1. Why did you write this book?
I wanted to help people develop skills at recognizing culture-based attitudes and behaviour for themselves, instead of relying on static country generalizations and external experts. I also wanted to offer systematic solutions for recognizing and managing difficulties caused by cultural difference. And I wanted to emphasize the potential for synergies that enable intercultural collaborations to perform brilliantly.
2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?
That cultural variation is not simply a source of problems to be solved—that diversity can yield huge advantages, and that working towards a goal of cultural agility leads to personal growth and achievement.
3. Name one or two books in our field that influenced you the most, that you think all interculturalists should be familiar with? Why?
I gravitate to books that facilitate understanding and evolution. I greatly appreciate Glen Fisher’s book Mindsets: The Role of Culture and Perception in International Relations for its practical insights on progressing towards a global perspective. I use Craig Storti’s Cross-Cultural Dialogues: 74 Brief Encounters with Cultural Difference in my teaching to illustrate the subtle ways that cultural perspectives show up in day-to-day interaction.
4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?
An important one was when a classmate from Latin America told me he struggled with certain U.S. norms. An example he gave was that when someone inconvenienced others (e.g., by thinking about their order in a fast food restaurant only after they were at the counter), he and his friends would laugh off the delay, rather than criticizing, as his U.S. classmates seemed to. In my own family, respecting others’ convenience was seen as very important, and indignation and annoyance were considered the natural reaction to someone’s being “inconsiderate”. My friend’s observations suggested that my reactions to many situations were learned, rather than innate, and that I might even be able to choose his gentle, relaxed perspective over the one I had been taught. That realization contributed to my motivation to do this work.
5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?
What is most helpful to me is taking time to explain myself and ask about others’ perspectives so we can understand each other and avoid misinformed judgments.