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  • 11 Feb 2019 5:12 PM | Anonymous

    Spilling the Beans: A Guide for Indians to Understand and Communicate Successfully with U. S. Americans by David Sanford. Notion Press, 2018, 180 pages.

    reviewed by Craig Storti

    In our manifesto for the BookMarks column (see the January newsletter), we stated that a key criteria for any book chosen for review was that it must in one way or another be “exceptional.” In some respects, Spilling the Beans is not exceptional, at least not to seasoned interculturalists. Indeed, the author himself readily admitted to your reviewer that the intercultural content in the book is a simple, straight-forward summary of the basic concepts in the intercultural field. Nothing new.

    And that’s exactly as it should be because Spilling the Beans is not written for interculturalists or for anyone else with any knowledge of the field. It is written, rather, for lay folks—Indian lay folks to be precise—whose life or work circumstances require them to interact with Americans on a regular basis. And because that very often involves close encounters with cultural differences, Sanford has to briefly sketch a few fundamental cultural concepts in order to tee up and illustrate his thesis: If you’re going to succeed interacting with these folks from America, you need to understand how they think and why they behave the way they do.

    And that’s what makes Spilling the Beans exceptional and where it adds something important to our field. Most of the books we Americans read about other cultures are necessarily US-centric; they describe and present other cultures from an American point of view. There’s great value in that, of course, but what’s usually missing in that approach is it doesn’t help Americans understand how they are perceived from the foreign point of view. These books help us see and understand them better, in short, but they don’t typically help us see and understand ourselves better. Spilling the Beans, precisely because it is written for a non-American audience, is full of insights for Americans (and for some other northern Europeans as well), which is why it ends up getting reviewed in this column.

    What insights? Here are just a few:

    [T]he majority of American employees [have a] preference for a horizontal management structure in which most of the decisions are made in a collaborative atmosphere. [They] generally dislike situations where status and hierarchy are [emphasized] because they do not honor the value of equality.

    More explanation and verbal communication are necessary because greater importance is placed on the words spoken rather than gestures or the…context around the words. Therefore, the burden is on the sender to make the message clear [and] the burden is on the receiver to ask clarifying questions.

    Americans are taught to approach life…from the point of view of unlimited possibilities…. It is the attitude of “We have the opportunity to be first” rather than “It has never been done before”; of “It will be a challenge” versus “It cannot be done”; of “Necessity is the mother of invention” versus “We do not have the resources.”

    In the U. S. where equality is highly valued individual team members are empowered and expected to take the initiative and make decisions without interference from a team leader. They are expected to “just do it” and get the task done without managerial oversight.

    I think it was John Condon who said that the essence of intercultural competence is the ability to see others the way they see themselves and to see yourself the way others see you. A lot of books help Americans do the former, but only a few, like Spilling the Beans, help them do the latter. We need more books like this.

    And speaking of other books, your reviewer humbly begs your pardon by closing out this review with the observation that although Sanford doesn’t mention it, my own modest tome, Speaking of India, is in many ways the perfect complement to Spilling the Beans. Read Speaking and you’ll learn about Indians from an American perspective; read Spilling and you’ll learn about Americans from an Indian perspective.


  • 11 Feb 2019 5:06 PM | Anonymous

    As the newly appointed Conference Co-Chair I am honored and humbled to take up the mantle carried so ably by many before me. Luckily, that also means that there is a great pool of resources and mentors to draw upon as I move forward.  I may be calling you. 

    I am excited to announce the theme for our 2019 SIETAR USA Conference: 

    From Adversity to Diversity: The Role of the Interculturalist

    Our societies, near and far, are being challenged to address the fast-paced changes in depth and breadth of diversity we are experiencing.  Changes that leave some reeling, feeling uncertain, or perhaps even threatened, bring energy, inspiration and joy to others. The 2019 Conference will explore the Role of the Interculturalist in meeting the challenges higher levels of diversity may present to some and enhance our own as well as others’ capacity to find workable, and indeed inspiring, solutions that make our communities stronger and more resilient.  There will be three tracks that delve deeper into the roles we all play in our diverse societies as well as a general intercultural category.

    The first track: The Role of the Interculturalist: Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice will explore what the role of an interculturalist is in addressing issues such as disparities, unconscious bias, and social injustice.  Do interculturalist have a place at the table in these arenas?  Should they?  How might that be accomplished, and to what end?

    The second track: The Role of the Interculturalist Working in Culture Specific Contexts will highlight best practices and lessons learned from working with specific cultural groups.  Whether nationally with immigrants, refugees or tightly knit communities; or internationally with global teams or joint ventures, what has experience taught us about how to be most effective crossing cultural divides.  How can differences and similarities be parlayed into strengths, innovation, and flexibility? 

    The third track The Role of the Interculturalist: Building Skills and Taking them to the Marketplace will focus on the business of intercultural work.  It will explore what our communities need from us, how we develop those skills, and how we can bring them to the marketplace effectively.  Whether starting out in the field or seeking to take your business to the next level, which skills do you want to enhance?  Which do you want to share with colleagues?

    It is the mission of the SIETAR 2019 Conference to provide space, time, integrity, compassion, and empathy in enabling all participants to be heard, understood, and respected in furthering our intercultural work together. It is our goal that each participant leaves feeling enlightened, enthralled, and empowered to make a difference in their own world in moving from adversity to diversity.

    I look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!

    Karen J. Lokkesmoe, PhD

    2019 SIETAR USA Conference Co-Chair


  • 11 Feb 2019 5:04 PM | Anonymous

    In honor of Black History Month, SIETAR USA acknowledges and applauds both the accomplishments and contributions of the African American community. The goals of justice, dignity, and equity are well worth the struggle. We are reminded of Dr. King’s words, “if it’s worth fighting for, it’s a fight worth having.”  

    Black History Month has a long history dating back to 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History declared the second week in February to be “Negro History Week.” It began as an educational effort which continues to this day—an opportunity for schools and churches to inform students, community members, and parishioners about the role of African Americans in the history of the United States and the world. The week evolved into a month through an initiative begun in 1969 by Black educators and students at Kent State University. In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. While it is indeed Black History Month, it is important to recognize that Black History is American History.

    SIETAR USA takes this opportunity to celebrate Black excellence in all its forms and would especially like to acknowledge and express our appreciation for the leadership, scholarship, and support of the Black members within our association. In several important ways, SIETAR USA serves as a bridge between the intercultural field and the field of diversity, inclusion and social justice. We take that role seriously and look forward to a future of continuing dialog, exploring mutual concerns, and friendship.


  • 11 Feb 2019 4:58 PM | Anonymous

    It’s exciting to be working on a SIETAR USA conference again. It will be a blend of the traditional and the new. The heart of the conference as always will be the concurrent sessions, which is where you come in. Watch for the Call for Proposals announcement and plan to submit a proposal. There are many good reasons to participate in the 2019 SIETAR USA conference but have you ever thought about how it adds meaning to your life? How it makes you feel more alive?

    If someone asked you if your life is meaningful, what would you say? More than 90 percent of us say our lives are meaningful (American Psychologist, Vol. 69, No. 6, 2014).  Further research shows that people feel the greatest sense of meaning when needs for relatedness are met, when we feel that we belong in the world, and when we feel close to and supported by family. I’ve heard many people describe SIETAR USA as a sort of family and the conferences as a family reunion. SIETAR USA conferences can provide continuity in our lives. They can help us make sense of the career path we have chosen. They can be renewing and motivating toward meaningful goals. Some people say they just attend because it’s a fun conference and that’s ok too, but there might be more there than you thought.

    In addition to the conference this year we have developed an active plan of events for you. The 2019 webinar series starts this month. The February Webinar features Kurt Nemes, Chair of the Ethics Committee for SIETAR USA. Ethics help us determine the right action when values are in conflict. Kurt’s highly interactive webinar will include discussion and polling on possible solutions for ethical dilemmas faced by SIETAR USA members in their work. A webinar schedule is planned for the whole year and as soon as speakers are confirmed, we will post it so you can get the webinars on your calendar. Can’t make them all? We will record the webinars and post them on the members’ page of the website. Two more Saturday Seminars are in the early planning stages. As plans progress, we will fill in the details.

    Since this is the month of the Valentine, I send you a big hug!

    Sandy


  • 27 Jan 2019 6:55 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    1. Why did you write this book?

    A lot of the literature and training programs dealing with culture and work are based on a model in which a few executives working for a multinational organization relocate to work abroad. However, the patterns of global mobility have changed and as a result workplaces are increasingly diverse and most of us have to deal with some type of intercultural interactions on a regular basis right at home.

    The increased cultural diversity in the workplace means more ambiguity regarding how culture and cultural differences play out. In other words, working in a multicultural research team in which members live and work in their home country is different from working with a high number of recent immigrants or travelling around the world for short stints. Each of these different situations will create different intercultural dynamics.

    Intercultural interactions happen on short notice and we may not have time to prepare. In the model of the expatriate going abroad, there was a significant preparation time to learn the language and culture. In a highly multicultural environment, however, we may get into intercultural interactions without warning and may have no knowledge of the other person’s culture.

    2. What is the most important thing you want readers to take away from this book?

    At an organizational level, a key takeaway is that leveraging diversity in the workplace requires providing employees with the tools to succeed in a multicultural environment. At an individual level, a key takeaway is that reflective practice is an essential element in developing the skills to succeed in a multicultural environment. A key argument underlying Working in a Multicultural World is that dealing with cultural ambiguity does not call for learning more about other cultures (even though that is a good thing), but learning more about ourselves. We can develop an acute awareness of how our culture influences our thoughts, perspectives, and behaviors, and based on this awareness, develop the skills to communicate our own views and perspectives in constructive ways that facilitate understanding and collaboration.

     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 find Joseph Shaules’ The Intercultural Mind: Connecting Culture, Cognition and Global Living (2015, Intercultural Press) particularly insightful. I appreciate the cognitive approach to understanding the challenges of intercultural encounters as that approach recognizes the role of our own thinking in the process.

    4. What is one of the most significant, most memorable cross-cultural experiences you have had?

    I think the most significant experience as far as guiding me towards writing this book happened when I was a graduate student in the US, and I experienced people’s attempt to map me against their stereotypes of what a Brazilian person is supposed to be and do. I am originally from Brazil, did my graduate education in the US, worked in Belgium, and moved to Canada about 10 years ago. As I learned about the common approach of learning about other cultures through cultural dimensions, I felt very uncomfortable because those descriptions did not capture my experience of being a Brazilian person, studying in the US, in a highly multicultural classroom. I felt that intercultural training needed to account for more dimensions than just culture. It has taken me several years to figure that out until I came to the model I introduce in Working in a Multicultural World.

    5. If you could pass on only one insight/one lesson learned to others about crossing cultures, what would you say?

    Becoming interculturally competent is not about learning more about other cultures but about learning more about ourselves, which is way harder! If we really want to work with others, we need to take the time to understand who we are as cultural beings and explore how our own culture limits our ability to notice, interpret, and behave.

    6. Have you noticed any differences in the way people from the United States and people from Canada think about or deal with cross-cultural differences?

    Canadians take great pride in multiculturalism and tend to see cultural differences more positively – at least at the start. The initial attitude towards different cultures is one of openness, tolerance and curiosity. However, the down side of this attitude of openness to other cultures is that sometimes cultural issues may not be perceived as important as everybody assumes tolerance and open mindedness are all that is needed. The reality is that to leverage cultural diversity, we need more than just putting people from different cultures in a room with an open attitude. We need to develop the skills to seek different perspectives and use them in ways that help us solve problems in more creative ways.

    7. Are there one or two Canadian interculturalists, besides yourself, or maybe one or two books by Canadian intercultural types, that we US folks should know about?

    Canada is home to John Berry, who has done very influential work on acculturation:

    https://www.queensu.ca/psychology/people/emeritus-and-retired-faculty/john-berry

    Also, Wendy Adair has done some important  work on intercultural negotiations:

    https://uwaterloo.ca/psychology/people-profiles/wendi-adair


  • 25 Jan 2019 11:45 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    SIETAR MN News

    The January SIETAR meeting in MN focused on travel as a means of developing intercultural competence.  Craig Storti1 joined the group via interview (see link on SIETAR MN Facebook page) in which he expanded his thoughts regarding tourism vs. travel and what he has learned from decades of research and experience as a traveler and a trainer.  Not only does this book synthesize lessons learned by many scholars and travelers about the potential benefits of intentional travel, but it also provides 11 insightful tips for HOW to travel if one wishes to enhance their understandings of the world and those in it.   In addition, Cate Brukaker2 also joined the group via live video feed to discuss how her newly published journal helps travelers be more intentional in the pre/during/post travel stages.  This open and unobtrusive journal provides just enough prompts and suggestions for ways to capture thoughts and feelings about a travel experience without being too structured or formal.  A taped interview with Ms Brubaker is also available for viewing on the SIETAR MN Facebook page.

    1.  Author of Why Travel Matters: A Guide to the Lie-Changing Effects of Travel

    2.  Author of I’m thinking…travel! JOURNAL

    Link to SIETAR MN Facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/SIETAR-Minnesota-71645701048/

    SIETAR Tri-state News


    SIETAR Tri-state (NY-NJ-CT) is a local group of SIETAR USA. The mission of SIETAR-USA is to promote and facilitate intercultural education, training and research through professional interchange. SIETAR Tri-state strives to connect anyone interested in the intercultural field in the tri-state area through guest speakers, cultural events, and get-togethers.

    We are in the process of recruiting members as well as planning our first meeting for February of 2019. Stay tuned for details. Please email us at sietartristate@gmail.com to be added to our mailing list. We would also appreciate your suggestions for programs and activities you are interested in attending.


  • 25 Jan 2019 10:59 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    Welcome to BookMarks, a new feature of the SIETAR USA newsletter. Each month BookMarks will review one or more books that meet our two selection criteria: the book must offer insight into the intercultural experience and it must be “exceptional” in one way or another.

    Exceptional is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but it would certainly include the following:

    • the only book (or one of very few) on a particular subject
    • one of the better books on a much-examined subject (cross-cultural management, for example, or building global teams)
    • a book that adds a new dimension to a particular subject
    • a book that is unique or original in some other way

    Sandy Fowler has give me carte blanche to develop this column, for which I am very grateful. We both envision that the column will of course review some new books but also books that have been out for some time but might deserve more attention. Naturally, some books will be by people in the field, but I imagine others will be by people from other fields. Indeed, in my reading experience, intercultural insight can come from at least four classic sources, all of which we intend to sample in this column:

    • intercultural experts and practitioners
    • the best travel writing
    • the best science fiction
    • the best expatriate fiction

    We welcome suggestions of titles from our readers and would also be happy to welcome guest reviewers to this column from time to time. We just ask that you keep our “exceptional” criterion in mind, when suggesting titles or in proposing to review a book. Our inaugural review follows.

    Working in a Multicultural World: A Guide to Developing Intercultural Competence

    by Luciara Nardon. University of Toronto Press, 2017. 207 pages.

    The original plan was to review a different book in this inaugural column, one by a writer from the U. S. But then we thought that in the spirit of SIETAR, we should choose a book by someone from outside the United States, in this case a woman who is Brazilian by birth, who studied in the U. S., who has worked in North and South America and Europe, and who now teaches at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa.

    Which brings us to Working in a Multicultural World by Luciara Nardon. In her preface, Dr. Nardon sets forth the major premise of her book: “[T]his book rests on the assumption that knowledge of other cultures, while helpful, is insufficient. At some point in time, the knowledge we have will not apply to the context we are in…. Instead of focusing on cultural knowledge, I propose to focus on the process of intercultural interactions and increased self- and situational awareness.” In other words, if you want descriptions of Saudi, Swiss, or Scandinavian cultural characteristics, this is not the book for you. But if you want to know how to deal more effectively with cultural differences when you encounter them in actual situations—and who doesn’t?—then your pulse will quicken.

    True to her manifesto, Nardon then constructs her book around the six elements that comprise and influence what she calls an intercultural “interaction,” namely: context, culture, individual differences, the situation, personal feelings, and communication. Nardon does not contend that knowledge of cultural differences is unimportant; it’s just, in her word, “insufficient.”

    And it’s easy to see why: Let’s say you’re in possession of information that Germans love to plan and hate surprises, but then you’re in a meeting where you and your German supplier, faced with an unexpected production delay, need to come up immediately with a work-around. In that context, your piece of cultural knowledge will not be all that relevant, and indeed it may even get in the way of your ability to hear what your colleagues are saying. Nardon would say that this is where you have to factor in those other influences besides culture, especially the situation, your own feelings, and perhaps individual differences. Nardon develops her six factors at some length in separate chapters and provides numerous practical examples.

    Nardon’s other Big Idea in her book is that reflection is essential to being truly effective in intercultural encounters. By reflection Nardon does not mean merely thinking about what you did or said, pondering over what happened, but a more structured process consisting of: 1) describing the experience, 2) reflecting on the experience, 3) identifying what you learned from the experience, and 4) applying insights going forward. At the end of each chapter, Nardon asks you to add the key element from that chapter to the process of reflection.

    Nardon shrewdly suspects that some of her readers, like some of her students, might find the whole idea of reflection just so much navel gazing and not especially practical. But she sticks to her guns and makes a convincing case that deliberate, structured reflection can indeed be the key to learning from these encounters—and getting better at them.

    Nardon’s book is aimed at a general audience, and to that end she tries to steer clear of academic speak. She succeeds, mostly, but has an occasional lapse, such as the chart on page 46 titled Enacted Situational Context. That’s quite a mouthful!

    Nardon is not the first person to observe that knowledge may be necessary but not sufficient for navigating successfully in a multicultural world, but she does us all a great service by focusing so closely on the discrete elements that comprise the encounter. If we can better understand what’s happening to us in the midst of an intercultural interaction, just think how much more effective we will be.


  • 25 Jan 2019 10:01 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    Researchers try to find how the world ticks. Practitioners try to make the world tick better.

    To find out how the world ticks researchers construct theoretical models, consisting of many variables. Then they spend much time operationalizing the variables testing their reliability and both their internal and external validity. Then they check if the models are supported by the data, which they collect in many cultures. They analyze the data both within and across cultures. When they find support for their theory they publish it. If they do not find support they modify the theory and try again.

    Practitioners want to find support for interventions that make the world better.  They want both individuals and cultures to become more (1) healthy (both physically and mentally), (2) happy, (3) so they live a long time and (4) preserve the environment.  If the interventions have beneficial outcomes, they try to get relevant populations to use them. Wide popular acceptance of the interventions occurs only some of the time.

    When each group looks at the work of the other they say “that is good but it does not have much direct relevance for what I do.” Thus they do not feel that necessarily they must attend the professional meetings of the other group. So often they create their own organizations, like the International Academy for Intercultural Research (IAIR) and SIETAR or the American Psychological Society (APS) and the American Psychological Association (APA). That is unfortunate because unified they command more resources than they do when they are separate. But large size also means large meetings, whereas small meetings have the advantage that one has more intimate talks with a few colleagues, rather than feeling lost in a sea of unknown people.

    Separate or together is the major theme. Separation allows one to meet colleagues working on the same problem, but one misses the stimulation of an entirely different perspective. Togetherness means having more resources to do greater things. Large size organizations are more bureaucratic, and require people to do a lot of paperwork. Paperwork appears to be a waste of time to people who want to discover how the world ticks or how to make the world better.

    Large groups have more difficulties communicating, cooperating and reaching consensus. Thus, there is a tendency to shift to smaller and smaller groups of like-minded specialists. 

    The tendency toward separation is probably stronger than the tendency toward togetherness. Thus we need to accept that the two groups will remain separate. But we might benefit by increasing the exchange of ideas across the groups. This might be done by having the leadership of each group attend the meetings of the other group.  These leaders might identify events that might interest their own group, and then invite two or three presentations from the other group to one’s own group.

                                             Harry C. Triandis


  • 25 Jan 2019 9:48 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)


    Share Content by Speaking and Writing

    One of the best ways of marketing is to share cross-cultural knowledge by speaking at conferences, local events and webinars.   Begin researching well in advance, especially for large conferences who accept speaking proposals six months to one year in advance.  I was recently asked to present at Bamboo HR which is an example of a new trend of pre-recorded webinars where the speaker presents in advance of the date of the virtual conference.   During the day of the virtual event, attendees are able to select from several talks and switch in and out of sessions easily.  During the live airing of the recording, I was able to participate in the webinar by responding to questions and comments in the chat space.

                Writing content for books, articles, BLOGs and other distribution methods is key.  This is especially important for digital marketing as search engines are able to scan for key words and phrases online.   There are ways to determine which words and phrases are the best to use and how often they need to be used in a writing piece.  Most recently, I’ve began writing BLOGs as well as articles for Forbes.com.  Also, investigate getting advice or help with using Google Ad Words. 


  • 25 Jan 2019 9:37 PM | Brett Parry (Administrator)

    January 27– International Holocaust Remembrance Day, intended to commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and honor the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism.

    February

    February is Black History Month in the United States and Canada. Since 1976, the month has been designated to remember the contributions of people of the African diaspora.

    February 1: National Freedom Day, which celebrates the signing of the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in 1865.

    February 3: Setsubun-Sai (Beginning of Spring), the day before the beginning of spring in Japan, celebrated yearly as part of the Spring Festival.

    February 5: Lunar New Year, one of the most sacred of all traditional Chinese holidays, a time of family reunion and celebration. Lunar New Year is also celebrated at this time in Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Mongolia.

    February 5-6: Losar, the Tibetan Buddhist New Year, a time of renewal through sacred and secular practices.

    February 8: Nirvana Day, the commemoration of Buddha’s death at the age of 80, when he reached the zenith of Nirvana.

    February 14: St. Valentine’s Day, a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early saints named Valentinus.

    February 18: Presidents Day in the US

    February 19: Lantern Festival, the first significant feast after the Chinese New Year, named for watching Chinese lanterns illuminate the sky during the night of the event.

    February 19: Magha Puja Day, a Buddhist holiday that marks an event early in the Buddha’s teaching life when a group of 1,250 enlightened saints, ordained by the Buddha, gathered to pay their respect to him.

    February 26-March 1: Intercalary Days, celebrated by people of the Bahá’í faith. Intercalary days are observed with gift giving, special acts of charity, and preparation for the fasting that precedes the New Year.

    COMING EVENTS

    March 12-15 – Winter Institute for Intercultural Communication

    April 26-28 – Families in Global Transitions Annual Conference

    July 7-10 – International Academy for Intercultural Research Biennial Conference

    July 10-26 – Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication

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


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