I learned many things that year:
- Living in a new culture is easier if you understand its values and history. I was stunned by how different the US and UK cultures were. But after all, 400 years of separate history is a lot of years of separate history. Still, I thought, if this cultural transition was so hard for me, how do people from much more different cultures possibly manage?
- People from two cultures will work together more easily if both recognize the differences and try to learn from each other. All that year, I was scrambling to understand the cultural differences I was feeling. The most helpful exchanges came from British colleagues who were also interested in the ways our cultures had diverted.
- You can do a much better job living in a new country if your spouse is happy. I had all sorts of problems to deal with in my job in London, but my husband was having a ball. He kept our house going. He took our daughter to every London park. And he was a valuable sounding board for me.
I founded The Interchange Institute in 1997, with the goal of using my psychological and research expertise to increase knowledge about intercultural transitions, and then turning that knowledge into practical products for real people. You’ll see the fruits of my London experience throughout our work – in our research on Intercultural Transition, in our materials about values and history for newcomers to the United States, and, perhaps most importantly, in our various attempts to educate both newcomers and hosts about the challenges this global world poses.
I have loved this work since I began it. News and political events since then have underscored its urgency. The work of smoothing intercultural transitions has never been so critical. The work of helping others understand us and of coming to understand others is our mission.