April 13, 2011

Culture Affects the Brain

In the Asian Journal of Social Psychology, Chinese researchers point out a neurological difference between East Asians and Westerners regarding the representation of significant others (e.g. mother). Whereas self-representation can be traced to the ventral medial prefrontal cortex for both, representation of significant others is influenced by culture. It occupies the same location as the self in only East Asians, whereas it is seperate in Westerners. Click here to read the full article.

April 11, 2011

Indian Diplomat Recommends Pre-Departure Cultural Training

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Now here’s a forward-thinking diplomat! Dr Subhakanta Behera, India’s new consul general in Australia, is encouraging Indian students planning to study in Australia to undergo cultural training before they leave. He wants them to better understand and manage Aussie culture and lifestyle differences. The Times of India reported on Dr. Behera’s visit to Amritsar, where he met with Punjabi students who had returnred from Australia in ‘Orientation course vital for students going to Oz’. Read the full article here.

April 10, 2011

TV Shines a Light on Issues in Our Diverse Society

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I don’t have a TV, and haven’t since high school. I’m not a big fan of it and I don’t feel like I need TV in my life. But I also know that this choice comes with a sacrifice: a huge gap in my familiarity with current events and pop culture. TV catch-phrases seep naturally into our lingo and people are always quoting TV moments, expecting you to understand the context. TV is also often the medium that educates and enlightens. I’m not just talking about Discovery Channel or PBS. TV often takes on the difficult or fringe topics that face or that divide our society. For example, take gay marriage in “Modern Family” or obesity on “Huge”. TV is a “non-threatening” medium through which we can be exposed to the individuals behind the labels, and become familiar with the topic from another perspective. It shows us the other side of the coin, and leads, subtley, to understanding and acceptance. At the same time, it exposes our taboos and our prejudices. Yes, TV exaggerates, but it also is a mirror of society and a window into how the other side lives. So, as someone who believes in respect for cultural diversity, I was very happy to learn about “Little Mosque on the Prairie“, a show that portrays a Muslim community in a small town in Canada. Because with so much uncertainty and prejudice surrounding Islam, this show can be one of the channels educating the rest of us by showing us the other side of the coin. In the Los Angeles Times article
‘Cultural Exchange: The world cottons to ‘Little Mosque on the Prairie’, Marcia Adair points out the disappointing fact that the subject is clearly so taboo for US audiences, that it is not yet shown in the US. But that doesn’t exclude people in 83 other countries from watching it. If I had a TV, I’d be one of the first to watch this show in order to counter my ignorance and begin to understand. Luckily these days, you don’t need a TV. It’s enough to have a computer, and I will be watching all the YouTube clips of the show that I can find.

April 8, 2011

Is There an “Expat Culture”?

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Is it possible to spot an expat in a crowd? What sets expats apart? Is there an “expat identity”? Sarah Steegar, writer and anthropologist, considers the possibility of there being an “expat culture” in her blog ‘Being “one of us‘. I love to people watch and pride myself on spotting various cultures by shoes and clothing, body language, hair styles and hand gestures. But I have to admit that I have never spotted an expat. And yet, I am sure that expats have their own culture and identity.

April 7, 2011

Culture Night at International Network of Norway

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Employees of Statoil, Oslo Handelskammeren and DNV participated in the 3rd bi-annual Culture Night at INN, presented by Kulturtolk. They discussed topics such as unique aspects of Norwegian culture, intercultural communication and adapting to a new culture as an expat. Stay tuned for the next Culture Night in the fall!

A Parent’s View on Raising TCKs

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It’s great to see how a parent’s worldview is changing by observing their childrens’ cultural transformation. The “Baker’s Half Dozen” blog follows an American expat family in Hungary.

September 1, 2010

Great guide to interviewing across cultures

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“Employment interviews are stressful whenever and wherever they occur. In your own country or culture, it is easier to know what to expect and how to establish credibility. Interviewing in a country other than your own can be an extremely challenging experience.”Pamela Leri, guest columnist to Going Global, lets us in on what you need to be aware of when interviewing in a new culture. Read the article here.

June 2, 2010

Maybe NOW they’ll learn!

Well, Kulturtolk got its two cents in today. Bjørn Christian Nørbech, Managing Partner, was quoted in Aftenposten. This was a follow-up to an article from May 14th discussing how many Norwegian M&A’s have been unsuccessful despite sky-high price tags. Today’s article looks at the why’s. The conclusion? Not enough focus on cultural differences! A study has found that 85% of M&A failures were due in part to culture. The importance and effects of cultural differences on business were underestimated.

It’s about time that companies took a closer look at their organizational culture before forking out money on an acquisition. What happens, ultimately, is that two or more cultures are forced into collision mode before they can unravel, shake themselves off and start creating a new, joint culture. But if companies were prepared for the culture clash, it would be less painful, take less time and lessen negative effects to the bottom line.

Bjørn Christian points out that most of today’s leaders came into the job market at a time when culture was not a focus in business school. It’s not their fault. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. But these days, we should know better. Companies should be doing a cultural due diligence in addition to the economic and legal due diligence that is a given in an M&A situation.

To read the articles in Bjørn Christian’s native Norwegian, click here.

May 8, 2010

Among Worlds Glossary

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There are all sorts of terms used for persons who grow up or live in more than one culture, particularly those children who are raised in a culture different than their parents’ culture. Most of these terms are unknown to people outside of expat life, but many are even unfamiliar to expats. TCK is becoming a pretty well known term, but there are so many subsets of TCKs, depending on what your parents did for a living. This glossary posted by Among Worlds is a great start to getting a handle on all the words to describe those intercultural beings who grew up internationally.

May 1, 2010

Mobilizing women in multicultural warfare

Colonel Tom Kolditz, the Professor and Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point, stated in an interview that “the future of warfare is in a multicultural dimension”.

West Point is offering more multicultural training, realizing that traditional tactics don’t always work in the kinds of wars we are fighting now. If a recent The New York Times article is anything to go by, he knows what he’s talking about.

In “Letting Women Reach Women in Afghan War”, Elisabeth Bumiller reports on a novel initiative the United States Marine Corps is launching in order to reach the female population in Afghanistan.

They are receiving cultural awareness training in order to make contact with the women in Afghanistan who are otherwise off-limits to American male soldiers. It is the Afghan women who often have a lot of influence within a family and know and share important information among each other. Gaining access to that information can be crucial not only in terms of gathering intelligence, but in order to gain goodwill. After all, “you cannot gain the trust of the Afghan population if you only talk to half of it”.

An excerpt: “40 young women are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in one of the more forward-leaning experiments of the American military… Rural Afghan women, who meet at wells and pass news about the village, are often repositories of information about a district’s social fabric, power brokers and militants, all crucial data for American forces. On some occasions, Captain Pottinger said in an e-mail message, women have provided information about specific insurgents and the makers of bombs.”

This is a brilliant move in the right direction. Women in the USMC will finally be directly engaged in the efforts in Afghanistan. It may not work, but it’s well worth a try. If the US is to remain in Afghanistan, let’s not leave out a valuable resource – women – from the equation. And it’s about time that the civilians were approached with respect and as humans, providing valuable information, rather than as enemies. I applaud the USMC for an important experiment, and for preparing for it with a focus on cultural awareness.

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