We Are Not (Just) Our Nationality(ies)!


Who of us is a single story? As Chimamanda Adichie so eloquently told us, insisting on a single story is to “flatten” one’s experience. While I am USA born, it definitely irks me when those I know, often interculturalists, insist on defining me purely through that Lens. Yes, I am US American; I claim it. I have also lived overseas half my life; surely that has had no small influence on who I am today? I’m a woman, of a certain age, a mother, a friend. I’m in a committed relationship, I own a small business, I am an immigrant.

We are many things, and different aspects of our identities rise to the fore depending on the context. Shouldn’t intercultural competence enable us to get to know ourselves and others in the fullness of who we are? Two-and-a-half years ago I wrote a post on this blog about the many layers of our cultural identity.

Today, I am very proud to say that Cultural Detective Online makes it very easy to look at how real people interact in real situations, and to reflect on how our many cultures might be influencing us (or others) in a given interaction. Did I react that way because I’m a Mom? Because I’m a Baby Boomer? Or just because I’m me? Cultural Detective Online is a cross-cultural effectiveness tool that doesn’t reduce us to a single story, but rather encourages us to get to know ourselves and others as fully and wholly human. Take a look:

Remember, Values Lenses represent the core values of entire societies of millions of people; they are not intended to be used as yet another “box” into which to stereotype individuals. Try using a Values Lens to gather clues as to why someone may have responded in the the manner she or he did. Then, with perhaps a little more understanding about the other’s positive intent, you can engage in a more effective dialogue, and learn to collaborate more enjoyably and productively.

How do you use the multiple Lenses available to you within CD Online? How often do you upload stories from your everyday work or life, and purposefully learn from them? What creative things are you doing with Cultural Detective Online to further your intercultural competence? We would love to hear your experience!

11 thoughts on “We Are Not (Just) Our Nationality(ies)!

  1. hi Dianne,

    thanx for this, very inspirational in reminding us that we’re all a sum total of all our life experiences and not just the culture bound ones. I’m a Malaysian Chinese but far from being typical. I went to school in the US while still in my formative years. I’ve since lived abroad almost half my life now in Switzerland. I like to think that I’ve tried to absorb the best of both or multiple worlds in my values system, and use this to guide me in my daily interactions.

    Thanx for this powerful video about Cultural Detective online. Question for an instructional setting in corporate environment: might it not get too overwhelming or confusing when we bring up all the relevant culture lens affecting the team in your example story (national, spiritual, generational, gender etc), seems like it could really burn through the time available in a workshop setting. If it were a team of 10, I shudder …………… to think about the time management hurdles. Or do you see this mainly to be used as an online study situation where people can take the time they need to properly visit with and reflect on each cultural lens, and the impact on the team dynamics?

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    • I’m very glad to know the post resonates with your experience, Christina. I of course would not recommend going through all such layers of culture in a classroom or team building setting. The short video is intended more to show the layers that are possible in the CD Online system. In a workshop setting, I do highly recommend that we define culture as including these various groups, not just nationalities, and to frequently refer to that variety, as learners (really instructors or facilitators) way too often in my experience over-focus on the national. And, as your experience shows, in this age of global mobility, inter-racial, inter-religious and in-gender relationships, we are all the sum of so many diverse experiences plus our unique personhood. That, to me, is the key.

      The layers of personal culture can be explored in an identity workshop, or at various points throughout the lifecycle of a team. But, in one workshop, it’s too rich and becomes the focus, when probably the goal of the workshop is to use cross-cultural skills and mindsets more appropriately to achieve a functional objective. As you mention, a subscriber to CD Online can take all the time s/he wants to explore the many layers and cultural influences, as well as formative personal experiences, on who s/he is. Time very well spent, as it better enables us to explain ourselves to others, more deeply understand our own reactions, and more accurately anticipate how we might respond in new and unfamiliar situations.

      Does this make sense? Thank you for joining us on this quest to build intercultural competence in this world of ours!

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  2. I think your post makes a lot of sense. In my experience, when we don’t pause to try and understand the multiple factors that influence how we engage the world we inadvertently make fictions out of ourselves and others by relying on canned ideas of who people are based on a limited idea of what “those people” are like.

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  3. I really appreciate your blog post and exploration of this subject Dianne. I was having a discussion with a friend about Brasil’s loss in the world cup and how it was not just “crazy” behavior but very much influenced by history and values. I will share this post with him as I think it will help explain how there are so many layers of culture. We are also very interested in this topic and are hosting a new event around Culture, ID and perspective. I value your feedback! http://swarm.melibeeglobal.com/ Best, Missy

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    • The swarm looks wonderful, Missy! Will you be streaming any of it, for those of us who can’t get there? Glad this post is of interest. I do think CD Online would be great with the cool things you are doing. You’d put the tool to use in very creative and effective ways, I’m confident.

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