Lockdown as an Immigrant Simulation

Lionel Laroche, co-author of Cultural Detective Canada, is sought-after for his expertise and insight at helping new Canadian immigrants find jobs that use their expertise, education, and experience. He is a popular speaker, educator, author, and consultant. Recently he said to me, “Nearly half of our planet is in lockdown and they are participating in a giant simulation of an immigrant experience.”

Say again? I must admit that until Lionel said this, I hadn’t given a second thought to the parallels between “shelter at home” mandates and the immigrant experience. But he is most definitely on to something! I recently chatted with Lionel about this topic, and share with you the video of that conversation.

The pandemic has meant that rules have changed. At first no one was quite sure what the rules were or how to abide by them. New guidelines for the new reality have to be agreed upon, just as they do in multicultural teams, and we have to teach these new practices so that we can succeed together. We frequently hear both those sheltering at home and immigrants say things like:

  • “I’m missing ____ (my favorite meal/my friends and family).”
  • “I can’t ____ (eat out, exercise, go to the movies or a concert).”

Gratefully such needs can result in new and wonderful innovations: online concerts, museum tours, and celebrations with friends and family, to name just a few.

Many of those at home now are either not working or are doing so with diminished hours, earning less than they are used to. What immigrant hasn’t experienced unemployment or under-employment? Talk about taxing one’s creativity; try putting a meal on the family table without an income.

Immigrants and those sheltering at home go through a transition process, a learning and adaptation process. Change—living with what is new and different—can bring on anxiety, lack of confidence, and the loss of feeling competent. Both immigrants and those confined to home experience culture shock. We have had to learn new vocabulary and new ways of connecting during physical distancing. For many, it’s been their first time on Zoom or Google Hangout. Before we left home, or before we became confined to home, we didn’t know we’d need to learn so much, or that so many aspects of our lives would change so quickly and perhaps permanently!

We try to find or create a new rhythm, a new comfort zone within this new reality. None of the rules by themselves are showstoppers, but there are so many to learn that there is a loss of personal efficiency. As an immigrant, I knew the codes back home, but not here,  not during the pandemic. In my former life I may have been a highly respected professional. But now, it may take me five times as long to do something from home as it would have taken me to do that back at my workplace. It’s frustrating. It’s a constant learning curve. It brings frequent doubt, second-guessing, and can lead to irritability. Thus, we have seen heartbreaking increases in domestic violence and mental health problems.

Immigrants who are technical professionals may think their work is universal; science is science, math is math. They may think they are doing a good job, as measured by their home country standards, but in their newly adopted home they use different criteria to measure performance. The experience is quite similar for those working during stay-at-home orders. So many are learning the new rules of working remotely: how to dress appropriately, how to check in with the boss remotely, how to partner with their team across physical distance, how to teach online. Some of us adapt while kicking and screaming, others grin and bear it, still others rejoice at the opportunity.

What Can We Learn From the Migrant Experience to Help Us Through Survive COVID-19?

Lionel shared with us five characteristics that make the difference between successful and unsuccessful immigrants. Most of these are also among the twelve Cultural Detective Best Practices. Here is his list:

  1. Drive: Keep trying, don’t give up. We may be overwhelmed in many ways from Skype, FaceTime, MS Meetings, to shops closed so we have to order delivery from groceries and restaurants. It can seem to be more than we can manage, but we need to find our groove, maintain our mental health, and keep going.
  2. Adaptability: Those who drive without adaptability are those who keep sending out the same resume even though they had no response the first 300 times they sent it. We all do this; insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Some of us pick up more quickly than others. Adaptability keeps us happier and more successful.
  3. Positive attitude: Easier said than done; we all have down days. How we complain also varies by culture. In Canada, Lionel tells us, you can complain endlessly about the weather; otherwise, you best keep complaints to yourself. The wise will find emotional outlets with family, friends, or a counselor.
  4. Sense of ownership: We can’t do anything about the virus, but we can manage how we respond to our circumstances. Those with a sense of ownership will learn or do something new during quarantine and come out stronger on the other side.
  5. Ability to see the world in shades of grey vs. black and white: When people move from one country to another, feeling that there is one right way of doing things is a recipe for disaster. Culture, by definition, means there is more than one way to get to the same result.

I asked Lionel if he has any advice for diversity and equity professionals, interculturalists, and social justice practitioners during this pandemic. He shared two thoughts:

  1. Don’t start from the premise that diversity is inherently good and will bring good results. Diversity is a double-edged sword that brings benefits and challenges. The challenges come first and the benefits later. For the average front-line manager, diversity is a pain in the butt. We need to give our customers the benefit of the doubt the way we teach them to do. Intercultural competence is needed to harvest the advantages of diversity.
  2. There is an inverse correlation between unemployment and people’s ability to accept differences. The higher the unemployment rate, the less people accept immigrants on a societal level. People’s ability to welcome and be inclusive diminishes. Thus, professionals need to recognize where people are and deal with it, meet them there. The pandemic has aggravated so many societal inequities and injustices.

Please, share with me in the comments similarities that you see between these two experiences. How might we reflect on our pandemic experience and use to to build empathy and understanding of the immigrant experience? How might we use this opportunity to develop our intercultural competence?

Ecotonos: Building Virtual Teamwork

Ecotonos Cover Sticker

You know that Ecotonos: A Simulation for Collaborating Across Cultures is an incredibly powerful tool for improving virtual team effectiveness, developing abilities to make decisions and solve problems in multicultural teams. Now that COVID-19 has forced so many of us to work and learn online, the learning tool is invaluable and we recently shared a post about how to play Ecotonos online.

Yesterday I learned that one student was unable to participate in the virtual MBA class. The professor, therefore, assigned the student homework: make a video summarizing the experience that you missed. The student interviewed his colleagues and used photos from previous live-and-in-person playing of Ecotonos at his university to put together the video below. It is in Spanish as this all took place at Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, Colombia. I believe he did a powerful job. What do you think?

The professor, Fernando Parrado, co-author of Cultural Detective Colombia, has adapted Ecotonos for his international negotiation classes. Rather than using random cards as game instructions advise, he combines Ecotonos rule cards into sets and assigns them to specific countries of interest to his students. He found Ecotonos worked even better online, with students playing from their homes, than it does in the face-to-face classroom!

If you are looking for an enjoyable method for improving decision making, problem solving, and collaboration online, a method that provides immediate results, give Ecotonos a go. It is affordable and can be played several times with the same group if you wish, as there is no “trick.”

The Austrian Response to CoViD19

coverAustriaThe Austrian Response to the CoViD19 crisis viewed through the Cultural Detective Austria Values Lens, authored by Nayantara Ghosh and Elisabeth Weingraber-Pircher, co-authors of Cultural Detective Austria, and Sinan Ersek.

The need to deal with the CoViD19 induced uncertainty, the feeling of no longer being in control or being able to reliably predict the future, has prompted new behaviors and drastic change in Austria, much like anywhere else. Not surprisingly, in many ways the response was in line with Austrian cultural values.

Regarding the political reaction to the pandemic, restrictions came early and were extremely rigorous. Similarly, after World War II when all political parties joined forces to work together towards a common goal—a free Austria—in this crisis we can see the same measures taken to reach desired health standards. The ambivalence toward authority seemed temporarily suspended. The public would not have cooperated and accepted the strict measures had it not seen the worrisome pictures and concerning data from neighboring Northern Italy. Not all of Austria was initially concerned by the critical situation in Northern Italy, however. In the beginning, Ischgl, a well-known Tyrolean ski resort, ignored the mounting evidence and kept its slopes open, only to become one of the epicenters for the spread of the virus within Europe. The so-called “Ischgl Gate” however, made it clear to the rest of Austria what exponential growth looks like and aided adherence to the government’s lockdown rules. In comparison, the capital of Vienna, with around two million inhabitants, accounted only for roughly 2.300 (officially) infected cases—proof of a strong West-East gradient.

It appears the rather Austrian “The Hammer and the Dance” approach has worked again. The chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, very quickly and unmistakably stated, “Soon each one of us will know of someone who died from the virus.” Austrians accepted and understood this martial warning. Within that framework of rules, people soon started to waltz again, finding creative ways to enjoy themselves and party true to “A Gaudi muss sein” … it has to be fun! The morbid Austrian sense of humor also raised its head, when the funeral museum’s facemasks with “Aushuastverhüterli” (“cough condoms”) written on them became a bestseller. Making fun of death is very Austrian.

Kurz united the majority of Austrians with the intention of protecting everyone’s health and economic stability. Concrete information, sometimes negative, has been communicated in a crystal clear and honest way. Informing the public via daily press-conferences about processes, expectations, and consequences including back-up plans outlining what will happen if plans should not develop as expected.

The general public was never under the impression that they had not been sufficiently informed. This culture of honesty and trust enabled everyone to think, talk, share, and make informed decisions. The acceptance of authority (in this case of a young and charismatic Sebastian Kurz) enveloped varieties of interaction. No anti-lockdown protests occurred like in some other countries. Even those who did not vote Kurz accepted his leadership.

From a medical point of view, Austria has different prerequisites than neighboring Italy or Spain. Over the past 40 years considerable investments has gone into the health care system. It could very well be the trust in this system that is the reason for the notorious Austrian “Alt aber Gut” (Old but Good). Even if Austrians love to whine and complain, deep down they trust in the established institutions and know that all will be fine and that the system will back them up.

“Alles für meine Leute” (All for my tribe) came through again. The Austrian public TV and radio quickly changed programming to allow artists, who had lost all their income from their concerts, a platform to perform and entertain those stuck at home. As always in times of crisis the platform of volunteers called “Team Österreicher” established in 2007 sprang into action right away in their local areas. The military was stocking goods in supermarkets to reassure the general public that there would be no food shortages and to promote the slogan of “we are all in this together.”

It might be worthwhile to mention that the patience and acceptance rate of the public may be also explained by the spatial and geographical structure of the country. Austria is still a largely rural country. Even in Vienna, the only largely metropolitan city, numerous green spaces prevail including parks, surrounding woods, and fields along the Danube. The lockdown measure never touched upon the value “Natur pur” as at all times Austrians were allowed to go for their much-loved walks, hikes, and to enjoy nature within their family units. The fact that less traffic and travel meant clear skies and fresh air was widely appreciated and aided the general positive feeling towards the measures taken.

Now that Austria is relaxing its lockdown measures, it will be interesting to see in what ways the “reflection time at home” will show up in cultural norms and behaviors. But let’s make this the content of future blog posts.

Hopefully this collaborative article will provide some interesting perspectives into Austrian values and therefore be a contradiction of the Austrian proverb: “Viele Köche verderben den Brei” (Many cooks will spoil the porridge). If you want to deep dive on some of the values or events mentioned here please consult the CD Austria Values Lens by subscribing to Cultural Detective Online, and/or contact the authors.

 

 

 

 

RIP Peggy Pusch

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Lew, Peggy and son Rob

It is with a sad heart that I bring news of the passing of Margaret D. “Peggy” Pusch. Born in September of 1936, Peggy was 83 years old. She’d suffered a stroke nearly a decade ago, and had been lovingly cared for since by her longtime husband, Lew.

Peggy was a mentor to oh-so-many in the intercultural field for four decades. She was President of Intercultural Press for many years, where she guided the development of dozens of magnificent books, ensuring that invaluable information made its way to those who needed it at a time when “intercultural” wasn’t quite so popular. She authored her own respected volumes as well, including Multicultural Education: A cross-cultural training approach (1980) and Helping Them Home: A guide for leaders for professional integration and reentry workshops (1988), and contributed to many other volumes, such as the Handbook of Intercultural Training. Click on a photo to enlarge it.

Peggy performed leadership roles in the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research for many years, both internationally and in the USA. She very much helped Bill Gay, Shoko Araki, Doug Bowen and me when we were starting SIETAR Japan. She was a longtime faculty member of the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication and several universities during her career, including Antioch and University of the Pacific. Peggy was an avid experiential facilitator, publishing articles in Simulation and Gaming and playing an active role in the North American Simulation and Gaming Association.

I first met Peggy in the early 80s, when she was active in SIETAR International, a faculty member of the then-Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication, and President of  Intercultural Press. She and Lew welcomed me into their home in Maine many times over the years, and I loved and respected them dearly. I’ll never forget her bringing the publishing contract for Ecotonos: A simulation for collaborating across cultures to my wedding! Peggy attended our very first train-the-trainer workshop for Beyond Bowing: Working Effectively with the Japanese and provided invaluable input. She loved our Redundancía: A foreign language simulation and used it in many of the trainings she conducted, and was an ardent supporter of Cultural Detective. Her son, Rob Pusch, is an instrumental member of our Cultural Detective LGBT authoring team.

The entire Cultural Detective community sends our heartfelt condolences to her family. Peggy was a pillar of the intercultural community for decades, and will be sorely missed.

 

Intercultural Competence at ITAM

IMG_3558ITAM, the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, is a prestigious university in Mexico City, alma mater of many national leaders in diverse areas of society. They recently dedicated several days to learning in-depth about the complexities of the migrant experience, and the intercultural competence required to integrate new residents in meaningful ways to transform our communities.

I was privileged to be invited as a presenter by a student body leader. In the morning my good friend and I conducted the CARITAS France game that we recently translated to Spanish, On the Road with Migrants or, En el recorrido con los migrantes. Students were powerfully moved by the experience and I was blown away by the depth of insight they gained. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The game is downloadable for free in seven languages. Please take advantage of it as it’s a terrific learning resource!

In the afternoon I conducted a two-hour workshop using Cultural Detective Self Discovery and CD Mexico. Students attending passionately shared their experience and personal challenges, as well as gained new intercultural competence.

I came away from my day at ITAM so reassured to know that these young people are our future! We are in most definitely in good hands!

Reaching across the Divide

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These days we see, hear, and read about divides—political, racial, religious, economic, etc.—all the ways we are different from each other. It often seems these differences are exploited and amplified to encourage disagreement and conflict. It is hard to combat the feeling that we are living in a time of strong opinions and large cultural differences. But there have been previous situations of large cultural divides and evidence that people have bridged those cultural gaps in wonderful ways.

On a recent trip to Astoria, Oregon, a small town on the northwest tip of the state where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, I was reminded of how the town’s history is unusually multicultural. Of course, the first inhabitants were native peoples who lived in the area for thousands of years prior to the first Europeans arriving in 1792. The explorers Lewis and Clark and members of their cross-continent expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 in the area. By 1850 the town had 250 inhabitants, a large city for the time, and by 1920 it boasted over 14,000 residents— the second largest city in Oregon.

Astoria was noted for being very cosmopolitan; timber and fishing brought immigrants from around the world including Finns, Swedes, Chinese, and East Indians, among others. In fact, the influence of the Finns was so strong that street signs were in English and Finnish—the only bilingual city in Oregon at the time.

I ran across a story from Oregon folklore that illustrates the influence of the Finns on Astoria. Like most such handed-down stories, one likes to think they are describing the original situation accurately.

“A 16-year old girl from Finland, who had traveled to the US to live with her grandparents in Astoria, arrived unmet at the RR station. Failing to see her grandparents and unable to speak English, she slumped down on the wooden platform of the depot and began to sob. Seeing her anguish, a Chinese passerby paused to ask what was wrong. Tearfully, she told him. “Where do your grandparents live?” he asked. She took from the pocket of her dress a slip of paper and gave it to the man. “I know where this house is at,” he said. “I will take you there.” And he picked up her suitcase.

As they walked, the girl asked, “How is it that you speak Finnish?” “In Astoria,” the Chinese good samaritan replied, “if you do not speak Finnish you had better move elsewhere.” [from: in search of Western Oregon, Ralph Friedman, 1990, p. 3]

I found this story delightful and a great illustration of life in early Astoria. And a wonderful example of making an effort to reach across the divide.

But what could a Cultural Detective see in this story? I could imagine the young woman exhibiting the Finnish value of Sisu (Perseverance) by making the trek by herself. And perhaps the Chinese value of Jia ting (Family) influenced the gentleman’s decision to help the young lady. And/or maybe, as an immigrant himself and a Blended Culture person, he recognized the challenges of landing in a strange place with no one to meet you. Contextuality (It all depends) is an important Blended Culture value.

Once the Cultural Detective way of viewing the world becomes a habit, you can apply it in all sorts of circumstances, past and present. Using a Cultural Detective approach to viewing history can inform us of the issues that both “sides” faced in any interaction. And remember that “history” can be that discussion you had with your co-worker last week!

In these times of deep divisions, it is useful to understand the underlying values that impact a situation in order to figure out a solution. Using the Cultural Detective Online provides immediate access to the values of over 60 cultures, providing a roadmap for discovery, offering clues and a process to sort out challenges and to build bridges across divisions. We don’t have to always agree, but as interculturalists, we should definitely do our best to understand one another.

4 Reasons to Add EPIC to Your Toolbox

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Many thanks to Debbie Bayes, Intercultural Consultant and Trainer at culturecrux.org, for this guest blog post.

I recently had the chance to use EPIC (Essential Practice for Intercultural Competence) for the first time with a group of people who train student leaders in a university setting. There were several surprises along the way… all of them good!

  1. Reasonably quick prep to put together a quality training event—The structure of the EPIC process, which brings together both Cultural Detectiveand Personal Leadership methods,made it possible to plan a quality training event in a short amount of time. It saved me hours of work and was a breeze to facilitate!
  2. It was helpful to have the EPIC experience to look back on when going over IDI results after the training—This particular group had asked each member to take the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) prior to the EPIC training. As I met with individuals to go over their IDI results following the training, I found that having the common EPIC experience to look back on provided many concrete examples that I could use to illustrated ideas that are sometimes difficult for people to grasp. Concepts like the limitations of Minimization and the value of working towards Acceptance were far easier to explain because moving through the EPIC process so clearly and tangibly demonstrated both.
  3. EPIC worked well with people at all levels—Because I had IDI results on the group before doing the EPIC training, I had some sense of people’s abilities prior to meeting with them. Participants in the group ranged from Denial to Acceptance. It can be difficult to plan an event for a group that has such a wide range of abilities. I was pleased to find that everyone in the group was engaged and interested throughout the training.
  4. EPIC was fun and eye-opening—The two most frequent comments I received on the EPIC training in the weeks following were that it was both fun and eye-opening. The training challenged the participants, caused them to see both themselves and cultural others in new ways, and inspired them to press on to learn more. And all the while, they were having fun!

I expect to use EPIC frequently in the year ahead. It’s a great tool to have in the box!

More Excellent Free Gifts

I just downloaded a wonderful high-resolution jpg of an equal-area projection Peters Map of the world for FREE thanks to Bob Abramms and our friends at ODT Maps, and you can, too!

The Peters Map jpg is branded with the Doctors Without Borders logo, but, hey, you can print it out most any size you want; it is a terrific asset to a classroom, training room, meeting room, etc. Click here to download your copy.

While you’re at it, you can also download a Hobo-Dyer equal-area projection map via this link. This one is not quite as usable, as it has the Carter Center data all over it. But, it is high-resolution and free.

In Bob’s and ODT’s incredible retirement generosity, they have uploaded other free things you can get your hands on:

We are not retiring BUT, as always, Cultural Detective offers a huge selection of freebies, accessible and downloadable anytime here.

Bless you for helping build intercultural competence, respect, justice, equity, inclusion and collaboration in this polarized world of ours! You are doing vital work.

Antibiotics and Intercultural

©Dianne Hofner Saphiere, Thru Di’s Eyes Photography.  Used with permission.

For over a decade we have been talking about the fact that developing intercultural competence is a process and a commitment, not a one-shot event. Recently our senior trainer of facilitators, Tatyana Fertelmeyster, interrupted her usual incisive yet humorous social commentary on LinkedIn to share a personal rant:

“I am getting so tired of [the] conversation [that] diversity trainings don’t work! What in the world are we talking about? Antibiotics don’t work! Dah, did you take them twice a day for ten days? No, I took one pill and felt no difference. Or — I took one, felt better, and stopped. And now I am even more sick. Wait — why did a doctor tell you to take antibiotics in the first place? I told him I need to take antibiotics once a year in October. I don’t know why I need to do it and they never make any difference but I still do it. Or — I can’t take antibiotics any more. I have been using them for any kind of health problems for years and now I am allergic to them. Ridiculous, isn’t it? Maybe we first need to define what is a high quality diversity training, what it is and is not good for, who and why should be able to “prescribe” and “administer” that kind of treatment, and how the course of treatment should look depending on the issues and desirable outcomes. The whole process, not a one pill, one time, etc.

I absolutely LOVED this analogy! If bias, injustice, inequity, exclusion, and hate are illness-inducing bacteria, intercultural and diversity competence are antibiotics that can heal society. Yet, there’s a whole lot of garbage out there, and how do we wade through it? As we have frequently discussed on this blog, developing intercultural and equity competencies needs to be done developmentally and sustainably, as with anything in life, and Cultural Detective is a core tool that is proven effective for doing so.

As with any rant by a beloved and respected commentator, a few of the comments were outstandingly salient as well:

  1. “I have two qualifying comments:  1. Diversity training doesn’t lead to change.  People lead to change. No amount of training will change the attitude or behaviour of someone who doesn’t want to change.  I know my life will be healthier if I eat less and run more — but I don’t want to change. Diversity training can only raise awareness and try to influence change. Even the best trainer will not make a racist recant their views.   2. A half day/one day/two day training will not create lasting change, but it’s the pattern of 90% of training offered in this area. You attend, have a great time discussing the ways in which diversity matters, you even strategise on what you can do to improve diversity, but you [go] back to your desk to the 200 emails you need to action, the huge task list and the fantastic training slips into oblivion.  And I haven’t even started on eLearning yet…. To promote diversity and inclusion agendas, we need to mainstream them.  We need to by default consider D&I at every stage of interacting, policy creating, decision making, problem solving, recruiting, firing…….etc.  If we consider D&I by default, then attitudes and behaviours will change.”
  2. “I wonder how many influencers and leaders in business sign up to this training, and also believe in its purpose. Societal change, and change within a business also needs authentic and committed leadership.”
  3. “When I was young I heard this story: ‘A man heard from someone that faith could move mountains. He had a big mountain near his house that cut out the light — so he decided to try this faith idea. As he went to bed that night he said ‘I have faith that the mountain will be gone in the morning.’ The next day he pulled back the curtains and the mountain was still there. And he said ‘I knew it wouldn’t be gone!’ Many companies sign up for diversity training because they heard it helps business. But, like the man above, they don’t really believe it and don’t fully buy in.”

If you’d like to read the full conversation or join in, here is the link. If you’d like to take your first step towards developing sustainable, meaningful intercultural competence, start with a subscription here.

CD Certification May 27-28 in Belgium

We receive so many requests from people based in Europe who want to attend a Cultural Detective Certification. If you live in Europe, this is your only chance to attend one this year on your home continent at an unbelievable price, so please do not miss out! Also very convenient for anyone attending the 2019 SIETAR Europa Congress in Leuven.

Conducted by Tatyana Fertelmeyster, this workshop will be a pre-conference event for the SIETAR Europa Conference. Participants will learn to facilitate Cultural Detective’s state-of-the-art, developmentally appropriate, theoretically-grounded and immediately practical method to build intercultural competence in their organizations, communities and teams.

For more information click here. To register click here.