Developing Cultural Competency as a Life-long Journey

CSxMJSzXAAARY7-I have long admired Christian Höferle of The Culture Mastery. He is a German-born intercultural trainer and consultant living in Georgia (USA), a certified facilitator of Cultural Detective, and writes a funny and useful blog that has taught US-born me a lot about southern US culture.

Christian recently began a new podcast series—The Culture Guy—that keeps me chuckling while also reminding me what’s important about cross-cultural effectiveness. I was honored to be his third guest, and thoroughly enjoyed the wide-ranging conversation. Christian is intelligent, witty, and committed to excellence. I trust you will find the interview worthwhile; you can listen by clicking the playbar below or on this link.

After you’ve listened to the podcast, please take a moment to share with us one of your “cultural fool” moments, an example of when your “common sense” wasn’t shared, or a favorite tip for success across cultures. We look forward to reading them!

Cultural Competency – How Does it Help?

Excellent “Cultural Effective” example by our friend and colleague Marilyn Gardner.

MARILYN R. GARDNER

police

Four years ago the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) conducted a raid on a mosque in Miami, Florida. What could have been a disastrous, public relations nightmare for both the Muslim community and the FBI was carried out so well and so carefully that most of us had no idea the raid took place. I wrote about it then, but I bring it up again now.

I believe this story has good insight into how cultural competency helps in any area of work.

I am not one to praise the FBI or government in general, but it is important to give credit and recognition where it is deserved. I was amazed with the thoughtfulness and cultural awareness with which the raid was carried out. All the evidence points to actions that took into account the larger Muslim community and efforts that were taken to inform and involve this community.

First: The story…

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Our Tribal Elders, part 1 | Djibouti Jones

Our Tribal Elders and the Global Nomad Medicine Wheel, from Djibouti Jones’ blog

I love Djibouti Jones, though I am new to Paul Asbury Seaman. Paul wrote a paper summarizing the huge contributions that Ruth Van Reken, Ruth Hill Useem, David Pollock and Norma McCaig have made to the intercultural field and the world. They all contributed to definitions and recognition of the term, “Third Culture Kids.” Djibouti Jones is publishing the paper, in its entirety, over six Tuesdays. The first segment is linked below.

Our Tribal Elders, part 1 | Djibouti Jones.

Introduction

A culture doesn’t happen by accident. Neither does it simply evolve through inevitable phases and developments. The beliefs and emotional tone of a culture are based on countless discoveries and the meanings assigned to the structures created. As global nomads, our culture is largely invisible. It has no geographic boundaries and no designated symbols. We resort to surveys and anecdotes, cautiously giving labels to the patterns we see. What we name becomes an identity, but one that is never quite complete because the labels are porous and the patterns keep shifting. A roving heart and ambiguity are commonly part of the global nomad legacy; but they are also aspects of a way of life many of us have chosen—with all its costs and merits. Living in limbo means we might often feel anchorless, but it also suggests that we are good sailors and bridge builders.

Instead of pushing boundaries, we pull on them—curious about what they are made of, what function they are supposed to serve.

We find commonalities where others may see none. We ourselves can be bridges across the limbo, not to explain it away, but to provide someplace solid from which to explore it.”…

No one could see the colour blue until modern times | Business Insider

This is an excellent article on how our language and culture affect what we see and notice, and what we don’t. Powerful stuff! Check it out. No one could see the colour blue until modern times | Business Insider.

That went well.. not! Meeting the victims

So happy that the families are exercising their voices, and their indignation. I applaud their success in getting Mexico’s President to, for the first time ever, put his official signature on a document of this type. I pray that my adopted country (Mexico) can find its way toward equity and justice. Remember that egalitarianism is one of the core values of Blended Culture people, for precisely this reason. Every life is valuable, we all have contributions to share, without each of them the puzzle will not fit together. Intercultural competence demands we fight corruption and power imbalances.

The Mex Files

I seldom translate news articles any more not only because I have too much to do, but because Mexico Voices more often than not picks up the same stories I would have translated, and generally does a much better job.  And, is able to get them posted much sooner than I could.

Jane Brundage translated Blanche Petrich’s report that appeared in yesterday’s Jornada on the meeting between the parents of the disappeared Ayotzinada students, the widow of the student killed (and skinned), and a few other victims of state-tolerated (or perhaps state-sanctioned) terrorism.  What appears from the article is that while the adminstration attempted to spin this as an “message: we care” moment, bringing in those survivors and victims are a tougher lot than was anticipated.

There was not a single moment of relaxation during Wednesday’s (October 29) meeting at Los Pinos. Not one smile, not a single “thank you…

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5 Things Mexicans Say to Avoid the Word “No”

Excellent article by Susannah Rigg

MEXICANS ARE VERY POLITE and can seem downright formal compared to residents of other Spanish-speaking countries. People greet each other in elevators, on buses, and shared taxis almost always with “con permiso,” — “with your permission,” — and “propio” — “you may grant your own permission, as you don’t need mine.”

I love all this about Mexican culture. However, it took me a long time to realize that, because of all the politeness, Mexicans really struggle to say “no” and will find any number of ways to avoid the accursed word. Here are just a few examples.

1. Yes

It’s very common in Mexico that yes means no….

Read more here

A value for culture leads to business value

Thank you for helping us promote and build intercultural competence, Marjorie and Don! Very nice article!

Marjorie Munroe's 5 Minute Mediator

As a Canadian I am informal, consensus building, highly individualistic, and reserved before building trust and relationships through successful projects. I also define myself to a large extent by not being a Yank.

Do these generalizations sound familiar?

Cultural value lenses help us understand each other.

I learned from Don Rutherford, a facilitator who has consulted for many years with different organizations around the world, that identifying trends and generalizations about different cultures can help us work together more effectively. Don pointed out that generalizing vs. stereotyping is an important distinction.  Generalizing helps to make better decisions. For example, I generally know that if I leave the house at 8 to get downtown it will take me 20 minutes longer than if I leave the house at 9, and I organize my day accordingly.

Don produced the Canadian Values Lens for Cultural Detective.  When Don introduced Michelle and I to the Cultural Detectives Value Lenses we were struck…

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I’m From….

Sometimes our youth capture the depth and beauty, and reality, of experience more effectively than more mature adults. Personally, I loved this TCK/Blended Culture poem. Kudos to Adelaide!

MARILYN R. GARDNER

I’m From…by Robynn and Adelaide

passport-Adelaide

Adelaide is a sophomore in high school. She’s in grade 10. The Language Arts teacher wanted them to write a poem introducing themselves to her and to the class. It was a simple assignment. Five short stanzas. Two lines each. Begin each stanza with, “I’m from…”. Apparently the teacher’s included lines like, “I’m from the yellow kitchen, blue popsicles and red posies. I’m from the white house, the fenced yard, the barking beagle”.

It’s a good assignment.

Theoretically.

Unless where you’re from is convoluted. Unless you’ve inherited some confusion on that particular subject. Unless it’s too long of a story to be captured neatly in five short stanzas.

And then it’s not such a great assignment.

Adelaide cranked out a rough draft. The teacher read it over Adelaide’s shoulder. She cautioned her on being too vague. It wasn’t specific enough. It didn’t describe where Adelaide…

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Transgender Hijras Promote Traffic Safety

Long live the hijras! I love this public service announcement, on so many levels! Just had to share.

On Keeping Traditions Traditional

How do we preserve traditions, really? By sealing them in amber or putting them in a museum? Or by exercising them, giving them air to breathe and a song to sing?

¡VidaMaz!

10009854_10151968950151246_1414383763_n Photo of Omar Castro around taken 1992 in Mochicahui, Sinaloa, Mexico

¡Feliz Día del Niño! Happy Children’s Day! April 30, 2014, Children’s Day here in Mexico.

The photo above is of a new friend of ours whom I greatly admire, Omar Castro. In this photo he looks to be about five years old. It was one of the first times he danced with his father in El KONTI, and the photo is taken in the central plaza of Mochicahui, in front of the church.

If you follow this blog, you know we had the pleasure of fulfilling my dream and attending KONTI this year. A week or so after that, I spent some time with a nationally renowned photographer and a well-known international journalist. As Greg and I were talking to them about our recent trip to Mochicahui for these Yoreme Mayo festivities, they were both bemoaning that EL KONTI had become…

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