Archive for 2007

absolutely intercultural 47 +++ New Year‘s Eve +++ New Year‘s resolutions +++ NYE in Denmark +++ Dinner For One +++


Fireworks over Cologne
This show will be dealing with all kinds of New Year’s Celebrations, rituals and traditions in Denmark, France, and Germany.
absolutely repetitive
Here you can learn from Beatrice which experiences she made with New Year’s resolutions and her list which she unfortunately has not put into practice yet. She also introduces us to the ritual of melting metals as a way to forecast the New Year.



absolutely French
In France – the land of fabulous meals and the home of „haute cuisine“ food is one of the main aspects of a special occasion like NYE. Michael tells us that he spends this night with his friends after having dinner with his family.

absolutely mad
Anne talks about forgetting all good behavior on that night as a ritual in Denmark. In some cases it is even necessary to take all the goods out of the shop windows to make sure nothing will be damaged. We learn everything about playing tricks and blowing up postboxes as well as the personal resolution to teach her daughters French. She also talks about the new experience of fireworks which she didn’t know from her time in Britain.

absolutely non-British
Andreas tells us about another German NYE-tradition: It is very common, to have „Dinner for One“ in that particular night. It looks like a British TV-show – but it is in fact a German comedy-sketch about an old lady celebrating her 90th Birthday and her butler James who is doing his best to make her feel comfortable. Andreas, like Anne did earlier, talks about the private fireworks which are very common in Germany.

The team of absolutely intercultural wishes all of you a Happy New Year!

The next show will be coming to you on 11 January from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Mathias Knops

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absolutely intercultural 46 +++ Chile +++ Rivus +++ Australian Christmas +++ competition +++ Budacast +++ Palabea +++ Economist

Chocolate Easter bilbyThe main feature today is about a teacher exchange between Denmark and Chile which started with a bottle of wine! We’ll be hearing how traditional symbols are being adapted the Australian way. And finally we’ll be visiting Budacast, the podcast of one of our regular listeners, Drew Leifheit, who knows more than most about Budapest and the area around.

absolutely musical
Here in Denmark Christmas preparations are in full swing. Not everybody celebrates Christmas but the atmosphere is making us feel generous and so we will send a copy of the latest CD of Rivus, the 3 piece band from the Czech Republic we featured in June, to the first person who can send us a mail telling us the name of the third instrument played by the band in addition to violin and double bass. We can accept either of the two names that this third instrument is known as. Send a mail to contact@absolutely-intercultural.com together with your name and an address we can send the CD to. And in the meantime let’s give you a reminder of what the instrument sounds like… perhaps you know the tune? Did you recognise the tune as Elvis Presley’s Love me Tender? There are a few more cover versions on the CD all given this unique Czech twist and the rest of the tracks are traditional Czech songs.

absolutely educational
So let’s start with something absolutely educational by hearing about a teacher exchange which is not the usual run of the mill ‘visit your neighbour’ type of exchange. I am not belittling those exchanges. In fact I did one myself many years ago when I still lived in the UK and taught at a Belgian school for 3 weeks. My exchange was easily arranged by the European Union but what about forging contacts yourself? How could that be done? I talked to Vibeke Stenberg, a teacher at Ryomgaard Realskole, just back from an exchange between Denmark and Chile. What I like about this story is not just that Vibeke’s school has built a relationship with a school in an untraditional part of the world for Europeans but also that this experience shows that exchanges can arise out of all sorts of different ways.

absolutely traditional
You may remember that I talked with Michael Coghlan and his daughter, Alison Waye, in Australia back in July. What you don’t know is that we carried on talking and then the topic of a southern hemisphere Christmas came up and I discovered something surprising. And you can see a picture of one of those chocolate bilbies at the top of this page. Do you have any other examples about how traditional symbols have been adapted? If so then leave us a comment here on the blog.

absolutely addictive
Drew Leifheit has been a faithful listener from the earliest episodes and has often left thoughtful comments but did you know that he has his own podcast called Budacast all about Hungary, its capital Budapest where he is based and surrounding countries. If you find yourself with a little extra leisure time over the next couple of weeks then why not give Budacast a listen? This snippet is about the clean rooms which are to be found in the Hungarian part of Transylvania. Do you have a clean room I wonder? Let us know here on the blog.

absolutely debatable
If you are a university student then there is a good chance you may be thinking of doing part or even all of your course abroad. It seems that universities all over the world are competing for foreign students and this must be a good thing for everybody if there is a cultural exchange. But not everybody agrees and if you would like to take part in a debate about this then the Economist magazine is holding an online debate about this until December 28. You can read the different views, add your own view and vote on whether foreign student placements are a good thing or not.

absolutely linguistic
One last little present in this show is to point you in the direction of a new language learning website called Palabea which you can use absolutely free of charge and which includes audio and video facilities so that you can meet with native speakers of the language you want to learn. According to the Palabea people ‘Access to language is one of the first steps to cross-cultural empathy.’’ To which I say ‘Hear hear!’ As ever you can find the link on our blog.

The next show will be brought to you by Laurent Borgmann in Germany on December 28 and don’t forget to mail us with your competition entry to contact@absolutely-intercultural.com if you know the name of the third instrument played by Rivus. So Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and stay tuned won’t you?

The host of this show is: Anne Fox

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absolutely intercultural 45 +++ music as a universal language +++ international festivals +++ Colors of Cologne +++ music as the ultimate way of expressing feelings +++ music as a tool for integration +++

In this show you will hear about situations in which music played an important role connecting people from different cultures, to overcome language barriers or to express feelings for which words would not be adequate.

absolutely universal
Anne Fox our co-host from Denmark, tells us why music is often so helpful when other languages fail. Music is often seen as a universal language, however, in her experience this is not always the case…

absolutely international
In the second part of the show we will look into International Festivals which have become more and more popular over the last years. During those festivals tens or hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world sing, dance and live together internationally for a few days. The Sziget Festival in Hungary is a special one, because it is held on an island in Budapest, so the “absolutely international islanders” literally live in the heart of the capital city. Michael Darde, a French student, tells us how he saw it as a tourist and Agnes Dús from Hungary shares her experiences about taking part as a local.

absolutely colorful
In Cologne on the Rhine foreigners from 20 different countries have been singing together in a choir, called “Colors of Cologne”, for the last eight years. Most of the participants report that they joined the choir in order to integrate better in their new environment and to make friends faster. We will also listen to their music!

absolutely spontaneous
Sarah is a student for whom music has a special importance in her life: she plays the piano and writes her own songs. Music helped her make friends more easily, especially during her stay in the US, and also it is the best way for her to express her feelings.

absolutely together
In the last part of the show Emma Cuevas Saunders, a Spanish student, tells us about how singing helped her integrate into the group in a school summer camp in England. She experienced that when words are not enough music comes in and becomes an alternative kind of language.

Our co-host today is Agnes Dús from Budapest in Hungary, student of the Corvinus University of Budapest.

The next show will be coming to you on the 14 December from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Co-host: Agnes Dús
Editor: Mathias Knops

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absolutely intercultural 44 +++ Ghana +++ Brazil +++ blogs +++ Myers-Briggs revisited +++ Mystery guests

Mystery guest
Absolutely yours: First of all, thank you to the listeners who got in touch after the last show. Grit Matthias was especially interested in Show 35 where we featured teacher podcasters. Grit’s class makes short podcasts in German. So if you are learning German why not have a listen?

When ‘Uncle Drew’ questioned why we had featured the Myers & Briggs personality test in the last show, I looked into it and found that the questionnaire has been tested across many cultures to check that its personality types are valid and that they had found that the distribution of personality types was the same across cultures although maybe not of the same order. Cultural differences do occur in how we are expected to express our personalities. At the Myers & Briggs blog for example I found that there were more introvert British entrepreneurs while in the USA there were far fewer and the difference could be explained by the way in which we are allowed to express our introvert or extrovert personalities in the two cultures. So thank you ‘Uncle Drew’ for your comment.

Absolutely Educational: Our main feature in this show is the story of an educational project carried out by CV2 in Denmark with a Ghanaian company. We hear first how things did not go exactly according to plan and in the second part we hear what the Danish partners think is the reason for the difficulties they experienced. If you are familiar with Ghana you can probably see the story from the other side. And if you do then why not leave a comment here about it?

Absolutely Interactive: Are cultural differences apparent in blogs? That was a question I put to Trine Maria Kristensen, a corporate communications expert in Denmark.

Then I talked to Carla Arena, a Brazilian English teacher living in Florida, who agreed to be a mystery guest on my students’ blog. Who learned the most? Carla or my students?

The next show will be coming to you from Laurent Borgmann in Germany on November 30 and will be rather musical!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox

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absolutely intercultural 43 +++ Flying a plane is all about communication +++ intercultural card game BARNGA +++ Myers-Briggs-Test

Laurent as the BARNGA facilitator
In this show we will point you to two very different ways of becoming more aware of your personality and what your spontaneous reactions are when getting in touch with people whose cultural rules are different.

“absolutely up in the air”
Our first guest is Simon Brown, a former airline captain with British airways, who tells us how the Myers-Briggs personality test, which was used to make pilots more aware of their different personality styles, opened his eyes.

“absolutely simulated”
BARNGA is a card game, which simulates the experience of meeting people from other cultures and working with them. It was played a group of 25 students from several different countries at the University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz, RheinAhrCampus. During the game the students sit at five different tables which are separated from each other. They play a card game with the rules they received on a written sheet at the beginning. When the actual game starts no more verbal communication is allowed. The students have to find alternative ways of communication if they want to play together, such as gestures, facial expression or drawing pictures…

“absolutely confusing”
We will look at what happens when you go through the intercultural simulation in practice. Some students seem to be pretty sure that they play according to the “only valid” rules, while others seem to be a little confused…

“absolutely eye-opening”
In the last part of our show we will return to the airport in Bangkok to Simon and the Myers-Briggs Personality Test in British Airways. Laurent asks Simon whether the test itself and the feed-back he received from his colleagues in the famous envelope had been useful for him. Had it changed his view about himself?

Our co-host today is Agnes Dús from Budapest in Hungary, student of the Corvinus University of Budapest. You may remember her from the interviews she made in Ireland for show number 25. She will co-host the shows from Remagen until Christmas.

The next show will be coming to you on the 16 November from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

Host of this show: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Co-host: Agnes Dús
Editor: Mathias Knops
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absolutely intercultural 42 +++ International Baccalaureate +++ Grenaa +++ Florida +++ blog +++ Brazil

John McDonald photo of an IB DiplomaIn this show we go absolutely educational investigating the International Baccalaureate or IB as it’s known for short and how blogging can foster intercultural understanding.

Absolutely Educational
What sort of people take this course I wondered, how does it differ from what they would be doing if they had just followed the normal schooling in their country? Does the international classroom have any advantages or disadvantages either at the time or later when the IB graduates move on to the next stage in their career? I talked with two groups of students doing the IB at Grenaa Gymnasium.
Absolutely yours
One of our listeners, Trevor King, in France put me right on a few IB-related points. He wrote: “The IBO don’t only offer it in English; it’s possible to do the course based in French, Spanish and Chinese as well. You are entering the politics of education and the world of ‘international education’ is a hot one; there are no schools in Europe doing the IB in French. There are a few I know of in Quebec do that.”

Thank you Trevor and if you want to put us right or add to something we said then please add a comment to our blog at http://www.absolutely-intercultural.com/ or send us an audio comment to contact@absolutely-intercultural.com

One thing I learned about the IB from Wikipedia was that about half the IB courses in the world are offered in the state system of schooling, as it is for example in Grenaa, which means that it is not necessarily a rich person’s education.

Absolutely Virtual
So what can you do if you don’t live near a school offering the IB or if your students can’t afford to go on long exchanges abroad? Teachers such as Brazilian, Carla Arena, use the communication possibilities of the internet to help her students get in touch with other cultures. But how much can you learn just by adding comments to a blog? See the blog to find out.

Absolutely Educational Part 2
To find out how much the IB courses have in common I spoke with Zoe Sessums who is doing her IB diploma at Eastside school in Gainsville, Florida in the United States. Here in an English speaking country the international aspect is not so much to the fore.

In the end I had the impression that the IB courses did not make the best use of the possibilities offered by having a worldwide network.

The next show will be coming to you from Remagen in Germany on November 2nd. So stay tuned!

The Host of this show is: Anne Fox

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absolutely intercultural 41 +++ intercultural weddings +++ conventions for accepting food +++ my big fat Lebanese wedding +++

In this show we are going to look into which parts of our culture we have to re-think or even leave behind when we get married. We have entertaining stories from Lebanon, the United States, Hungary, and Spain and even from our own lives.

absolutely Swiss-French-Lebanese
Our first guest is Stéphane Bazan, lecturer at the Université St. Joseph, who is French and got married to his Lebanese bride in Biblos near Beirut. He tells us about the cultural conventions preceding his wedding which turned into a happy cultural mix for him and his French and Swiss family but also for his new Lebanese in-laws.

absolutely prepared
Jennifer is an American university lecturer who got married to her Lebanese husband in the United States. She remembers thinking about what cultural clashes could arise from the different customs and attitudes of her Lebanese and American families. She even went as far as giving some private intercultural lessons to prepare her family and her Lebanese in-laws for the happy day.

absolutely Mars vs. absolutely Venus
Agnes Dús, Laurent Borgmann, and Mathias Knops had a round table discussion about “leaving one’s own culture behind” where they tell their own stories about how difficult it can get when two persons from different cultures decide to stay together for life. Finally they had to admit that sometimes it is not the national culture which creates problems, simply the fact that men and women come from different planets: men are from Mars and women from Venus.

absolutely Big Fat Wedding
In the last part of our show we will get back to Stéphane, who tells us what cultural challenges he had to face before his “Big Fat Lebanese Wedding” with 800 guests! During the process he sometimes felt a considerable cultural gap between his families, as if he was not from France but from the other side of the world.

Our co-host today is Agnes Dús from Budapest in Hungary, student of the Corvinus University of Budapest. You may remember her from the interviews she made in Ireland for show number 25. She will co-host the shows from Remagen until Christmas.

The next show will be coming to you on the 19 October from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

Host of this show: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Co-host: Agnes Dús
Editor: Mathias Knops

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absolutely intercultural 40 +++ Grenaa Global Music Festival+++ Moussa Diallo +++ International Baccalaureate +++

Mahnoor, Neghat and NikolajIn this show we go behind the scenes at Grenaa Global Music Festival and ask what effect, if any, such an event can have on intercultural understanding.

Absolutely Cultural

The Global Music Festival is not just about music but includes many other inter-cultural elements at a free festival which takes place in the centre of Grenaa town.

‘I saw so many happy faces.’
One of the prime movers behind the idea which started last year is Moussa Diallo, originally from Mali and we hear from him and another expatriate Butch Lacy from the USA about the concepts behind the event.If you go to their web sites you will see that music is much more than just music for these two men but also a means for achieving different forms of heightened communication.

The music used in the podcast is part of Moussa Diallo’s repertoire and you can hear much more on his website.

I have lived all over the world.’
Josephine is one of the students studying for her International Baccalaureate at Grenaa Gymnasium and listed for me all the places she had lived in to date. The IB is an international education which takes place in English and which therefore attracts many multi-cultural students. The course is not just academic but also includes artistic and community service elements and this is why I found many IB students as I was wandering round the festival.

I met with Rikke from Denmark and Julia from Poland who had been reading African creation myth stories to children, Mahnoor from Pakistan who had taught Nikolaj from Russia to paint henna on hands and Neghat from Afghanistan who had tried and failed to make and fly kites. Josephine, a Dane, had been face painting children according to the patterns found on traditional masks around the world.

The show ends with an explanation of what culture means to Butch Lacy.

The next show will be coming out on the 5th of October and will be coming to you from Germany.

The Host of this show is: Anne Fox

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absolutely intercultural 39 +++ international family life +++ bi-lingualism and bi-culturalism +++

Is it always an advantage to grow up with more than one language? And what happens if a child does not speak the language of one of its parents? To answer these, and many other questions, we have interviewed four people from very different backgrounds, who all have in common that they grew up either bi-culturally, bi-lingually or both.

absolutely bi-lingual
First you’ll hear about a woman whose parents had grown up speaking English and German, who of course herself grew up with these two languages and now raises her little daughter the same way.
Then Peter from England talks about what it was like to grow up with an Austrian mother and an English father in England. And how that changed the whole look and feel of their house in England.

absolutely mixed
Right after that we go south to Italy, where Manuel, whose father is Italian, tells us why he had to take a beginners’ course in the Italian language a few years ago, and what, as a young boy, got on his nerves when he was visiting his family in Italy.
And for the last part of the show we go even further south to Brazil. Stefanie also doesn’t really talk the language of her mother’s family, but she does love to visit them in Brazil.
The next show will be coming to you on the 21st of September from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann

Edited and co-hosted by: Karsten Kneese

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absolutely intercultural 38 +++ Iceland +++ 3D College +++ Seattle +++ Chernobyl +++ Stephen Pinker +++

From Iceland to the 3D College to Chernobyl to Seattle.

TykmandIn this show we are going to hear from a number of people who have found themselves in a different culture for a short period but they haven’t just been on holiday.

absolutely personal
Our first guest is Anne Würtz Petersen, a Danish scientist who found herself on a scientific expedition in Iceland examining the threatened Greenland White-fronted Goose in a group consisting mainly of British colleagues. How did she cope with the technical language and the speed of native speaker language? Tony Fox, one of her colleagues on that trip, tried to find out.

absolutely animated
3D college in Denmark trains young people from the age of about 16 or 17 in this fast growing industry and as part of their studies these students all make several study trips one of which is to Seattle in the USA where they can learn from some of the best in the world such as animators from Disney. Do we see so much American TV and cinema that we all have the feeling that we already know the place before we even set foot there? I talked to Mads and Tobias about the trip and about some of the pictures in an unofficial blog of their travels which has lots of pictures.

absolutely speechless
At least Mads and Tobias were able to communicate with their host families as they had English as a common language. But what if you went away for a month to stay in somebody’s house where there was no common language at all? Could that work? That was the situation faced by some old friends of mine, Nicky Penford and her son Adam in Aberdeen Scotland when they agreed to host two boys from Belarus for a month, earlier this summer. Belarus was badly affected by the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 and the whole country is still polluted by radiation which affects people’s health. The Chernobyl Children Lifeline charity offers Belarusian children a month’s homestay in countries around the world since it turns out that a month spent in a place with clean air and food can add as much as two years to a Belarusian’s life expectancy. But the Belarusians speak Russian and my friends and their son speak only English. So how did it go? BabelFish was a useful tool for giving the boys an idea of each day’s programme.

absolutely theoretical
I was looking for information about the theories of Stephen Pinker when I came across a couple of really interesting tests which you can take to help his research. The tests are not explicitly about intercultural communication but are trying to find out how people express themselves in difficult or awkward situations. So if you are quite good at English go to http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/ and click on ‘participate in a study’ which will take you to the first test and then suggest you participate in a second study run by one of his colleagues. I am not allowed to say more about the content otherwise I’ll spoil the research. But I will say that both tests raise all sorts of interesting intercultural situations and it is worth thinking about how people from other cultures might react to the same dilemmas.

The next show will be coming out on the 7th of September and will be coming to you from Germany.

The Host of this show is: Anne Fox

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