Venezolana, a teacher who loves her country, fights for the future of children, and hates what’s been happening there—15 years of runaway inflation, shortages, insecurity, lack of opportunities. She write me, “Ay, comadrita, all of this is so sad. They are killing the students. We are very scared. Please pray for us.”

Yesterday we received this very disturbing report, which we immediately passed on via our social media: The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night – and the International Media Is Asleep At the Switch, by Franciso Toro. The lack of power, lack of voice, lack of justice, finally met a breaking point. People protested. And the reaction from Maduro’s government was swift and violent. Caracas, Valencia, Mérida and San Cristobál have become like war zones.

Protests began innocently enough, with traditional cacerolazos (beating of pots and pans) lead by upstanding citizens. Our friend’s sister is a choir leader at her church; she was attacked by colectivos—state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles—in front of her church while beating a pan. Her glasses were stolen, her photo was taken, and she was threatened with death.

I am repeatedly told that people in Venezuela feel cut off from the international community. Twitter is their only way to really communicate. They desperately want everyone to know what’s going on and how we can help them trying to make change with people power. The Venezuelan diaspora is organizing, called “SOS Venezuela.”

Please do what you can to raise awareness and get help their way. We can transform our world. There is power in each of us, some small step we can take, towards justice and peace.

Check out these additional photos.

Happy Tet—New Year of the Horse!

1555587_10152184068913988_503611650_nMay the Lunar New Year of the Horse bring you health, joy, and much success in spreading cross-cultural respect, understanding, collaboration and justice in this world of ours!

2014 is the Year of the Horse. It is also Cultural Detective‘s 10th anniversary year (our CD project was born in the Year of the Monkey). Characteristics of the horse are unremitting efforts to improve oneself, communication, kindness, perseverance, and a love of travel—which is definitely in keeping with what the CD Method and our community are all about! May this new year bring out these and more positive traits in all of us!

On behalf of the Cultural Detective team, here is Phuong Mai Nguyen, co-author of Cultural Detective Vietnam (and her mother) with a greeting for everyone:

Best Wishes for 2014

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Happy New Year! May 2014 bring you health, joy, love, and much success in your endeavors to build respect, understanding, and collaboration across cultures! We so appreciate you being part of the Cultural Detective community!

As we enter into the third year of this blog, I am quite proud of the quality—and the quantity—of what we have been able to provide. Are you curious about which posts were the most viewed in 2013?

  1. Our top post of 2013 was Research Findings: The Value of Intercultural Skills in the Workplace. A very powerful study of 367 employers in nine countries, commissioned by The British Council and conducted by Booz Allen Hamilton and IPSOS Public Affairs, found that employers want to hire people with intercultural skills. The most frequently cited intercultural skills these employers desired were the ability to demonstrate respect for others, the ability to build trust across cultures, and the ability to work effectively in diverse teams. This was my first time creating an animated-drawing video, and I am pleased that it was republished widely. The British Council put narration to it and published it on their YouTube channel to help promote the original study, and we published a Spanish language version of the video as well. If you didn’t get a chance to read this important study or view the video summary, don’t miss it.
  2. Many of you work in virtual teams and across distances, so not surprisingly, our second most popular post of 2013 was 5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using. These five virtual collaboration tools attracted broad readership, and in addition so did the summaries of important research on virtual, multicultural team development. I am hoping that by sharing such information we can heighten awareness of the need for cross-cultural skills, and promote understanding that development of these skills requires discipline and practice.
  3. Our third most popular post of the year was rather surprising to me: 10 Surefire Ways to Divide into Groups. This post gained traction and spread throughout the training and education communities, rather than staying purely within the intercultural space. Perhaps the popularity of this post shows that teachers and trainers are always looking for new-to-them creative techniques. Frankly, I have consulted the list a couple of times myself when designing workshops! It’s so easy to reinforce cross-cultural awareness—even in the ways we divide our learners into small groups.
  4. I am proud that the post on the Benchmark Statement on Intercultural Competence: AEA was among our top five for 2013. It is a terrific example of an organization committing itself to intercultural competence, developing a strategic plan, and investing in competence development over an extended period of time. If you have not read through the American Evaluation Association’s statement, I urge you to do so. As I said in the original post, some of their definitions are better than some of those provided by interculturalists!
  5. Rounding out our top-five blog posts of 2013 was a guest post by Joe Lurie, entitled Catalysts For Intercultural Conversations and Insights: Advertisements. Joe authored several of our most popular blog posts last year, all focused on food and eating. In 2013 his top post focused on print- and video-advertising and how to use them in a classroom environment to compare and contrast cultures. As always, Joe, thank you for your contributions to this community, and to building intercultural competence!

A big and very sincere THANK YOU to all our guest bloggers in 2013, and to those whose work we re-posted. And many thanks, also, to those who contributed comments and additional resources, either directly here on the blog, or via our pages on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our community now numbers about 14,000 people, including 130 authors, 420 certified facilitators, a solid group of experienced customers, and an ever-growing group of users and collaborators. Together we can achieve our goals to develop intercultural respect, understanding and collaboration!

We welcome posts by those of you who wish to reach out to our community and aid us in developing intercultural competence in this world of ours. Please contact me about requirements and benefits.

If you are curious what the Cultural Detective project is all about, join us for one of our twice-monthly complimentary webinars. Subscribing to Cultural Detective Online or licensing our print materials does not require certification, but even the most experienced coaches, teachers and trainers rave about our Facilitator Certification Workshops. Sign up for one near you today!

Finally, we would also like to extend our sincere thanks and bring your attention to those who have most frequently referred new readers to this blog in 2013. These, of course, include social media, search engines (Google, Yahoo…), and content curation sites (Scoop.it, Paper.li, Clipboard) that I have not included in the list below. However, this top-15 list shows the broad diversity of contexts and applications for the Cultural Detective Method and materials:

  1. feel like you belong: sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States
  2. Expat Everyday Support Center: we help expats connect to their worlds
  3. Zest n Zen/Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach: Global Leadership, International Career, Expat Life, Intercultural Communication
  4. Jenny Ebermann: coach, trainer, speaker, consultant
  5. Slovensko drustvo evalvatorjev
  6. Worldwise: intercultural training and services
  7. KQED: public media for Northern California
  8. InCulture Parent: for parents raising little global citizens
  9. Vekantiebabbels.nl: voor het uitwisselen van je vakantieverhalen
  10. Southeast Schnitzel: interpreting German-American differences in the Tennessee Valley and beyond
  11. Intercultural Humanities Manchester
  12. The Intercultural Communication Center: its all about communication
  13. Global Minds: consultoría en Colombia
  14. Blogos: news and views on languages and technology
  15. ESL: language studies abroad

Thank you all for joining us in this grand endeavor! We hope to see you, dear readers, on this list next year. Let us know what is on your mind, and how this blog can you help further intercultural competence in your corner of the world! Happy New Year!

Ubuntu, Nietzsche and a Learning Activity

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This very interesting image is © Jean-Pierre Hallet, and is of an Osani (Congo) children’s game: http://www.connectingdotz.com/osani-circle-game/

A guest post by Joe Lurie

” Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
—Nietzsche

Like the frog who could not understand the sea because it had never left its pond, so we often cannot see, hear or understand the meaning of behaviors beyond our experience.

So what do you think happened when the following game was once proposed to children in an African community? A basket full of luscious fruit was placed near a tree in the distance, and the children were told that whoever got there first would win the sweet fruits. When they were told to run, they all took each other’s hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When asked why they had run like that, as one of them could have had all the fruits for himself or herself, they said: “UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?”

“UBUNTU” in the South African language Xhosa means, “I am because we are.”

Perhaps it was this story that helped me understand the reaction of some Korean journalists on their first field study experience in the United States:

Perhaps, in the spirit of the Nietzsche quote, the Koreans did not hear our music. But then again, perhaps we often do not hear the music of “Ubuntu.”

View Part 1 of this interview here.

Frogs, Caged Birds, Underwear and Camel Humps

Frogs, Caged Birds, Underwear & Camel HumpsWhat do these four things—frogs, birds, underwear and camel humps—possibly have in common with one another? In the hands of Cultural Detective certified facilitator Joe Lurie, quite a bit, actually. In this series of short video clips, Joe shares with us a couple of proverbs and a few stories on the power of perception. Watch below to learn why some of his Chinese students were utterly shocked…

The first clip is only a minute and a half long. It’s where Joe sets up his story:

Ah, the ability to see beyond our pond involves the ability to ALSO see and understand the pond we are in! An all too often forgotten reality in intercultural competence. How can we explain ourselves to others, or help others to adapt to our home, if we ourselves don’t understand the culture in which we live?

The second clip, three minutes long, tells you just why some of Joe’s Chinese students thought his behavior was so strange.

What do you think? What values show through in the way you do your laundry? In the way you view birds, frogs, and the rest of your world?

You can find these and all sorts of other videos on Cultural Detective‘s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/CulturalDetective.

See Part 2 of this interview here.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow and Blended Culture People

51hYScOQ17L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_I just read a blog post that I found really interesting. It explains a bit about me from a perspective I hadn’t really thought about before. And, I feel it speaks to many Blended Culture people of the world. What is “Blended Culture”?

“The term ‘Blended Culture’ is used to describe individuals who, by birth, upbringing, and/or adult experience hold multiple frames of cultural reference within themselves. These individuals may include those who have extensive international life experience or those whose exposure to different cultures took place within a single national context.”
Cultural Detective Blended Culture

The blog post I so enjoyed was written by Matthew Schuler and is entitled, Why Creative People Sometimes Make No SenseIn it Matthew summarizes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People.

I remember reading Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, but I don’t remember him talking about the nine points Matthew summarizes. Perhaps it’s just that I read the book too long ago.

You perhaps admire Csikszentmihalyi, as I do. He is a seminal professor of Psychology and Management, and the Founding Co-Director of the Quality of Life Research Center at the Claremont Graduate University. His work focuses on happiness and creativity, and he is the architect of the concept of flow.

In his blog post Matthew quotes Csikszentmihalyi:

“I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Matthew shares with us nine contradictory traits frequently present in creative people. I am of the opinion that they are traits frequently present in Blended Culture people as well. To amplify that definition:

“Blended Culture: people who have had the experience of a culturally varied life, and who have integrated their multicultural experiences into a Blended Culture value set, and who are relatively high-functioning (constructive) despite the complex influence their Blended Culture values exert on their decisions and behaviors.”
Cultural Detective Blended Culture

Mihaly’s nine contradictions of creative people as Matthew summarizes them are:
  1. Energetic yet quiet/concentrating
  2. Smart and naïve
  3. Playful and productive, responsible and irresponsible
  4. Fluently alternate between fantasy and reality
  5. Humble yet proud
  6. Passionate yet objective about their work
  7. Have experienced suffering and pain, and found joy and life within it

Please let me know what you think in reading Matthew’s post, about the correlation between Blended Culture and Creative People behaviors. Perhaps the mere reality of having to, on a daily basis, reconcile oft-competing realities provides BC people ongoing practice with the creative experience? What do you think? At a minimum, it motivates me to want to read this other book! Those who have read it: please, tell us what you think.

HUGE Response to Our Post on Names Across Cultures

Name ChangesOur first blog post on Names Across Cultures hit powerfully and emotionally for so many of you! A few typical comments include:

“Names are part of a person’s identity. If people ‘get it’ across cultures we often feel they ‘get’ us, too.”

“We can’t know all languages or accents or tones, now could we? Having said this I would consider it wrong to be forced to change a name because someone can’t pronounce it—are you kidding? Why should the weakness or inability of one (the name changer) be even acceptable?!”

“My name is a point of pride for me. Even though nearly nothing about me screams ‘I’m a Korean immigrant,’ my name tells a very interesting story about who I am. I suppose my life would be marginally easier and I’ve probably gotten looked over for a handful of jobs because of the ‘foreignness’ of my name, but I like it. It’s unique and it’s me.”

“Changing people’s names was another turn of the screw in the arsenal of tricks that the colonial powers used to subjugate people under their dominion.”

We very much enjoyed reading the stories and comments posted here on the blog as well as in the social media. Thank you! We found them quite insightful, and believe you will, too. We heard from people who:
  1. Feel they are avoided at parties and gatherings because others find their names hard to pronounce. “People are embarrassed to mispronounce my name, so they sometimes avoid me altogether.” Talk about insidious discrimination!
  2. Have had others correct their pronunciation of their own name! “Such arrogance! How dare they! Do they even look at signatures on emails? They invariably correct me!” Sadly, this wasn’t just one person sharing this experience with us.
  3. Have been told their name is “wrong,” because it’s a man’s name not a lady’s, or because its origins are in a certain language and this is how it SHOULD be pronounced.
  4. Express the opposite opinion: “Many of us actually mispronounce our own name without knowing it. People who live in countries with a long history of immigrants and their intermarriage, will in due time pronounce a name according to what their ‘new’ language has taught them. Is this now wrong? Well, maybe to some degree yes, but since the new pronunciation is not something done out of maliciousness but rather due to having been told of it wrong.”
  5. Proclaim, “Those of us with unusual names need to stand our ground!”
    1. “I am waiting for the day I can go back to my roots and not cringe every time someone speaks to me!”
    2. “I prefer to have people change my name than butcher (by mispronouncing) my name!”
  6. Advise, “Forget my last name; use my first!” (or vice-versa) for ease in pronunciation.
  7. Are happy to have a different name for the varied contexts in which they live and work.
    1. “If someone calls me Karinka, or makes up another name that is easier for them, or pronounces my name incorrectly, I do not mind at all. I myself am certainly not in a position to pronounce everybody’s names properly, and I know how difficult it can be.”
    2. “It is all relative. When people ask me ‘What is your name?’ I say ‘Marianne.” The spelling stays the same but I pronounce it differently: Marianne (pronounced the German way), Mary Ann (the English way) or Ma Li An (pronounced the Chinese way). Personally I like to make people comfortable in my presence and have no preference how people pronounce my name.”
    3. “My name is Robert. I call myself Rob. In Egypt I’m Mr. Rob, in Finland I am Roope, in China I’m Lobert’t, and in Japan I’m Lobba. I answer to them all, and I’m comfortable with them all. But, then again, I am an intercultural trainer.”
    4. “I had a friend in China and was trying really hard to pronounce his name in Chinese, except he got mad at me. He wanted to be called by his self-assigned English name, and considered it rude that I was even trying to pronounce his name in Chinese.”
  8. Find the whole thing amusing, and leverage the pronunciation difficulties as a method to build relationship and understanding: “I really don’t mind you butchering my name. I understand: Höferle is hard to say if you are unfamiliar with the German language. Changing my last name’s spelling to the English keyboard-friendly Hoeferle also hasn’t helped. It made for funny moments, though. Something sounding awfully close to ‘hopefully’ or ‘hofferly’ has been the usual outcome in recent years. No matter how often I tell people to just forget about saying my last name and instead stick with Christian, they still try to get it right. Which is a really nice gesture, I think.” Bravo! Christian even, most kindly, sent us a link to his blog post on names and a link to learn more about pronouncing names with umlauts.
  9. Comment, “My last name has been spelled, Simons, Simmons, Simms, Symonds, Simonis, Simon, Simone—sometimes two or more versions in the same document. I find this more annoying than mispronunciation, which I am used to and expect, given that I am widely traveled and have lived in a number of countries, and realize that different language speakers use their own preferences for how the vowels sound. Misspelling can make authentication of documents difficult. Sometimes my family name is taken as a first name in documents and George(s) becomes my last name.”
  10. Share with us, “US immigration officers in the 19th and early 20th centuries were not beyond renaming immigrants on the spot, crossing out ‘Walentinowicz’ and writing in ‘Walters.’ 

Catholic Baptisms were conducted in Latin years ago, and it was required that a Saint’s name be given a child. There is no St. Nancy, so my cousin was named Venantia Fortunata (which I never let her forget).”
  11. “Dutch speakers use their digraph ij pronunciation which is the wrong pronunciation for my surname, as the languages are not even remotely related. Ironically, English language has roots in Anglo Frisian, yet native English speakers seem to have more difficulty with pronouncing my surname than just about any other heritage speaker. I can understand difficulties arising from having no equivalent sounds in other languages, but can not fathom where anyone gets the additional consonants…”
  12. And the humorous, “I once dated a guy who couldn’t pronounce my name properly, even though his former girlfriend of seven years was also called Kaisa. No need to say it didn’t last long…”

Readers very much enjoyed the quiz we put together, and shared with us another name to add to it: by what far more famous name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle known? (answer at the bottom *)

There was obviously a broad range of responses from one imaginable end of a continuum to another—just begging for someone to conduct research into naming and our responses to name changes, spelling and pronunciation across cultures.

How do the use, pronunciation and spelling of names affect international organizations? Readers expressed:
  1. A lot of resentment around computer systems not having non-”standard” letters, because it means that people’s names often show up with strange characters in them, rather than being spelled correctly (“Brünnemann” not “Brünnemann”). “I do wonder when big, supposedly ‘international’ organisations or institutes do not even have their software in a position to spell international names,” said one of our community members. We know first-hand. It seems every other week one of our web pages has spontaneously changed to show strange rather than correct characters in one of our author’s names!
  2. “Dear marketers and copywriters: Inserting umlauts into your American brand names, logos or slogans may help you create some awareness. But it will also let you look really ignorant of other languages and cultures.”
  3. “I do have a problem when, for example, I read in a Peruvian paper, ‘Principe Carlos,’ where both the word ‘Prince’ and ‘Charles’ were translated into Spanish. It would have been OK if it were only Principe Charles. Why did they not stop there? Why not call Michael Jackson ‘Miguel HijoDeJacobo’? I know the reason behind it, btw, nevertheless I find it amusing.”
  4. “It’s so unfortunate when people and institutions feel they need to change the spelling of my name. Went to vote today in the NYC primaries and somehow my name got automatically changed to Bo Y. Kang. I have never written my name like that and I’m super duper conscious of getting the whole Bo Young part right under the section that says First Name so that they realize that’s my first name. I always leave the Middle initial section completely blank. Other ways my name gets written even after I’ve spelled it correctly:
    1. The magical hyphen: Bo-Young Kang
    2. The other magical hyphen: Bo Young-Kang
    3. The switcharoo: Bo Kang Young (and all its variations Kang Bo Young, Young Bo Kang, Kang Young Bo, Young Kang Bo)
    4. The disappearing game: Bo Kang
    5. The other disappearing game: Bo Young (this one I don’t mind so much because it’s technically correct, just missing a part)
    6. The condenser: Boyoung Kang
    7. The other condenser: Bo Youngkang
    8. And those are just the ones that include all the right letters. You don’t even want to get me started on the Bow, Boo, Booh, Yung, Ying, Yong, Kan, Li, Rhee variations I get all the time. 
    9. My name isn’t that hard. It’s spelled exactly like it sounds.”
Strategies for dealing with difficult-to-pronounce names that our readers shared with us included:
  1. Rhymes and mnemonics you’ve made up to help people learn to pronounce your name: “

Over the decades I’ve created stories to help people pronounce my name—’Think of going to the MALL. After a long day of shopping, you need a cup UH TEA. 

One year ago, someone blithely said, ‘Oh, your name rhymes with ‘Quality.’ 

Now when I meet someone, I introduce myself cheerfully: ‘Hi, my name is Malati. It rhymes with ‘Quality.’ This immediately releases the tension. 

’Rhymes with Quality’ is on my email signature, business cards, nearly anywhere my name appears!”
  2. “An interesting way to learn about a new acquaintance can be to ask the meaning and origin of the person’s name. Every nation has a trend of calling up by some peculiar name which helps a lot for better communication and understanding.”
  3. “Years back while in Nigeria the head of the Media Department there was Igbo. One time I listened carefully and repeated his family name again and again and could never get it right—though it did sound the same to my year (and herein lies an importance to note) I could not do so. Time passed, making myself more familiar to the language so I tried again, and once more I could not achieve it. More time passed with the same negative results. He would smile at me every time I pronounced his last name, knowing I had it wrong but was at least genuinely trying. He was also nice enough to let me know I was the one who came closest to it and that no one before or after me ever tried so hard. Just so you know, the Igbo language is one of the few languages that actually has sounds going in (like inhaling) when speaking.”
  4. “I actually take great pains myself to repeat until I have someone’s name correct if it is ‘foreign’ to me … surely this is a minimum sign of respect!!!”
  5. “Your link to audioname.com is a terrific resource, and I recommend all in this community adopt its use. If your name is not hard to pronounce, you can use your 30-second audio-byte to talk about the origins of your name. It will encourage others to use this and help make our world more pronounceable and accommodating.”

The common theme, however, is BE CAREFUL WITH NAMES. Ask! Show respect. Discuss and don’t assume. And definitely avoid changing someone’s name without their permission; it’s a rare person who loves a nickname or name change that has been “assigned” or “imposed.”

I have one more video clip to share with you, from my interview with Dr. Emmanuel Ngomsi. In this short clip, he tells us how names are traditionally given in his home, Cameroon.

A common characteristic of many cultures around the world is the importance placed on naming a child. Factors that may be considered might include gender, birth order, astrological factors, family tradition, naming the child after a parent or beloved relative, date of birth, or characteristics valued in the birth culture or family and with which those naming the child want to imbue the newborn, among a wide variety of others. In some traditions family members do not share a family name. Do the parents choose a child’s name? Do the grandparents? Is there some ceremony in which the child chooses his/her own name? Does the state dictate selection from an official list of acceptable names, as has been the case in Iceland?

Here’s the video:

* Answer: Mata Hari

Please do share with us your further reactions, experiences, stories and advice. It is obviously a topic that merits some study as well as some training.

See Part 1 of this interview.

My Global Life Link-Up

Use of a typical Indian metaphor by Devdatt Pattnaik to speak of culture: Kolam

tumblr_lk8iuxl2vK1qa2x4yo1_500This guest post is written by , cross cultural consultant and trainer. Remember, don’t think “chaos;” think “pattern!”

Often times in my intercultural trainings to Indian audiences, I have sensed a discomfort in my participants with using models (the iceberg of culture, for example) and imagery that are often more easily understood by Westerners. Perhaps, I am more sensitive to this discomfort because I felt the same when I learned not only one but two foreign languages (English and French), with their intrinsic imagery that was so far removed from my local reality.

You can imagine my joy when I stumbled upon Devdutt Pattnaik’s use of a typical Indian custom of drawing kolams (rangoli in North India) to explain the Indian world view. Used to adorn the floor at the entrance of even the most humble abode in India, it is basically a pattern that is drawn, using lines to connect a grid of dots. There is nothing rigid about how the dots need to be connected—each person chooses to connect the dots as s/he desires, and each pattern is a legitimate one, just as is each culture.

Below you can watch his thought provoking presentation on India. I particularly love his closing lines. Enjoy! What are your favorite local metaphors and imagery that resonate with the local contexts you work in?