The Interact Series from Intercultural Press reviewed by Craig Storti

2022 book review bookmarks craig storti feb 2022 intercultural press Feb 14, 2022

Faithful readers of BookMarks will doubtless have noticed that we are a bit retro around here, stuck in the last century, as it were, having reviewed more books by dead authors than by live ones, more by 20th century writers than 21st century. We do try to keep tabs on recent books, but we also see it as one of our duties to make sure folks know about some of the intercultural classics, books that older interculturalists may have forgotten about or that younger ones may never have heard of. 

This month’s column is very much in that spirit; as you can see from the title, it is not actually a review of a particular book but of a concept, of a series of books started many years ago by David Hoopes, the late founder of what was then known as Intercultural Press (and which subsequently became Nicholas Brealey International (NB). David Hoopes idea was to bring out a series of books which selected a particular country and then compared that country’s culture to American culture on a number of dimensions, such as communication style, identity/self-concept, attitude toward hierarchy, and various other intercultural topics. It should be remembered, by younger readers anyway, that this was during the 1980s and 1990s when the intercultural field was starting to grow, enough anyway, that David gambled there might be a market for books such as these (the business plan, if you will, for Intercultural Press). 

Our purpose in this column is two-fold: to simply list the books in the series (NB assures me that most are still available, either in book form or pdf versions) and to quote a few passages to give you an idea of the kind of observations you will find in these books. Somewhere along the way, the idea of a ‘series’ as such was dropped and the press just continued to publish books that were wholly in the spirt of the series, contrasting US culture with another culture.

I’m deliberately putting the list of titles first here because my real goal in this column is to draw readers’ attention to these books, some of them, I suspect, long forgotten or never even known of. So here goes, in alphabetical order by country:

Into Africa: Intercultural Insights, Yale Richmond and Phyllis Gestrin

Understanding Arabs, Margaret Nydell

A Fair Go for All: Australian/American Interactions, George Renwick

Old World New World: Britain, France, Germany and the U. S., Craig Storti

Encountering the Chinese, Hu Wenzhong and Cornelius Grove,

From Da to Yes: Understanding the East Europeans, Yale Richmond

Considering Filipinos, Theodore Gochenour

Au Contraire: Figuring Out the French, Gilles Asselin and Ruth Mastron

Germany, Unraveling an Enigma, Greg Nees

Exploring the Greek Mosaic, Benjamin Broome

Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap When Working with Indians, Craig Storti

Border Crossings: American Interactions with Israelis, Lucy Shahar and David Kurz

With Respect to the Japanese, John Condon

Learning to Think Korean, Robert Kohls

Latino Culture, Nilda Chong and Francia Baez

Good Neighbors: Communicating with the Mexicans, John Condon

Mexicans and Americans: Cracking the Cultural Code, Ned Crouch

From Nyet to Da: Understanding the Russians, Yale Richmond

Understanding Spanish-Speaking South Americans, Skye Stephenson

Spain Is Different, Helen Wattley-Ames

Modern-Day Vikings: A Practical Guide to Interacting with the Swedes, Rabinowitz and Carr

A Common Core: Thais and Americans, John Paul Fieg

Vietnam Today, Mark A. Ashwill


And a few excerpts:

  • Israelis are uncomfortable with formality, ceremony, and protocol. This is frequently true of Americans as well, but the threshold of Israeli discomfort is lower. As a result, [Israelis] tend to rush through the ice-breaking or relationship-building stage of the negotiation process at a faster pace than Americans are accustomed to.
  • Just as the assertive character of American individualism springs naturally from the egalitarian social order, so also does what might be called “nonassertive “individualism grow out of the Thai hierarchical social pattern. Implicit in such a system is the notion of inequality; thus, a person always knows, so to speak, where he or she stands.
  • As Americans maintain their privacy by protecting their space (big cars, privacy fences, gated communities), Swedes maintain their privacy by remaining quiet. Swedes are generally slow to divulge personal information, particularly when it comes to sharing problems.
  • The Korean group orientation creates a strong ethos of cooperation with the people who are part of one’s ingroup and a climate of fierce competition with those who are not—another company in the same industry, for example…. Americans are more inclined to compete with everyone, including those they are close to. They encourage it in the home and in schools in ways that shock foreign visitors.
  • Spanish-speaking South Americans (SSNA) and English-speaking North Americans (ESNA) haver diametrically opposite ways of viewing time as it relates to status. Whereas in ESNA “Time is money”, and an important person is one who is very busy, in SSNA the opposite holds true. High-ranking people are often those who act as if they have significant time at their disposal to entertain those they deem worthy and potentially useful. They can function in such a way precisely because they have subordinates working for them to carry out the mundane tasks. In fact, it is a sign of high rank not to be rushed.

These books are treasures. If you are an intercultural practitioner, you will enjoy them—and you will, moreover, be doing your clients (hence yourself) a big favor by drawing their attention to these titles.