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  • 04 Aug 2019 9:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Esmond in India, by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1990, Touchstone Library 208 pages (1st published in 1958).

    In our inaugural column for BookMarks we said we would look in four places for books to review in this space:

    • intercultural books
    • the best travel writing
    • the best science fiction
    • the best expatriate fiction

    We have sampled the first three categories in previous newsletters, and this month we present a book of expatriate fiction. By expatriate fiction we mean fiction—novels or short story collections—that have either as their defining theme or one of their preoccupations the clash or at least the meeting of cultures. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster is a classic example. We could have started there, but that book is so well known that we have decided to start with a lesser-known but no less brilliant book about India, one by an author we suspect many readers may not know.

    Ruth Prawer Jhabvala is not as well known today as she was in the 1980s and 1990s, and then she was probably better known for the movies for which she wrote the screenplays—as part of the 3-person team which included Ismail Merchant (producer) and James Ivory (director)—than for her novels and short stories. She won Oscars for two of her screenplays, one of which, Heat and Dust (starring Julie Christie), was based on her novel of the same name (which also won the Booker Prize). While her novels are not strictly autobiographical, she did live much of what she writes about, or at least observed it up close. She was born into a German Jewish family, fled to Britain ahead of the Nazis, met and married Cyrus Jhabvala, and moved to India where she lived for a number of years before ending up in New York City.

    Esmond in India is one of her many novels featuring stories of expats encountering, living in, adjusting to a foreign country. Or not adjusting at all, in Esmond’s case, actually loathing the place, in fact. There is probably not a single overt cross-cultural observation in Esmond in India. The book isn’t about cultural differences; it positively oozes them. In brief, it’s the story of the hapless British expat Esmond Stillwood, trapped in a spectacular mismatch with the beautiful but simple-minded Gulab with whom he lives in their apartment in New Delhi, along with their young son Ravi. Nearly everything about Gulab disgusts Esmond, while for her part all Gulab wants to do is to be left alone so she can smother Ravi with kisses, cook him good Indian meals with plenty of ghee, and take him to her mother’s house whenever she can and stay for as long as she can—just three of the many things Esmond can’t stand and which he strictly forbids.

    There are two parallel plots involving two other Indian families in Gulab and Esmond’s orbit, into one of which Esmond is drawn with life-changing consequences for the radiant Shakuntala, the result, inevitably, of a cultural misunderstanding. As noted, the book never wears culture on its sleeve; it’s a novel, not an essay. But culture lurks just beneath the surface of many scenes, occasionally bursting forth for a brief moment in all its destructive power.

    Nearly every scene Esmond is in, and even in those he is not in but during which Indians talk about him, reeks of the tensions produced by even the slightest of cultural differences. Here is Gulab, for example, at a loss as to how to live in her own apartment, which has been Europeanized by Esmond’s taste in furnishings.

    Gulab, lying on the floor felt as comfortable as she ever felt in that flat. It was not really convenient to her way of living. In her mother’s house she had been used to vast rooms and little furniture, so that she had been able to lie on an old stringbed in the middle of an otherwise empty room, floating on a great sea of cracked marble flooring under a high, high ceiling fretted—a sky with clouds—with flaking frescoes. But here, in her husband’s flat, she was hemmed in by furniture, there was no room to lie down, no room to move at her ease. Oh yes, everybody said what nice furniture it was and how clever Esmond was to make so much of that small flat. He had utilized every corner, fitted in divans and shelves and coffee tables, all very low and modern and, so they said, attractive. But Gulab could not see any purpose for such furniture; it only prevented one from being comfortable.

    This is just one of numerous moments in the book where Jhabvala evokes a dimension of culture to illustrate how uncomfortable it can be to be out of place, in this instance in your own country. There are many similar moments involving Esmond where one cultural practice or other or even just the sight—or the smell—of something a little bit too Indian sets Esmond off. Ironically, Esmond is something of an expert on Indian culture—poetry, architecture, painting, sculpture—and has put together a modest livelihood lecturing on these topics to expatriate audiences. He makes his living off India; he just can’t bear the people or the place itself.

    There is a brief moment near the end of the book that illustrates what I mean when I say Esmond in India is not about culture per se but that it “oozes” culture. It’s just one short sentence, tossed off in passing, it seems, but it manages to be shocking—and it’s because of culture. We know from two or three places earlier in the book that Esmond absolutely forbids Gulab to cook Indian food for Ravi (which the little boy loves) because it smells up the house and because after he eats it, Ravi himself smells of ghee and spices—he smells of India—and this infuriates Esmond. Late in the book Gulab, Esmond, and Ravi are eating dinner together, and Jhabvala suddenly tosses us this sentence: “[Esmond] stifled a sigh and helped himself to more macaroni and cheese.”

    Macaroni and cheese—in three words Jhabvala evokes the menacing spectre of cultural difference. This is not a story of how culture enriches; it is a story of how it destroys.

  • 04 Aug 2019 9:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A few days after I wrote the President’s Perspective for the June issue of The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA, I noticed a Facebook blog by Andrej Juriga that touched on some of my thoughts. However, I really liked what he said so I wanted it to be available to all our readers.

    -Sandra M. Fowler

    Four years ago, in July 2015, I founded the consultancy and training company Cultural Bridge after years of leading teams at national and global level in corporate Sales and HR, and after considering all the well-meant advice of my family, friends, peers, managers and headhunters, “don't throw away your successful corporate career", “once you leave corporate there is no way back,” “it's too risky to be on your own," “there is not enough demand for intercultural training and Diversity & Inclusion consulting in Central Europe so you won't be able to pay your bills.”

    I carefully listened to all these messages and kept reminding myself that they might be coming from the personal experience of those giving me the advice, and that their experience is not the norm. I also did understand that those caring messages might be a reflection of individual fears and resistance to uncertainty.

    Yet, deep inside I knew my decision was right. Leaving corporate career and starting my own company was not a spontaneous idea but rather a well-thought-out strategy which included:

    • Intentional assignments (including my relocation to Africa as an HR consultant) to projects where I had to collaborate with peers from all continents so I could consciously experience differences and observe strategies that work well, or not, in multicultural settings.
    • Formal intercultural education so I could back up my personal experience with a strong theoretical foundation.
    • Market research which helped me to understand who was already providing intercultural development in the region, and what the pool of potential clients was.
    • Mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs who helped me to explore how I could use the principles of corporate business in running my own small business.
    • Strong financial plan needed to bridge the transition period.

    And above all, I knew my decision was right because it was based on the very deep understanding of who I was, what strengths would help me to succeed and how I would compensate for what was missing, and what my job needed to offer so I could thrive in it.

    In those four years, I have been very committed to my professional development being surrounded by the best teachers of intercultural communication and by experts on Diversity & Inclusion. I have built a stable portfolio of clients from a variety of industries and countries. I have delivered development programs in three continents and the fourth is coming just in few weeks. Being a member of several intercultural communities and organizations, I have developed some strong business partnerships and made plenty of great friends from all around the world.

    Many ask for the golden recipe how to transition so smoothly from being a corporate employee to becoming an entrepreneur. I don't think I have such recipe because there's no universal template for success. What works for me might work less for someone else as our realities might be different. Many want to learn about my way of selling, negotiating, marketing and using social media. Anything I would have said in this regard would be just a duplication of what has been written in hundreds of business books. But what you won’t find in any manual is your personal signature—those things you want your clients to think or say when they hear your name. I am creating my personal brand based upon these few principles:

    1. Authenticity - I don't try to be the way the others want me to be. I am who I am and that attracts the audiences who like my true self.

    2. Passion - I accept working only on projects that I am passionate about. Many try to differentiate themselves from the others by better prices, their own frameworks or methods they developed. The real competitive advantage is passion.

    3. Humility - I am not the best. I don't know everything. And I will never have answers to all questions. This gives me a huge drive to constantly work on myself to be better than I was yesterday.

    4. Credibility – I use every opportunity to get exposed to differences (generational, cultural, racial, linguistic, cognitive or any other kind of difference) and try to lead by example in the way I act in face of those differences. I can’t be an ambassador of inclusion if I use divisive, polarizing and judgmental narrative each time I face someone with different opinion. As an interculturalist, I hold myself to high standards cause no matter how forgiving people are of my mistakes, they are measuring their trust based upon my consistency in what I teach and the behaviors I demonstrate.

    These four years felt like a dream. None of those fears came true. I am in my flow. I don't take it for granted, which is why I will continue practicing my four principles and re-evaluate them constantly. That is my commitment to my clients who need to know who I am. That is my commitment to the community of interculturalists who need empowerment through success stories. That is my commitment to myself because I want to make this flow last as long as possible.

  • 04 Aug 2019 9:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A jolt is a quick training activity that can be conducted in less that 3 minutes to dramatically demonstrate an important learning point. Here’s a jolt that emphasizes “out of sight is out of mind”. I have used it as an alternative to the iceberg metaphor.

    Distribute the supplies. Give a sheet of paper and a pencil to each participant.

    Give instructions. Ask the participants to draw a tree on the sheet of paper. Explain that the drawing can be realistic or abstract.

    Announce a time limit. The drawing must be completed within 45 seconds.

    Conclude the activity. At the end of 45 seconds, ask the participants to exchange the picture of the tree with each other.

    Look for the roots. Ask the participants to raise their hand if the picture shows roots. You are likely to find that most do not include the root system.

    Present the learning points. Use your own words:

    • All of your trees likely have trunks and branches and leaves. But most of them do not have roots.
    • So, what is holding up the trees without the root system? How do your trees get water and nutrition?
    • Do you agree that the root system is an important part of a tree? Why did you leave out the root system? Was it because you usually don’t see the roots?

    Extrapolate from the experience. Ask the participants to suggest other things people habitually ignore just because these important support elements are not visible. Relate this experience to our perception of Culture.

  • 04 Aug 2019 8:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Submitted by Michele Gelfand

    Harry C. Triandis (1926-2019) died peacefully Saturday, June 1, 2019, at the age of 92 at the care center in his retirement community in Carlsbad, Calif.

    He is survived by his daughter, Louisa; son-in-law, James; grandchildren, Alex and Nico; and numerous students around the world whose lives he greatly impacted. He was preceded in death by his wife of 52 years, Pola.

    Harry was born in Greece and moved to Canada is his early twenties. He did his undergraduate work (engineering) at McGill University (1951) in Montreal and his master's (commerce) at the University of Toronto (1954). Harry earned his Ph.D. (1958) in social psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. He also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Athens in Greece (1987).

    In 1958, Harry accepted a position with the University of Illinois and started what would be a long and distinguished career. Following his interests in how people of different cultures can live in a peaceful, sustainable way, Harry became a pioneer in the field of cross-cultural psychology. His book The Analysis of Subjective Culture is a classic in the field and is one of the first “texts” in cross-cultural psychology. After publishing the six-volume "Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology," some of his colleagues named him the "father" of this new branch of psychology. Because his research required collaboration with colleagues from different cultures, he circled the globe four times over the course of his life, spending many months in other cultures and lecturing in close to 40 countries on all inhabited continents.

    During his career, Harry held various fellowships and teaching assignments. He was a Ford Foundation Faculty Fellow (1964-65), Fellow of the Center of International Studies at Cornell University (1968-69), a Guggenheim Fellow (1972-73), Honorary Fellow at International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology (1982), a Distinguished Fulbright Professor to India (1983) and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1984), which administers the Harry and Pola Triandis Doctoral Thesis Award that is given every two years for the best dissertation in that field. He was named a University of Illinois Scholar in 1987 and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Illinois in 1997. After his retirement from the University of Illinois, he taught for a semester at the University of California, Irvine; briefly at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (twice); and Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

    A leader in his field, Harry served as president of six associations or societies of psychology: the Interamerican Society of Psychology, the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, the Society for Cross­Cultural Research and the International Association of Applied Psychology.

    Harry was a prolific author, publishing over 200 papers, book chapters and books. His most recent work includes: "Fooling Ourselves: Self Deception in Politics, Religion, and Terrorism" (Triandis, 2009), which received the William James Award from the General Psychology division of the American Psychological Association; "Managing Research, Development and Innovation: Managing the Unmanageable," third edition (Jain, Triandis, and Weick, 2010); "Managing Global Organizations" (Bhagat, Triandis, and McDevitt, 2013), “Individualism-Collectivism” (Triandis, 1995), “Culture and Social Behavior” (1994), “Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Vol 3” (Dunnette, Hough, & Triandis, 1994), “Interpersonal Behavior” (Triandis, 1977), “Variations in Black and White Perceptions of the Social Environment” (Triandis, 1976) and “Attitude and Attitude Change” (Triandis, 1971). His work has been translated into Chinese, Farsi, German, Japanese, Russian and Spanish and spans 60 years (1955-2015).

    Harry and his work have been recognized by numerous national and international organizations. The American Psychological Association awarded Harry the Centennial Citation "for significant contribution to the establishment of cross-cultural psychology as a distinct discipline" (1992), the Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Psychology (1994), the Award for Distinguished Lecturer of the Year (1994) and the Award for Outstanding International Psychologist (2002). In 1994, he received the Otto Klineberg Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Two years later, the American Psychology Society gave him the James Cattell Fellow Award. He received the Eminent Scholar in International Management Award from the Academy of Management. The Federation of Associations in the Behavioral and Brain Sciences included Harry on its list of honored scientists, which lists less than one hundred psychologists. He was named Honorary International Fellow of the Center for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand, in 2011. Recognizing his complete body of work, the International Academy for Intercultural Research gave Harry its Lifetime Contributions Award in Taiwan in 2004 and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology gave him its Career Contributions Award in 2012 in San Diego.

    Harry lived a rich and full life. He and Pola were well known in the university community for their dinner parties and for welcoming orphaned graduate students to their home for holidays. He took great pride in mentoring his students and his two grandchildren, both of whom he cherished. He established the Pola and Harry Triandis Fellowship in Cross-Cultural Psychology at the University of Illinois. Harry loved classical music and was especially devoted to WILL (Illinois Public Media) and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Motivated by a desire to move toward a world where “people can be brothers in spite of their cultural differences.” Harry treated all people he met around the world with respect and dignity. His tripartite advice was to “Be passionate, don’t be afraid to be controversial, and above all, don’t take yourself too seriously”—it is a forever inspiration.

    Honoring Harry’s interests and lifelong work, memorial contributions may be made to the Environmental Defense Fund or the Union of Concerned Scientists.

    Michele Gelfand will be helping to put together a memory book—if you have stories and/or pictures of Harry, please send them to her at mjgelfand@gmail.com

  • 04 Aug 2019 8:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Deanna Shoss shares her tips for creating a DIY video that you can use for marketing purposes. She is a marketer, writer, interculturalist in Chicago. As CEO at Intercultural Talk, Inc. she provides digital, intercultural and real-life marketing for entrepreneurs and people following their passions post age 50 (aka non-digital natives), who need strategy and know-how to adapt to new communication technologies and to communicate with people of different backgrounds and generations. She speaks Portuguese, Spanish and French and is a certified Body Pump instructor. Learn more at www.interculturaltalk.com

    10 Tips for Easy Do It Yourself (DIY) Video for Marketing

    Film in “selfie” and landscape mode.


    Turn your phone sideways (landscape mode) and hit the selfie button. This way you can see yourself as you film. The camera quality is not quite as good on the selfie side, but you also will not accidentally cut off your head (I do this all the time).

    Stabilize your camera.


    Do not hold your camera while you film (unless you’re going for the Blair Witch look). Here’s a quick set up: Pile a stack of books to eye height. Set up another stack of books right behind it about 5” taller. Place your camera on the shorter stack and lean it against the taller stack and voila — the perfect DIY tripod.

    Lights. Lights. Lights.


    Try to film with as much natural light as possible. Film during the daytime, but don’t sit with a window behind you (you will be completely blacked out). If you have reading lamps, put two of them in front of you at 10:00 and 2:00 and angle them to shine in a crisscross across you. (Think Broadway debut.)

    Plan your background.


    Not too deep, not too busy, and definitely nothing weird (like a light switch growing out of your head.). Try a plain wall with a plant or organized bookshelf. Take a snapshot and examine it before filming to see what your backdrop will look like.

    Project your voice (and beware of ambient sound).


    Set your camera up within 3 to 5 feet from you and project your voice. Farther away and the sound quality will diminish. Anticipate possible sound interruptions (will your dog bark? Might arguing kids—or adults—barge into your space?). And, yes, if an ambulance drives by, you should start over. Sorry!

    Be animated!


    Express yourself a little livelier than usual to exude more energy. It’s okay to use your hands to make a point, but be sure to always bring them back to center. That said, do check nervous moving (like shifting back and forth in a swivel chair or superfluous fidgeting).

    Sit at an angle.


    For framing, situate yourself just off to the right or left of center, and then angle yourself slightly toward the center. This will help you avoid the “deer in the headlights” look. For top to bottom, your eyes should line up with the top third of your frame. Leave a little space at the top (so your head is not cut off) and the bottom cutoff should be about mid-chest. Look into the camera from here.

    Draft your content as if it was for your most kind and caring friend.


    Only you know if you need to write out every word, or if you’ll be fine with just an outline. Whichever way, practice what you will say. If you need notes, print them in BIG type (18-20 point) and tape it below your camera, so you can see them while still looking ahead. Pretend like you are talking to a trusting, caring person who is savoring every word. You have something that the world needs to know! (And relax. You can always delete and start over!)

    Share. Share. Share.


    Now that your video is done. Where will you post it? On your website? On your YouTube channel? On social media? Post it far and wide to share with the world!

    Know when to ask for help.


    Video is the top tool for business growth in 2019. Want to learn how to get started on YouTube? Need help with editing and posting your video? Want to develop a video content strategy? Email info@interculturaltalk.com and let me know the #1 thing getting in your way for videos

    (c) 2019 Intercultural Talk, Inc.

  • 04 Aug 2019 8:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Elmer Dixon, President, Executive Diversity Services

    Mindfulness is an intense awareness of what you are sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement. On the flip side, unconscious bias could be said to be an intense interpretation or judgement, without awareness of what or even why you are sensing and feeling in the moment. So, what happens when the two collide?


    Mindfulness practices, including breathing methods, guided imagery and such have become popular in the past decade as a means of reducing stress, anxiety and pain.  The roots of mindfulness, however, reach 2,500 years into the past, to the teachings of Buddha.

    Jon Kabat-Zinn brought Mindfulness to the US and connected it to stress-reduction in 1979. “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training,” says Kabat-Zinn. He adds that it’s “a means of paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).


    Bias is prejudice or unsupported judgments in favor of or against one thing, person or group compared with another, usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences.

    Unconscious biases, also called implicit biases, are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness.


    Perception Model, Executive Diversity Services, Inc.

    We all use a perception process to respond to our world (see Perception Model image for reference). How we see things–the input or stimulus we receive from the external world– is interpreted through the filters of our own life history and experiences. Of all these filters, culture has the biggest influence. This is because of its visible and invisible aspects, including how culture teaches values, communication styles, behaviors and perceptions.

    Simply having unconscious bias is statement of fact. What makes it problematic is when we react unconsciously as well. Mindfulness, when combined with unconscious bias training, can give you tools to make the connection between your filters and your resulting assumptions about a person or situation.

    This affords you the ability to think and manage your response, to control your “knee-jerk” reaction, before you act. And that is the critical component. Unconscious bias is natural. However, how you respond is what you can consciously control. (Read more about the Physiognomy of Unconscious Bias here.)


    Many of us have been taught and continue to teach each other to pretend to be blind to any visible differences such as gender, race/ethnicity, disability, etc.  Why is this a problem?  Because we do notice difference.  But when we deal with each other, we have been taught to act like we don’t notice!  Many of us learned it very early when, as children, we pointed out someone’s difference (e.g., color, disability, etc.) and were silenced or told that “It is not nice to talk about other people.”

    Studies have shown empirical data that mindfulness can, among other things, lead to less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, enhanced self-insight and fear modulation. (See insights to the research here.)

    As mindfulness helps you become more aware of a particular bias, it holds less sway over your actions. Noticing a tendency to lean in one direction or another, we can consciously choose a new response.

    And each time we become cognizant of a previously unconscious bias, our world expands.



    Davis, Daphne M PhD and Hayes, Jeffrey A. PhD. What are the benefits of mindfulness.https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner (accessed July 22, 2019)

    Lueke, Adam. Episode 114 :: Adam Lueke :: Mindfulness and Implicit Bias Reduction. https://presentmomentmindfulness.com/2018/06/16/episode-114-adam-lueke-mindfulness-and-implicit-bias-reduction/

    Mayo Clinic Staff. Mindfulness Exercises https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356 (accessed July 22, 2019)

    Shea, Christopher, MA, CRAT, CAC-AD, LCC. A Brief History of Mindfulness in the USA and Its Impact on Our Lives https://psychcentral.com/lib/a-brief-history-of-mindfulness-in-the-usa-and-its-impact-on-our-lives/  (accessed July 22, 2019)

    Sofer, Oren Jay. Mindfulness and Transforming Bias. https://www.mindfulschools.org/personal-practice/mindfulness-transforming-bias/  (accessed July 22, 2019)

    Reprinted with permission from the Executive Diversity Services Blog: https://www.executivediversity.com/2019/07/22/can-mindfulness-help-mitigate-unconscious-bias/

  • 14 Jul 2019 11:10 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    How do you respond when asked, “What should I do to get my intercultural career going?” This question can come from someone who has just earned a degree in intercultural communication so they are just starting out, or someone who already has a career and wants to add an intercultural element, or someone planning to leave what they were doing and transition to intercultural work.

    Having been asked that question a number of times over my long career, as well as quite recently, I am always unsure of what I can say that might really be helpful. Reasons for that abound. One is that those of us in the intercultural field have taken many different paths to get where we are, which means that there are as many ways to become an interculturalist as there are people in the field. A suggestion would be to certainly develop a game plan but don’t consider it the only game in town.

    Another reason is that whatever your game plan might be, opportunities come along that you need to grab. For example, an opportunity to work with someone you hadn’t expected to work with or an unexpected project you apply for and are invited to join. I certainly did not set out to be a trainer and the first few times I ran BaFa BaFa were rather pitiful as I look back. My advice would be that you need to be open to new opportunities so you recognize them when they come along and be ready to say yes.

    Make it easy for people to find you and give them a reason to look for you. The reason will be what you bring to the table. When a company or client wants someone who knows about working in Japan or Ghana or wherever you have expertise, they look to you. When they want someone who can do a session on re-entry or coping skills or cultural assessment, they think of you. Further, when they want someone who has worked in the hospitality industry or health or the military, they contact you. That is your niche. As far as accessibility in our technology-centric society, an active social media presence is becoming a must, especially for independent consultants—but really for every person or company. Blog regularly so that your website pops up closer to the top of a search when someone in your area is looking for the kind of skills and knowledge you have.

    Make direct contact with people or companies you’d like to work with or for. Send an article (get it published if you can) to the HR department that you’ve written on a subject of interest for the kind of company where you want to work. Arrange for an informational interview and ask if they know a company that might be a good fit for your talents. (Be sure to have researched their company and identified the reason why they might need you.)

    Network. Network. Network. Join and stay in touch with the intercultural network. If the intercultural piece is what you are interested in adding to your resume and your career, the best way to do that is through the SIETAR associations local, national, and/or regional. Attend the conferences; do a presentation; find someone to co-present with; volunteer for a committee, the conference, the Board of Directors. People need to know your name and that you are someone they can rely on to get things done. This will also help develop what you become known for—your niche

    My suggestions tend to be generic and based on either my own experience or that of others I know well. I’ve focused on the intercultural pieces because that is what I know, but I am quite sure that people in diversity and inclusion, and social justice have similar suggestions. I am hoping that someone in SIETAR USA who is more aligned with the D&I and social justice fields will write to tell us some of their ideas. And I look forward to some interculturalists sending their suggestions too. I would be happy to collate the ideas and make the resulting document available and easily accessible on our website! That way when someone asks The Question, you can point them toward our combined effort.

    Watch for the SIETAR USA 2019 conference registration that is right around the corner!!!

    Happy summer!

    Sandy Fowler

    President SIETAR USA

  • 14 Jul 2019 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Other Voices: Your humble book review editor has happily—and completely—dominated this space for seven straight months. All you’ve gotten in this column so far is my taste, my opinions, and my voice. Even my wife would tell you that’s a bit much. In our inaugural column back in January we wrote: “We welcome suggestions of titles from our readers and would also be happy to welcome guest reviewers to this column from time to time.” And we meant it. So this month we are reaching out to remind readers that you are cordially invited to submit to this space. If you’d like to occupy this space yourself one month or you’d merely like to suggest a book for me to review, kindly email me: craig@craigstorti.com to suggest a title.

    Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World, by Michele Gelfand, 2018, Scribner, 376 pages. Reviewed by Craig Storti

    This is a terrific book. To be honest, I never expected I’d have any need for that word in this column. After all, how often do you come across a book that is a genuine game-changer? When was the last time someone—anyone—introduced a whole new concept to our field, a significant new framework for examining and interpreting behavior and for comparing behavior across cultures? I’m guessing here, but I would suggest that it was back in 1995 or so with the publication of Riding the Waves of Culture where Fons Trompenaars presented his universalism/particularism dichotomy.

    Gelfand’s dichotomy is between what she calls tight cultures and loose cultures. “Tight cultures,” she writes,

    have strong social norms and little tolerance for deviance, while loose cultures have weak social norms and are highly permissive. The former are rule makers; the latter, rule breakers. In the United States, a relatively loose culture, a person can’t get far down the street without witnessing a slew of casual norm violations, from littering to jaywalking to dog waste. By contrast, in Singapore, where norm violations are rare, pavements are pristine, and jaywalkers are nowhere to be found. Or consider Brazil where clocks on city streets all read a different time and arriving late for business meetings is more the rule than the exception…. Meanwhile in Japan, a tight country, there’s a huge emphasis on punctuality—trains almost never arrive late. On the rare days that delays do occur, some train companies will hand out cards to passengers that they can submit to their bosses to excuse a tardy arrival at work.

    Citing numerous studies and experiments, Gelfand goes on to construct an extremely impressive list of differences in values, behaviors, and expectations between tight and loose cultures, a list that any interculturalist will love. But not just love; these differences are often at the core of the cross-cultural misunderstandings and frustrations that it is our job to explain. Here is a very random sample of some of the characteristics of the two types of societies:

    • Formality, titles are important
    • Punishment for deviance from norms
    • Less crime, fewer police
    • Less debt (think Germany)
    • Conformity
    • Not open to change
    • More self-regulation
    • More ethnocentric, our culture is better
    • Highly organized
    • More disciplined
    • Risk aversion
    • Autocratic government
    • Less open to people who are “different”
    • Don’t challenge the status quo
    • Informality, eschewing titles
    • Live and let live
    • More crime, more police
    • More debt (think Greece)
    • Individualism
    • Open to change
    • More persona freedom
    • Less ethnocentrism
    • More disorganized
    • More creative
    • Risk takers
    • Democratic government
    • More acceptance of difference
    • Regularly challenge the status quo

    As the two lists above suggest, Gelfand’s tight/loose framework overlaps here and there with other frameworks that we have in our field, but her point of departure puts many of those familiar differences in a new context, offering, in short, a new way of thinking about and ultimately accounting for cultural differences we may have thought we understood.

    Naturally, there are the expected trade-offs; both tight and loose cultures have their assets and their liabilities:

    • Loose cultures foster tolerance, creativity, and adaptability at the expense of social disorder, lack of coordination, and impulsivity.
    • Tight cultures foster conscientiousness, social order, and self-control at the expense of closed-mindedness, conventionality, and cultural inertia.

    Gelfand’s chapter entitled “Disaster, Disease, and Diversity” looks for the origins of tightness and looseness in cultures, explaining that “groups that deal with many ecological and historical threats need to do everything they can to create order in the face of chaos.” Groups that were not threatened by natural or historical disruption did not have to develop mechanisms to defend themselves against them. Defend against what?

    Moreover, as Gelfand explains, the tight/loose distinction is everywhere, not just at the level of national culture. Organizations are tight or loose, different social classes tend to be tight or loose, and individuals are as well. One of the more fascinating chapters in the book, “The War between America’s States,” is a brilliant analysis of the red-blue political divide in our country in terms of tightness and looseness. Gelfand also makes it clear that societies that are mostly tight or mostly loose permit or even encourage the opposite quality in certain contexts. Finally, in a chapter titled “Goldilocks Had It Right,” she makes a compelling case for moderation, that neither extreme tightness nor extreme looseness is conducive to a healthy society.

    At the risk of redundancy, let me stress again that new paradigms like this don't come along very often, yet they are central to what we do in our profession. When one does come our way, we should all take note.

    Michele Gelfand was a student of Harry Triandis who gave us the indispensable individualism/collectivism framework. Harry passed away a few weeks ago, but not before this book came out. How proud he must have been to have seen this book in print. And what a lovely tribute it is from Michele to her mentor.

  • 14 Jul 2019 10:52 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Interview with Michele Gelfand about her book  Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World

    1. Why did you write this book?

    I wanted to write this book to introduce the concepts of tightness-looseness to a broad audience. My research team, involving people from psychology, anthropology, computer science, and neuroscience has been studying many cultures, from Sparta to Singapore, Athens to Alabama and Tech to the Military to understand how the strength of social norms evolves and its consequences for human groups. I wanted to make this research, which has been published primarily in scientific journals like Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, among others, accessible to a general audience. I dedicated the book to Dad who is an engineer, who always encouraged me to explore the world, and Harry Triandis, my mentor, who gave me the scientific tools to understand it!

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

    I hope that the tight versus loose distinction will ultimately change the way readers look at the world and themselves. It illuminates differences we see across nations, states, social classes, and households all through the same lens; it helps unlock clashes that we experience with our spouses, kids, friends, and co-workers on a daily basis; and it enables us to understand puzzling dynamics that we see happening around the world, from the rise of populism to the assent of ISIS. Most importantly, by understanding this hidden dimension of our lives, we can use it to better our relationships, organizations, and the world at large. Culture isn’t destiny. By tightening norms when we they are too loose, and loosening norms when they are too tight, we can build a better planet. 

    3. Name one or two books in our field that influenced you the most, that you think all interculturalists should be familiar with? Why?

    Harry Triandis’ (1972) book The Analysis of Subjective Culture, it provides a very comprehensive theory about culture, and I was inspired by his ecological approach which informed my work on tightness-looseness.

    Herodotus, The Histories, written around 440 BC. It’s really one of the first texts on cross-cultural psychology!

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

    When I was a junior in college, I ventured off to London for a semester, my first experience abroad. A sheltered kid from Long Island, I was the classic New Yorker who didn’t know life existed outside the Big Apple, as depicted in the famous New Yorker cartoon. Overwhelmed by the strange accents, the cars driving on the left side of the road, and the British jokes I didn’t quite understand, I experienced a quintessential case of culture shock. I remember phoning my father and telling him how strange it was that other members of my study-abroad group would just pick up and go to places like Paris, Amsterdam, and Scotland for the weekend. In his thick Brooklyn accent, my father responded, “Well, imagine that it’s like going from New Yawk to Pennsylvania!” That metaphor gave me so much comfort, that the very next day, I booked a low-budget tour to Egypt. It was just like going from New York to California, I reasoned (much to my father’s dismay!). That fortuitous phone call with my dad sparked a lifelong passion for exploring cultures around the globe, and caused me to pivot from a career in medicine to one in cross-cultural psychology.

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

    In a recent paper that we published in Psychological Science, entitled “A Tight Spot: How Personality Moderates the Impact of Social Norms on Sojourner Adjustment” we show that the match between one’s personality and the features of the culture one goes to is a key predictor of adjustment. This opens up a lot of interesting ways to think about how we can increase our adaptation to different cultures and be more strategic about recruitment and selection for international assignments!

    6. This newsletter goes to nearly 1,000 readers, folks who are either in or interested in the field of intercultural communications. Is there anything else you’d like to say to these folks?

    If the audience is interested, I did a Ted talk on my research and they can listen here:


    I also have a place on my website for people to send in tight-loose stories to me and would love to hear from your readers! https://www.michelegelfand.com/

  • 14 Jul 2019 10:45 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    A workshop presented by Elmer Dixon, President of Executive Diversity Services at the SIETAR Europa Congress in Leuven, Belgium.

    [Interculturalists around the globe gathered in Belgium in early June for the SIETAR Europa Congress 2019 in Leuven Belgium. I was once again a presenter at the conference. This year I facilitated a workshop that looked at Engaging in Dialogue in a Global Polarized Environment.]

    Interculturalists have dedicated their life’s work to building bridges across cultural differences. As such they strive to soften barriers to living life with cultural others. Companies and organizations have recognized that cultural differences can have a positive impact on the organization’s success. Intercultural trainers are providing teams with a broader understanding of the value of cultural differences. And they teach tools for adapting styles and behaviors to enable culturally different colleagues to work effectively together.


    Human movement and relocation in the 21st century is growing. This may be by choice or in response to human-made or natural disasters. This has ignited a trend where many people and in fact nations have taken defensive lines.  They’ve adopted divisive discourse as a means to protect their national and cultural identities. We’ve seen in multiple elections across Europe a rise in far-right white nationalists. These entities have forged closer links with like-minded groups in the U.S, where they’ve benefited from a perceived sympathy from elected governments for strands of their extremist politics.

    Yet this is a trend that has been building for years. In July of 2011, a gunman opened fire at an island youth camp in Norway, targeting Muslim youth. The gunman was described as a right-wing Christian extremist with a hatred of Muslims and ties to right wing Neo-Nazis. More recently in the US there was the slaughter of Jews at a synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. That was followed by another shooting at a synagogue near San Diego.


    The toxic combination of the most prolonged period of economic stagnation and the worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II has seen the far-right surging across the European continent, from Athens to Amsterdam and in between. In the U.S. cries of “invasion” prompted by the aggressive stands on immigration affect the sensibility of an infected populace.

    Daniel Friberg, who attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, is a clean-cut, smooth-talking far-right activist. He is a prominent figure in the Swedish radical right and self-identifies as identitarian. This French-originated ideology, increasingly influential among European far-right youth, argues for the preservation of a white or European identity.  And, in theory, it attempts to decouple from the overt racism, violence, and fascist symbolism that have been a barrier to the far-right’s political acceptability in post-war Europe. Friberg, however, sees “identitarian” and “alt-right” as largely synonymous terms.


    I had proposed the workshop in response to the growing, critical need for dialogue across the political divide. It is needed now more than ever in such a polarized global environment.

    In this interactive workshop, participants learned a dialogue tool for having critical conversations. They then explored the mindset and philosophy of this new breed of smooth-talking far-right activist, or identitarian. They also looked at the European far-right who argues for the preservation of a white or European identity.

    During this interactive discussion participants broke into small groups to share stories and explore opportunities and strategies for bridging the gaps between polarized groups. They also were asked to identify training approaches and strategies specifying the most critical issues of identity xenophobia, and how to address them in the classroom.

    In the report out, each team shared their group’s ideas along with their own experiences facing these critical issues in the classroom. And they looked at how interculturalists can more effectively create dialogue.

    The overall goal of the session was to encourage intercultural trainers to engage in critical conversations such as right-wing isolationist philosophy and lessen the impact of polarizing opinions and beliefs.

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