Why Denmark? +++ Iceland +++ South Africa +++ Masters +++ PhD +++ Absolutely Intercultural 287 +++

Peter & Úlfar in Iceland

Welcome to Show 287 of Absolutely Intercultural coming to you from Denmark. My name’s Anne Fox and Denmark is where I have lived for almost thirty years. It is a small country of nearly 6 million people which has 8 universities. Compared to Germany’s 380, or the USA’s seemingly too many to count, but let’s settle for over 4000, eight Danish universities seems like a very small pool to choose from. So why would anybody come to Denmark for their university studies? This is what we’re going to find out in this show. We will be talking to Peter from South Africa who has a complex family history that is reflected in the languages spoken at home and Úlfar from Iceland who’s noticed something about Denmark.

absolutely uncertain

In our first segment, “absolutely uncertain”, let’s find out how Peter came to Denmark, to study in Danish, after being brought up in South Africa and having done his schooling in German.

absolutely engineered

In our next segment, “absolutely engineered”, let’s hear from Úlfar, an Icelander who had limited options for his Masters back in Iceland and chose Denmark.

So maybe small is beautiful after all. Family history and colonial ties seem to count greatly in addition to any global ranking that Danish universities may also have. Just for information DTU is number 165 globally or, when we’re talking specifically engineering and technology, 3rd after Stanford and MIT, while Copenhagen is 107 globally. And Iceland has seven universities which is only one less than Denmark, but it’s something to do with size! What about you? Did you ever consider studying in a small country like Denmark? Get in touch, feel free to share your unique story with us here on the podcast.

Write a comment or mail us, we could do a follow-up interview with you in one of our next shows. On our web page, absolutely-intercultural.com, you can get more information about this show and previous episodes, and you can leave comments. And if you enjoyed the show, please like us on Facebook too.   

By the way, did you know we are also on iTunes or Apple Podcasts? You can subscribe to us there for free and give us a rating and a comment. 

Our next show will be coming to you on 3 November from Laurent Borgmann in Germany.

Until then, stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox



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absolutely intercultural 170 +++ cross-cultural trainers +++ Burgheimer +++ Gokun Silver +++ SIETAR

Credit: Dennis Hill, FontPlay.com

Welcome and shanah tovah.  Why shanah tovah? Because that is the Hebrew New Year greeting and it was the Israeli new year the day before this podcast came out. I learned this from Marion Burgheimer, an Israeli cross cultural trainer I spoke with about the most popular links on our Absolutely Intercultural Facebook Page. She also told me that Shanah Tova is a wish for a good new year rather a happy new year, as a good year makes you happy. Welcome to Christian Garry Kansil who is the latest person to like our Facebook Page. I wonder if you’re finding the links we post there of interest Christian? In this show I talked to two cross cultural trainers to find out more about their work and how they got into it.

absolutely curious
How do you become a cross cultural trainer? I’m sure that this isn’t something you told your careers adviser at school that you wanted to be when you grew up. So that was how I started my conversation with both of our guests in this show. First I asked Marion Burgheimer about how she came to be a crosscultural trainer.

absolutely linked
Then I spoke to Marion about some of the links which have proved popular on our facebook page and what made them popular. If you know of any interesting links which we should share on our Facebook Page then leave us a comment there or use our blog or send us an email. Also use the blog to contact us if you know of someone we should be speaking to for a future podcast.

absolutely lost
So now to our second cross cultural trainer, Margarita Gokun Silver, founder of the Global Coach Center; same questions, what’s your background and how come you became a cross cultural trainer and we’ll see that Margarita’s strength lies in helping the spouses of people who get stationed abroad and who are absolutely lost in some cases. Here are some of the things they say:

You can find more Global Coach Centre videos on their YouTube channel. In fact I spoke at greater length to Margarita and I hope that I can bring you a bit more of that conversation in later shows. But in the mean time search this post for all the links we talked about and the videos that Margarita has produced, visit us on Facebook Page or see the show on our YouTube channel.
Our next show will be coming to you from Dr. Laurent Borgmann on October 4th so stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Anne Fox

Editor: Younes Jaber

Image: Dennis Hill, FontPlay.com at Flickr




absolutely intercultural 98 +++ Kole Ade-Odutola +++ Yoruba +++ Minhaaj Ur Rehmen +++ environmental awareness +++ conflict avoidance +++ Sweden +++ African Footprint +++

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.

absolutely secure
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 next show will be coming to you on 25 December from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Australia.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is:  Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole

absolutely Intercultural 94 +++ University of the People +++ Shai Reshef +++ Debbie Swallow +++ 4C International +++

uniofpeopleabsolutely confused
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.  

The next show will be coming to you on 30 October from Dr. Laurent Borgmann   in Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox

Editor: Dino Nogarole

absolutely intercultural 92 +++ 4C International +++ Debbie Swallow +++ Visit Denmark +++

4c Model of Business Comm

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.

absolutely outrageous:
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

absolutely intercultural 90 +++ learning by experience +++ story telling & cultures +++ Nellie Deutsch +++

storytellingThe 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.

absolutely experienced:
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.

absolutely sharing:
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

absolutely intercultural 88 +++ Cultural Synergies +++ culture as elephant +++ vocational education +++ international project teams +++ Tom Verghese +++


small_CoverThe whole show is devoted to a conversation I had with Tom Verghese of Cultural Synergies which is an international management consultancy in Melbourne, Australia.

absolutely invisible:
First of all I asked Tom Verghese the story behind the name of his book which is ‘The Invisible Elephant’. It turns out that an elephant is a great metaphor for culture and it is also linked to the expression about the elephant in the room meaning the big issue which nobody dares to talk about.

absolutely vocational:
Tom referred to several racist incidents which have happened in Australia recently as the catalyst for his next book, ‘The Invisible Elephant in the classroom’ which will give practical ideas for short focused activities to help vocational teachers make their increasingly international classes more inclusive. Something as simple as getting all the students to explain the story behind their names helps everyone in the class to appreciate the cultural richness within it.

absolutely reflective:
Tom has developed a tool called the Cultural Mirror which helps groups of people discover their tendencies in 9 significant cultural factors. Some of these are well known from the  basic literature of intercultural communication by Gert Hofstede and Edward Hall such as a tendency to individualism or collectivism or the tendency to monochronic or polychronic attitudes to time. But some of the nine factors were new to me such as the dichotomy between a guilt-based culture and a shame-based culture. Knowing where the individual memebers of your international team stand on these issues should be a great starting point for working out best practices within the team regarding attitudes to deadlines and so on. I am certainly interested in trying out the Cultural Mirror exercise at the beginning of the next project which I coordinate. The cultural mirror approach is described in more detail in the book, ‘The Invisible Elephant’.

The next show will be coming to you on 7 August from Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke

absolutely intercultural 86 +++ Virtual mobility +++ C-shock +++

C-shock logo

In this show we will be going virtual, as we have done several times before, to explore two more aspects of the impact of the digital revolution. When he’s not podcasting, my co-host, Laurent Borgmann spends a great deal of his time encouraging his students to try a period abroad either as a student or as an intern but what about the idea of virtual mobility? I talked with Eva Abramuszkinová who is part of a European project which is trying to make it easy for students to be able to take part of their course at another university but virtually.

Fortunately for Laurent there are still many students who prefer to experience their mobility in the real world and it is for these people that the University of Portsmouth in the UK has developed an orientation game called C-Shock. The idea is that in playing the game you find out important things about being a student in the UK, such as normal behaviour in student accommodation, outside in public, everyday clothing and personal space. But does it work? I got a guinea-pig to try it out with me. And as you can hear, the consequences can be quite serious!

absolutely virtual:
Why would a university student choose to take part of a course as a virtual student rather than travelling abroad and getting the whole immersion experience? That was one of the questions I had for Eva Abramuszkinová from Newton College in the Czech Republic. The intercultural survival kit for the Ready for Virtual Mobility project can be found here.

absolutely playful:
A common dilemma in intercultural communication training is whether it should be culture specific (about one specific culture) or culture general. And by culture specific, we usually mean those types of courses which try to prepare you for work in Japan, India or some other specific location. But this is looking at culture specific from one end of the telescope. At the other end of the telescope is the receiving culture and there, the problem is, how do we prepare people from all over the world, to cope with living and working in exactly this place? The University of Portsmouth in the UK has tackled this challenge in part by making a culture orientation game called C-shock available online. Presumably the idea is that prospective students play the game to find out more about the UK and university life before they arrive or maybe even before they make a decision to come to the UK as against any other country. I explored C-Shock with my daughter who is a little microphone shy. So, useful? Accurate? I’d love to know what you think. Why not go to www.c-shock.com and try out the game yourself then leave a comment on our blog about how you did, whether you learned anything new or how it plays as a game. Or if you are a teacher you could give us some ideas about how to include this game in a lesson or project.

The next show will be coming to you on 10 July from Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke

absolutely intercultural 84 +++ cultural intelligence re-visited +++ Cultural Intelligence Center +++ David Livermore +++ Debbie Swallow +++

David Livermore - Leading with Cultural Intelligence

absolutely democratic?:
This week on different days depending on the different election rules there are elections all over Europe to elect members of the European parliament. Since when has there been the United States of Europe I hear you ask? Well no there is no such thing as the USE but we do have the 27 member European Union which many years ago decided to inject this organization with more directly accountable democracy by having a European Parliament. The sad thing is that people don’t seem to have any European identity and the results will simply be a reflection of national politics in each country with a lot of easy protest voting because of the perception that the result doesn’t matter. What we need here in Europe is a good dose of cultural intelligence maybe! So we’ll concentrate on that in this show.

absolutely intelligent:
In the last show we heard about a practical illustration of the way in which you can be actively culturally intelligent and this phrase is obviously very attractive because it is not only being used by Elisabeth Plum here in Denmark who I talked with in my last show but also by an organization calling itself the Cultural Intelligence Center in the US. But the Cultural Intelligence Center do not use the phrase Cultural Intelligence in exactly the same way as Elisabeth Plum. So I talked to David Livermore to find out more. So what is the difference between the CIC and the Danish brand of cultural intelligence? It turns out that the answer is a fourth critical strategy factor in addition to Plum’s three of action, knowledge and emotion. In fact David Livermore has just finished writing a book about how his brand of cultural intelligence can be applied to business situations. Called ‘Leading with Cultural Intelligence – the new secret to success’ it will be published in October. Click on the David Livermore link to find out more.

absolutely cross border:
It turns out that there are a couple of self-assessment quizzes on the CIC website, which confusingly has the web address culturalq.com, and I wanted to know how useful these might be. So to test one of these out I recruited Greg Houfe in the UK who may shortly be starting a project in Denmark to see how culturally intelligent he was prior to working with Danes and Norwegians. What score would he get?

absolutely famous:
Debbie Swallow in England asked:

‘Can you help? I’m in need of a list of well-known people (perhaps known in their own cultures even if not internationally) who we would consider as having cultural intelligence. I want to cite them as being role models.’

Well I thought about this and it turned out to be a very difficult question. In the end I thought that famous people were likely to be the people who least need to be culturally intelligent because we tolerate all sorts of eccentricities of our celebrities whether they be politicians or film stars. In fact politicians tend to be overly nationalistic while film stars such as Elisabeth Taylor have a reputation for being very demanding as they travel around. So there’s the challenge. Can you think of anybody who is well known, at least in your country, who you would rate as culturally intelligent? The only suggestion I could come up with was … don’t laugh now … Ray Mears, the survival expert. Why? Because for him survival means being acutely aware of your environment and where that includes people, he tends to make an effort to find out about them and interact with them. You surely must have a better suggestion than this! And if you do then please add it as a comment to this post.

The next show will be coming to you on 12 June from Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke

absolutely intercultural 82 +++ cultural intelligence +++ Plum +++ Tomalin +++ diversity +++ human rights +++

Cultural Intelligence
Are you intelligent?  one of our listeners, Dennis Jim Frederiksen wanted to know in February. Well he didn’t ask the question directly, but he did suggest that we take a look at the work of Elisabeth Plum who has come up with a new way of looking at intercultural differences and how to overcome them. She calls this cultural intelligence. So this show is about a new way of looking at the issue of intercultural competence.

We’ll also be hearing from Barry Tomalin, kicking off an exciting new European project called Diversity in Europe at Work, on why human rights has become part of the cultural landscape.

absolutely theoretical:
Why did Plum think we needed a new theory of culture? Ignoring the many aspects of diversity means you fall back on stereotypes according to Plum so how do you become culturally intelligent?

absolutely Russian:
So how does this translate into practice? When you meet with Russians, you should find out about Russian culture, right? Or maybe we shouldn’t!

absolutely diverse:
The idea that we shouldn’t focus on just one aspect was also the theme of Barry Tomalin’s talk to the ICC conference in Florence, Italy a couple of weeks ago. Tomalin is Director of Cultural Training at International House in London and was at the conference to present a new project called Diversity in the European Workplace or DEW for short, which is preparing some exciting intercultural training materials based on critical incident methodology. Tomalin started by talking about the different aspects of diversity which you typically find in a European workplace. These he called the 7 – ‘isms’. Watch out for an explanation of the Somali worker mystery at the end.   The recording comes courtesy of Carl Dowse who does intercultural training as part of his Business English courses in Germany and I hope to be talking to him in more detail about his approach in a later show.

absolutely intelligent:
Well let’s return to this idea of cultural intelligence. It is clear that the concept relies on the interplay of 3 factors, emotion, cognitive, action or what you feel, what you know and what you do. We hear how Elisabeth Plum explains the three factors.

So what do you think? Is this an idea that would help you in your intercultural encounters? You could let us know by leaving a comment here If you want to find out more about cultural intelligence then go to Elisabeth Plums blog where you can find details of her book and an article explaining the basic concepts of cultural intelligence. You may have heard Elisabeth mention that the phrase cultural intelligence is also used by a research group in the US in a slightly different way. So we will try and follow up on that so that we can see how the ideas compare. Well I hope that you are now a little more culturally intelligent. If not then you’ll just have to come back for more on May 15th when Laurent Borgmann hosts the next show from Germany.

The next show will be coming to you on 15th May Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke