Why Storytelling in the Intercultural Context?

storytellingStories are the cornerstone of the Cultural Detective Method, and we have written about them on this blog quite often. Today I am very pleased to share with you a guest blog post by Joanna Sell, storyteller extraordinaire. She will be leading a complimentary webinar for us on 6th December 2018. Register now!

You might be asking why storytelling in intercultural communication? This exact question marked the beginning of my journey towards the storytelling approach. When I was setting the sails, I had no idea where it would bring me. I simply knew that my clients in the business world, my students at the universities, and many people working across cultures desperately wanted golden recipes on how to behave in intercultural contexts. Does that sound familiar to you?

Following the motto, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” people wanted to hear do’s and don’ts for communicating and cooperating with the “inhabitants of Rome.” What struck me, mostly, was the fact that they were deeply convinced that such “ready-made recipes” existed or were useful.

On one hand they acknowledged the diversity of their own groups and said: “Well, our group is very diverse in terms of age, gender, professional background, and nationality, and it is clear that our setting is ‘colorful,’ but we are here to hear about ‘Rome and the Romans.'” I asked myself why was it so easy to talk about a mosaic of cultures in their own groups while also asking for do’s and don’ts lists for communicating with “the others.”

Everything changed once we exchanged stories. Suddenly, the beauty of diversity became tangible and the focus moved towards practicing perspective change, self-reflection regarding communication skills, and a clear shift from “autopilot modus” towards curiosity and acceptance of differing thinking patterns.

As an intercultural trainer and coach I was overwhelmed—and I experienced my own personal change, as well. I still provided input on doing business and working in teams in countries of my expertise, and I addressed the challenges and rewards of virtual leadership. However, I began to incorporate the experience and knowledge of the participants into my programs much more. Why? Because the narrative approach and various storytelling methods guided me to get to know my participants better, allowing me to better tailor the content to their needs.

Additionally, thanks to the exchange of stories, they got to know one another from a completely new perspective and were willing to share their experiences in an open manner. A setting of psychological safety and an atmosphere of trust were the most wonderful gifts most of us experienced during time spent together sharing stories. Discussions about establishing trust and designing a team charter took on completely new dynamics. When we talked about action plans at the end of the meeting, participants were much more committed to following through, as well as to risk story sharing in their professional contexts and to apply storytelling methods in their daily lives.

I gathered the list of the reasons that storytelling works so well in the intercultural context, and I welcome your ideas to add to my observations.

  • Storytelling allows discovering cultural roots from multiple perspectives.
  • Storytelling offers insights into complexity of multicultural identities.
  • Storytelling supports zooming in and out, i.e., perspective change.
  • Storytelling adds the emotional layer to the cognitive level.
  • Storytelling serves as means of transmitting cultures.
  • Storytelling deals with new stories of belonging.
  • Storytelling initiates change processes.
  • Storytelling moves hearts.

Excellent New Classroom Tool & a Great Read!

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We are thrilled to announce that this award-winning volume is newly updated with application questions for each chapter and fully integrates with your Cultural Detective Online subscription! Purchase it now for your classroom or for holiday gifting.

Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures, 2nd edition, by Joe Lurie, Cross-Cultural Communications Trainer, Speaker and Emeritus Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s International House

What do your experiences tell you when you’re in line behind a bald man: Is he a militant? A monk? A punk? A neo-Nazi?… Or perhaps a cancer patient?

With YouTube, tweets and fake news instantly crossing cultures without context in this time of globalization, it’s essential to understand the actual meanings and intentions behind words, images and actions that seem abnormal or provocative. In line, online and off-line, we’re meeting many more “strangers.” There’s new wisdom in the Lebanese proverb: “Every stranger is a blind man.” And so, we face an urgency to teach students and professionals far more about other cultures and give them the intercultural skills to navigate globalization’s turbulent waters. That’s why, in collaboration with Cultural Detective, I’ve greatly expanded the first award-winning edition of Perception And Deception, A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures.

Think globalization is bringing us closer together? Think again. With refugees crossing cultures without preparation on either side, the dangers of intercultural miscommunication are intensifying. Why do many refugees traumatized by violence find Western “talk therapy” alienating? As a Syrian refugee confided, “I can’t share my painful, humiliating stories with a stranger.” A Sudanese refugee was diagnosed “psychotic” because she seemed to be talking to herself; her Boston psychiatrist was unaware that in her world, conversing with ancestors is normal. Some French see a Muslim woman in a burkina—a full body suit—as oppressed or as a potential terrorist. Yet the woman considers her burkini liberating, because she can swim modestly. Recently, a UC Berkeley student with a Spanish last name was snidely asked when she’d return to Mexico. Her angered response, “I’m from Kansas and I don’t speak Spanish.”

To enable use of the well-received stories in the first edition as springboards for developing intercultural competence, I’ve added a broad array of interactive questions and activities at the end of each chapter in this expanded new edition, as well as a brand new chapter, “Globalization and its Disconnects—Convergence Without Context.” It focuses in large part on the spiraling misunderstandings across cultures, especially in the worlds of refugees, religion, and responses to technology.

To better cope with the disrupting forces of globalization, each chapters’ questions and activities are designed to develop and heighten cultural self-awareness and sensitivity to others, among students, individuals and groups of all backgrounds and professions. Some of the included interactive, personalized activities are available for those who take advantage of Cultural Detective‘s superb, research-based, internationally tested online platform providing access to nearly 70 packages of rich intercultural material: Cultural Detective Online; other questions are useful on their own, without a subscription.

Below is a two-minute video recorded at the Commonwealth Club of California, introducing the first edition:

May the new edition’s stories and interactive activities addressing the disrupting forces of globalization and migration offer positive paths for engaging with difference without fear and by seeing with new eyes!

For further information and reviews about the book, or to order it from Amazon, visit PerceptionAndDeception.com; and to learn more about Cultural Detective’s anytime, anywhere intercultural competence development toolbox and virtual coach visit: www.CulturalDetective.com/cdonline.

Testing an Incredible New Process

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This chart paper contains words that describe the Spanish-speaking families. The client still has that sheet up in their conference room months after the training.

Guest blog post by Bego Lozano, who has lived and worked in different countries and cultures over the past 20 years. Right now, she calls home the Bay Area of California where she focuses on mindful leadership and coaching.

As a fan and user of both Cultural Detective® and Personal Leadership®, I was delighted to learn that there is a tool called EPIC (Essential Practice of Intercultural Competence) that combines both.

I recently used the EPIC Toolkit to design, deliver and facilitate a training for a California-based NGO that focuses on supporting those affected by Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that currently has no cure. This NGO had a unique challenge: funding for programs aimed at Spanish-speaking families had stopped with the 2008 financial crisis and had only recently returned. Their first attempt at organizing an event had fallen short of their expectations—both their internal expectations and those of their partners. They hired me to help make sure that didn’t happen again; they wanted to get the word out about prevention and treatment in powerful and meaningful ways. I turned to EPIC.

The beauty of EPIC is that participants develop awareness into what they personally bring to their work, plus gain insight and understanding of the core values of a culture different than their own. Quite often we forget that as human beings we bring our own cultural lenses to everything we do, and understanding a situation from our own perspective only gives us, at most, half the picture.

After an EPIC training, participants become more mindful of their own values and actions—why they respond in the ways they do. They learn to appreciate the values of the different culture, and most importantly, to build bridges to work better together.

EPIC is not a one-time fix; it is a process of continuous feedback and change, a mobius strip that has space for constant improvement and nuances. It is about competence, and therefore it includes practicing relentlessly and compassionately.

Last I checked, the programs for Spanish-speaking families were doing much better: employees had implemented small and significant changes that had increased participants’ engagement and comfort and their partner’s reported meaningful improvement. People were excited about their jobs and the positive impact they can have in their communities. If you’d like to learn more about EPIC or give it a spin yourself, it is available for license and is such a value!

Ecotonos is a great tool!

We would like to thank Nicole Martin of the Rocky Mountain Institute for this guest blog post about her work with a team from SEED: Sustainable Energy for Economic Development . We are honored and privileged to know our materials aid work of this kind!

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I just wanted to pass on some feedback. My group of 17 really enjoyed running Ecotonos: A simulation for collaborating across cultures and identified it as a highlight of our day. Team members from SEED drew some valuable insights and connections to their real life work from it.

Since I had not seen Ecotonos run before, it is a credit to the materials that it went so well. I followed the directions and it worked! I really appreciated the clear and complete instructions.

I also wanted to share a tweak that I made. In the acculturation section, I had them create visual identifiers for their groups using craft materials. It helped them acculturate and get talking and moving.

Of course, my creative facilitation idea was sparked by forgetting the buttons back at the office 🙂 Here is a picture of a debrief. You can see the watch necklace (monochronic time group) and the mobius strip hat (polychronic time group) on the left side.

Thanks for the great tool!

To learn more about Ecotonos or to purchase the game, which you’ll be able to use for years to come and replay differently with the same group multiple times, click here.

CD India Version 2

We are proud to announce a brand-new, complete update to Cultural Detective India. As you know, we update our Cultural Detective packages a few times a year, in minor ways, as things happen around the world. Values seem to be the slowest things to change. Societal shifts take time and then, once they happen, boom! Big changes are afoot. We have a best-selling India package in our series, one that gets rave reviews, and we have been looking a long time for fresh eyes and new energy to update Professor Madhukar Shukla‘s terrific work. I am pleased as punch to report to you that two incredibly talented interculturalists have added to the greatness of this package: Shilpa Subramaniam and Melanie Martinelli. Read on for a bit of back story on this wonderful new version.

When we first discussed updating the Cultural Detective India package, we realised that we were both very drawn to the work. Being interculturalists, avid travellers and facilitators of intercultural sessions, we both felt that we could bring a different flavour to the package.

Our biggest challenge was collaborating, as our travel schedules and calendars didn’t really put us in the same geography! So it might not come as a surprise that our first brainstorming session was in a car when we were travelling out of the city (Bangalore in this case) to co-facilitate a session.

The picture above is the two of us sitting next to the river Cauvery and brainstorming our way through the package! What was so interesting about that conversation was that both of us have such different perspectives: Melanie is a Swiss national who has lived and worked in India for more than a decade and is married to an Indian; Shilpa is Indian born, was brought up all over the country and has lived and worked outside of it. And yet, we found powerful experiences and threads that we had in common when living/ working / experiencing this wonderfully diverse country. Cultural Detective strives to have authors work in teams on packages, to have this insider-outsider joint perspective, and we quickly learned why that is invaluable.

We had quite a few “breakthroughs” during the process of brainstorming and writing the CD India package, but perhaps the most interesting one was when we tested out the idea of “privilege” being one of the core Indian values. In India, privilege isn’t just hierarchy and status, it is this clear-cut idea that if you belong to a certain social strata, then there are certain privileges that are ascribed to you, and these privileges differ across strata, class and religion. Yet the word “privilege” could have such negative connotations to some that it might not fit the golden rule of core country values—no value is positive or negative, they are neutral because they can be perceived both ways. So, while we both agreed on the fact that we needed to talk (or rather write) about privilege, we wanted to find ways to present multiple facets and sides to the concept and how it manifests itself in India.

Another interesting moment was recognizing that the reason India as a culture can be complex to understand is because it has so many shades of grey. For example, communication can be direct yet indirect depending on the situation. So what could we tell our participants/readers about the communication style in India? Therein was born our new, cool (even if we say so ourselves!) table that makes distinctions among the ways in which different values are manifested across urban or rural environments, generations, in multinational corporations and domestic business. The objective of this table is to help the reader understand how the same value can be demonstrated in different—and sometimes even opposite—ways. We hope that the underlying message that is the integral CD message: always analyse the context of any situation while trying to understand or decode it.

The newly revised CD India package builds on the previous version and is updated based on current social, economic, political and business contexts. It has a lot more practical and hands-on tips and best practices for those who are living and working in India, because that’s what we as authors look for when we take off to another country. We’ve ensured that there are elements that speak to what this information means to you if you’re working and/or doing business in India. It’s been written with a lot of care (we’ve tried to stay away from declaratives), excitement (we’re getting to shape how the country is perceived!) and thought (we discarded version after version until we were satisfied with it)!

Come and take the journey to India through our new Cultural Detective India package, now available in CD Online as well as via printed PDF, and explore its vastness, complexity and uniqueness! Happy travels!

Small Secrets from the Big Country

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We are extremely proud and excited to announce the debut of a new package in our series: Cultural Detective Ukraine, written by Olga Collin and Elena Shliakhovchuk.
Below is a blog post written by them, introducing this terrific new package.

What do you think of when someone mentions Ukraine? Beautiful women? Bread basket? Chernobyl? Formerly part of the USSR? Conflict with Russia? Those who are fortunate to have traveled to Ukraine would most likely add a few more descriptors: the country is huge (largest one in Europe), diverse in landscape and culture, and the greenest capital of Europe.

Those who know Ukrainians would likely say they are warm and hospitable (once you get to know them), resourceful, proud of their ethnicity and heritage, well-educated and hard-working. Ukrainian food is delicious and the country is rich in history. But to truly understand Ukraine and its people one has to look deeper.

Recently we were presented with the task of describing the Ukraine that is less known to the world. How can people most effectively get to know and partner with Ukrainians? What secrets are hiding behind the stereotypical ideas? What discoveries can one make going off the beaten path? What could we write that would set Ukraine apart? Thus began our proud authorship of Cultural Detective Ukraine, the newest entry in the esteemed series.

“My Ukrainian team always has a plan A, B, C, D and…. E”
—French plant manager working in Ukraine

Well, here are just a few things to begin with: Ukraine became independent in 1991 but people understood the true meaning of the word in its fullest only in 2014 after the Revolution of Dignity. Our previous belief in one strong charismatic leader who would come and save the country is fading away, with people adopting a brand-new mentality of volunteering and actively participating in all aspects of community life.

A highly educated, hard-working population with an extreme level of adaptability and flexibility make Ukrainians the most-wanted working migrants in the world. In 2018 Poland and Czech Republic eased the rules for working visas for Ukrainians.

Once nicknamed the bread basket of the USSR, Ukraine today is the fourth largest supplier of IT professionals in the world. Resourcefulness and creativity have always been part of the national character, but now these qualities are finding completely new applications. PayPal’s co-founder was born in Ukraine, as were the founders of Grammarly (online grammar-checking), Ugears aka “Ukrainian gears” (3D wooden puzzles of mechanical objects), Kwambio (platform for creating 3D products), People.ai (AI based solutions for managing sales departments), Roopor (live audio-streaming app), Jooble (job search engine), and Effa (eco-friendly toothbrush)—some of the better known Ukrainian start-ups which have attracted millions in investments lately. And Ukrainian companies, such as Sleeper, whose “walking sleepwear” is sold at Barneys and Harrods, or IENKI IENKI, whose puffer jackets are a big hit around the world, are leaving their distinct marks in the seemingly saturated fashion industry.

Ukrainian art life may surprise you, too. The music band Onuka has smashed European charts while the songs of another Ukrainian music band, Daha Braha, are used by David Beckham in his 2018 promotional fashion campaign. The Ukrainian movie “Donbass” received a special prize in Cannes in 2018. The paintings of Anatoly Kryvolap, Arsen Savadov, Vasily Tsagolov and Alexander Roitburd cost thousands of dollars at auctions of Sotheby’s and Phillips.

Ukraine is modern, green, and full of history and adventure! Its biggest asset are people who work hard to create the future to which they aspire! Come and discover the new Ukraine for yourself! And be sure to make the most of your experience by using Cultural Detective Ukraine, now live in your Cultural Detective Online subscription!

Cultural Detective at SIETAR Japan

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I am so very thrilled that the SIETAR Chapter I spent six years of my life co-birthing and stewarding has grown up and is hosting this SIETAR Global Conference! Due to family events I can not be there, which is heartbreaking. I know it will be fantastic and I soooooooo wish I could be there to guide my dear colleagues and friends around my beloved, adopted second home.

We will, however, have SEVERAL Cultural Detective authors present, and at least two of them have let me know they will be presenting workshops that involve Cultural Detective. Both these sessions sound fantastic and I trust you’ll be able to make them.

Enjoy! Learn! Network! And please know I’m present in spirit and heart.

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An Israeli Would Ask, “What’s the Problem Here?” Understanding the Very “Directest” Israeli Mindset

Workshop by CD Israel author Anat Kedem Meidan
Sat. August 11, 10:30 am – 12:20 pm
Going beyond stereotypes for deeper learning of the underlying core values and drivers that shape characteristic Israeli behaviors, norms and attitudes. Examining culture gaps between Israel and Japan to apply appropriate bridges across cultural differences.

 

Israelis have a distinct approach to life and interactions as well as unique ways of working. Norms and assumptions governing behavior – in particular regarding communication style, hierarchy and conflict – derive from deep-set values and an inherent ‘cultural sense’ that cannot be understood without looking at the historical and geographical context in which Israel operates. These norms are instrumental in creating Israel’s competitive edge, but they can also sabotage relationships and lead to frustration. Learning about the Israeli mindset is a necessity when interfacing with a culture where a key value is ‘maximum freedom, minimum restraint’, a culture where challenging everything all the time is encouraged and the preferred communication style is “dugri” – a “telling it like it is”, confrontational style.

Israeli and Japanese cultures share core values of focus on relationships and emphasis on hospitality. These similarities can be used to build trust between those needing to interact across the Japan/Israel interface. However, similarities can be misleading when overlooking cultural gaps. The result is that it often comes as a surprise that differences in approach to how things get done can lead to misunderstandings and end up sabotaging the group’s collaboration and capacity to reach set goals and objectives.

In this interactive workshop we will experience the Cultural Detective® — a critical incident-based tool for developing intercultural skills. In keeping with the conference theme of “Facing Uncertain Times Together: Strengthening Intercultural Connections,” the Cultural Detective takes its users from awareness to culturally appropriate bridging actions. In a detective-like manner, it provides a process for de-constructing and addressing challenges when encountering any intercultural dilemma, anywhere.

Using a Japanese/Israeli critical incident, participants will uncover underlying core values that shape behaviors, norms and attitudes. They will identify cultural gaps and apply a powerful bridging process for collaborating successfully across cultures.

Culturally Competent Training with Cognitive Integrity:
110 minute workshop with 8-time CD author George Simons
Creating and updating our intercultural learning tools to benefit from the latest developments in neuroscience and cognition

The approach taken toward cultural competence in this workshop relies on postmodern, linguistic, performative, iconic and constructionist thinking, drawing on recent research in neurologic and cognitive sciences. This means that fully interactive, holistic activities, performed in a safe space, and reflection on them will form the basis of our learning, rather than traditional positivistic and static essentialist thought definition presented in content lecture. In this workshop, we will actively explore a number of the first steps toward contemporary cultural know-how based on whole person engagement and reflection. We will conduct activities and exercises together in a variety of experiential holistic dimensions:

  1. Narrative and story-telling explorations of personal and cultural identities that will assist us to become aware of our own perspectives, feelings and inclinations, as well as those of others with whom we engage, as we respectfully elicit their stories and tell our own.
  2. Learning and practicing specific skills for recognizing and managing the frames in which we conceive of ourselves and others and how we operate out of and learning how we can modify these frames.
  3. With non-verbal and kinetic exercises, we will explore the physical spaces in which we live, move, encounter others and communicate, along with feeling their shifting contextual dynamics. Debrief will connect the workshop activities with everyday life in multicultural environments and explore ways in which we can continue to apply what is learned here to broaden our capacity for difference we experience with others.

 

Miracles Happen

IMG_1539I grew up in small town Wisconsin USA surrounded by Catholics of German ancestry. While I moved when I was eleven, I remember the town as having a wonderful community spirit—a volunteer ambulance way back before small US towns had such things. I remember a town that was lily white, the men barrel-chested; hard-working people who weren’t very emotionally expressive. The biggest cultural differences, and they were huge, were between town folk and farmers.

Today I have tears in my eyes as I have witnessed a most beautiful blessing. I heard there would be an outdoor Mass in my hometown, Burlington, in the park where I ice skated as a kid. I love outdoor spiritual celebrations. It’s a beautiful day, and I was excited to attend.

IMG_1537When I showed up at Echo Park there were several large tents set up and an altar ready in the pergola. Parking was at a premium. This was to be a tri-parish Mass: St. Mary’s and St. Charles from Burlinton, and St. Joseph’s from Lyons. There were three choirs and three priests.

 

As I walked into the celebration space, much to my surprise, the choir was singing a song in Spanish! I got out my cell phone to record a snippet. How very cool. I knew there is a Spanish language Mass each Sunday at St. Charles; I’ve attended it several times. Would this outdoor Mass be in Spanish? That would be cool and unexpected.

I love that my birthplace, founded by immigrants, once again has such a large immigrant community. When we are up here visiting family in the summer, I travel to nearby Burlington to buy jamaica (hibiscus) leaves for tea, Mexican cuts of meat for cooking, and a few other Latino savories. There seems to be a strong local Latino community. Last weekend we attended a very popular new Mole Fest in Elkhorn.

But when I attend Spanish-language Mass I see mainly Latinos there; the larger parish doesn’t seem very involved. There seems a definite segregation or separateness, though Mole Fest did have lots of every sort of people. I know that over one out of every five rural priests in small town USA are foreign-born, as there is a shortage of priests in the USA. Thankfully, many of them receive training using Cultural Detective materials.

 

The opening prayer celebrated diversity and unity. I beamed. The next song was in English. I noticed people around me, hundreds of them, and mostly the blonde-haired, blue-eyed variety that live in these parts, were reading along as they sung. I went over to grab the bulletin for today’s service. It was written in both English and Spanish! Not just one or the other, but an integrated, bilingual bulletin!

Really? In my small, what I perceive as insular town? I know and love these local Catholics. They send out mission trips every year to help the needy in the USA and abroad. They pray for peace and harmony, the cessation of war and violence, that the homeless, immigrants and refugees can find home. But, I also believe that some if not many of these parishioners have a hard time praying this latter petition. Many of them voted for Trump, after all.

 

This morning’s miracle got better and better. The second reading was in Spanish, by a native-speaking man. It felt so good. The response to the reading was in Spanish, and that response didn’t just come from the Spanish-speaking choir, but from voices here and there, scattered among the hundreds of people gathered in the shade of the tents. Wow! How cool!

The sermon was in English, given by the priest who was not the main celebrant. That was nice; they wanted to include the priests from all three parishes in the celebration. Then what to my wondering eyes should appear but, the Colombian priest giving a sermon, too! And he gave it in Spanish! He said the same things the first priest had said, but in Latino style, with much more passion. And of course with more references to the Virgin. I looked around. These German-Americans that I’d grown up with listened politely. I assume most of them didn’t understand. But I heard them join in the Latin-sounding “Ah-men,” vs. their normal “Ey-men.” Things have obviously been changing around here while I’ve been gone. And, then again, they haven’t. I heard the ladies behind me remark after the Colombian’s sermon, “He sure gave a short homily. Maybe we should check out his Mass.” 😉

 

The songs during Mass rotated between Spanish and English, with a few of them bilingual: one verse English, one Spanish. I was thrilled to hear that those around me singing along to the Spanish lyrics. The accent wasn’t pretty, but they were trying! This was, truly, an inclusive, integrated service.

Time for Prayers of the People. A gringa lady got up, and she read the prayers in both languages. She struggled with the Spanish, but she read it respectfully. We responded first in English, and to the Spanish ones in Spanish. I couldn’t imagine this Mass getting much better. Today encouraged me so much about my birth town’s people and community.

 

Communion was interesting. Most of the US Americans took the host in their hands, as is the custom here, while most of the Latinos received communion on their tongues, as is the custom for them. It was nice to see both.

 

At the conclusion of Mass, I thanked the celebrant, telling him I’d been born in Burlington and never would have dreamed that we’d be celebrating a bilingual Mass; that it was such a blessing. He thanked me for letting him know; I had the feeling he was happy to hear it, as perhaps he hears the opposite as well. I then thanked the Colombian priest. He gave me a big abrazo/hug, and thanked me also. Then a large portion of those attending, rather than hurry home as I’m so used to up here, wandered up to the picnic area to share coffee, orange juice, lemonade, and the always-present Wisconsin milk and kringle.

Viva diversity and integration on a clear sunny day in the Heartland of America! Today my stereotypes of my beloved birth town were updated, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Certification in Oregon

Portland-20917The summer has gotten off to a running start, that is for sure! If you’ve been wanting to get certified in Cultural Detective, to transform how you work in this world to develop intercultural competence in yourself and others, get online and register now! This approach looks at people as complex individuals with unique personalities, influenced by multiple layers of culture. Cultural Detective is practical, theoretically sound, developmentally appropriate, and immediately useful.

Tatyana Fertelmeyster will be conducting a two-day workshop between sessions at SIIC, the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, on Thursday and Friday the 26th and 27th of July. Click here for more information, and click here to register. This is the only public certification on our calendar at this time.

Book Review: Why Travel Matters

51Xh7kpNNhLWhy Travel Matters: A guide to the life-changing effects of travel, by Craig Storti, published by Nicholas Brealey, 2018.

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.
—St. Augustine

Are you looking for a terrific graduation gift? Just published last week, this quick, thought-provoking read will encourage any beloved young adult in your life to challenge themselves to develop new perspectives and values by experiencing the world around them fully.

Why Travel Mattersis an in-depth exploration of how to ensure travel experiences transcend tourism and transform the soul. “Through the ages it has been observed that travel broadens your horizons, deepens your understanding and changes your perspective. How? What must be done when traveling to make sure these things actually happen?”

Nothing is comparable to the new life that a reflective person
experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always
myself, I believe I have changed to the very marrow of my bones.
—Goethe

The book is written in typical Craig Storti style: engaging prose, good humor, content based on sound concepts and theory, well explained with lots of stories and examples. I read it on one leg of my flight last week and have already purchased several copies for the graduates on my gift list.

Not a typical travel book, Storti talks to the reader about the consequences of the trip rather than the trip itself, the inner as well as the outer journey, using quotations, insights, reflections and commentary from travelers, travel writers, historians and literary masters including Mark Twain, DH Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, St. Augustine and Somerset Maugham. He reviews the history of travel, including the importance of the grand tour beginning in 16th century Europe.

He goes on to explain the rise of modern tourism in the 1840s, thanks to Thomas Cook injecting the four elements of speed, comfort, convenience and tour groups, scrubbing travel of experiences that might disturb or discomfort—and, thus, removing its transformative powers. For me, with a passion for travel, who has hired a tour guide but has yet to take a group tour, who lacks the patience to lead a group of tourists, and who values a liberal arts education heavily grounded in study abroad and cross-cultural competence, the message this book promotes is music to my ears.

They had learnt life in a different school from mine
and had come to different conclusions.
—Somerset Maugham

Storti defines tourism as escape, recreational travel during which tourists are served by locals. Tourism is relaxing; tourists see the sights. Travel, on the other hand, is arriving at a destination. Travel is educational, travelers meet with locals and are stimulated to understand.

Travelers don’t know where they’re going
and tourists don’t know where they’ve been.
—Paul Theroux

Storti weaves in recent discoveries in neuroscience and recounts powerful passages from some of the world’s greatest travel narratives to support his thesis, including the story from Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars of the first time the Moors realized the Sahara was a desert and so very dry compared to other parts of the world—after they’d travelled and seen their first waterfall (p. 35). The reader thus learns that impressions formed abroad change how we see home once we return. He presents and reframes basic intercultural concepts in the context of travel: “You don’t see what is in front of you; you see your brain’s perception of it” (p. 24), sharing with us how JG Farrell saw blood spatters on the pavement during his journey through India, when in reality the red he was seeing was betel juice (Indian Diary), or Storti’s own inability to identify what his eyes were seeing when he first glimpsed icebergs from the air.

Each act of seeing informs and enhances all subsequent acts;
the more we have seen, the more we are subsequently able to see.
Why Travel Matters, p. 32

In Chapter 4 Storti provides a table of cultural dimensions, writing that travel helps “you realize most people behave logically most of the time. You may not approve of their logic… but once you realize there are reasons behind their behavior you begin to accept that it makes sense.” He does occasionally get over-zealous, in my opinion, continuing on to optimistically tell readers, “There will never be people you cannot understand.”

Knowledge of ourselves—what we at Cultural Detective call “subjective culture,” meaning knowledge of ourselves as unique individuals influenced by multiple layers of culture—gives us choice over who and how we are in this world.

One’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.
—Henry Miller

Storti concludes in Chapter 5 by providing a list of eleven best practices or tips on traveling for personal growth. These include:

  1. Travel alone.
  2. Stay out of touch/off the grid; you can’t have an experience and share it at the same time, attempts at the latter diminish the former.
  3. Collect sights not sites.
  4. Secure an introduction, a friend of a friend or colleague, to provide you a look inside the life of a local resident.
  5. Frequent places where you’ll find locals.
  6. Be a regular.
  7. Get inside someone’s home.
  8. Read about the country before and during your travel.
  9. Enjoy yourself.

Why Travel Matters includes three appendices: an interesting collection of rules for travel from other authors; a selection of quotes from people who are against travel, which feels a bit out of place or forced; and a wonderful list of the world’s great travel books—several of which I’m confident you’ll want to add to your reading list. Here’s to enjoying and benefitting from the journey!

There is all the difference in the world between behaving academically,
with the intellect, and behaving personally, intimately,
with the whole living self.
Proverbs are platitudes until you have experienced the truth of them.
—Aldous Huxley