Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow and Blended Culture People

51hYScOQ17L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_I just read a blog post that I found really interesting. It explains a bit about me from a perspective I hadn’t really thought about before. And, I feel it speaks to many Blended Culture people of the world. What is “Blended Culture”?

“The term ‘Blended Culture’ is used to describe individuals who, by birth, upbringing, and/or adult experience hold multiple frames of cultural reference within themselves. These individuals may include those who have extensive international life experience or those whose exposure to different cultures took place within a single national context.”
Cultural Detective Blended Culture

The blog post I so enjoyed was written by Matthew Schuler and is entitled, Why Creative People Sometimes Make No SenseIn it Matthew summarizes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s book, Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People.

I remember reading Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, but I don’t remember him talking about the nine points Matthew summarizes. Perhaps it’s just that I read the book too long ago.

You perhaps admire Csikszentmihalyi, as I do. He is a seminal professor of Psychology and Management, and the Founding Co-Director of the Quality of Life Research Center at the Claremont Graduate University. His work focuses on happiness and creativity, and he is the architect of the concept of flow.

In his blog post Matthew quotes Csikszentmihalyi:

“I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”

Matthew shares with us nine contradictory traits frequently present in creative people. I am of the opinion that they are traits frequently present in Blended Culture people as well. To amplify that definition:

“Blended Culture: people who have had the experience of a culturally varied life, and who have integrated their multicultural experiences into a Blended Culture value set, and who are relatively high-functioning (constructive) despite the complex influence their Blended Culture values exert on their decisions and behaviors.”
Cultural Detective Blended Culture

Mihaly’s nine contradictions of creative people as Matthew summarizes them are:
  1. Energetic yet quiet/concentrating
  2. Smart and naïve
  3. Playful and productive, responsible and irresponsible
  4. Fluently alternate between fantasy and reality
  5. Humble yet proud
  6. Passionate yet objective about their work
  7. Have experienced suffering and pain, and found joy and life within it

Please let me know what you think in reading Matthew’s post, about the correlation between Blended Culture and Creative People behaviors. Perhaps the mere reality of having to, on a daily basis, reconcile oft-competing realities provides BC people ongoing practice with the creative experience? What do you think? At a minimum, it motivates me to want to read this other book! Those who have read it: please, tell us what you think.

Book Review: Global Dexterity

GlobalDexterity

Molinsky, Andy, Harvard Business Review Press. 2013.
ISBN10:1422187276, ISBN13:9781422187272

When it comes to cultural competence, there are some big gaps between knowing about, knowing how to, and actually developing and applying the skills to manage self in real situations. Andy Molinsky, in his new book, Global Dexterity: How to Adapt Your Behavior Across Cultures without Losing Yourself in the Process, has provided us with a methodology for bridging into the third and most critical of these steps. His choice of the word “dexterity” in the title of the book is well chosen to express the fact that we become effective when we have learned how to develop “muscle memory” to respond to real situations in intercultural management and in life, when on strange turf. It is about translating knowledge into behavior and acquiring the habits that make us good at it.

The insights Molinsky provides are not so much about how cultures differ, though the stories he tells make the reader fully aware of the dynamics of these differences. Certainly, one must know and recognize difference, but the book’s key insights are more about how we function wholistically in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Global Dexterity is a workbook, and the work is up to the user.

Molinsky helps us identify our own “culture code” and that of others — differences in what he calls prototypical thinking and behavior, which may belong to people, to a place or a situation, or to all three at a given moment. In other words, the “detective” work of sniffing out the rules for what is seen as appropriate behavior in a specific cultural setting. The now online Cultural Detective, though not explicitly mentioned in Molinsky’s book, is a good tool for this work. Also, “culture code” as used here should not be limited to the Jungian approach for decoding cultural discourse developed by Clotaire Rapaille, for those familiar with it, though that is also a relevant form of investigation.

Since the variations in code can be almost infinite and therefore paralyzing when it comes to seeking out the right approach to a culture, Molinsky insists we not look for a single “right” behavior, but for a “zone of appropriateness,” a range within which to operate successfully in each culture. He then provides a practical navigational framework for looking into what is most likely to differ as we face situations in this zone. He asks us to pay attention to the relative measures of how direct, enthusiastic, assertive, self promoting and disclosing our behaviors are in comparison with those of the other party. These measures are, admittedly, not exhaustive, but are likely to give us the solid return on our investment of time used to understand and adapt our behavior.

Once aware of the culture code and the zones of appropriateness, the question is how can one stretch one’s comfort zone to overlap with the appropriateness zone of the other’s cultural code. Of course this can be a two way street, but in any case one must diagnose the situation, customize one’s behavior options to fit or bridge the gap, and, ultimately, integrate the customized behavior to the point that it feels right and can become the “new normal” for the situations it fits.

The author identifies three psychological challenges along the way, and he provides a process for dealing with them. First, he uses the word authenticity to speak of the challenge raised by conflict with values and beliefs. Secondly comes competence — does one have the know-how and skill to actually perform the new behavior? The final challenge is dealing with resentment — even if one can perform the behavior, will he or she feel embittered about having to do so?

The helpful metaphor in discussing these challenges is “acting.” An actor needs to learn a new role for a specific part of a drama. Here too, mastering the role needs to be seen as positive acquisition, the realization of potential, rather than as a loss or suppression of self. Today’s language teachers realize this when they no longer speak of “accent reduction” but rather of “accent acquisition.” The search for “authenticity” (the real me) unfortunately is wed to US pop psychology. Objecting, “It’s just not me,” is often an obstacle or an excuse for avoiding the discomfort involved in widening one’s repertoire. Thus, the theater metaphor is particularly useful here. In learning and practicing new skills, it is okay to say, “No, it’s not me…yet…”

So how does one make adopting new paradigm or behavior acceptable to the old self? Besides thinking of it as theater, one can enhance the recognition and acceptance of new behavior by calling on one’s own inner diversity to change one’s perceptions, viz., by aligning the new behavior with one’s goals, weaving it in with other personal or cultural values, or by working to understand and accept the other culture’s logic. If this automatically sounds like rationalistic deviation from what one holds as norms, it must be remembered that we regularly play one value against another in making changes and decisions, and that cultures themselves have both conflicting and complementary discourse to help us navigate life. The author again offers us process, “workbook” pages, for applying this alignment process.

None of this adaptation is likely to occur simply by knowing about differences, and it is here that Molinsky has most to offer to intercultural pedagogy and pedagogues. Few people can incoporate new and alien behaviors spontaneously. It takes practice, practice, paractice, and it is this feature that is most neglected in current intercultural praxis. Gone are the days when a trainer had four or five days to offer participants enough hands-on exercises to try out and then integrate new behaviors in a process of familiarization, rehearsal, and “dress rehearsal” or application to real situations. The reader will have to do this on his or her own, so the author provides pages, tools and questions to facilitate this. There is a potential here for online learning that should be pursued, and Molinsky’s approaches would combine extremely well with a subscription to the Cultural Detective Online tool to provide the ongoing, structured learning needed.

Inevitably, Molinsky points out, we are awash in trial and error, in the challenge of experiential learning. So, he offers further help. There are tips on how to increase one’s chances of being forgiven one’s mistakes, how to look for a cultural model to pattern oneself after, or even how to find a mentor who understands you and your culture well enough to provide feedback, information and support.

What happens, however, when absolutes collide, when ethical standards will be violated if one adapts behavior and accepts practices that are beyond the pale? Here is where the “without losing yourself in the process” line of the book’s title most comes into play. Our creativity for building options is challenged. Humor, gentle insistence, and, if the stakes are not too high, simply contradicting the local norm in your behavior, are given as examples.

Molinsky concludes the book and sums up its import with five key takeaways that compare conventional attitudes about cultural adaptation with the realities that become actionable using the insights, the paradigms and the processes he proposes.

The book is well written and an easy read. The challenge comes if one truly uses the tools it provides to put adaptation into practice. This is incumbant on intercultural professionals who need to model it for their clientele and students. We need to play with Global Dexterity’s excellent start and take it further, lest the old adage, “Those who can do, do; those who can not do, teach!” be applied to preachers of cultural competence who fail to develop and practice “dexterity.”

The Power of French Food Culture…Even for Selling Men’s Underwear!

underwear omeletteAnother guest blog by the wonderful Joe Lurie—I will say that I’m about ready to get on a plane and enroll in Joe’s next class!

As a follow-up to my blog posts, Bicycling in the Yogurt — the French Food Fixation and Ads as Catalysts for Intercultural Conversations, I’d like to share this French ad for men’s underwear, shared with me by a French student:

The ad shocked my Chinese students — underwear in the kitchen? References to a man’s genitals in a TV ad? Not only does it reflect in an amusing and extraordinary way the seduction of food in French culture, it also reveals a theme of sensuality commonly accepted in the French public square.

While there’s plenty of pornography in North America, a French marketing professional explained to me recently that using a bare breasted mermaid to sell an ordinary product in the United States simply did not work. And so, one understands why many visitors to France are shocked by bare breasted women on public beaches. Everything, in every culture, has its own culturally accepted place.

While discussing the French underwear ad, some of the French students noted that to break one’s eggs would often suggest breaking one’s balls — being a real pain. This occasioned a vigorous, animated debate, some French students insisting that breaking one’s eggs does mean breaking one’s balls, others countering with equal force that this was generally not true, rather at best a gross exaggeration. And so in that conversation emerged other common French values and related behaviors, emerging nearly verbatim as they appear in the Cultural Detective French Values Lens — the importance of debate, of challenging ideas, of being rational, of not exaggerating, of being precise. Listen to French conversation and you will hear, over and over again, the words preciser, “to be precise,” and il faut pas exaggerer— “one must not exaggerate!”

Joe Lurie is Executive Director Emeritus at University of California Berkeley’s International House, a cross-cultural communications trainer, consultant, university lecturer, and certified Cultural Detective facilitator. He is a frequent guest contributor to this blog.

Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.

I am a creator and destroyer of worlds – and so are you! (#3 in a series)

How We Construct Culture and Reality

In my previous posts (#1 in the series, #2 in the series), I stressed how important it is for us to develop a dynamic rather than a static view of culture. Today we will launch our boat on the river of culture and peer into its sometimes clear and often murky waters to come up with a better sense of what’s down there. We noticed last time how we are ever talking to ourselves. Everything we create is a result of this inner self-talk, this discourse, our listening. So the things that we call “culture,” in the broad sense of the word, arts, music, industry, all of these things are products of this the stories we tell ourselves, this dialogue that goes on within us and around us that helps us shape and break the rules by which we make and do things.

Blog 3.1

Dr. George Simons has long been researching the stories that make us who we are. In this series of blog posts he will be leading us in an examination of critical challenges that can lead us toward a fresh vision of culture. We will explore how we come to terms with our inner and shared identities and learn about how we construct the realities that shape our now and our future world.

I grew up in the USA. My father was a second-generation immigrant, which often meant trying to be “more American than the Americans” because it wasn’t okay to be “too immigrant.” My father would say to me again and again, “You can be anybody you want to. It’s up to you.” “You have to take charge of your life.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Such maxims and counsel that were repeated over and over again in my family, during my education, among my peers, in the groups I belonged to, became my outlook, my world, the culture that still flows in me.

Some things we don’t ever forget. When it rains, I still hear my mother’s voice, “Take your rubbers with you.” If you saw the film Outsourced about the manager expatriated to India, you no doubt had a good howl at his conversation with his workers about the meaning of “rubbers”. (If you missed it, have a look.) Rubbers, in my case, were neither erasers nor condoms, but rubber overshoes. I don’t have any now and I haven’t had any in years, but I can still hear my mother’s voice…

Cultural discourse takes the form of memories, stories in our heads and hearts that guide us about how to act, what to think. They shape our attitudes, provide our norms. They are the raw material of our culture. Even if, and especially if these pass into the background of our minds and we no longer explicitly hear them, the ideas and feelings contained in these memories still resonate with us and lead us on.

How do we construct a dynamic definition of culture?
My very favorite definition of culture doesn’t come from a textbook. It comes from a children’s book called Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez. His is the most disarming definition of culture I’ve ever laid eyes on:

“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. So, if stories come to you, care for them, and learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That’s why we put these stories in each other’s memory. This is how people care for themselves.”

Lopez furnishes us with a powerful, very powerful statement about how and why we create and pass on culture. Stories are told and retold in such a way as to shape us, giving us a common memory, common values and behavioral, even moral imperatives “for our own good.” Seeing culture this way, as adaptation to our environment, challenges our more static definitions.

Blog 3.2

Once upon a time, an anthropologist pitched tent in Borneo. Using an interpreter, he interviewed local people, looking for insight into the life and culture of the tribes native to the place. One day, questioning a local chieftain through the interpreter, the anthropologist couldn’t help noticing that the chieftain couldn’t take his eyes off a camp chair—you know, those seats with fold-up wooden frames. Nowadays, most have plastic or metal tubing, but a century ago they were simply canvas and wood. Finally, the anthropologist prompted the interpreter to ask about the chieftain’s fixation on the chair. The interpreter asked, “Why do you keep looking at the chair?” The chieftain replied quizzically, “Why do you stack your firewood that way?”

If you don’t have a use for something, you may not have a discourse for it. It may not even exist for you, or not exist in the way it exists for others. One of the critical tasks of living in a multicultural world is learning how to look at what we’ve never seen before, or have never seen in the fashion that is being presented to us. Things we’ve never “seen” before may not be physical artifacts. They may be feelings and perceptions. They may be opinions, judgments. They may even be colors – not every culture sees or names colors in the same way. We miss out on discourses that drive other people that would never drive us or might “drive us crazy!” These are not easy to discover, certainly not as obvious as puzzlement about a camping chair. Still, ask we must. We are embedded within a cultural discourse that we treat as real, but that is created by, as well as limited to what our own stories have to tell us. 

Blog 3.3Who creates?
In our times, realities, different from and deadly to each other, run rampant. Like it or not, we are challenged to understand our culture, other people’s culture, become familiar with the discourse that drives our behavior, our creativity, and perhaps brings us together in new and different ways and allows us to peacefully cohabit the planet.

So we must ask, where do our realities, where does this culture come from? Well, since culture is a conversation, since it’s discourse, it’s coming from you and me! It’s coming from everybody within earshot, from every handheld device connected to ours. Discourse requires people. It’s going on all the time, and, whether we intentionally listen to it or not, it seduces us with its themes and memes.

Sometimes, probably more often than we think, we deliberately attempt to create realities for ourselves and others. We work on shaping a reality that serves our purposes through the stories we tell in social media, traditional media, conversations with others, as we rehearse and repeat these stories in our own heads. We are as much the creators of these discourses of culture as GM and Volkswagen are designers and manufacturers of automobiles. Like the family car, some discourses can be very helpful and humane. Other discourses can be quite ugly. Like a fast set of wheels, you can use your inner discourse to rob a bank or save somebody’s life by rushing them to the emergency ward.

Roger Peterson, a US academic, is quoted saying this—and I like it:

“The collective memory [the discourse that we share] is systematically unfaithful to the past in order to satisfy the needs of the present. In other words, we attempt to address the present by reconstructing the past as if it always existed in the way we now adopt it.”

Through the stories we tell ourselves we produce a discourse. This discourse is the dynamic way we collectively create the cultural constructs that put our diverse realities, our cultures together. These constructs may be the bearers of mythology, fictional imagination, or as we all know too well, political propaganda. People are competing with their stories to create the realities they want for themselves and for others. For the sake of consistency and credibility we try to present our new story as the true and eternal story.

Enter the discourse of new media
How are new media affecting, constructing this flow? It is probably too early to tell, but certainly not too early to pay attention. For sure, they are being used both in traditional and novel ways.  Certainly they have multiplied by a factor of Xx the sheer volume and range of participation within one generation. They can be the conveyors of the traditional discourse which we consider wisdom, discourses that certain of us would like to impart to the rest of us, philosophical and religious, or New Age ideals; at the same time they are also the tools of revolution and the conveyors of revolutionary values, often drawn from the same sources, but re-expressed and broadcast in nanoseconds in a volume that hitherto would have been deemed sorcery.

How do we sort out what is new and fresh from what is newly or freshly restated to fulfill a desire or to meet a contemporary challenge? The wish to “sort out” in some definitive way is perhaps a false aspiration, a question to which there is no answer, a cul-de-sac, whose alternative is ongoing reflection as an essential part of our reality construction process. In new media, as in any other media that we use to create reality by discourse, these fresh tools are appropriated to change and introduce the realities that its authors, consciously or unconsciously, wish to disseminate.

Blog 3.4We all know that the Internet allows us to create reality ex nihilo. Fake user names create “people,” as do avatars of “aliens.” We even build virtual worlds that allow people to accept a second and a third and perhaps an infinite number of lives and realities. If you can imagine it, say it, you can be it. Yea, “Ye are gods.” Like the Jehovah of Genesis, we say, “Let there be…” And behold, there it is! And, if we are the ones who said it, we are also likely to proclaim that it is good. Like Shiva of old, I am the creator and destroyer of worlds – and so are you!

Charlatans, con men, name changers, shapeshifters and princes donning pauper’s clothing are not new to our human story. But the possibility and the temptation to creation on a quasi-divine level, and the consequences for doing so have never been so available and up for grabs. Even so, we like to imagine the world as somehow stable and static, at least in our desire to create something solid and lasting, even or perhaps especially in a virtual environment. Our human minds and hearts, even in intangible media, are inclined to treat our creations, our culture as real, not constructed.

John Lennon, a great interculturalist in my book, said “The more real you get, the more unreal the world gets.” The more you can get perspective on the discourse that flows around you, the better chance you have of seeing these things, not as useless or false, but for what they are, our attempts to construct things for benefit, for surviving and succeeding. We will look at this again as we seek a fresh cultural discourse to reshape our perspective. Meanwhile, how do you react to this fearful relativity of reality, or to the multiplicity of realities that new media have put at our disposal and which often invade our stability? What have you created as real for you? Are there real worlds, or only virtual ones…?

In Cultural Detective: Self Discovery® we offered some exercises to help you listen to your inner conversations and stories. These are only starting points. In this blog you will sometimes see pictures I have extracted from my past. This is not an exercise in nostalgia or ego promotion, but a suggestion that you might also explore the images and sounds of the past to bring the sources of your cultural discourse into focus.

This post originally appeared in the blog of the Center for Intercultural New Media Research and is provided with the assistance of its editor Anastacia Kurylo.

Some Cultural Detective Training and Coaching Activities

Exploring how we value our own and each other’s cultural values–another step in CD sleuthing.

All too often we trainers are apportioned a less than useful amount of time for impacting the attitudes of our trainees. This affects our use of Cultural Detective as well as many other tools that we may choose or not choose to use under the pressure of diminished schedules.

When using Cultural Detective, I find it ever more important to differentiate what we do with the Values Lenses and the indigenous discourse that lies behind them from a lot of other intercultural training approaches that focus on dimensions and increasingly lead to stereotyping. When we speak about the values in Cultural Detective, it is important to remember that these have been developed through and by the inner language and feelings of the very members of those cultures that the instruments represent.

Nonetheless, when speaking of values, it is becoming increasingly common for us to have individual participants who question them, who do not identify with them, or who even dismiss them as stereotypes. Given that the best way of dealing with resistance in a pedagogical context (as well as many other contexts) may be to flow with it and direct its energies, I have developed a few approaches that I feel may help us in these somewhat challenging situations. I’ve described them as they might be used in a teaching or training context, but they may be adapted to individual and team coaching situations as well.

First, wherever possible, I use Cultural Detective: Self-Discovery, or at least an exercise or two from it, so that participants can at least claim some inheritance of cultural values and identify them as their own. This legitimizes the discussion of culture where it might be resisted. It usually overcomes or at least mitigates the participant’s temptation to see him or herself as acultural and the tendency to vaunt oneself as a global citizen, uncontaminated by inherited culture. This is not to deny, but to affirm the fact that TCKs and others like them may be digesting a smorgasbord of cultural influences as well as generating certain cultural features pertinent to their common experiences (explored in Cultural Detective: Blended Culture and CD Generational Harmony). Often elements of cultural identity are denied because they have caused pain in growing up and finding social inclusion. Once culture is legitimated as a topic of discussion and a relevant problematic for the individual being coached or the group being trained, other things become possible.

Here are some approaches that we use when one culture is trying to learn about another specific culture, as for example, when working with teams resulting from mergers and foreign acquisitions and installations. In such cases cultural conflicts and misunderstandings are often the elephant in the room, potentially touchy subjects. While Cultural Detective may be the ideal tool for pursuing understanding on both sides, it is not always a given that participants will spontaneously identify with the values of their own culture as they are presented in the Cultural Detective materials.

So, let’s say, for example, that we are dealing with German and US cultures, either in an organizational relationship or collaborative team. Daimler-Chrysler has already demonstrated that even a good bit of upfront diversity work and intercultural instruction may not be adequate to deal with our own deeply rooted values and our perceptions of others unless they are continually identified and addressed. Thus the Cultural Detective process must be mastered and practiced and in many cases facilitation must be applied on an ongoing basis until a functional collaborative culture is established. This can take quite a while.

Facing the possibility of denial of difference as well as the possibility of participants rejecting their own or the others’ cultural Values Lens as stereotypical or just plain wrong, here are a few strategies that I’ve found to be successful. Perhaps some of you have already discovered these on your own. If so, I would be interested in hearing your versions.

  1. Evaluating the strength of the discourse and the value that sums it up. I ask participants to study their own culture’s Lens and then rate on a scale of 0 to 5, weak to strong, their own sense of how they’ve personally appropriated and express in everyday words and actions each of the values described. Then I ask them to share this with their compatriots as well as with the representatives of the other culture who are participating with them. This is a matter of not only sharing their numerical rating of the values, but talking about how each cultural value expresses itself in their thinking and behavior, as well as what parts of it don’t seem to fit or which they don’t like to identify with. This may or may not resemble or relate to the “Negative Perceptions” found on the Lens itself.
  2. Identifying commonalities: Following this discussion, I ask the individuals of each culture to study the other culture’s Lens and to do two things. First, again on a scale of 0 to 5 to assess whether, and if so, the degree to which they identify with each of the cultural values of the other group as found on the lens. Then, secondly, and this is extremely important, to identify and jot down the keywords of their own inner conversation or discourse about the importance they accord to the values they seem to share and the ways in which they may practice each of them.  Thirdly, depending on the size of the group, ask them to share their results either individually, or to conduct a discussion within their same culture group and then have the groups report out their results to each other. Here is where the essential value is gained from seeing how people would express their appropriation of elements belonging to the other culture.
  3. How do we like to be treated? Given adequate time, here is another very valuable activity that could occur at this point, but might be even better to use after the group has resolved a critical incident or two. Ask each separate culture as a group to meet together to discuss and identify and list both the attitudes and kinds of treatment that they appreciate coming from the other culture, as well as those kinds of speech and behavior that they may find uncomfortable or even damaging to the collaborative and social relationship they are trying to create with each other. The previous activities at various points are likely to lead toward the identification and discussion of stereotypes, giving rise to another possibly useful activity. I have found that frequently trainers and teachers, perhaps out of a misguided sense of political correctness avoid the discussion of specific stereotypes or stereotypical expressions, missing a valuable learning opportunity.
  4. Investigating stereotypes: We’ve long accepted the fact that stereotypes contain a kernel of truth, but that the perspective with which they are expressed maybe overgeneralized and conducive to negative judgment. So, instead of dismissing stereotypes out of hand, we can use them as starting points for deeper discussion and further understanding. So, when stereotypes surface, I ask participants to discuss questions like the following ones:
    • What is the truth in them, however small? What do you think brought them about in the first place? What perpetuates them? What insights or cautions do they deliver to us? What is the discourse that we carry about self that makes them true for us when they are about us?
    • What exaggeration do they contain? What is the discourse that makes them noxious, conflictual, etc.? When are they likely to be painful or damaging? What limits do they place on our knowledge and our inquiry about others?

So, as I mentioned above these are some of the useful practices that I keep in my tool bag for enhancing the effectiveness of Cultural Detective.  It would be good to hear what others of you have developed or ways in which you view similar activities.

Eating with One’s Hands: Cause to Lose One’s Children?

Members of the Cultural Detective community are united in a common purpose: to spread respect, understanding and justice through collaboration in our world. I am so, so lucky to be able to work, each and every day, with such passionate and diversely talented people.

Yesterday was a wonderful day. We held the second in a successful series of two FOLEs (Facilitated Online Learning Events) with a globally dispersed group of movers and shakers; launched a MUCH-anticipated new package (CD Bridging Cultures); got out a blog post and a newsletter; and finished the admin area on our upcoming Cultural Detective Online subscription service. But, I was tired, and feeling rather overwhelmed by all the technology I (have to) work with. I was wondering, as many of us do sometimes, if my efforts were really having a positive impact on the world.

Just then I opened a note from one of my colleagues, a sign language interpreter who is a “foodie.” She reminded me that, yes, every little bit we put out there positively (including via technology) has constructive ripple effects in our world. Bless you and your beautiful work, Anna! Keep reading to see her note and a terrific effect of a recent social networking link.

Here’s the note I received:
Hello dear Dianne,

I am excited to share with you a post and video I made inspired by a story on your Intercultural Competence Newsfeed. Do you remember the piece about:

Norway authorities take away Indian couple’s children for feeding them by hand

My fascination with food and culture spurred me to write a post about different cultures who eat with their hands (including Indian, Ethiopian and Moroccan). And with the help of a friend, we shot a video of this lovely Moroccan gentleman I know giving me a lesson in eating with the hands.

I am hoping to make a series of such videos on cross-cultural food ways. Hopefully it can help build cross-cultural understanding and respect.

Thank you so much for all your wonderful work!

Anna Mindess
Co-author of Cultural Detective Deaf Culture
blog: East Bay Ethnic Eats

Below is the first video in her series, for those who don’t want to keep clicking. We’ve added it to our Cultural Detective YouTube channel as well.