Like to submit an article to the SIETAR USA periodical? If so, click here to see the guidelines. 

  • 14 Jun 2021 10:47 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Growing by Leonard Woolf. Reviewed by Craig Storti

    Your Book Review Editor has a confession to make: sometimes I skim the books I end up reviewing. Never (or almost never) in the case of a new book I have not read before, but often in the case of an old favorite which I read some time ago. I was thus expecting that I would skim parts of Growing, to remind me of its major themes, and then zero in on sections I really wanted to reread.

    But that never happened. I began reading the first page and was so pulled in that I reread it cover to cover. How do I explain Growing’s hold on me some 35 years after I first picked it up? But let’s start with what it’s about and why it is featured in this column. Growing is the second volume in a five-volume autobiography by Leonard Woolf, a member of the storied Bloomsbury Group, a writer, publisher, and literary editor, and the husband of Virginia Woolf, although none of that explains Growing’s claim on this space. That is explained by the particular way Woolf spent the seven years of his life covered in this volume (1904-1911): as a young British civil servant in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon).

    As a sensitive, highly intellectual young man, Woolf was intrigued by virtually everything about Ceylon: its religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam), its geography (lush jungles, arid, treeless plains, mountains, the coast), its people (the Tamils whom he did not warm to, the Sinhalese whom he came to love, the Arabs whom he admired for their self-assurance), and his fellow imperialists (the other British who ran the country along with Woolf). Imperialism and its baggage is a recurring theme of Growing, as Woolf struggles with his disdain for all it represents, yet enjoys and readily indulges in its privileges. Woolf’s honesty—and in particular his acute self-awareness—effortlessly draws the reader in (as if drawing readers into any story can ever be truly effortless) and what leads to its many moving intercultural interludes as the young civil servant interacts with people from across the entire spectrum of Ceylonese society, from members of the very highest social class to prisoners whose brutal flogging or hanging Woolf’s job requires him to witness.

    Growing is full of stories, most of them just a few paragraphs, of incidents that take up his time in a series of jobs he holds, from the lowest cadet at the bottom of the civil service ladder (in Jaffna, far northern Ceylon), to Office Assistant (in Kandy, the second city of Ceylon), to Assistant Government Agent in Hambantota, his final posting. He has to investigate and adjudicate property, marriage, and buffalo disputes, arrange the visits of dignitaries, including Empress Eugenie of France, widow of Napoleon, and the Dane Baron Blixen (of Out of Africa fame) who comes to hunt but is terrified to be left alone in the jungle. One of his more interesting temporary assignments is to help supervise the Great Ceylon Pearl Fishery in the waters off of Jaffna where for two months divers from all over the region (India, the Persian Gulf) bring up oysters from the bay, and the government, after taking its share of pearls, oversees their sale to various jewellers, dealers, traders, merchants, shopkeepers, and financiers, along with the usual assortment of “dacoits and criminals.”—characters each and every one.

    One of the cross-cultural highlights of Growing involves a plague of rinderpest which spreads throughout the district of Hambantota, killing thousands of cattle and water buffalo, which represent very nearly the total wealth (apart from their crops) of most families. The only way to stop the plague is to tie up or fence in the animals, thus rendering them essentially useless to their owners, and to shoot any that escape and become infected, hence spreaders. Woolf has to shoot scores of stray buffaloes, occasionally right in front of their owners, and he can feel their fury and even sympathize with it.

    “The incidents of these twenty-four hours in the rinderpest ravaged district of Hambantota were no doubt trivial,” he observes, but they could be read as a moral tale about imperialism—the absurdity of a people of one civilization and mode of life trying to impose its rule upon an entirely different civilization and mode of life… My attitude to the Hambantota villagers was entirely benevolent and altruistic; I was merely trying to save from destruction some of the most valuable of their few possessions. Following me and murmuring as I walked [away], they had less understanding of my ways, my intentions, my affection for them than the [dog] walking at my heels. They were the nicest of people and I was very fond of them, but they would have thrown stones at me or shot me in the back as I walked [away] had they dared.

    This particular incident, in many ways the climax of Growing, has an even more stunning component, which will fix it permanently in your memory.

    But I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

    P.S. Please share your thoughts, comments, and ideas about the article with the Editorial Team.

  • 14 Jun 2021 10:11 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Americans love freedom. It’s part of the USAmerican psyche. So a holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the US should be a day for all to rejoice. And it is moving in that direction. Black Lives Matter protests brought a renewed focus over the past 12 months to inequities experienced by Black Americans in the US. Along with that came a push to recognize Juneteenth.

    While it is not yet a federal holiday, a bill declaring it as such has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Plus 49 states and the District of Columbia already recognize Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday.  

    In 2020 many corporations, such as Twitter, the NFL and Nike, also designated the day as a paid work holiday as part of their overall commitment to addressing social justice and the push for racial equity. Here’s how things are looking for 2021, along with ideas on how you can commemorate this important day in US history.

     What is Juneteenth?

    Juneteenth, a contraction of “June” and “Nineteenth,” celebrates the day that all slaves were released from slavery. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in all confederate states on January 1, 1863. The US Congress passed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery in all states on January 31, 1865 (it was ratified on December 6). However, the news that slaves were officially freed did not reach the last confederate holdouts until June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers, led by General Gordon Granger, reached Galveston Texas and the last 250,000 slaves still in captivity were told they were free.

    The first celebration of Juneteenth occurred one year later, on June 19, 1866. In 1872, four Black ministers and businessmen in Houston purchased 10 acres of land for $800 and created Emancipation Park for the annual Juneteenth gathering. Celebrations grew and then slowly faded under Jim Crow and during the Great Depression. Following a revival of Juneteenth during the civil rights movement, in 1979, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday, starting in 1980. Today, South Dakota stands alone as the only state that does not recognize Juneteenth.

    What about the 4th of July?

    Freedom Day and Jubilee Day are other names for Juneteenth, which has also been called Independence Day. That last designation resonates more with June 19 than July 4 for Rhianna Mulford, a marketing professional in New York City. “My ancestors were not included in the Declaration of Independence,” says Mulford. “July 4th celebrates freedom, but we were not free in 1776,” says Mulford, who identifies as African American. “When the constitution was written, it wasn’t written with me in mind,” she adds.

    The first organized celebration of Independence Day occurred on July 4, 1777. The U.S. Congress made July 4th a federal holiday in 1870. In 1941, the provision was expanded to grant a paid holiday to all federal employees. “The day is irrelevant for me,” however, says Mulford. “It’s the day white people got free.”

    That gave her colleague, Steve Schertzen, who identifies as White, pause. “I had never stopped to question it,” said Schertzen. “The good news is that once you see something, you can’t unsee it,” he adds, with gratitude to his co-worker for sharing her lived experience. Now he is planning to do more research to learn and explore how to honor both holidays this year.

    How is Juneteenth Celebrated?

    This year cities from LA to New York City are hosting official celebrations, both in-person and virtual. (See a list of destination celebrations from Expedia, here.) Ways to honor Juneteenth include studying and learning, prayer, community service, barbecues…and eating food that is red. “For African Americans especially, Juneteenth is a day of education, reflection, cultural appreciation and hope for true liberation,” says St. Louis-based culinary researcher Robin Caldwell. “Juneteenth is typically celebrated with meals of red food and drink, such as hibiscus tea, watermelon, strawberry shortcake, red beans and rice, red velvet cake and strawberry soda, to symbolize strength and courage.” (Abari, June 4, 2021)

    According to Nicole Taylor, who's been covering Juneteenth for The New York Times for years, “red also symbolizes generations of suffering and perseverance, and…it's a symbol of ingenuity and resilience in bondage." (Gervasi, June 15, 2021) The red also hints of traditional, red-tinged special-occasion ingredients from West Africa, such as hibiscus and kola nuts.

    “Given the widespread protests and far-reaching changes that have happened in the past year, Juneteenth celebrations are sure to resonate in new ways in 2021. Celebration is not without understanding how we got here.” says Caldwell.

    What does this mean for you and your company?

    “I’ve seen a surge in requests for businesses wanting DEI training since last summer,” says Elmer Dixon, President of Executive Diversity Services. “Now that it’s a year later, we can see which companies are doing serious work.” All of EDS trainings are tied to a business case and overall strategy tailored to that company.

    Make your connection to Juneteenth meaningful. Give employees the option to take the day-off. Offer a paid day off for all if you are able. Provide educational opportunities and engage your Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) for ideas. Share lists of local or virtual commemoration events, suggests Dixon.

    “In 2021 consumers are looking for authenticity when they make choices about where to buy, evaluating which companies are giving lip service and which are serious about having Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as part of their core values,” says Dixon.

    “Companies that create an environment that is inclusive and build opportunities for advancement and success for all of their workforce will remain competitive long into the future,” says Dixon. And that means valuing the things that your employees value. Like Juneteenth.


    This article is provided for SIETAR USA as a courtesy of Elmer Dixon and Executive Diversity Services (EDS).

  • 14 Jun 2021 10:06 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Presenter: Joanna Sell, Certified Intercultural Coach & Trainer, Intercultural Compass 

    July 14, 2021 - 11:00 am-12:30 pm (ET) 

    • What is storytelling and how can we apply it in our intercultural and D&I programs?
    • What is story sharing about and why is the narrative approach so powerful?
    • What does the latest in neuroscience tell us about the storytelling and story listening context?
    • How can we encourage our participants to create, share and co-create their stories?

    Simply speaking: As intercultural trainers, cross-cultural coaches and/or D&I facilitators, how can we use storytelling to enhance and strengthen the effectiveness of our work?

    For answers to these questions and more, join SIETAR USA as Intercultural Coach and Trainer Joanna Sell shares with us her wealth of experience and her expertise in applying a storytelling approach to her intercultural and D&I work. Joanna will set the foundation with a short look at how storytelling works and how stories affect our brains according to the newest neuroscience research. With this grounding, she will then present three powerful narrative tools we can apply to our own intercultural/D&I programs. Participants will be able to use these tools to assist them in creating their own stories and those of their teams, demonstrating the importance of co-creation of stories and story sharing.

    SIETAR USA MEMBER Registration = FREE (current, paid SIETAR USA members in good standing)

    Non-Member Registration = $25.00

    Access to this webinar will be via the Zoom platform. Click here to register: Storytelling...


    About the Presenter

    Joanna Sell is an intercultural narrative coach, trainer and facilitator, and founder of Intercultural Compass, specializing in virtual global teams, global leadership and storytelling in the intercultural working environments. She is also the host of the podcast #onewordstories and has served as co-organizer of intercultural conferences for SIETAR Europa (Valencia and Dublin), and the virtual conference on Global Virtual Teams for IACCM.

    Joanna is an art lover & designer of learning journeys, combining art, storytelling and cross-cultural coaching; #vis-à-vis art adventures. She has taught storytelling, intercultural competencies and working in multicultural teams at universities in Germany, Poland, Austria, France and Finland and has offered storytelling workshops in India, Malaysia, France, Belgium, Austria, Germany, Poland and Spain.

  • 14 Jun 2021 8:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the United States, June is celebrated as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQIA+) Pride Month, with Pride parades feted all over the world throughout the month. The June celebration commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, NYC, which was the tipping point for the Gay Pride Movement in the United States.

    The Stonewall Inn was a popular gay bar in New York City, that, like many gay bars in NYC, was also mafia-owned. Until 1966, it was illegal for bars to serve alcohol to non-heterosexual people. In 1969, homosexuality was still considered a criminal offense. In 1969, in 1969, New York Penal Code 240.35, Subsection 4 stated that it was illegal to wear fewer than three items of “gender-inappropriate” clothing.

    Since many gay establishments operated without liquor licenses, the establishments and their patrons were more vulnerable to police raids and brutality. Patrons and clientele were often harassed and arrested. Individuals that wore opposite-gendered clothing were even easier targets for the police. When plainclothes police went to raid the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, they were met with resistance by the patrons, which included drag queens, gay, lesbian, queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming people.

    The first U.S. Gay Pride Week and March was held on June 28, 1970 in NYC. Organized by the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, was named after the six-day long Christopher Street Uprising of 1969, also known as the Stonewall Uprising. The Gay Pride Week and March was a demonstration against centuries of abuse against the community, the criminalization of non-heteronormative behaviors, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, and Mafia control of gay bars. The month-long celebration also recognizes the significant impact and valuable contributions that LGBTQ+ individuals have made locally, nationally, and internationally throughout history. The month is also the opportunity for the everyone to reaffirm their commitment to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people in their ongoing struggle against discrimination and injustice. (Biden, 2021)

    Today, worldwide celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBT Pride Month events that attract millions of participants. Memorials are held for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Additionally, Pride Month has been a catalyst for both social and legal change. Federal and local policies and practices are increasingly acknowledging, supporting, and focusing on the LGBTQ community. There is increasing acceptance and support for all youth, including those who are or are perceived to be LGBTQ.

    While writing and researching this article, I asked some of my LGBTQIA+ friends the impromptu question “What does Pride Month mean to you?” The responses varied but featured the common theme of authenticity. For many individuals, Pride Month is a celebration of people’s authentic selves, identities, and lives. This response is especially poignant, as many of my friends grew up in families, communities, and environments didn’t support them nor their identities. This Pride Month, everyone is encouraged to support local Pride events and stand as allies for the LGBTQ+ community.

    Written by: Emily Kawasaki

    P.S. Please share your thoughts, comments, and ideas about the article with the Editorial Team.

    Works Cited

  • 14 Jun 2021 8:27 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Since June 2014, Immigrant Heritage Month has been celebrated in the United States. This annual commemorative month gives people across the United States an opportunity to explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of the United States.

    While many people in the United States may not view themselves as immigrants or as coming from an immigrant background, realistically, the vast majority of American are indeed that. The United States was, is, and always will be a country and culture of immigrants. Immigration was the premise of America’s founding. Throughout history and across each generation, many waves of immigrants have come to the United States, contributed in innumerable, significant ways to the cultural, social, political, economic, and technological fabric of the United States. Immigrants are integral to the story of the United States.

    National Immigrant Heritage Month is an important reminder for everyone to reflect on, reaffirm, and celebrate from that multidimensional identity and celebrate the history and achievements of immigrant communities across the country.

    Written by: Emily Kawasaki


    P.S. Please share your thoughts, comments, and ideas about the article with the Editorial Team.

    Works Cited

    #CelebrateImmigrants: June is Immigrant Heritage Month. (2021, April 28). I Am an Immigrant. https://www.iamanimmigrant.com/

  • 14 Jun 2021 8:01 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    June 17, 2021 - SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Language and cultural learning hand in hand: The Developmental Model of Linguaculture Learning” with Dr. Joseph Shaules and Yvonne van der Pol. Visit SIETAR Europa Events to register!

    June 19, 2021 - SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Yoga, Academia and Culture: A Journey of Discovery” with Dr. Randeep Rakwal and Genboku Takahashi. Visit SIETAR Japan Events to register!

    June 23, 2021 - SIETAR France WEBINAR: “Made in France and elsewhere: Intercultural citizenship: For whom the bell tolls?” with Dr. Ida Castiglioni. Visit SIETAR France Events to register!

    July 14, 2021 - SIETAR USA WEBINAR: “Storytelling: How It Fosters Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging” with Joanna Sell. Visit SIETAR USA Events to register!

    July 21, 2021 - SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Death & Culture: a dialogue with two intercultural coaches” with Zarine Jacob and Regina Reinhardt. Visit SIETAR Europa Events to register!

    August 5, 2021 - SIETAR Europa WEBINAR: “Change Your Brain Change Your Game: How to Use Neuroscience in the Workplace & Crossing Cultures for Better Results” with Cynthia Milani. Visit SIETAR Europa Events to register!

    August 9, 2021 - SIETAR USA WEBINAR: "Mindfulness in Intercultural Teaching and Learning" with Tara Harvey, Ph.D. Visit SIETAR USA Events to register!


    June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, established to recognize the impact that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on the world. LGBT groups celebrate this special time with pride parades, picnics, parties, memorials for those lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS, and other group gatherings. The last Sunday in June is Gay Pride Day.

    June is Immigrant Heritage Month, established in June 2014, gives people across the United States an opportunity to annually explore their own heritage and celebrate the shared diversity that forms the unique story of America. It celebrates immigrants across the United States and their contributions to their local communities and economy.

    June 21: National Indigenous Peoples Day or First Nations Day, a day that gives recognition to the indigenous populations affected by colonization in Canada.

    June 21: Litha, the summer solstice celebrated by the Wiccans and Pagans. It is the longest day of the year, representing the sun’s “annual retreat.”

    Last Sunday in June: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Day in the United States. It celebrates the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969.



    July 1: Canada Day, or Fête du Canada, is a Canadian federal holiday that celebrates the 1867 enactment of the Constitution Act, which established the three former British colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as a united nation called Canada.

    July 4: Independence Day (also known as the Fourth of July), a United States federal holiday that celebrates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The original 13 American colonies declared independence from Britain and established themselves as a new nation known as the United States of America.

    July 11: World Population Day, an observance established in 1989 by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme. The annual event is designed to raise awareness of global population issues.

    July 14: International Non-Binary People’s Day, aimed at raising awareness and organizing around the issues faced by non-binary people around the world while celebrating their contributions.

    July 14: Bastille Day, a French federal holiday that commemorates the Storming of the Bastille, a fortress-prison in Paris that held political prisoners who had displeased the French nobility. The Storming of the Bastille, which took place on July 14, 1789, was regarded as a turning point of the French Revolution. Celebrations are held throughout France.

    July 18-19 (sundown to sundown): Waqf al Arafa, the second day of pilgrimage within the Islamic faith.

    July 18: Nelson Mandela International Day, launched on July 18, 2009, in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday via unanimous decision of the U.N. General Assembly. It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices: “It is in your hands now.” It is more than a celebration of Mandela’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and to change the world for the better.

    July 19-20 (sundown to sundown): Eid al-Adha, an Islamic festival to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim (also known as Abraham) to follow Allah's (God's) command to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Muslims around the world observe this event.

    July 23: The birthday of Haile Selassie I, the former Emperor of Ethiopia whom the Rastafarians consider to be their savior.

    July 24: Asalha Puja, or Dharma Day, is a celebration of Buddha’s first teachings.

    July 24: Pioneer Day, observed by the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to commemorate the arrival in 1847 of the first Latter-day Saint pioneers in Salt Lake Valley.

    July 26: Disability Independence Day, celebrating the anniversary of the 1990 signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    July 30: International Day of Friendship, proclaimed in 2011 by the U.N. General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.



    August 1: Lammas, a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest within some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere.

    August 1: Lughnasadh, a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season.

    August 10: Hijri New Year, the day that marks the beginning of the new Islamic calendar year.

    August 13: Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. The aim is to raise awareness about the wider-than-average pay gap between Black women and White men. Black women are paid 62 cents for every dollar paid to white men.

    August 17: Marcus Garvey Day, which celebrates the birthday of the Jamaican politician and activist who is revered by Rastafarians. Garvey is credited with starting the Back to Africa movement, which encouraged those of African descent to return to the land of their ancestors during and after slavery in North America.

    August 18-19 (sundown to sundown): Ashura, an Islamic holiday commemorating the day Noah left the ark and the day Allah saved Moses from the Egyptians.

    August 22: Obon (Ullambana), a Buddhist festival and Japanese custom for honoring the spirits of ancestors.

    August 22: Raksha Bandhan, a Hindu holiday commemorating the loving kinship between a brother and sister. “Raksha” means “protection” in Hindi and symbolizes the longing a sister has to be protected by her brother. During the celebration, a sister ties a string around her brother’s (or brother-figure’s) wrist and asks him to protect her. The brother usually gives the sister a gift and agrees to protect her for life.

    August 22: Hungry Ghost Festival, a Chinese holiday where street, market, and temple ceremonies take place to honor dead ancestors and appease other spirits.

    August 23: International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition and the anniversary of the uprising in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) that initiated the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean.

    August 26: Women’s Equality Day, which commemorates the August 26, 1920, certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gave women the right to vote. Congresswoman Bella Abzug first introduced a proclamation for Women’s Equality Day in 1971. Since that time, every president has published a proclamation recognizing August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

  • 14 Jun 2021 7:58 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Job Opening! Wouldn’t you like to be part of the team that produces The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA? We would like to expand our coverage of Learning Resources, Research, and Surveys that support the work of SIETAR USA members. We need your ideas, writing skills, and willingness to join in the fun and work of bringing information to our members and the guests on our mailing list. The position would be as an assistant editor. The compensation would be the intrinsic reward of giving back to a field that has given you an interesting career if you are well into your intercultural or DEI work. If you are early in your career, this is one of the best ways to learn what is going on in the intercultural and DEI fields, connecting with the people doing the work, and polishing skills that will benefit you for years to come.

    We hope to hear from you. Write editor@sietarusa.org. Let’s talk…


  • 14 Jun 2021 7:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From Marcella Simon:

    I am honored that so many experienced practitioners took the time to consider my question. Thank you to Chris for all your effort in curating the wisdom that exists in our field. I believe this dialogue is more of a beginning than an end as these are issues that have been around before the founding of our republic and persist to this day. I would especially welcome specific ideas on how to address bias head on without alienating people who may or may not be aware of their own bias.

    I am impressed that such diverse and influential professionals in the intercultural field took the time to answer my question that was asked even before the January 6th insurrection happened. Thank you to Chris for all your hard work! I would ask a follow-up question- knowing that MAGA people are largely motivated by social anxiety (fear of being replaced), how do we address that? What exact words do we use to open minds and hearts if it can be done?

    From Vicki Flier Hudson:

    I really appreciated the diverse perspectives on this topic. I would love to get Sofia's ten- point plan! Thank you for this thoughtful article on a topic that I hold near and dear to my heart.

    Editor’s Note: Vicki’s request was passed on to Chris Cartwright.

  • 16 May 2021 8:22 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Brett Parry

    Conference Excitement!

    Over the past few months, a whole team of dedicated people have been working feverishly in the background on planning this year’s SIETAR USA National conference. Many times in the past we’ve all felt the eager anticipation of seeing our dear esteemed colleagues and friends face to face. This time of course, those feelings have even more meaning.  

    I attended my first SIETAR USA conference in 2014, so compared to so many others I am kind of a newbie. I have not missed one since. I added to this the experience of traveling twice to the SIETAR Europa Congress events that took place in Dublin, Ireland and Leuven, Belgium. I have enjoyed so many wonderful conversations and learning moments, without which I would not have the joy of doing the intercultural work I do today.  

    This year’s conference in Omaha Nebraska will feature the same rich variety of workshops, presentations, and other events we’ve all come to expect, along with a few delightful surprises as always. If you have not had the chance to experience attending a SIETAR conference in the past, please consider doing so this year. The community of Intercultural and DEI professionals would be honored to welcome you and learn from the inclusion of your perspectives. 

    We are seeing the world open up gradually to a new future. While that comes with much positive anticipation, it is also tinged with the realization that deep inequities still exist in our societies. Our work has never been more important, our own learning never more needed. Much of that learning can be found when we come together as an inclusive, brave, and intentional community of passionate souls. Any gaps in representation can be as damaging as a weak link in a chain.

    Brett Parry,
    President, SIETAR USA

  • 16 May 2021 8:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

     There was a time, and not all that long ago, Americans were so ignorant about Japan, its culture and society, it would be no exaggeration to say many thought this country (its age measured in millennia) could be summed up as a land of geisha and manga, anime and sushi.

    This was highlighted for me the time my son, returning to our home in central Japan after spending a month at a summer camp in Pennsylvania, told me: “We have to learn about the United States, but American kids don’t have to learn anything about Japan.” Then in junior high school, he declared it was “unfair”. He went on to amuse me with stories of his fellow campers confusing Japan with China and Korea, asking him to do a “karate chop”, and wanting to know if he knew any samurai or ninja.

    Unquestionably, this ignorance goes both ways, and in my four decades living in Japan I’ve had numerous occasions to dispel misconceptions and disabuse friends and neighbors of the notion America is all Hollywood and hamburgers.

    When asked what’s the biggest change I see in Japan since arriving here in 1975, I don’t hesitate before answering: There are many more foreigners. They’re not in my rural neighborhood, but when I venture forth, to the shopping center or, perhaps the bank, it’s possible I’ll see one. Whereas years earlier we would’ve accosted one another (“Hello! Do you speak English? Where do you work? Come to my house for lunch!”) these days everyone is as cool as you please.

    No longer do you need to know the kanji (Chinese characters) for ‘withdrawal’ and ‘deposit’ at the ATM, the instructions are in English; acceptance, at last, of English as an international language. And signs in Portuguese acknowledge the many Brazilians of Japanese descent who in recent years have made this area of Japan their home. The linguistic assistance now offered is not so much a concession as a recognition Japan has crossed a bridge: foreigners living in Japanese communities are not as unusual as they once were.

    Naturally, it’s a necessity of communication to have a handle on the language of the country where you live. Nevertheless, it must be noted that in Japan, where so much that is ‘said’ is not spoken, even if you’re fluent in Japanese you may not be aware of all that transpires. Many a hapless foreigner has found, to their dismay, failure to observe and pay attention to cues that are non-verbal has resulted in failure to communicate. Then there are the modes of behavior and rules; some are written, codified almost as in stone, but many are not. As a consequence, it is guaranteed you will have done the wrong, improper thing, any number of times. Even after all these years, I sometimes cringe when I think, in retrospect, of some misstep I’ve made. And it’s rare to be corrected. Often that’s out of politeness, but also because a foreigner is not expected to know. We are, after all, considered “gaijin” (literally: outside person).

    But one does not always want to be considered on the outside; it’s nice to be let in, allowed to cross the two-way street. It was with welcome relief that the foreign residence card was changed from “Alien Registration” to “Residence Card”. We appreciate not being thought of as so strange, certainly not “alien”.

    Ordinary encounters also point to the current acceptance of foreigners’ in Japanese society. I often buy vegetables from a stand operated by local farmers. I like that none of these old farmers ever asks me if I know how to prepare goya (bitter melon). They express no curiosity when I put a large bunch of shiso (perilla) in my basket and seem to assume that if I buy mitsuba (trefoil) I’ll know what to do with it.

    And I see it is through everyday relations that I and my fellows who live cross-culturally are called upon to do our part to maintain this two-way street. For example, in Japan, where the majority of the populace avails themselves of an excellent public transportation system, manners considered common are adhered to. That means no feet on the seats, no speaking in loud voices or talking on cell phones. It goes without saying if you have a cough or sniffle, you’ll wear a mask. You stand in line and wait your turn, whether at a bus stop or receiving rationed water after an earthquake. It’s rare to see graffiti, and the everyday sight of a New Yorker walking down the street eating a slice of pizza or a hot dog does not happen here. Adults walking and eating is not just seen as gauche but screams “I’m a barbarian!”

    Yes, as foreigners, we’re required to pay attention and respect the norms of other cultures. But if we were to be castigated every time we slipped up, it would ensure there could never be an entry into other societies, no chance for cultural exchange. This two-way street that requires maintenance, also requires mutual goodwill to remain open.

    Karen Hill Anton wrote the column “Crossing Cultures” for The Japan Times for fifteen years. Her memoir The View From Breast Pocket Mountain is the winner of the SPR Book Awards Gold Prize, and the Book Readers Association Group Medallion. Originally from New York City, Karen has lived in rural Japan since 1975.   KarenHillAnton.com


    goya or nigauri: Bitter melon or bitter gourd. This vegetable, true to its name, is inedible if not properly prepared. A regular part of the Okinawan diet, it’s said to be the reason Okinawans are among the longest lived people in the world.

    shiso: Variously called beefsteak plant or beefsteak leaf, is an herb in the mint family – but does not taste anything like mint. Some say the taste is similar to basil, and indeed it can be served in place of basil for the classic Italian Caprese salad of tomatoes and mozzarella. The red variety of shiso (akajiso) is never eaten raw.

    mitsuba: The name translates as “three leaf”. Trefoil is also called Japanese honeywort, Japanese chervil, and Japanese parsley. Can be added as garnish for light soups and is indispensable for the Japanese savory egg custard dish chawanmushi.

Contact Us
P.O. Box 548
Wheaton, IL 60187-4729


Wild Apricot theme design and development by Webbright