Awesome New Webinar Series!

eventbriteCultural Detective offers a series of complimentary webinars that you, your colleagues, clients, and prospects should most definitely attend. In the introductory 90-minute webinar, “Cross-Cultural Effectiveness,” participants learn the basic Cultural Detective Method for analyzing interactions in context and using differences as assets, and they receive a three-day pass to the Cultural Detective Online system to explore later on their own. If you haven’t attended, we urge you to do so. And, seriously, invite your colleagues, clients, students, prospects, neighbors; this is great free marketing—many in our community use it as one of the steps in their sales funnel. And don’t forget those in the educational arena—quite a few professors now require Cultural Detective for their classes.

In addition to our introductory webinars, this year we have added four NEW standard webinars, AND we are adding a special series of four online workshops on Latin America! We invite you to join us for one or all of these exciting webinars.

https-cdn-evbuc-com-images-27476928-52936038434-1-originalCheck out our new special four-part series called “Latin America and Its Place in World Life.” The first online workshop will focus on the Andes Region, the second on the Cone South, the third on Central America including México, and the last on the Caribbean Islands. If you attend all four, you will receive a one-month pass to Cultural Detective Online and one hour of consulting from Fernando Parrado, principal facilitator of the webinars, founder of Global Minds, and co-author of Cultural Detective Colombia. Here’s the series description:

  • Latin America has assumed a key leadership role in exploring innovative solutions for restructuring societal inequity and promoting responsible development and the sustainable use of natural resources. Many of these efforts are based on popular, direct-democratic movements, including indigenous social movements. Eleven nations include multiculturalism and multilingualism in their constitutions, and an additional four recognize indigenous rights. The region’s economy is the third largest with a GDP of $5,573,397 million USD, its population was estimated at more than 604 million (third in the world), and biggest world territory (it has an area of approximately 19,197,000 km2).Yet Latin America has been culturally misunderstood! It is often treated as a single market with shared language, religion, history and culture, but the region envelops important differences. This highly experiential workshop will enable participants to explore the richness, complexity, irony, and promise of the hundreds of cultures that comprise Latin America.

Superman is property of DC Comics; original photo is probably ©Warner Brothers

Our four newly launched webinars are:

  1. Cultural Self Discovery in CD Online
    During this 90-minute online learning event, participants will learn how Cultural Detective Online allows you to make Personal Values Lenses, a powerful tool for developing understanding of oneself as a cultural being, knowledge that can help you more fully understand why you respond the way you do, and explain yourself to others who may not share your values. Personal Values Lenses can be overlaid and compared with national Values Lenses or Values Lenses of different generations, spiritual traditions, genders, or sexual orientations. Personal Values Lenses are also incredibly helpful tools for enhancing team, family, or community effectiveness. Participants will also leave with a new cross-cultural activity.
  2. Group Collaboration in CD Online
    The value of social and collaborative learning are undisputed, and Cultural Detective Online harnesses the power of such learning simply and easily. During this 60-minute online learning event, participants will learn how to: set up and manage group subscriptions, subscribe and unsubscribe group members and enable them to collaboratively write critical incidents and debriefs, instruct group members to share their work with you (or keep it private), approve or edit submissions, and share submissions with other group members. Participants will receive the PowerPoint slides used in the presentation.
  3. Building Intercultural Competence in an Organization Using Cultural Detective
    In an age when our world communities are polarized like never before, Cultural Detective is an effective tool for bridging differences, resolving conflict, and engaging in difficult dialogues. During this 60-minute online learning event, participants will explore some of our client’s best practices for building intercultural competence, effectiveness, and innovation by making the most of Cultural Detective Online in their organizations. We will cover both strategies and techniques, small projects and organization-wide efforts. Participants will also leave with a new cross-cultural activity.
  4. How is Cultural Detective Different from Other Intercultural Tools?
    These days we are blessed with a broad selection of intercultural communication and diversity tools, exercises, and techniques. Yet, the vast majority of these are based on cultural dimensions—a terrific model for comparing cultures, though not necessarily effective for bridging them, and particularly not for helping us build respect, equity, and justice in our world. During this 60-minute online learning event, participants will take a look at some of the features that make Cultural Detective Online effective and unique in the marketplace, as well as key requisites to developing intercultural competence.

Seats are limited, so be sure to reserve yours today!

Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America

P1280469The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is a huge contribution to our intercultural field, a long overdue volume to which dozens of professionals from multiple disciplines worldwide have contributed. I am honored to be counted among them.

My primary expertise over the three-and-a-half decades of my career has been multicultural, virtual team effectiveness, global managerial competence, and Japan. Thus, when the Encyclopedia’s editor, Janet Bennett, called to ask me to author Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America, I was incredibly intimidated.

Latin America (México), has been my home for the past eight years. I absolutely love it here. I frequently travel for work and pleasure to other nations in the region. But Latin America is a fairly new professional topic area for me. However, I agreed to author the entry because I wanted to be sure that this region—so hugely important on the world stage today—was not overlooked.

There are interesting social, environmental, and political movements in Latin America that I don’t see happening elsewhere; the region has a lot to teach the world, an important voice to contribute. Sadly, outsiders often lump the region together into one monolithic whole. Yet the reality is that there is huge diversity within Latin America—and within each country in the region. Heck, it’s hard just to get people to agree which nations are included in “Latin America” and which aren’t!

The Cultural Detective series includes several excellent packages on Latin America, including CD Argentina, CD Brazil, CD Chile, CD Colombia, CD Dominican Republic, CD Mexico, and CD Latino/Hispanic. These are tools to help develop our skills, our abilities to work with and live in harmony with people from these cultures. Thus, they are excellent complements to the academic-oriented, knowledge-based encyclopedia entry.

I highly recommend you purchase the complete two-volume encyclopedia, published by Sage in 2015, or ask your local librarian to add it to their collection. Here’s what Sage says about the full volume:

In 1980, SAGE published Geert Hofstede’s Culture’s Consequences. It opens with a quote from Blaise Pascal: “There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees that are falsehoods on the other.” The book became a classic—one of the most cited sources in the Social Science Citation Index—and subsequently appeared in a second edition in 2001. This new SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence picks up on themes explored in that book.

Cultural competence refers to the set of attitudes, practices, and policies that enables a person or agency to work well with people from differing cultural groups. Other related terms include cultural sensitivity, transcultural skills, diversity competence, and multicultural expertise. What defines a culture? What barriers might block successful communication between individuals or agencies of differing cultures? How can those barriers be understood and navigated to enhance intercultural communication and understanding? These questions and more are explained within the pages of this new reference work.

Key Features:

  • 300 to 350 entries organized in A-to-Z fashion in two volumes
  • Signed entries that conclude with Cross-References and Suggestions for Further Readings
  • Thematic “Reader’s Guide” in the front matter grouping  related entries by broad topic areas
  • Chronology that provides a historical perspective of the development of cultural competence as a discrete field of study
  • Resources appendix and a comprehensive Index

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence is an authoritative and rigorous source on intercultural competence and related issues, making it a must-have reference for all academic libraries.

The publishers have given me permission to share my three entries, so here is the link for you to read Communicating Across Cultures with People from Latin America. I would very much like to thank those colleagues who generously shared their expertise, differing viewpoints and experience with me as I worked on this entry: Patricia Coleman, Lucy Linhares, Adriana Medina, Fernando Parrado, and Shirley Saenz. Any errors are, of course, my own, but their input greatly enriched the finished product. Please let me know what you would add or reword!

By the way, if you are interested in Latin America, I invite you to join Fernando Parrado and me for “Latin America and Its Place in World Life” (Session I, Workshop 6) at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication, on the Reed College Campus, Portland, Oregon, July 13-15, 2016.

Inteligencia Cultural para América Latina—Ciclo de webinars interculturales

BlogLa globalización y la tecnología han incrementado el comercio, los negocios internacionales y el número de empresas que se expanden alrededor del mundo, dinámica que ha provocado que sean cada vez más los profesionales y ejecutivos que interactúan con otros países y los equipos de trabajo que se forman con personas de diferentes culturas.

Este creciente contexto multicultural, relativamente nuevo para América Latina gracias al papel protagónico que ha venido jugando en los últimos años a nivel internacional, plantea grandes desafíos tanto para las empresas como para cada uno de los individuos que conforman su fuerza laboral. Cada vez son más las multinacionales y empresas latinoamericanas que deciden trasladar sus operaciones globales o regionales a distintos países latinoamericanos y que requieren que sus equipos colaboren y trabajen efectivamente a nivel global, y sobretodo que sean capaces de aprovechar las oportunidades que ofrece este contexto global y multicultural.

Con el objetivo de comenzar a desarrollar las competencias interculturales necesarias en los profesionales globales de América Latina, desde ICEBERG Inteligencia Cultural hemos creado un ciclo abierto y gratuito de webinars interculturales. Este ciclo ha sido diseñado para:
  1. Profesionales y ejecutivos trabajando con personas de otros países, ya sea de manera presencial o virtual
  2. Profesionales del área de RRHH, Capacitación y Desarrollo, Gestión del talento.
  3. Empresarios globales, expatriados e interesados en cuestiones interculturales

web1Webinar 1

La diversidad cultural no es un eslogan, sino un hecho empresarial y laboral diario. Tus colegas, clientes y proveedores probablemente son de culturas diferentes, por lo que necesitas comprender sus valores y comportamientos para gestionarlos y satisfacer sus necesidades. La habilidad para trabajar, comunicar y negociar interculturalmente, constituye una competencia fundamental. En este webinar exploraremos los 7 errores culturales más comunes que les impiden a los profesionales con algún grado de exposición internacional, ser efectivos a nivel intercultural. Mientras más consciente seas de ellos, más fácil te será evitarlos, y entonces, estarás dando el primer paso fundamental hacia el desarrollo de inteligencia cultural.

Fecha: Jueves 10 de octubre de 2013
Argentina: 12 pm • Colombia: 10 am • México: 10 am

Facilitador: Marcelo Baudino
Marcelo es el fundador y director de ICEBERG Inteligencia Cultural, la primera firma argentina especializada en el desarrollo de habilidades interculturales, un servicio de consultoría intercultural innovador para la región. Marcelo es un experto en el diseño y la facilitación de talleres y programas de entrenamiento intercultural para multinacionales y está especializado en América Latina, Estados Unidos y los países del BRICS. Ha impartido cursos para empresas como Deloitte, Cargill, ExxonMobil, Banco Itaú, SC Johnson, Chevron, Tarjeta Naranja, entre otras. Ver perfil de LinkedIn.

Regístrate aquí

web2Webinar 2

Este contexto global e interconectado en el que trabajamos actualmente, nos trae un sinnúmero de oportunidades que claramente queremos aprovechar:
  • La tecnología nos permite desarrollar proyectos y crear equipos con expertos de todo el mundo. Sin embargo, lo que lleva a un equipo multicultural y geográficamente disperso a ser efectivo, son las habilidades interculturales, algo nuevo para muchos de nosotros.
  • Clientes internacionales expresan su interés en nuestros productos y servicios. Sin embargo, ¿Cómo construir relaciones de confianza y entrar en nuevos mercados de manera rentable y sostenible?
  • Queremos ser lo más competitivos posible a nivel global, pero ¿qué significa esto?

Los participantes en este seminario adquirirán herramientas para mejorar sus habilidades a la hora de trabajar en equipos multiculturales, liderar proyectos regionales e internacionales y gestionar una fuerza laboral culturalmente diversa. También recibirán acceso a recursos interculturales y un plan para el desarrollo de competencias interculturales.

Fecha: Jueves 24 de octubre de 2013
Argentina: 2 pm • Colombia: 12 pm • México: 12 pm

Facilitador: Dianne Hofner Saphiere, M.S.

Bio: Dianne ha trabajado activamente en el ámbito de la formación y consultoría intercultural desde 1979, en colaboración con personas de más de 130 países y tres continentes. Su lista de clientes incluye ABB, Hyundai-Kia, Microsoft, Mitsui, Royal Dutch Shell, Schneider Electric, Telecom New Zealand, y Texas Instruments, organizaciones de intercambio internacional como AFS y CIEE, y universidades de todo el mundo. Dianne es la creadora del Cultural Detective®, un sistema dinámico de herramientas para alcanzar la efectividad intercultural y co-autora del libro Communication Highwire: Leveraging the Power of Diverse Communication Styles, publicado por Intercultural Press. Ver perfil de LinkedIn.

Regístrate aquí

web3Webinar 3

La creciente exposición a culturas de todas partes del mundo deja en evidencia la necesidad de prepararse no sólo como individuo, sino también como organización. Ya sea a través de una estructura de organización regional, de un programa de asignaciones internacionales, de un centro global de servicios compartidos o de un joint venture con una empresa extranjera, hoy en día las empresas necesitan desarrollar los procesos y estructuras internas que faciliten la incorporación y el desarrollo de profesionales con aptitud global. En este webinar los participantes conocerán herramientas y técnicas para fomentar el desarrollo de Inteligencia Cultural.  Examinaremos como a través de los procesos de reclutamiento, programas de formación, asignaciones internacionales y el diseño de valores organizacionales, se puede transformar la diversidad cultural de la compañía en una ventaja competitiva.

Fecha: Jueves 7 de noviembre de 2013
Argentina: 2 pm • Colombia: 12 pm • México: 12 pm

Facilitador: Shirley Saenz

Bio: Shirley Saenz es formadora y consultora intercultural en ICEBERG Inteligencia Cultural, firma líder de consultoría intercultural en América Latina y miembro de la junta directiva de SIETAR Argentina (Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research). Ha investigado sobre las diferencias culturales entre los países de América Latina, la comunicación intercultural y la efectividad de equipos multiculturales. Durante los últimos años, Shirley ha estado viviendo y trabajando en países como Colombia, Francia, China, Brasil, Argentina y los Estados Unidos, lo cual le ha permitido adquirir un profundo conocimiento de estas culturas, y también fluidez en inglés, francés, portugués y español. Shirley se ha certificado en el Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication en Portland, Oregon, en “Métodos para la formación intercultural”, “Liderazgo personal: Trabajo en equipos interculturales efectivos” y “Cultura, comunicación y colaboración en equipos virtuales”. Ver perfil de LinkedIn.

Regístrate aquí

Film Review: Machuca

Machuca movie posterHow about watching a terrific film from Chile? Our local rental place had a closeout a few weeks ago, and one of the DVDs we happened upon was Machuca, a 2004 film by Andrés Wood. What a terrific find!

I am often asked about status and class in Latin America by those who come from more egalitarian societies. Navigating class differences has been one of our greatest challenges living in México; neither life in the US, Spain, nor Japan equipped us for the expected and often desired separateness here. While a period piece, Machuca viscerally illustrates the class differences and tensions of the era, and I would recommend it as a worthwhile resource.

Machuca takes place in Chile during the final years of Salvador Allende’s government — the first Marxist ever to be elected head of a democracy — and ends about the time of General Augusto Pinochet’s military coup d’état. Taking place during this period of heightened civil unrest, this is fundamentally a story about the friendship of two boys: Gonzalo and Pedro, who come from opposite sides of the river and opposite ends of society. Thus, we get a micro and a macro-level taste of class tension.

Gonzalo is a “junior,” the son of a wealthy family who attends St. Patrick’s, an elite Catholic boys’ school. He is frequently forced to accompany his mother during her afternoon trysts. Pedro (Machuca) lives in a shanty town, and is the son of the woman who cleans house for Gonzalo’s family. Pedro is one of a group of “scholarship students” that the head priest has invited to St. Patrick’s in an attempt to create a bit of equity in society.

The movie shows how difficult it is for these new students to integrate, and there is a memorable bullying scene in which Gonzalo defends Pedro. We gain insight into the home lives of both boys, proving of course that richer or poorer, life is not all roses.

The backdrop to the main story is, of course, a Chile in turmoil. Gonzalo’s own parents seem to come down on opposite sides of the issue, his mother content as a socialite, his father at least to some degree believing in the need for increased equity. The street demonstration scenes capture the anger, the power, and the fear of the time.

We witness the backlash of the parents at school to the priest’s “communist” tendencies, because he attempts to integrate groups they feel best remain separate. We glimpse the resourcefulness of Pedro’s “uncle,” who makes a living selling flags to both sides: the Marxists and the traditionalists. We hear about land redistribution and industry nationalization through radio broadcasts and posters in the streets. In movies like Machuca, stories about young friends trying to make sense of the world around them, there is usually a girl. In this case, she is the girl with whom both boys learn how to kiss. And she is most definitely and passionately a socialist.

Watching this film you will learn a lot about Chilean history, the ingrained status in Latin America, and the difficulty in bridging rich and poor and vice versa. If you’re anything like the members of my family, you’ll be talking about it for days afterwards. I’d urge you to get out your copy of Cultural Detective Chile, particularly the Chilean Values Lens, to aid your discussions of the movie. Enjoy! And please, let me know what you think!

Cantemos las mañanitas

(English follows the Spanish)
Para muchos de nosotros los que hemos pasado alguna temporada de nuestra vida en un punto geográfico de América Latina, escuchar Las mañanitas nos hace brincar el corazón. Las hemos tomado prestadas de la tierra azteca, de México lindo y querido y nos hemos apropiado de más de una versión para celebrar el día de cumpleaños.

Pues bien, cantemos hoy Las mañanitas al unísono para este blog y el proyecto que Cultural Detective ha emprendido con el fin de llevarnos de la mano en el camino de la interculturalidad. En uno de sus versos dice  “despierta mi bien despierta, mira que ya amaneció, ya los pajaritos cantan la luna ya se ocultó”.

(Una versión con un personaje italiano que conocí como argentino, el Topo Gigio)

Que salga el sol entonces para todos y podamos seguir enriqueciendo este espacio, este encuentro de mundos, ideas, sabores y colores. Que podamos entretodos establecer el entendimiento de las mentes que puedan traer juntos a los pueblos.

Felicidades Dianne, Felicidades Cultural Detective.

Let’s Sing Happy Birthday

For many of us who have passed a portion of our lives in the geographic area that is Latin America, hearing “Las Mañanitas” brings joy to our hearts. We have received the song on loan from the land of the Aztecs, from “Mexico beautiful and beloved,” and we have appropriated more than one version of it to celebrate our birthdays.

So, today, we sing Las Mañanitas in unison for this blog and for the Cultural Detective project, which has been undertaken to promote our journey towards interculturalism. In one of the song’s verses it says, “Wake up my dear, wake up, look what has risen, the birds are already singing and the moon has disappeared.”

The above video is a version of the song with Topo Gigio, an Italian personality that I thought was an Argentino.

I trust the sun will come out for everyone, and that we can continue enriching this space, this meeting of worlds, ideas, flavors and colors. I hope that together we can establish an understanding of the minds that brings people of all communities together.

Congratulations, Dianne, congratulations Cultural Detective.

El candidato ideal

(English follows the Spanish)

En un mundo cada vez más interconectado y globalizado, las asignaciones internacionales suelen ser más frecuentes para empleados de empresas multinacionales. Dado lo anterior las empresas han dispuesto de grandes esfuerzos y recursos para optimizar su selección del candidato ideal para las vacantes que surjan y poder iniciar el proceso de expatriación (traslado laboral a otro país con beneficios para el empleado y su familia).

Los llamados departamentos de personal o recursos humanos han alineado sus procesos de reclutamiento y selección con el fin de optimizar la búsqueda y el tan ahnelado hallazgo de quien cumple con los requisitos del cargo y adicionalmente sea capaz adaptarse a un entorno que puede ser similar y muy distante del actual.

A priori se consideran el dominio de los idiomas o experiencias previas en otros países y culturas, lo que podríamos denominar un bagaje intercultural. Sin embargo esto no siempre resulta, ni para la empresa ni para el expatriado.

Conozco dos casos contrastantes de primera mano. Los dos llegaron aquí a Bogotá, de dos países diferentes y para dos asignaciones igualmente diferentes.

El primero venía de Europa, de uno de esos países con cultura monosincrónica, bastante rígido con el tiempo y de los que la puntualidad es un tema que no tiene discusión. Había vivido en Estados Unidos y varios lugares de Europa, incluyendo España por lo cual domina el castellano (con el ceceo que decimos los latinos, yo digo que los españoles hablan siempre con ortografía), soltero, sin hijos y sin pareja. Cambiaba de industria, pero su trabajo vincularía a partir del área comercial su país natal y Colombia como puerta de entrada a América Latina. Llegó con lo que los locales consideramos un muy buen salario, un apartamento en una zona lujosa de la ciudad (cerca a su nueva oficina) y todo el apoyo de su empresa para comenzar una nueva sucursal en mi país. Su tiempo estimado de dos a tres años inicialmente.

Por otro lado, tenemos a un hombre que venía de Israel sin hablar una sílaba de español, casado (llegó con dos hijos, hoy ya tiene tres ) quien vino por una asignación puntual de seis meses. Llegó solo y solamente a dirigir un proyecto de infraestructura en la ciudad. Se enfrentó a dirigir cien operarios y, si podemos decir, a golpes comprender por qué la cerveza es parte del presupuesto de muchas familias de estos empleados a su cargo. Tuvo que lidiar temas familiares, de rendimiento del trabajo individual y de grupo. Aprendió de primera fuente cómo era la contratación pública en Colombia.

Dos escenarios totalmente opuestos y con resultados igualmente contrastantes.

El primero a pesar de su buena voluntad, su dominio del idioma… no logró adaptarse a nuestro entorno, cultura e impuntualidad. Cuando hablaba con él recordaba mi propia vivencia cuando en el Caribe me era tan complicado sentirme fluir. Tuve amigos, pasé momentos muy especiales… pero siempre había algo que me decía, no es tu lugar. En fin, así le pasó a este ejecutivo que no completó el primer año de contrato y se regresó a su país. La última vez que nos comunicamos estaba de paso en Singapur, volvió a su anterior industria y por Facebook me entero de sus movimientos alrededor del planeta (Australia, Alemania, Francia, Estados Unidos…) no ha regresado a Colombia, espero que nos podamos volver a encontrar y disfrutar una buena copa juntos.

El segundo ya habla muy bien español, lleva siete años en el país y ahora ha fundado su propia empresa con talento en un 90% colombiano. Su familia vive con él, y su hijo menor nació aquí. A pesar de tantas diferencias entre su cultura y la nuestra, aprendió a nadar en nuestro rio y podría afirmar que se mueve como pez en el agua. Se proyecta como representante de varias empresas de su país en América Latina, y como dijo uno de nuestros políticos alguna vez… es como si dijera “aquí estoy y aquí me quedo”.

A primera vista el primero de los candidatos se perfilaba como el candidato ideal para quedarse (conozco por cierto muchos solteros que llegan, se casan y se quedan en mi país gracias a la buena fama de las mujeres), pero no fue así y el que parecía que no se quedaría más allá de su asignación regresó a su país por su familia para traerla consigo y quedarse indefinidamente.

No dudo que los departamentos de personal o recursos humanos asociados a cada uno de estos casos y sus esferzos de “relocation” fueron minuciosos, estudiados y abordados con profunda seriedad y profesionalismo. Pienso que a veces, el paso adicional nos corresponde a los que aplicamos y ser muy honestos con nosotros mismos y en la evaluación previa de las nuevas condiciones de vida.

Nuestro desafío desde el punto de vista intercultural es brindar las herramientas adicionales que permitan tomar la decisión más acertada según las condiciones disponibles y hacer el acompañamiento de entrenamiento para su nuevo destino desde el punto de vista de la vida diaria, cultura de negocios, la vida para el empleado y su familia, entre muchos otros.

Debemos entender que no es ni bueno ni malo sentirnos o no a gusto en otro lugar (país, región, entorno). Sin embargo sí debemos conocer lo que más nos impacta (a nosotros y cuando aplique nuestras familias) y por ende identificar en qué lugar nos podemos trasladar para cumplir con el trabajo y además llevar una vida a gusto con nuestra familia.

The Ideal Candidate

By Maryori Vivas, translated by Dianne Hofner Saphiere

In a world that is increasingly interconnected and globalized, international assignments seem ever more frequent for employees of multinational companies. Given the above, firms have invested great efforts and resources to optimize their selection of ideal candidates to fill job vacancies and to be able to initiate the expatriation process (job transfer to another country with benefits for the employee and family).

Personnel and human resource departments have aligned their recruitment and selection processes to optimize the search for those who meet the requirements of the position and who are also capable of adapting to an environment that can be at the same time very similar and very different from their home environment.

It’s considered logical that a successful candidate would have mastery of the new language or previous experience living abroad, but that is not always the case.

I have firsthand knowledge of two contrasting cases. Both transferees arrived here in Bogotá from different countries and for two very different job assignments.

The first person came from Europe, from one of those countries with a monochronic culture, fairly rigid about time, with the belief that punctuality is not a matter for debate. He had lived in North America and various places around Europe, including Spain, and for that reason spoke Castilian well (with the lisp about which Latinos say, “Spaniards always speak with good spelling”). He was single, had no children and no partner. He had changed industries, and his new job involved commercially linking his birth country with Colombia as a gateway to Latin America. The position came with what locals would consider a very good salary, an apartment in an upscale area of the city (near his new office), and the full support of the company to start a new branch in my country. His assignment was estimated to be two to three years, initially.

The contrasting case was a man from Israel, who arrived without speaking even a syllable of Spanish, married (when he arrived he had two children, and today has three), who came for a short-term, six-month assignment. He arrived alone with the single objective of directing an infrastructure project in the city. He needed to manage one hundred operators and, if I might say so, via the school of hard knocks he learned to understand why beer is part of the family budgets of so many of those he supervised. He was thrown into managing employee family issues, individual performance issues, as well as group dynamics. He learned firsthand about public contracting in Colombia.

These were two scenarios that were totally opposite and with results that were equally different.

The first gentleman, despite his goodwill and language skills, failed to adapt himself to our environment, the culture and the tardiness. When I spoke with him I was reminded of my own experience living in the Caribbean, where I found it so complicated to get in the flow of things. I had friends, I had some very special moments, but always there was something telling me, “this is not your place.” In the end, what happened is that this executive returned home before even completing the first year of his multi-year contract. The last time I was in touch with him he was passing through Singapore. He had returned to the previous industry in which he had worked, and I found out via Facebook about his travels all over the world (Australia, Germany, France, USA). He has not returned to Colombia, though I hope we can meet up again some day and enjoy a good drink together.

The second gentleman now speaks Spanish very well. He has spent seven years in country and has now founded his own company with 90% Colombian talent. His family lives with him, and his youngest son was born here. Despite so many differences between his culture and ours, he learned to swim in our river and I can affirm that he moves here like a fish in water. He acts as a Latin American representative for several companies from his country, and as one of our politicians once said, it’s as if he said, “I am here and here I’ll remain.”

At initial glance the first candidate seemed to have the ideal profile for a long-term stay (I definitely know many bachelors who arrive, marry and stay in my country thanks to the good fame of our women), but it was not to be. The one who it would have seemed would not remain beyond a short initial assignment ended up returning to his country to collect his family and bring them back with him to stay here indefinitely.

I have no doubt that the personnel and human resource departments associated with each of these cases engaged in thorough and studied relocation efforts, discussing them with deep seriousness and professionalism. I think that at times, however, the extra step needed is for those of us who apply for overseas assignment to be very honest with ourselves about our life conditions, needs and desires.

Our challenge from an intercultural perspective is to provide additional tools that allow people to make the right decisions according to current realities, and to accompany that with training on daily life, business culture, and personal and social life for the employee and family in the new destination.

We must understand that feeling at home or not in another place (country, region, environment) is not in and of itself good or bad. The key is that we need to know ourselves and our families, what most affects us, and thus be able to discern where we can move in order to conduct our work and maintain a comfortable life with our families.


“Interculturalidad” – View on Interculturalism from Latin America

During my recent and incredibly learning- and success-filled trip to Colombia, a client asked me to do a short presentation on the state of intercultural competence in Latin America. Such a small request, right (asked wryly and facetiously)? I live in México, but after four years I sure don’t count myself a culture-specific expert, and I am surely not qualified to speak for over half the hemisphere! So, what to do? Turn to an esteemed colleague’s expertise, of course. In this case, I turned to Adriana Medina (and her co-author, John Sinnigen).

The beauty of the source article I used, “Interculturality vs. Intercultural Competencies in Latin America,” is that the authors introduce facts and history we all know, but they put them into a context in such a way that makes total sense and creates new meaning. At least for me.

For example, one of their points is how Latin Americans have lived interculturality for hundreds of years if not longer: wars, imperialism and commerce between the many distinct indigenous cultures, then conquistadores, colonialism, slavery and intercontinental commerce. Intercultural competence on this stage is not some new import during the current age of global economic interdependence. Rather, Latin America’s gold, silver, emeralds and such were important to European economies beginning centuries ago. The authors’ point is, one of the valuable contributions that Latin American interculturalidad can add to the largely northern and western-originated notions of intercultural communication or intercultural competence is this: power, specifically power imbalances.

“Interculturality, the preferred term in Latin America, refers to a historic condition, a radical restructuring of the historically uneven relations of wealth and power that have existed between Europeans and their descendants and indigenous and other subordinated groups during the last half millennium. The aim is decolonization of institutions and the sociocultural fabric of the country.”
— A. Medina-López-Portillo and John H. Sinnigen, “Interculturality vs. Intercultural Competencies in Latin America,” chapter 13 in Deardorff 2009, Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence

In their article the authors present six strengths that Latin American interculturalidad can contribute to the intercultural communication and competence field. And, speaking for myself, our field is in huge need of hearing and incorporating these perspectives into our theory and practice! Contributions of interculturalidad, according to Medina and Sinnigen,  include that it:
  1. Is counter-hegemonic; focuses on the balance of power
  2. Starts with the needs of marginalized cultures (diverse indigenous movements from Mexico to Bolivia and Ecuador)
  3. Advocates mutual respect and economic and political equality rather than the acculturation of the oppressed
  4. Incorporates Andean/Amazonian concepts such as respect for Pachamama, good living, communitarian practices
  5. Multilingual integration
  6. Decades of dialogue leading to constitutional specificity

I want to thank this client for making this request of me, as it spurred me to learn more about a colleague’s work, and also to learn more about the work of Nestor García Canclini (more about his work in another blog post). I also want to thank Adri and John, whose work, I feel, is very important. I hope this might spur more of us to read, incorporate and build on their findings.

I have posted three PowerPoint slides summarizing this article, and you are welcome to download and use them if they might serve you. Please be sure to retain all source references, including the authors’ and Cultural Detective‘s. Together we can make a difference!

What do you think about the authors’ premises? How might we help the intercultural field to incorporate the Latin American perspective? How do you handle power differences in your work? I look forward to hearing from you!

Born and raised in Mexico City, Adriana Medina-López-Portillo is Assistant Professor of Intercultural Communication and Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, Linguistics and Intercultural Communication at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She is an accomplished intercultural trainer, having designed and led workshops for higher education, not-for-profit, governmental, and corporate clients in the United States and abroad. Among her favorite appointments are training for The Scholar Ship, a transnational academic program housed on a passenger ship, and offering pre-departure and on site orientations for the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia. John Sinnigen is Prof. of Spanish and Intercultural Communication at UMBC.  He is the co-editor of América para todos los americanos:  prácticas interculturales (Mexico: UNAM, 2012).

Global Competitiveness Events in Bogotá Colombia

Cultural Detective is very proud to partner in bringing several leading-edge intercultural events to Bogotá, Colombia. We hope you can join us! Please pass this announcement on to your professional and social networks so that we might let everyone know about these unique opportunities.

On Thursday May 10

We will officially launch the Colombia Transfórmate program and the Cultural Detective Colombia package. Cultural Detective President Dianne Hofner Saphiere will facilitate a workshop which will be followed by a cocktail reception. This terrific evening is not to be missed! Cultural Detective is very honored to be part of this incredible project.

On Monday May 14

We will hold a high-energy event designed to ready Colombians to reap the benefits of their recent Free Trade Agreements with Canada and the USA, and upcoming agreements with the European Union and South Korea. Anyone wishing to improve their cross-cultural business acumen will find attendance extremely valuable. We believe this is one of the first-ever public workshops on intercultural communication in Colombia. The workshop will be facilitated by Fernando Parrado of Global Minds, Andrés Forero of the Forero Medina Abogados Asociados, and Dianne Hofner Saphiere of Cultural Detective.

Sponsor These Two Events

Put your organization’s name in the hands of thousands of first-tier Colombians by purchasing a sponsorship. Show your commitment to global effectiveness, and to Colombia! Sponsorship opportunities start at an incredible US$1350, and include two seats at both the Thursday and Monday events, an exhibit table, an introduction of your organization, and your logo on event banners.

Act quickly, as these very affordable sponsorship opportunities will be available for only two weeks.

On Wednesday May 9

Dianne will also present a seminar on intercultural and global business competence for students and staff at Sergio Arboleda University. The seminar will take place on day three of the university’s fifth think tank entitled, Marketing, Sociedad e Interculturalidad: Una Mirada desde la Globalización.