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  • 15 Jun 2020 7:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    So much has happened in the past month—actually, the past few weeks—that is painful to take in and process meaningfully. The George Floyd tragic death (and the list is so much longer than Mr. Floyd) has led to a powerful uprising in many countries of the world, but especially the United States. SIETAR USA has published our stand on racism that we include in this newsletter for those of you who have not yet seen it. In addition, our President Elect, Brett Parry shared an equity statement with a look to the future. People working on the conference had to take a break to process their own emotional reactions to the recent events. However, you will find in this issue that we have many more details available regarding the dates, schedule, and content of some of the proposals we have received.

    The Intercultural and DEI Community is a diverse group. We are united more by a common future than common pasts. Recently, however, we have all had to endure a pandemic that shut down travel, congregating, hugs. We have also been stirred to action by the events in Minneapolis and throughout the country and the world. While all this has been going on, many people have been working overtime to prepare a virtual conference for you—an experience you don’t want to miss! When we determined the theme for the conference (Moving Ahead: Learning from a Global Crisis) we hadn’t expected that “global crisis” would expand to include both the pandemic and the protests against racial injustice. In response, SIETAR USA leadership has planned a members-only Town Hall style event where we can join in conversation to be together in support and to hear about members’ concerns. Justin Sitron and Kelli McLoud-Schingen will co-host the Town Hall meeting

    What else is in this issue of The Interculturalist? In addition to articles on racial injustice and our virtual conference, this newsletter is a rich collection of information and news. We include a recipe of the month from Antimo Cimino. When you read the story behind his lasagna you will better understand the relationship Italians have with food. We discovered that readers have indeed been writing to us and we included a number of their comments in the Readers Write Us section. A Canadian colleague sent a thoughtful article on Culture and COVID-19. Carolyn Ryffel shared information about the webinars for the rest of the year. A Bookmarks guest editor, David Sanford wrote a thoughtful review of the intercultural classic The Silent Language by E.T. Hall. Patti Digh’s article on Moving from Models to Liberation.

    I hope you enjoy each and every article. But mostly I hope you stay safe and healthy. I treasure our community and want the best for everyone who is part of it.

    Sandra M. Fowler, President

  • 15 Jun 2020 7:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Being a Human Interculturalist During Turbulent Times
    Deborah Orlowski, Conference Chair

    Ability to deal with ambiguity, excellent communication skills, sense of humor, self-awareness, the ability to be comfortable in multiple cultures, empathetic, able to stand in others’ shoes. I’m sure by now you’ve recognized some of the many attributes and abilities one will find when looking for a definition of “interculturalist.” We’ve all seen them, used them, perhaps even taught them. They are our strengths as interculturalists, and they are particularly relevant these days. This is our time to shine, to show what we’ve got, to demonstrate to the world why these skills are crucial. So why are so many of us feeling like we’re hanging on by a thread? We’re exhausted at the end of a day of chasing gigs that have disappeared, converting classes to new formats, and watching endless hours of mass protests around the world. We know the work we do is critical, even “essential” in many cases. We are doing a good job of leading but some days it’s a struggle and there is just so much, well, ambiguity!

    The truth is that just because we have the skills to do the work doesn’t mean we’re invincible and are not feeling the effects of the world-wide pandemic and protests. People are depending upon us to lead, to be more comfortable in this type of environment and to show them how to do it. And we do. Yet we hurt too. We’ve lost people, we’re distressed, we’re trying to figure out how to “zoom” and carry on using new methodologies, all while leading our clients, students, colleagues and communities. So, what can we do?

    First, appreciate we are all human. As interculturalists we have skills, but all of us are also living in a new world that seems almost alien. Simple things like washing hands, opening a door or visiting a neighbor have the potential for being gravely dangerous. Day after day we witness our communities confronting the results of centuries of racism while debates rage about policing policies. Our brains and emotions are exhausted. It’s no wonder we struggle.

    Second, realize we are not alone. There are hundreds of colleagues “out there” who are not only experiencing the same thing, but are also finding new ways to address the issues facing us. Especially in the intercultural and DEI communities, people are not only happy, but they’re eager to connect, to share, to assist one another. This is no time to feel you must be independent. Just as you may need assistance from others, they may need it from you. Share your skills and compassion. Be open to listening to others’ stories. I used to organize a panel of leaders for a leadership class. The panel was the most powerful when the experts shared not only what they knew, but also how they failed. That sense of “we don’t have to be perfect” is important when one is facing crucial times.

    Third, put the 2020 SIETAR Virtual Conference on your schedule (details below). We are planning a conference that will help you learn new skills, network and feel a renewed sense of connectedness and caring from a world-wide intercultural network. If you never been to a SIETAR conference, you are in for a treat because a more supportive, more knowledgeable group of people will not be found anywhere else. If you’re a SIETAR regular, come back for all the reasons you come to SIETAR in the first place…the skills, the networking and the camaraderie. It will all be there, and more. Submit a proposal. Volunteer to help with the conference. Sign up for it and keep checking the website for updates. We are all here for all of us…the human interculturalists of SIETAR-USA and the world!

    JOIN US online for the 2020 SIETAR Virtual Conference.
    October 9-11, 2020.

    Check the website frequently for updates about the conference.


    Brett Parry, President Elect

    We are very grateful for the submissions we have received to present at the upcoming SIETAR USA Virtual Conference. As always it is so wonderful to have the opportunity to gather so much important learning related to our field.
 Some of you have been proactive in enquiring about the platform we will be using for the event. While the shift to this format was unexpected, it is certainly a challenge we embrace and look forward to as an opportunity for learning. With that in mind, we feel it is important to assess a number of platforms so as to ensure the very best experience for both presenters and attendees. No matter which platform we move forward with, rest assured you will be provided with ample opportunity to learn how to adapt your presentation to suit. Sessions will be provided for this, and technical support will always be at hand. The basics of course will involve utilizing existing web cam, audio and screen sharing capabilities you may already be using. The decision will be made soon, and once that takes place we will advise accordingly. Following a period of time that we will need to build it around the SIETAR USA branding, we will be reaching out to let you know about further preparations.


    Karen Lokkesmoe, Conference Oversight Director

    Yes!  There will be scholarship opportunities for the 2020 SIETAR USA Virtual Conference for students and young professionals that will cover the cost of registration.  Please watch for details to be posted soon on the Conference website.  https://www.sietarusa.org/Conference-Information


    What better way to show your support for SIETAR USA and the important and much needed work of intercultural and diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice professionals at this critical time in the world.  In addition to providing much needed support, you can get your message out to all our conference attendees around the world and participants in all our programs throughout the year through visual recognition on our website.  Our Sponsorship & Advertising team is busy creating new options for sharing your information in our virtual format to ensure the broadest reach possible.  Please watch for details on our conference website  https://www.sietarusa.org/Conference-Information or contact the committee directly at s.e.a@sietarusa.org.

    Update on a Preliminary Schedule for the 2020 SIETAR USA Virtual Conference

    When we began this year’s conference planning, we were expecting to be in-person in Omaha. Who knew that soon there would be a global pandemic, a global economic crash, and a global social justice and anti-racism movement—all happening at the same time? These are exciting, tumultuous times, and as intercultural and DEI practitioners, we all are called upon to ride with, guide others, and sometimes make waves to enable us to be “Moving Forward: Learning from the Global Crisis.” Change in this environment is inevitable, and our conference is no exception: We thank you in advance for your tolerance of the many adjustments we are making for our evolving virtual event. 

    This being our first virtual conference and having a long “runway” to the dates (9-11 October but could change) for the conference, we are thinking outside the box to make the most of this new experience. Since we are still considering various platforms—which will influence what we can do—a preliminary schedule at this time is premature. We see this delay as an opportunity for us to bring you something innovative and engaging, while still maintaining what you love about SIETAR USA.

    We hope you will be able to join us for this first ever virtual SIETAR USA event and look forward to networking, learning, and sharing with you.

    A Sneak Peak at What to Expect…

    Sandra M. Fowler, President

    Proposal reviewers get a chance to see what they might expect from the proposals they are assigned to review (it is not too late to volunteer to be a reviewer; contact the Program Chair at conferenceproposals@sietarusa.org) I thought you might like a glance at the titles of some of the proposals we have received. The proposals came in from around the world as well as from the United States. It’s an interesting mix. The titles listed below indicate the breadth of the proposed concurrent sessions; they do not imply that these have been reviewed and accepted. The review process won’t start until all proposals are in (June 15th). Nor are they the only ones related to the categories I chose. And they by far do not represent all the proposals. This is just a taste!

    Neuroscience is a popular and important topic. Expect sessions such as “A Trauma-Informed and Neurophysiological Approach to Coping with the Pandemic and Decreasing Polarization” and “Call to Action: Moving the Brain from “Us vs. Them” to “We”.”

    Are you interested in learning more about leadership? “Global Leadership Lessons from COVID-19” and “Can We Clone Jacinda Ardern? Today’s Desperate Need to Define Good Global Leaders” might be for you.

    Learn more about a personal and family dilemma: “Should I stay or Should I go? The response of the Expats community to the Pandemic.” Or lessons learned from an interracial couple: “Lessons for Times that are a Changin: Experiences from Interracial Couples.”

    As always, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a central topic from a variety of perspectives: “Exploring Somatic Awareness of Internalized Supremacy and Dominance;” “Navigating Implications of COVID-19: Developing Equity-Based Practices in Pursuit of Global Learning and Engagement;” and for the simulation gamers in SIETAR USA: “Space Pace to Inclusion Game. Virtual play session for professionals involved in diversity and inclusion.”

    Several proposals focus on educational issues such as: “Post Crisis Transformation of Academic Disciplines: ICC for STEM and the New Disciplinary Realignment.” And “Creating a Culture of Care & Social Justice in Times of COVID-19: Education, Policy, Practice.” And “Successful Collaboration in Academic Virtual Intercultural Teams.”

    You will find when the whole program becomes available, that this will be an opportunity to get inspired and learn something new, as you spend virtual time with colleagues who understand who you are, what you do, and ask really great questions!

  • 15 Jun 2020 7:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recently I was moved to broadcast a live presentation via social media. It was to reflect from a personal perspective on the recent events that have again highlighted the inequities imposed on certain communities, especially at this time People of Color.

    In part, it was prompted by various direct and indirect messages I had been receiving as a result of showing my support for those fighting for true equality and dignity in the face of systematic, structural oppression. There was a great deal of positive response and heartfelt appreciation. I am very grateful for that, and it inspires me to continue my support and allyship in whatever humble way I can offer it.

    However, it is intriguing to me that there is still an element of our society that is so committed to their privilege and mired in its defense that they feel to need to attack and threaten not just me but also my family. The tired old tropes get wheeled out, up to and including being told that I should “go back to where I came from if I don’t like it.” If that can happen to me, as a comfortable white person of privilege, then imagine the vitriol faced by minorities must endure each and every day.

    Fun fact. I am not going anywhere. And as I assume the honor in the coming months of transitioning into the role of President at SIETAR USA, I will be committed to building on the work of my respected predecessors in identifying and eradicating any and all barriers to full inclusion of all. This includes, but is not limited to, those who favor us with their investment as a members, or those that chose to honor us with their service as a board member, committee member or general volunteer.

    The work of full equity, diversity and inclusion starts with our own minds. If that well is poisoned, all we will do is continue to inflict the same sickness on those who come to drink from whatever knowledge we have to offer. Conversations will be uncomfortable; learning will be confronting. So it should be. The work is hard, but like all worthwhile toil, the freedom that it promises is breathtaking.

    Brett Parry

    SIETAR USA President Elect

  • 15 Jun 2020 7:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We have a guest editor for Bookmarks this month. It is SIETAR USA member David Sanford. He has taken on a classic in the intercultural field: The Silent Language.

    By Edward T. Hall
    Fawcett Publications, Inc,
    Greenwich, CT, 1959, 192 pages

    Reviewed by David C Sanford

    Just about the time the cross-cultural field was being formally recognized and accepted, I found myself at a used bookshop and came across a book by the name of “The Silent Language,” by Edward T. Hall. It is a 75 Cent paperback copy published in 1959. I still have this copy with its yellowing, brittle pages.

    As the title implies, this book is about language, actually the non-verbal gestures and actions which are at the core of our human interactions and communication.  Because of his appreciation for this dynamic and his work at the time with the selection and training of Americans to work in what he called “foreign” countries, Hall was motivated to write this book in order to explore the difficulties in intercultural communication through examining the significance of what people do rather than what they say. To this end he offers up the importance of observing non-verbal actions and gestures which he labels as the hidden language, a key to understanding our cultural differences. In many ways this book was and remains one of the first explorations into identifying the field of cross-cultural communication. For this reason, I believe it is a classic in the field.

    What caught my attention in rereading it this time is the way in which he methodically examines what culture means by weaving in his personal questions, stories and conclusions, and those of several social scientists of the day. I am particularly struck by the way in which he addresses U.S. Americans and our ignorance of other cultures, and the need for us to get on board and not only be curious about different cultures but get over our ethnocentricity to understand not only “foreign” cultures but more importantly understand our own. One of the most iconic phrases of the intercultural field came from this book, “…Culture hides much than it reveals, and strangely enough what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants…”

    From the perspective of an academic and field experience as an anthropologist, Hall discusses his opinions and conclusions as he weaves U.S. Americans into the main theme to understand culture through the lens of non-verbal communication. Among the main groundbreaking ideas he presents, the following are particularly noteworthy:

    1. Culture is a form of communication. “Communication is culture and culture is communication.”
    2. The power of non-verbal communication with every gesture and action significantly influences how we perceive others and view ourselves as cultural beings. It is that which is not spoken, the “silent language’ which plays a key role in our human relationships.
    3. Humans operate on three different levels which Hall (and Trager, a fellow academic) presents as the tripartite theory.  To illustrate this he points out for example how Americans talk about and handle time. There is the “formal” literal time as in what a watch says. There is the “informal” situational reference as in “later” or “in a minute.” And the “technical,” which measures increments of precision.   Each is present in any situation, but one will typically dominate at any given moment in time. These moments are constantly shifting which can then present several opportunities to study how change works for different people, particularly as they encounter those from a different cultural perspective than their own.  It is within this discussion that he introduces us to the concept of “monochronic,” a term we take for granted these days
    4. Space or territoriality: an animal’s instinctive defense of his habitat, den is compared to how we are defensive of our car, desk, yard, or how we demarcate the literal physical boundary, the bubble between us and others. He applies the tripartite theory to discuss this concept.
    5. Culture or communication is concerned with messages, and these have three components: sets, isolates and patterns. In this case messages can be broken down into sets (words), isolates (sounds), and patterns (grammar or syntax). 

    Essentially, what Hall has accomplished in the writing of this book, along with its successive editions over the past 60 years, is to instill not only an interest in the study of culture, but also the passion to pursue a career in the field of cross-cultural communication, training, consultation or coaching. Every interculturalist’s personal library, yes full of good old paperback or hardcover books, should include this classic work which remains ground breaking and to this day presents the aspiring interculturalist with a foundation for understanding our field, and a window into our historical beginnings.

    Edward T. Hall
    (Link to photo)

  • 15 Jun 2020 7:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Patti Digh is the author of 8 books and the founder of The School of Inclusion + Activism.

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion - and Intercultural Communication - have luxuriated far too long in the abstract, academic world of models and theories. In the U.S. context, some of those models may even reflect the White supremacist culture in which many of us have been socialized.

    We’ve created polite conversations that rarely touch the root causes of racism and bigotry. Now, in this Perfect Storm of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter revolution, we must find ways to take all that knowledge to the streets, to turn it into actionable wisdom and strategy that will serve the liberation of our BIPOC friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. 

    But is liberation from oppression really the end goal for interculturalists? Do we even speak of liberation? Are we prepared to answer the burgeoning organizational requests for help in this current context or do our solutions stop short because our corporate clients stop short themselves? Is our work relevant enough for the current need? Are we ready to move our work into the necessary context of liberation? I don’t think so, but I hope so.

    Theory and praxis are sometimes barely related. I can remember when interculturalists hesitated to include people doing corporate work on diversity, equity, and inclusion in this field, and that wasn’t too long ago. It was seen as too base. We didn’t speak of racism outright because it was felt to be too limiting a U.S. viewpoint. That has started to change; there is still work to be done, as the protests in the streets around the world are showing us.

    We have an important moment to rise to, and in order to do that, I believe we need to start speaking the language of oppression and liberation more clearly. Everything else--honoring differences, providing models for understanding cultural norms--falls short at this moment. 

    We need to do our own internal and external work on these issues. We need to dedicate ourselves specifically to eliminate the causes of racism and bigotry both within this field and outside it. Otherwise, the other work we do is window-dressing. 

    In the past two weeks, many organizations have produced the requisite on-brand statement about supporting Black Lives Matter. But what comes next? Hard conversations about whiteness in their workplaces, among other things. I don’t see those conversations taking place in most institutions and among many interculturalists. Let’s change that.

    We all know that racism is the foundation of Western society; we are socialized into a racial hierarchy. All of us are shaped by the forces of racism; no one is exempt. All white people benefit from the racial hierarchy, regardless of intentions. Racism must be continually identified, analyzed and challenged; no one is ever done. The question is not if racism is at play, but how is it at play? The racial hierarchy is invisible and taken for granted for most white people. These are some of the issues our work must center itself on to be relevant at this moment.

    As individuals doing this work, we need to be able to point to our own stake in the ground relative to racism. We must hold ourselves accountable for doing our own antiracism work in ways we probably have not before.

    As Robin DiAngelo has written, “Accountability within antiracist work is the understanding that what I profess to value must be demonstrated in action, and the validity of that action is determined by Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color. Accountability requires trust, transparency, and action. As a white person seeking to be accountable, I must continually ask myself, “How do I know how I am doing?” To answer this question, I need to check in and find out. I can do this in several ways, including: by directly asking Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color with whom I have trusting relationships and who have agreed to offer me this feedback; talking to other white people who have an antiracist framework; reading the work of Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color who have told us what they want and need (this work is easy to find and many racial justice educators have good resource lists on their websites) and; engaging in the exercises Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color provide in online classes and workbooks. Ultimately it is for Black, Indigenous and Peoples of Color to decide if I am actually behaving in antiracist ways. When I find that I am out of alignment, I need to do what is necessary and try to repair the situation. And yes, the more experience and practice I have in antiracist work the more thoughtfully I will be able to use the feedback I receive.”

    You and I have both seen these bubbles before. Moments in time where people get riled up about racism, and then that moment is gone. We can't let that happen now.

    As I said to my Facebook community recently, if this has prompted you to read Black writers, keep reading them. If it has led you to explore your own white supremacy, keep exploring. If it has caused you to donate to organizations fighting for liberation, keep donating. If it has prompted you to speak up when you see racism in action, please keep speaking up. If it has caused you to pay attention to politicians and their platforms and voting records, keep paying attention. If it has brought you to the point where you can speak truth to power, keep on doing that. If it led you to protest in the streets, don't stop.

    But the entry fee for interculturalists is higher than those actions. Pick up Erica Sherover-Marcuse’s “Liberation Theory: A Working Framework” and Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist as starting points. In Sherover-Marcuse’s work, you will find statements such as these to ponder relative to your own work:                                       

    “Biological/cultural/ethnic/sexual/religious/age differences between human beings are never the cause of oppression. The use of these differences to explain either why certain groups of people are oppressed (or) why certain groups of people behave oppressively, functions as a justification of oppression.” If your first reaction to that statement is defensiveness, that’s good feedback for you.

    This moment is potent--around the world. What we can learn from it is powerful. The change that can and must occur can't and won't occur if we go back to business as usual. It's hard work, but it is joyous work, aiming for the liberation of our Black kin, our brothers and sisters and owning our part in their oppression. They keep choosing love, and we keep choosing ignorance. Let's change that.

  • 15 Jun 2020 6:25 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     International and Cross-Cultural Section of the Canadian Psychological Association

    By Megan Norton

    May 27, 2020

    Pandemics are complex dynamic systems that shift and change over time due to the influence of a huge and interacting set of variables. Cultural contexts, although they tend to change more slowly, are similarly complex. Research on cultural processes unfolding under pandemic conditions is therefore fraught with uncertainty. Nonetheless, thanks to research conducted during and after previous disease outbreaks combined with the first studies rapidly assembled in the first months of the current pandemic, we are in a position to make some initial evidence-based claims as cultural and cross-cultural psychologists.

    Pandemics are complex dynamic systems that shift and change over time due to the influence of a huge and interacting set of variables. Cultural contexts, although they tend to change more slowly, are similarly complex. Research on cultural processes unfolding under pandemic conditions is therefore fraught with uncertainty. Nonetheless, thanks to research conducted during and after previous disease outbreaks combined with the first studies rapidly assembled in the first months of the current pandemic, we are in a position to make some initial evidence-based claims as cultural and cross-cultural psychologists.

    Contemporary cultural / cross-cultural psychology rejects the idea that biology and culture are opposed. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is straightforwardly biological, as is the associated disease, COVID-19. Nonetheless, the cultural context shapes the ways in which people engage with this threat, affecting everything from preexisting health status (and hence, vulnerability) and living conditions to how people react to the threat of the virus and to the measures being taken to combat it.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have already observed cultural variations in:

    • Pre-virus readiness for pandemics and other disasters;

    • Transmission rates;
    • Behavioural responses (e.g., mask-wearing, handwashing);
    • Official policies (e.g., “social distancing”);
    • Compliance with official policies.

    While our biological immune system is critical when we are infected with a virus, our behavioural immune system helps protect us from getting infected in the first place. It does so by helping us to detect pathogen cues and then to trigger relevant emotional and behavioural responses to these cues. Many aspects of this system are shaped by the local cultural context.

    Indeed, some aspects of culture itself may have been shaped by variations in historical levels of infectious disease risk, leading to longstanding differences between cultural groups. For example, cultural groups with a high historical prevalence of pathogens tend to show lower levels of social gregariousness and greater concern about outgroup members.

    We can understand the links between cultural context and COVID-19 at three levels:

      • The macro-level of whole societies;

      • The meso-level of families and communities;
      • The micro-level of individual people.

    Let us consider each level in turn.

    The Macro-level of Whole Societies

    Societies differ in numerous demographic ways relevant to COVID-19. For example, societies differ in terms of:

    • The strength of the economy;
    • The development of the healthcare system;
    • Urban population density;
    • Degree of emergency preparedness.

    These structural differences are shaped by longstanding cultural tendencies. For example, we would expect societies characterized by widespread valuation of a long-term time horizon to emphasize preparedness as compared with societies focused more on short-term concerns.

    Political polarization in a given society can also lower trust, leading people to prefer advice from politically motivated sources and/or advice that fits with political preconceptions. Structural discrimination against certain ethnocultural groups can also compromise trust. There is an added concern that such polarization can lead different segments of society to act in conflict with each other rather than in pursuit of common goals.

    Societies also differ in cultural patterns of values and behaviour. The extent to which people in a given society move between different locations, or geographical mobility, is associated with a set of skills that facilitate frequent shifts between different social networks, or relational mobility. Recent research has shown that the transmission rate during the 30 days after the first case of COVID-19 is correlated with societal levels of relational mobility. It appears that one problem with mobile societies is increased ease of transmission across geographical and social distances.

    The extent to which people in a given society adhere closely to rules or look for opportunities to violate such rules can be understood as a distinction between tightness and looseness. There is evidence that tighter societies are more likely to accept behavioural constraints. Particular advantages may accrue to societies able to maintain tight-loose ambidexterity: tight norms with sufficient looseness to promote ‘outside-the-box thinking’. This combination of self-restraint and creativity might be especially helpful in pandemic situations, as both are needed.


    The Meso-Level of Families and Communities

    Normative behavioural patterns in particular social networks can affect the transmission both of (a) an infectious disease and (b) ideas about the disease. Whereas the former requires study of how a virus propagates within and between bodies (e.g., increased contagion of a virus that survives for a long time on surfaces), the latter requires study of how ideas propagate within and between minds (e.g., increased believability of an idea frequently repeated by a source deemed credible). 

    Social networks accelerate transmission of harmful and helpful ideas about a given disease and what one ought to do about it. Such transmission can take place through conversation or observational learning, but also through traditional news sources or social media. Social capital, or the value that comes from our social networks and connections, varies across families and communities. Whereas a focus on strengthening intra-group connections (high bonding capital) would keep the virus in the local bubble, a focus on strengthening inter-group connections (high bridging capital) would allow the virus to be transmitted more widely. 

    The centrality of social connectedness in many communities is reflected through participation in communal events, which may feel obligatory (e.g., festivals, weddings, funerals). Emotional expressivity in certain communities may be associated with close talking, handshakes, kissing, loud exclamations, and so on. All of this is conducive to droplet projection, which further propagates the virus.

    Measures taken to combat pandemic spread are also received differently depending on local characteristics. For example, families and communities differ in their acceptance of hierarchy—and hence, compliance with authority. One complicating question is who is a legitimate source of authority: do people look to public health officials, family members, religious leaders, or celebrities? Moreover, public health officials may require measures that directly contradict local imperatives; impeding appropriate burial of the dead, for example, can be emotionally charged.

    Given that outbreaks of disease are associated with high levels of anxiety and uncertainty, the potential for increased intergroup tensions should not be underestimated. There is evidence that disease risk increases prejudice and discrimination against:

    • Outgroups that are disfavoured in general (e.g., visible minorities, Indigenous people, the poor and especially the homeless);
    • Outgroups that are specifically associated with the source of transmission of a given disease (e.g., East Asian Canadians, in the case of COVID-19);
    • Outgroup and even ingroup members that by vocation or circumstance have a higher degree of exposure to the disease (e.g., grocery store workers, healthcare workers—although in the latter case, there are also positive views).


    Stigma has consequences, including stress/distress, barriers to effective healthcare, mistrust, distortion of public risk perceptions, hate speech/crimes, and other forms of marginalization. These consequences can further disease spread; for example, stress weakens the immune system while healthcare barriers delay treatment.

    Disfavoured groups, moreover, are at additional risk due to social inequalities. For example, certain minority groups are more likely to be found in jobs that involve high contact but low compensation. Disfavored groups can show ‘cultural mistrust’, understandable but problematic apprehension around official social structures (e.g., government, media, law enforcement, formal healthcare). Economic disadvantage is associated with higher likelihood of preexisting health conditions that in turn appear to increase COVID-19 risks. For example, this combination of health vulnerabilities and reduced healthcare access is endemic to indigenous communities.

    Importantly, stigma goes beyond disfavoured groups and can include people who are also being celebrated for their important role in fighting pandemics—i.e., healthcare workers. Fear of healthcare workers and their potential to spread disease may interact with cultural beliefs about health and illness. If preexisting negative views about healthcare workers or conspiratorial beliefs that incorporate healthcare workers are widespread in a given community, the problem increases. At the same time, these kinds of incidents have been reported for many diseases, including COVID-19, across a range of cultural settings, suggesting a degree of universality.

    The Micro-Level of Individual Psychology

    People’s behaviours are based in their beliefs, the behaviours they observe in others (and interpret in light of their beliefs), and the behaviours they believe others expect of them. What a person believes and how they behave is strongly shaped by their cultural context. Individual differences that may in part be rooted in temperament—for example, in attention to health, hygiene, comfort with isolation, tendency to stay home when sick, and so on—are further shaped by local norms.

    The tendency towards optimism versus pessimism is a good and relevant example of a dispositional trait that is shaped by cultural context. There is now considerable evidence suggesting that people living in East-Asian cultural contexts tend to hold a cyclical view in which positive and negative experiences tend to oscillate and balance out over time. In other words, a run of good fortune means that one’s luck will soon run out, but also vice versa. People living in Euro-American cultural contexts, by contrast, have a more linear view in which recent past and present experiences predict future experiences.

    We can understand a long period of time without a serious pandemic as a run of good fortune, in which case we might expect cultural variations in whether we would expect people to respond with increased or decreased preparation for a future pandemic. In research conducted after the 2002 SARS outbreak, defensive pessimism was associated with traditional Chinese values and predicted increased anxiety about infection but also more consistent health behaviours, such as hand-washing. Unrealistic optimism, in contrast, predicted perceived imperviousness to infection, leading to better mood but also to lower intention to wash hands.

    Tendency towards optimism versus pessimism is part of a cluster of personality traits that all share commonality with negative affectivity. Other examples include anxiety sensitivity and intolerance of uncertainty. Although negative affectivity emerges as an independent personality domain across a wide range of different cultural contexts, there is marked cultural variation in the extent to which negative affectivity is tolerated or minimized. Negative affectivity is associated with risk perception, leading to more distress but also more willingness to take recommended precautions.

    Negative affectivity is also associated directly with the likelihood of symptom-like experiences. Anxiety about one’s health leads to increases in self-monitoring for signs of illness; moreover, anxiety itself can generate physiological reactions that might be mistaken for such signs. For example, increased anxiety can be accompanied by increased heart-rate, sweaty palms, trembling, shortness of breath, and so on, all of which could look like signs of illness. Note that some migrants and minority group members might already have elevated anxiety and uncertainty.

    Experiences that might be mistaken for disease can thus be produced by a combination of:

    • Ideas about pandemic disease symptoms circulating in a given community;
    • Culturally-shaped tendencies to monitor particular bodily sensations;
    • Individual differences in negative affectivity.

    Moreover, the very fact of paying attention to certain sensations can make them more salient. In some cases, the concern that one might have caught a dangerous disease can generate further anxiety, thus worsening these sensations. These kinds of feedback loops could lead to intra- and inter-group differences in the symptoms that are discussed and expressed.


    Conclusion: What Should We Do?

    The struggle against COVID-19, will require the ingenuity of biological scientists across a variety of disciplines. Nonetheless, the potential contributions of the behavioural and social sciences should not be underestimated. The pandemic, along with the measures taken to combat it, is shaped in important ways by culture. What, then, are the implications?

    An unprecedented number of people worldwide are concerned about the same disease and are experiencing broadly the same distancing measures. As such, there may be a temptation to focus on the similarities. At a minimum, policy-makers, healthcare workers, and the public at large should keep in mind that the pandemic experience may be very different for different people. These differences are shaped by the society in which one lives, the communities of which one is a part, and culturally-shaped individual variations. Complicating matters, appreciation for difference does not mean treating all responses equally when it comes to effectively mitigating a pandemic. Clearly, some cultural patterns are more effective than others.

    Nonetheless, understanding that people have reasons for their beliefs and actions is important. Such understanding can help combat stigmatizing attitudes and better tailor strategies to work with different cultural communities. For example, public health officials and other policy-makers might work with religious leaders to spread information about the need to rethink traditional public celebrations. Debunking false information once it has taken hold is extremely difficult. Cultural understanding can help in developing strategies to ‘prebunk’ these ideas: combating this information in advance, in ways acceptable to the target population.

    Clinicians, meanwhile, are now practicing in very different ways compared to earlier this year. There has been a major uptake of online service delivery methods, some of which may continue into the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, even when a client is alone on a screen, it is important to keep in mind the web of influences around them. Clients may hold very different culturally-shaped beliefs about the pandemic, different from each other and also different from the clinician.

    At the same time, cultural traditions can be a source of resilience, as sources of wisdom about how to make sense of and prepare for uncertainty for example. We should remember, moreover, that interventions are not limited to majority-culture healthcare workers and minority patients. The people on the front-line represent many different cultural groups. As with clients, this can mean specific, underappreciated stressors for minority group healthcare workers—but also potential access to a wider range of cultural resources.

    Regardless of whether one is focusing on the laypeople or officials, patients or healthcare workers, we believe it important to be wary of claims that people from a given cultural background will therefore act in a predictable way. Such an approach can inadvertently promote stereotypes, a notable danger during a time of heightened anxieties. The complexities of research in a rapidly changing pandemic context further bolster the argument for caution. Yet, a rapidly shifting landscape fraught with cultural anxieties demands an evidence-based, culturally-attuned approach, and one that can be communicated quickly and effectively.

    For cultural and cross-cultural psychologists, the overall message is clear:

    • Culture is integral to understanding societal, community, family, and individual responses to pandemics;
    • Keeping culture in mind leads to much more nuanced and effective responses to individual circumstances.

    We expect many more findings to flesh out this overall message over the next several years. Nonetheless, we have every reason for confidence that such findings will serve to confirm and reinforce these core ideas.

  • 15 Jun 2020 6:24 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    November. Shifting Paradigms Using Cultural Assets in Ensley:  The developmental webinar for November features Bettina Byrd-Giles, Interculturalist, Health Equity Expert and Community Change Agent.  She will share with us her real world application of interculturalism and DEI concepts and principles in changing the culture of a local community in the Birmingham, AL area.  As CEO of the local health care center Bettina partnered with local artists and business people to re-brand and rejuvenate the community using intercultural techniques and storytelling especially highlighting the local jazz heritage. Her projects often combine her health care expertise and cultural competence development such as a program for data collectors in the University of Alabama hospital system to improve their interviewing skill through increased cultural competence.  This program incorporated the IDI.  Bettina’s international interests starting with her BA in international relations from the University of Virginia include active participation in Birmingham’s Sister Cities program.  Additionally, she founded Diversity University, a cross-cultural program involving six colleges and universities. 

    December: In December we will immerse ourselves in art and how to use art as a tool for cultural understanding and dialogue with Fanchon Silberstein, author of Art inSight:  Understanding Art and Why It Matters.  (See book review and interview in the February newsletter.)   This webinar provides us the advantage of going with Fanchon deeper into pieces of art featured in her book and enhancing our cultural competence through learning to dialogue with the artist and the piece of art itself.  The insights in the book are the culmination of living outside of the US as a foreign service spouse, serving as a member of the faculty of SIIC and decades as a docent at the Smithsonian’s Hirschhorn Gallery.   Fanchon might even share her writing process and the process for finding a publisher—hint:  it requires tons of tenacity.    

  • 15 Jun 2020 6:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by Antimo Cimino

    Anna’s Lasagna (Serves 4)

    Anna is my mother (next month she turns 80)


    If you know some southern Italians or you have lived in the south of Italy, you know for sure that food and family are everything for us. Can you guess what is the first thing a southern Italian mother will ask you when she knows you are visiting? What would you like to eat?

    I have been living in the USA for now 25 years, and when I go home to visit my parents, my mother gives me a lengthy choice of all the seasonal dishes she plans to make me. Lasagna is on the menu on Sunday for sure like when I grew up.

    There are so many dishes I could have chosen to share with you but Lasagna is the best, and here is why. When I was a teenager, my aunts and my grandmother would get together on Saturday to prepare a Sunday feast at the beach. You see my mother’s sister married my father’s brother so we spent a lot of time together. 

    My aunts and their mom (my grandma) would make the lasagna sheet from scratch. My grandmother and I would make the sauces. I was in charge of stirring the béchamel, often being scolded to not reverse the stirring motion (Oh no no, you can’t do that or it will split). It truly was a family affair from cooking to enjoying the meal together. The food, baked for 10-12 people, would go from the oven onto the truck and off we drove 15 minutes to the beach.

    Of course, during the 4-5 hours of preparation incredible stories were shared, so the kitchen was the place to be if you were curious like me. My brother instead, was too busy or didn’t think that a man should be in the kitchen, that was a woman’s role, obviously I could have cared less.

    You see, lasagna for me isn’t just an Italian dish, it is nourishment of the soul, each bite tells a story and it brings back memories.

    Main ingredients:

    4-6 cups Bolognese Sauce, 3 cups béchamel sauce, thin sliced ham, parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, ripe roma tomatoes, dry oregano, oven ready lasagna sheets (Best at Trader Joe’s).

    Bolognese Sauce: - Ingredients

    1 can chopped tomatoes (1lb)

    1 can of tomato sauce

    1 lb of ground pork

    1 lb of ground beef

    1 glass of red wine

    2-3 carrots

    1 onion

    2-3 stalks of celery

    3 oz olive oil


    Chop or mince the onion and join in a saucepan with the olive oil. Chop or mince carrots and the celery as well. Join then to the light brown onions. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring often. Add the ground pork and beef and allow it to brown before you add the red wine and let it evaporate (5-10 minutes). Time to add the canned chopped tomatoes, with 5-6 leaves of fresh basil, and some salt. Cook for about 15 minutes before adding the tomato sauce. Rinse both cans with half glass of water and add it to the sauce. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for 2 hours, stirring often to prevent sticking.

    Béchamel Sauce – Ingredients

     5-6 tbsp butter

    2-3 spoons of flour

    3 cups of milk

    1 teaspoon of nutmeg


    Melt the butter, take it off the heat and start sprinkling the flour over it, with a tablespoon stir to a nice creamy consistency by adding—very slowly—some of the milk. Make sure you are not making any lumps. Once you have incorporated all the milk, add some salt and the nutmeg.

    Put back on the stove at medium high heat stirring continuously in one direction. Over the next 15-20 minutes it will start to thicken. Turn off the heat and set to the side to cool off.

    This can be done just 15 minutes before you start assembling your lasagna.

    Assembling the Lasagna

    In a square, tall pyrex or aluminum dish, add a ladle of Bolognese sauce with a ladle of hot water. Cover the bottom with a layer of lasagna sheets. Add a ladle of béchamel making sure that it is evenly spread over the lasagna sheets. Add a layer of ham, a handful of parmesan cheese, some fresh leaves of basil, a ladle or two of Bolognese sauce, and a hand full of shredded mozzarella. Continue layering the same way till you reach the top of the dish.

    Add a layer of Bolognese sauce on the top and another ladle of hot water. Finish with thick sliced roma tomatoes sprinkled with salt and dry oregano.

    Bake into a 380-degree oven for 1 hour.

  • 13 Jun 2020 11:12 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    We recently discovered that when people write comments, they go to the blog but not to the editor—who has now returned to the 2020 issues and sifted through to find the comments that are listed below. Another discovery was that when commenters do not add their names to their comments, they show up as Anonymous. Thank you everyone who has taken the time to write us. Your comments are much appreciated!

    Recipe of the Month: Salted Duck Eggs by Esther Louie

    15 May 2020 12:07 PM | Recipe of the Month: Salted Duck Eggs by Esther Louie.  Chris Cartwright wrote:

    Wonderful story & intriguing recipe page! Thanx for the new resource!

    Craig Storti: Time Out

    15 May 2020 1:53 PM | Marcella Simon wrote:

    Thank you for these insightful thoughts Craig! I have read countless academic articles with models of cultural competence and intelligence. I have also observed through teaching and spending time in different cultural contexts that some people are just naturally more comfortable and astute working and living across cultures, no matter what their background or training. So what can we teach? If people are open to it (and some are not) framing their observations and experiences using a model (Context, Iceberg) can be very useful. Also, some of your excellent exercises I have employed (Observation/Interpretation for one) have sparked a note of recognition in those who have had those types of encounters. I have even seen "aha" moments from playing Barnga with a group during the debrief. So I don't believe one can learn "cultural competence" like one learns to play the piano or code software. However, a good teacher can encourage someone to continue down the path of exploration they may have already begun with new tools at their disposal. 

    18 May 2020 8:15 PM | A member wrote:

    This is a great conversation to get started, Craig. There are many entry points so I’ll start with competency in general and “comfortable.”

    “Comfortable” really doesn’t fit with competency development, intercultural or otherwise. The knowledge, skills and attitude (attributes in some schema) that make up a competency are not static but evolve as a person’s environment changes. Sometimes competency development can even require unlearning behaviors (or at least diminishing importance), behaviors that made us very successful and now don’t, taking us into a transformational growth area which is a very messy and uncomfortable place to be. A place of ambiguity, uncertainly and hopefully curiosity where we don’t always recognize ourselves: “Who am I?” What happened to that friendly, trusted and trusting person that I used to be?” “Why isn’t this behavior working?” (Intercultural Competency: Self-Awareness)

    Getting out of this messy, uncomfortable place isn’t mitigated by increasing knowledge and skills (horizontal development) but by transformational growth (vertical development), the result of “crucible” experiences (Osland), experiences that it is our responsibility to properly debrief and process.

    So, back to the original question “Can we teach this stuff?” Yes, and we also facilitate and coach our way to providing Intercultural Competency development. We do this by utilizing activities or methods to provide experiences, debrief and process those experiences or others brought by our “students”, normalize their discomfort and support them in the messiness of their development of Intercultural Competence. It’s a process that takes time and usually not enough time with us. Therefore we have to plan carefully and use our shared time wisely to nurture the growth possible and leave our “students” in a safe but energized space for their ongoing development. AND we ourselves have to get comfortable with the discomfort of our own growth. (another topic for another day)

    Now to “competency”: Currently in the Learning and Performance / Talent Development field there has been a shift from Competencies to Capabilities and many corporations are establishing Capability Academies. Some of the rationale is what I would call “wordsmithing” but there is a notable emphasis on “digital” and on capabilities that directly link to the business success of an organization.

    Here is how ATD (Association of Talent Development) explains their shift: Competence has become a somewhat outdated and passive term. It refers to a person's current state and to them having the knowledge and skills necessary to perform a job. Capability is about integrating knowledge and skills and adapting and flexing to meet future needs.

    Who knew?! SIETAR’s work has always been about “integrating,” “adapting,” and “flexing.” Seems to me that makes SIETAR a “Capability Thought-Leader” --from its beginning focused on developing Intercultural Competency.

    March Bookmarks: Global Dexterity by Andy Molinsky   

    A reader wrote:

    Global Dexterity has been my go-to resource since I discovered it about a year after publication. Recent work took me back into it in more depth and I was again reminded about how practical and down-to-earth Molinsky is in talking to the reader and anticipating their situation. The format of the book is as a workbook and as Craig characterizes it, an action plan, and the reader is more in an environment of being coached.

    Although Molinsky introduces six dimensions, his process has the "coachee" choose 2-3 that seem most impactful of the situation. That allows for sharper focus and in Molinsky's ever practical approach diminishes feeling overwhelmed. The key is to identity and then try small steps which as with all behavior change doesn't have to be 100% to be effective. Up to this point his process is mostly cognitive.

    Therefore, one enhancement to Molinsky's Four Phase Process that I use is to add a Centering Practice, even just a one-breath pause, that grounds the "coachee" in the present. Also, Molinsky's advice to assess how the new behavior "feels" in the rehearsal stages needs to be brought more into the body--identify where in the body the feeling resides, tap into the discomfort, sit with it and use it as a tool for staying with the practice. (The same works for positive emotions.) Becoming comfortable with the discomfort requires a somatic awareness to build on the cognitive. This follows a core tenet of somatic coaching that "the body always wins" and building on somatic awareness is as important as cognitive knowledge.

    I can't recommend Global Dexterity highly enough and was absolutely delighted in my recent immersion to find it as practical, fresh and compelling as always.

    February Bookmarks: Art inSight: Understanding Art and Why It Matters by Fanchon Silberstein.  Sandy Fowler wrote:

    Fanchon is my friend too and I think you did a beautiful job of capturing both what she has to say and what the book offers to interculturalists (and the world). The genesis of the book was based on SIIC workshops that she and I did for several years in Forest Grove for SIIC. But Fanchon took the concepts much further than we did in the workshop. I hope that some of the people who took that workshop will take the opportunity to read the book. Even without the workshop, the book is amazing!

  • 13 Jun 2020 10:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    June 15, 2020 – SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Are You Having Fun Online?” with Lies Wouters. Visit SIETAR Europa June Webinar to register!

    June 17, 2020 – SIETAR USA Member Virtual Town Hall: Hosted by Kelli McLoud-Schingen, President of KMS Intercultural Consulting, and Justin Sitron, Associate Professor/Dean in the School of Human Service Professions at Widener University. Visit SIETAR USA Virtual Town Hall to register.

    June 25, 2020 – SIETAR USA WEBINAR: “Tight Versus Loose: A Key to Unlocking Our Cultural Divides” with Michele Gelfand, Professor of Psychology, University of Maryland. Visit SIETAR USA June Webinar to register!

    October 9-11, 2020 – SIETAR USA National Conference: SIETAR USA is going Virtual! The CFP deadline is June 15, 2020, and plans are underway. Stay tuned for more details!


    Pride FlagJune is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, established to recognize the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on the world. LGBT groups celebrate this special time with pride parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS, and other group gatherings. The last Sunday in June is Gay Pride Day.

    June 15: Native American Citizenship Day, commemorating the day in 1924 when the U.S. Congress passed legislation recognizing the citizenship of Native Americans.

    JuneteenthJune 19: Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. It is observed as a public holiday in 14 U.S. states. This celebration honors the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas and Louisiana finally heard they were free, two months after the end of the Civil War. June 19, therefore, became the day of emancipation for thousands of African-Americans.

    June 21: National Indigenous Peoples Day or First Nations Day, a day that gives recognition to the indigenous populations affected by colonization in Canada.

    Last Sunday in June: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Day in the United States. It celebrates the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.


    Happy Canada DayJuly 1: Canada Day, or Fête du Canada, is a Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the 1867 enactment of the Constitution Act, which established the three former British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as a united nation called Canada.

    ConstitutionJuly 4: Independence Day (also known as the Fourth of July), a United States federal holiday that celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared independence from Britain and established themselves as a new nation known as the United States of America.

    July 11: World Population Day, an observance established in 1989 by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme. The annual event is designed to raise awareness of global population issues.

    July 14: Bastille Day, a French federal holiday that commemorates the Storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris that held political prisoners who had displeased the French nobility. The Storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789, was regarded as a turning point of the French Revolution. Celebrations are held throughout France.

    Nelson Mandela DayJuly 18: Nelson Mandela International Day, launched on July 18, 2009, in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday via unanimous decision of the U.N. General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices: “It is in your hands now”. It is more than a celebration of Mandela’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and to change the world for the better.


    Holidays list courtesy of:https://www.diversitybestpractices.com/2019-diversity-holidays

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