To be honest it feels strange to celebrate Christmas in the summer heat here at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. Back home normally we have temperatures below zero degrees Celsius and often a bit of snow, but this year I have done my Christmas shopping in shops where air conditioning from morning to evening is absolutely essential even if from the loudspeakers we are all listening to “Winter Wonderland” and “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. And while the students at USC tell us about the typical Australian Christmas with seafood barbecue, salad and drinks by the swimming pool, of course different national groups also keep up their own traditions in Australia and Cassie told us about a Nigerian Christmas party with wonderful African food where Father Christmas is impersonated by a black Nigerian, which seems a wonderful opportunity for children and adults to be reminded of cultural diversity.
In our second category we see what Canadian students can learn from ordinary Africans if they have the right attitude to learning and to their guest country. I asked John Kaethler, a colleague from Brock University in Canada why he takes students out of their regular surroundings and organizes intercultural excursions to Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. It seems to make absolute sense that if students approach a foreign country with humility and the wish to learn they will probably get more learning out of their intercultural experience than if they followed a seminar about that country.
So we understand that intercultural learning could be initiated by lecturers at the home university, it could be triggered by contact with people in the country that is visited but our last guest on the show stresses that the ultimate responsibility is on us, the learners and travelers and that the experience should always be accompanied by thorough reflection. In our last category Ariane Curdy explains that we need to understand our own values and backgrounds in order to be open to learn from the others.
This was the last show for the year 2009, I hope you’ll enjoy the festive season, be it in the cold or in the heat! The team of “absolutely intercultural” wishes you all the best for the year 2010. And don’t miss our next show, believe it or not this will be show No 100, and will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 8th January 2010
The drumming which starts the show was recorded when the Ghanaian drummers of African Footprint visited Grenaa earlier this year and they are to put you in the mood for learning an African language; the Yoruba language to be precise which is taught by Kole Ade-Odutola in Florida as part of the language fulfilment part of American university courses. We also hear from Minhaaj Ur Rehman who, if you remember from Show 96 has just arrived in Sweden from Pakistan to do an MBA. He talks about how environmentally aware the Swedes seem to be; this is good when talking about wise use of resources but maybe less so when talking about avoidance of conflict.
Kole who comes from Nigeria and is a true polymath with many different interests in media, poetry, literature, environmental activism and development which we will explore in later shows. First I was keen to explore more about his teaching of Yoruba in Florida. So be prepared to learn a little Yoruba in this first extract of our conversation. When I was editing the audio file for this piece it occurred to me to look at the pattern of the sound file as Kole was demonstrating the three different ways of saying ogun and the three sound waves do indeed look very different so I chose this as the graphic for this show’s blog entry.We start by finding out what brought him to the US in the first place.
absolutely environmental At the moment it is almost impossible to find a hotel room in Copenhagen because of the Climate Summit. Scandinavia does have a reputation for being environmentally aware and it was interesting that Minhaaj Ur Rehmen, who has just started a course in Sweden and comes from Pakistan, noticed this specifically. So what was it that caught his attention?
absolutely authentic Meanwhile back on Florida I wondered how Kole’s students could get opportunities to practice the language. How can you get absolutely authentic in Yoruba? So to find out more about what Yoruba sounds like you could go to www.abeokuta.org where you will find music, drama videos and some basic lessons in the language.
absolutely passionate If you heard two people talking to each other in loud voices you could assume that they were arguing and not getting on at all but depending on where you are you could be completely wrong! Our final segment is absolutely passionate and features Minhaaj in Sweden again and this time he talks about passion in conversations and where the Swedes score on that level!
The Sunshine Coast is calling, and yes, I am leaving the German autumn behind to go right into the Australian summer. Today we start a new mini-series called “absolutely down-under”, the reason is that I am going to the University of the Sunshine Coast, where I will teach and do research at our partner university. This means that the next couple of shows will be coming to you directly from Southern Queensland. So our editor Dino Nogarole asked me for an interview, a new situation for me, because normally it is my role to interview the people on the show.
Lets now go on to our category “absolutely abroad” one of the stimulators for my stay abroad, who is working for the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). He was at RheinAhrCampus in order to present the Go Out! campaign, in which he motivated students to do an internship abroad or to study in a foreign country …
Some months ago, at the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Bloggers’ Meeting in Luxemburg I met Jessica Dheere, an American citizen who lives in Lebanon. In 2008 she started a project which is called social media exchange. You will hear that social media isn’t only Flickr, Twitter or Facebook, but also the ability to produce your own media, like mapping, blogging or podcasting. Her organisation offers training sessions which are specialised in social media exchange. The idea of it is to reach as many people as possible by using online tools or programms. Jessica trains young people how to use the social media. She explains why these net based tools are so important in Lebanon and why it is so difficult to spread your news through the national radio or through television. Her courses also help to bring different communities from different parts of the Lebanon together, for example the Christians and the Muslims. Jessica tells us that her advantage is that she is an outsider with inside views and that she uses the social media for social change as a kind of common ground for the peer-learning between the different intercultural groups.
The next show will be hosted by Anne Fox in Denmark on 11 December
The two people we will be hearing from in this show have both come half way round the world to visit Europe and such a long distance seems to lead to very strong contrasts – not always in those aspects which you would expect. We’ll be hearing from Cao Lei, a biology lecturer from Heifi in China, here on her first visit to Europe.
We’ll also be hearing from Minhaaj Ur Rehman, from Pakistan, who recently arrived in Sweden to do an MBA even though he already has an MBA from Pakistan but apparently a foreign MBA will be much more impressive to any future employers back home. One of the major differences which was immediately apparent is the relationship between the students and their teachers. It’s often surprising to us who live here what people from outside the area notice so I had to smile when Minhaaj mentioned how considerate he found drivers in Sweden to be.
When Cao Lei from China visited Europe recently she found that the Netherlands was very relaxing and peaceful in spite of it being one of the most densely populated countries in the world. But once she started to talk about the normal 18-hour school day in China for her 13 year old daughter I began to understand how much the visit to Europe must have represented a change of gear for her.
It is a cliché for a Brit like me to talk about the weather but the weather has certainly made a deep impression on Minhaaj Ur Rehman who came from Pakistan to do an MBA in Sweden and not in southern Sweden but in northern Sweden, Umeä where already in October the temperature was close to zero (centigrade that is). And it’s interesting that Minhaaj points out the lack of congestion and people as a plus, just as Cao Lei did.
absolutely spoiled for choice
If you don’t speak a language which uses script then you have probably never given a thought to the way in which a computer produces ideograms such as those used in Chinese and Japanese. So when Cao Lei from China visited us recently it was fascinating to watch how she could turn Chinese written with western letters into Chinese script using good old Word.
absolute double? Minhaaj Ur Rehman is from Pakistan and already has an MBA so why is he in Sweden doing another MBA? Is this an absolute double? It turns out that even if you are reading the same books there are some very good reasons for re-doing the course and he gets to experience some very different approaches to education along the way.
By the way if you have any comments or suggestions you’re always welcome to contact us through our blog at www.absolutely-intercultural.com and leave a comment. We love following up on contacts or just reading about your reactions and experiences.
The next show will be coming to you from Germany with Laurent Borgmann on November 27. So until then, stay tuned won’t you?
Today our focus will be on a re-entry shock or reverse culture shock. When people stay abroad for a long period of time they often experience a kind of shock or depression after they come back to their home countries. For our first category “absolutely integrated”, I had Kyle Hickman in the studio. You may remember him from shows 87 and 91. This time he told me how difficult it can be to adjust to the German culture even if your whole family has a German background.
Do you remember Kyle Hickmann, the American student who did an internship at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung? We had interviewed him about his experience coming from the warm California to the cold country Germany. The third person in our round is Professor Dr. Joachim Birzele, a lecturer from the RheinAhrCampus, Remagen, who did a research tour around various universities in the US and in Canada. During his trip he was very impressed by the warm welcome he received everywhere and by the fact that his overseas colleagues did not hesitate to invite him to their homes straight away without even knowing him. They also passed him on to fellow-researchers by giving him their addresses and recommending contact. This made academic networking much easier for Joachim. You may remember that in my last show I talked about so-called “coconut people” and “peach people”? Well, today we will meet this analogy again and in our category “absolutely integrated” Kyle and Joachim immediately agreed that these two types of people behave very differently. Kyle suggested that Americans may be more comfortable combining business with friendship.
Those who have lived abroad tell us that it is hard to adjust to a new culture because of little differences in spontaneous behavior – but how can it be difficult to go back to your own culture afterwards?
Imagine you leave your hometown, your work place or your university for a year and when you come back and you want to share all your new experiences with your friends – you notice that people are not quite as interested in your stories as you expected, or even worse, people did not even notice that you were away for a whole year?
Alice Wo is an Intercultural trainer who offers courses for students who face this situation after coming back from extended periods abroad. She helps them with the re-entry into their own culture and surroundings. Most people are prepared for a culture shock when they go out to a foreign country. But few are prepared for a similar shock when they come back home. When you spend a year in a different culture, you may adopt some customs that are unusual for your own home country. This readjustment process to the primary culture can affect people psychologically and even physically especially when they are unprepared for this.
People do, as a general rule, quickly adapt to their own culture again – but maybe if they were a little better prepared for this they would be less shocked or depressed upon their arrival home. After some stays in the US and in England I sometimes feel that the friendly openness is something which I miss when I get back home. I was in Florida over Christmas, where I certainly met a typical “peach-person”. We were waiting for a guided tour, my wife and I were standing around and suddenly a lady came to join the group of about 15 people. And instead of also standing a bit at the side and pretending the others were not there, she came straight to us, stretched out her hand and said: “Hi, my name is Linda”. Actually, we first thought she must be the guide but then she stayed with us and made small talk until the tour guide arrived. We were really surprised how quickly this networking machine enclosed us in her circle of friends and we soon discussed intimate topics such as “how much do you earn” which I would never even discuss with my close friends back home.
The next show will be coming to you on 13 November from Anne Fox in Denmark.
When we first got a mail about the University of the People I thought I had better just check and the more I investigated, the more I realised that I hadn’t been able to recognise this initiative for what it was because it is so unique and visionary. And as I have found several times, over the last 3 years, I realised that this was the product of one person’s strong vision to do what they can to overcome disadvantage and misunderstanding. So this show is mainly about Shai Reshef and the free tuition online university he has founded in order to make higher education accessible to anyone with a high school diploma. This is an offer open to anyone, anywhere in the world.
absolutely accessible The world needs educated people but universities are expensive. Shai Reshef, an Israeli entrepreneur, is trying to do something about this by harnessing the power of the Internet, social networking and Open Source educational materials to provide free tuition and low cost examinations through his University of the People. I asked him first to describe his background to see if there were any clues there as to why he had come up with this idea.
The tuition is free but there are still some costs which need to be covered. So we hear a little more about the costs of attending the University of the People and how it works in practice. There is a lot more about the university and how it operates if you go to their website.
absolute role model A few months back we had a request from Debbie Swallow in the UK of 4c International to suggest the names of some celebrities who could be deemed intercultural ambassadors. Well when I talked with Debbie about her main work a few weeks back I reminded her about her request and asked if any good suggestions had come forward. We should probably add Shai Reshef to that list now but at the time we talked, the University of the People had yet to open. So we’ll be hearing which other names cropped up.
Debbie originally left a comment on our blog so if you have any comments or suggestions you could tell us what you think at the bottom of this post. As I mentioned at the beginning, we found out about the University of the People when they sent us an email so that’s how the podcast works.
Even if we expect differences when we travel or meet foreigners in our own countries – the best and most intensive intercultural learning is always accompanied by small culture shocks. Our show today will focus on the Anna Lindh Foundation and in particular two young, influencial bloggers from Israel and Tunisia who I met in Luxemburg at the bloggers’ meeting, so our main topic will be the “culture of blogging”. We will also hear about an American exchange student at RheinAhrCampus and her stereotypes about Germany. Oh yes, and we will be talking about peaches and coconuts!
I met Erin from Texas and she told me about her experiences in Europe and why she suffered a culture shock or maybe several small shocks at the beginning. She noticed that we use very different street signs and traffic lights from the US and that we drive such tiny cars. But also, the everyday behaviour of people in the street struck her as rather different. When you meet Germans for the first time they don’t appear as friendly as Americans but once you have got to know them as friends it seems that you’ll never lose this friendship over time. Let us hear what emotions Erin had and how she confronted these confusing situations.
absolutely fruitful As you heard, it takes Germans a little longer to “open up” to foreigners, whereas in the US it seems much easier to get in contact with people. Some intercultural scholars describe this well-known phenomenon in a comparison with the fruits, peaches and coconuts. “Peach-people” are all nice soft, smiling, and sweet on the outside and it is easy to get in touch with them and have a pleasant, initial conversation but afterwards you may hit a hard kernel in the middle and this seems almost impossible to penetrate. These people may be very friendly when you meet them as complete strangers, for example on public transport, but would perhaps not dream of letting you into their inner circle of friends or invite you to their family homes.
On the other hand you have the “Coconut-people” who have their hard and sometimes unwelcoming shell on the outside. So when you meet them for the first time they seem unfriendly and reserved. However, once you have penetrated that hard shell you will find out that they are much softer and sweeter on the inside.
Often Germans experience Americans as “peaches” and Americans see Germans as “coconuts”.
absolutely half baked
Now I’d like to introduce you to Carmel Vaisman, a communication scholar from Israel who I met at the bloggers’ training in Luxemburg. Carmel is a passionate blogger, very busy sharing her very interesting experiences in Israel and abroad with others in the world. Most recently we heard about her “find Lost”-experiences in Hawaii.
I’ll present you another really astonishing young blogger Samar Samir Mezghanni from Tunisia. She has been writing children’s books since she was 10 years old – so at the time she was a child herself. What an interesting idea to publish children’s books written by other children who are barely older than themselves. This way Samar gained an entry into the Guinness book of world records as “Youngest Writer in the World” and two years later as “Youngest Most Prolific Writer in the World”. I had the privilege of meeting her in person and experiencing this bundle of energy. She told me about what kind of stories she writes about, what gave her the idea to write children’s books and how she became a blogger.
The next show will be coming to you on 16 October from Anne Fox in Denmark.
Welcome to show number 92 of Absolutely Intercultural. The podcast which brings you news and views, hints and tips about cross-cultural communication. My name’s Anne Fox and this show is coming to you from Denmark. My main guest today is Debbie Swallow in the UK who has a lovely way of explaining how she first became aware of cross-cultural issues when everything she had learned in business school became ‘seasick’ when she tried to transfer it to Finland.
absolutely English: Over the years we have talked to many experts about various aspects of intercultural communication but one thing I hadn’t thought about before was how you get into this line of work. Debbie Swallow, based in the south of England, helps people improve their presentations for international audiences but finds it much easier to sell her services to non-English speaking clients than native speakers who tend to have the attitude ‘well everybody speaks English don’t they?’ So let’s hear how Debbie started in the business. After revealing how she started in the business Debbie talks about how difficult it is to sell inter-cultural training in English speaking contexts.
This next piece is bound to upset some of you. It certainly upset a great many people in Denmark. What you’re about to hear is the audio track from a You Tube video. All I will say for now is that although this story sounds authentic, it is completely fake. The challenge for you is to decide what the purpose of putting such a story up on You Tube would be.
The reason this video caused such discussion is that it was made by the official Danish tourist organisation, Visit Denmark, and was meant to attract foreigners to take a holiday in Denmark. Many people argued that it was a completely misleading and offensive portrait of Denmark while others argued that this viral video had been a clever and innovative marketing ploy, witness that I am re-distributing it here. My own view is that this video must be extremely offensive and off-putting to many cultures around the world.
It is certainly a challenge to represent a country’s culture avoiding the usual clichés about sandy beaches and good food but I somehow don’t think this was a good alternative. Why not be constructive and suggest ways in which your own country’s culture could be portrayed while avoiding the clichés as a comment to this post?
absolutely presentable: In our final piece we re-join Debbie Swallow of 4c International Ltd and hear how she helps people tailor their presentations for different audiences. I guarantee that you won’t get any tips on voice projection or making better powerpoint slides. Instead, listen out for the 10 factors to take account of when you are making a presentation to an audience from a different culture.
The next show will be coming to you from Laurent Borgmann in Germany on the second of October when he will be bringing you the final report from the Euromed Bloggers meeting in Luxemburg so stay tuned!
So long…stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole
Today we will focus on the Anna Lindh Foundation’s Euromed Bloggers Training on Intercultural Dialogue, where you can listen to a short summary of the event by Andreu Claret, the executive Director of the ALF and also to interviews with the participants.
absolutely online: I met Stephen Spillane and during the last breakfast I managed to interview him and ask him about his impressions. It was interesting to hear that in his life, beside the “normal” culture where he meets people face-to-face he manages to also lead a life in the digital culture meeting friends in cyberspace. He says that if you get to know someone new in this online world – sometimes it is better not to meet the person face to face, but to keep the mystery online. For him the Euromed Bloggers Meeting was the first time that he met so many different cultures in one room and Stephen was impressed how different and yet how similar the Euro-Mediterranean cultures can be.
absolutely separated: Kyle Hickman is an American student from California doing his internship at the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung(FAZ), one of the biggest newspapers in Germany. Dr. Joachim Birzele is a professor at RheinAhrCampus University in Remagen who has just come back from a tour of several North-American universities. They told us about their work experiences in German companies and institutions and about the most obvious differences in social life between the two countries.
absolutely erasmus: Apparently it is not so easy to integrate in the host country as most of your work colleagues already have their circle of friends and may be concentrating a little more on their own families. So how can you break through this invisible barrier? How can you convince people that although you are only staying in their country for a short period of time they should spend some quality time with you? I talked with some Erasmus students who had the courage to spend six months in a completely foreign culture. Marina and Lora were in the same situation as Kyle and had to overcome some psychological barriers on their way to integration. How can you make friends in a “low context culture” when you have grown up in a “high context culture” One of their secrets is to host a party at which they introduce the guests to their home country and culture. Check our Marina’s and Lora’s experience reports about their studies at RheinAhrCampus
Andreu started by giving a short summary of the contents and the output of the bloggers meeting in Luxemburg, about the experience he had while he was in Cairo when Obama made his famous speech at the university, about the intercultural dream of the Anna Lindh Foundation and of the relatively small window of opportunities, open to politics in the Middle East.
You will hear more from the meeting in Luxemburg in our show 93, where we will feature more bloggers who took part in the meeting. In fact, there will be an important campaign ”Restore Trust, Rebuild Bridges” which will be happening online around September 11 with the help of many of the bloggers who came together in Luxemburg and we will report about this in future shows. Please check out Carmel Vaisman’s and Stephen Spillane’s very touching postings about the bloggers meeting in Luxemburg.
Our next show, however, will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 18 September.
The unifying theme for this show is learning. Firstly learning by experience. Remember Greg Houfe from the UK who talked to us before starting a consultancy project in Denmark? As we’ll hear later he’s now not quite so sure that business practices are pretty universal within Europe. We’ll also be hearing about a very simple way of motivating people to improve their English by getting them to talk about aspects of their home culture.
By the way, if you have any comments or suggestions about this show or suggestions for future shows then just leave a comment on our blog at www.absolutely-intercultural.com or send us a mail to the address shown on the blog.
We start the show by being absolutely experienced. Remember we talked to Greg Houfe from the UK earlier in the year when there was a possibility of him getting some consultancy work in Denmark? He was trying to find out his intercultural quotient to see how ready he was to cross borders. Well he got the project and has been commuting over to Denmark for a couple of months now and I couldn’t resist getting back in touch to see how things were going.
From learning by experience we’ll now hear about learning by sharing. Nellie Deutsch in Toronto, Canada came up with the simple idea of inviting people to prepare online presentations about their culture as a way of improving their English. The project is called Storytelling and cultures and you can see what goes on and join in yourself by going to their website at http://storytelling-cultures.ning.com (no longer active). What happens is that once a week someone volunteers to give an online presentation about some aspect of their culture and Nellie and her colleagues offer to help the presenter using Powerpoint and on annotating the pictures and also help with giving the actual presentation itself which happens in the free tool called wiziq. This simple idea turns out to be very powerful and attractive as we hear from Nellie herself.
Well that’s it for this show. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Anna Lind event in Luxembourg on September 4th when Laurent will be hosting the show from Germany. Until then stay tuned!
The next show about the Bloggers Meeting of the Anna Lindh Foundation in Luxemburg will be coming to you on 4 September from Germany.
So long…stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke