1. Why did you write this book?
I wrote Spilling the Beans
as a window for Indians to see and understand the key values driving U.S. American behaviors and expectations. Much to my surprise, I have found that many of my fellow American readers have found it to be self-revealing and thought provoking.
2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?
Understanding, appreciation and insight into U.S. Americans; generally how we think, behave and our expectations of others.
3. Name one or two books in our field that influenced you the most, that you think all interculturalists should be familiar with? Why?
a) The Silent Language
by Edward Hall. I have a profound respect for one of the pioneers of the field who has led the way for the rest of us to approach understanding culture and our many differences. This book was the first that spoke to me many, many years ago introducing me to the field that became my career and passion. I would heartily recommend any of the many books that he has written over the past 60 years
b) Survival Kit for Overseas Living by Robert Kohls. Again, a classic little book written by another interculturalist pioneer that I have recommended hundreds of times to relocating expats. This concise guide lays out a very logical method of inquiry as to how, if one is open to it, to approach, reveal, discover, and thrive with those from a culture outside of our own.
4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?
I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran, and thereby tossed into a living situation in a village where no one spoke English, my mother tongue. With my rudimentary knowledge of Farsi, I slowly established myself and my speaking ability to the point of enjoying a most wonderful, hospitable, and generous group of people.
5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?
Cross into a new culture with:
- a willingness to dare yourself to jump in,
- a desire to lean into your hesitations,
- the confidence to make mistakes,
- the passion to communicate successfully.
- (Not exactly one insight, but all vital!)
6. Finally: This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. If you’d like to say something else to these folks, something we have not asked about in this questionnaire, feel free to add your brief comments here.
If you are new to the field of intercultural communications or interested in jumping in, there are many graduate schools (and some undergraduate schools) which offer the necessary basic foundations for our field. Add to this your experience of totally immersing yourself into at least one culture outside of your passport culture with a passion to teach others—and you will make a difference.