absolutely nominated Our podcast has been nominated for the European Podcast Award – please help us win the prize by voting for us. Just click on the German and the Danish flag and vote for Absolutely Intercultural. The address is http://www.european-podcast-award.eu/ and basically all you need to do is to give us a star rating for both content and design and then click the Vote button and that’s it. Thank you in advance!
As I am preparing to leave Australia soon, in my mind I am trying to compile a collection of lasting impressions that I gained during my stay in down-under. Now, for this podcast my challenge was – to capture one specific sound that would be emblematic for Australia. For me, personally, this would probably be the incredible bird sounds that I have already shared with you in previous shows. However, I have a feeling that for others the sound of the didgeridoo captures the Australian spirit best. In a small country town of the Hinterland I was fortunate enough to meet a part-blood Aboriginal and his daughter, both, producers and players of these Yirdakis, which is the real name for these curious wind instruments developed by Indigenous Australians of northern Australia since at least 1500 years ago. In our first category, I wanted to find out what exactly you have to do to produce this typical sound and where the name “didgeridoo” comes from.
We are still talking about learning – can you imagine going to school again for the rest of your life? And to sit in class and listen to what a teacher tells you? Or maybe there are other forms of learning out there?
Lifelong learning is often promoted by institutions of adult education, so we have interviewed Ulla and Beate, who both work for adult education institutions. Ulla works for the Folkuniversitetet in Sweden and Beate for Volkshochschule Köln, in Germany. I asked them whether there is a recognisable culture of lifelong learning, and what makes people want to carry on learning throughout their lives.
It is incredibly rewarding to work with people who out of their own free will decide to improve themselves and constantly set themselves new challenges by integrating into new learning situations.
Two of these people are Jakub and Mariusz, two Erasmus students from Poland, who spent a summer semester at RheinAhrCampus in Remagen. In our last category they describe a stark difference between the student-professor-relationships in Poland and in Germany. Geert Hofstede describes the intercultural dimension behind this as “power distance”. It is defined as the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions (here the students) expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
Now, the observation of the two students totally confirms Hofstede’s theory. Power Distance in Poland is much higher than in most other European countries and in particular than in Germany. So it was to be expected that Polish students found the idea of a German Professor as a colleague and a friend very disturbing. However, we started our interview with the Polish students’ observations about Europe. They report that while the European idea is still new and exciting in Poland the Germans do not seem to appreciate or even question it any longer because they simply take Europe for granted.
The next show will be hosted by Anne Fox in Denmark on 02. April.
Together with Karsten Kneese and Fernando Reyero Noya, we continue to explore Geert Hofstede’s concept of Culture as the Software of the Mind. We discuss the aspect of cultural updates and how people need to adapt to new rules and behaviours due to changes in our society. Often they are brought about by changes in the law where as a result everybody around us starts behaving differently – for example after the smoking ban in public places. In fact, this update goes even further and there is a new word in the English language: “smirting”, which is a combination of “smoking” and “flirting”. This new behaviour pattern came with the non-smoking laws and allows a new kind of communication which lasts as long as a cigarette just outside the pubs. You wait until someone you would like to get to know in the pub gets up to have a cigarette and then join the person outside and use this 5-minute break together to get to know each other. Wikipedia has picked up this new trend and even describes the phenomenon of “passive smirting” as “the pastime for those who stand outside with friends or colleagues but do not actually smoke themselves.”
While most of the time we just react to updates and readjust our lives accordingly, some people actively open themselves to challenges and updates – for example by studying in another country in order to broaden their horizons. Aurora Mustonen from Finland is such a courageous person. She tells us how after her A-levels in Finland she decided that she wanted to move to England to do her bachelor’s degree.
It is amazing how such stays abroad do not only train our adaptability to other cultures but also seem to change our attitudes when we go back to our own cultures afterwards. This may be because we integrate successful pieces of behaviour which we learned and tested abroad into our home culture.
In our last category, we go on to another Finnish exchange student, Anna Moisio, a student at our University of Applied Sciences, Koblenz, who took part in a course called “International Business Simulations”. She soon found out that while this was called a “simulation” her managerial tasks as the CEO of the simulated company with branches in Lithuania, England, and Hungary had to be pretty “real”.
Anna explains to us how she had the opportunity to prove herself as the boss of an international company and was able to put into practice what she had learned about motivation and leadership in lectures and books, all within her experience at the foreign university setting. This experience was particularly important for her, as after completing her master thesis she plans to set up her own company. We wish her good luck for that!
The next show will be coming to you on 1 May from Anne Fox in Denmark.
In this show, we are revisiting the “tapas-trail” in León. I am taking you back to Spain where I visited our partner university in León some time ago. I wanted to have a look at the tapas culture there.
When you look up “tapas” in the English Wikipedia you will find that León is known for this culture. It says: “Spaniards often go “bar hopping” (Spanish: Ir de tapas) and eat tapas in the time between finishing work and having dinner. In León, a city in northwest Spain, an entire zone known as the Barrio Humedo is dedicated to tapas bars each serving their own unique dish served free with a corto (small beer) or glass of wine.”
In León, most bars still have the original Tapas culture which means that you buy a drink and get your tapas free without paying for them. It is interesting how this going “de tapas” or “tapear“, which are the Spanish expressions for this culture of walking about town, drinking un corto, a small glass of beer or a small glass of vino, eating tapas that come free with the drinks and meeting people all the time seems typical of the Spanish culture but would not work in colder climates simply because of the hassle of having to put on all these layers of clothes before walking out. So here we seem to have an example of how the climate has a strong influence on local cultural traditions.
We continue our series of round table discussions about Geert Hofstede’s comparison of “Culture as the Software of the Mind”. This time we listen to our studio guests Fernando and Karsten. I wanted to introduce the idea of sudden and unexpected updates and draw parallels between how we – the users – experience updates in computer software (for example the recent updates to Windows Vista and Office 2007) and how we experience similar updates in our culture. We concentrated on these “sudden updates”, not gradual updates, which run in the background, where we do not notice that we have a new version, but situations where someone comes into your office and says “Let me just install an update for you…” and then it takes you two weeks afterwards to get used to the new interface.
Some people use email purely for administrative matters or for organizing things. Others write emotional and personal messages with lots of emoticons, so even before you really read the messages you notice differences in style or culture. In a round table discussion with our studio guests Sophie, Maike, Julia, and Christina we discussed how email dominates our professional and private lives today. Even my students report that incoming email steals a lot of their time and some students from my Business English Course at RheinAhrCampus had given some good advice how to handle email-generated stress. They came up with ideas like reading every incoming email message only once before taking action; or making sure that the subject line is so clear that it catches the attention of the addressee straight away.
The next show will be coming to you on 6 February from Anne Fox in Denmark.
In our show today we look at Geert Hofstede’s statement of “Culture as the Software of the Mind” and will try to explore that metaphor to the extreme. We will be asking ourselves how we get to learn about a piece of new software and whether this experience can really be transferred to learning about a new culture. What, for example, can be done in the classroom to raise the intercultural awareness of students who prepare for their stays abroad?
In a round-table discussion with Berit Wiebe and Karsten Kneese we asked ourselves: “Where do we get our culture from? Do we get if from our parents like a new version of Photoshop for Christmas? Or do we get it from our peers like we would get new software if we illegally shared a programme with our friends? Or does the cultural learning rather work like the spell check in Word, which learns from us and improves because of the way we use it and add new items to it?
Audrey Fernandez-Diehl, who was born in Malaysia, studied in Australia and New Zealand, lived in Switzerland for a while and now teaches intercultural communication at university level in Germany tells us about her concept of culture, whether she thinks culture can be taught and about a very disturbing cultural game called Rufa Rufa. As Audrey teaches intercultural awareness, she says that her training is both, for foreign students who come to her university but also for her own students who prepare for going abroad.
On this last day of Christmas I would like to say that Anne and I have enjoyed another year of being in intercultural contact with you, the listeners, through our show. We appreciate your response, please keep it coming. Now, if you have not made any new year’s resolutions yet, maybe you could share your thoughts about the shows a little more with the other listeners on this blog using the “comment”-function. This show has given Anne and me many opportunities for having conversations about intercultural topics with experts and ordinary people which otherwise we would probably not have had. So, the two of us would also like to thank you, the listeners, for keeping us going and looking at intercultural issues from different angles on a fortnightly basis.
The next show will be coming to you on 9 January from Anne Fox in Denmark.