Enote – How Did We Get This Way??

Dear Friend,

Here’s my favorite definition of “culture:”

“Culture consists of concepts, values, and assumptions about life that guide behavior and are widely shared by people…[and] are transmitted generation to generation, rarely with explicit instructions, by parents and other respected elders.” – Richard Brislin & Tomoko Yoshida

It’s the last bit – in bold – that I especially like. I’m fascinated by the many subtle ways we teach our children the values that are important to us. Most Americans don’t tell their toddlers, “Now, I want you to grow up to be an individualist.” But we teach them that indirectly, by saying, “Do you want a red balloon or a blue one? Cheerios or Fruit Loops? Your green socks or your white ones?” With these questions, we’re saying, “I want you to develop your own opinions and to feel free to express them. I will honor your preferences.”

We – and people all over the world provide an endless drip of messaging that bathes our children in lessons about how to talk, what to believe, whom to trust, and what to do, teaching them the values that are important in our society.

And it starts young. Really young. Researchers in Europe recorded the cries of newborns, aged 2-5 days, born to monolingual French and German women. They examined the melody (technically, prosody) of the cries and found the French-born and German-born infants’ tunes to differ, matching the melody of the adult speech they heard in the womb. The French babies, like their mothers, tended to have a rising intonation (think, “Bonjour, Madame” while the German babies’ cries tended to mimic their mothers’ falling intonation. Similar language-specific patterns are found around the world. Babies are listening! If something as hard-wired as crying is affected by a baby’s environment, surely cultural values and beliefs are, too.

Let’s start at the other end of the chain – the adult end. Here’s a chart from the Pew Research Center that shows the percentage of adults who agree with the statement, “Success is determined by forces outside our control.” Note that only 40% US Americans agree with that statement, one of the lowest rates in the world. How’d Americans get this way? Well, among many influences, think of these:

  • The Little Engine That Could, a classic American children’s story (written in 1930, during the Great Depression), that tells of a train full of toys for the good little boys and girls over the mountain, but with no engine to pull it. The big old, mean engine refuses, but the little engine says, “I think I can, I think I can” and works hard and delivers the toys.
  • Bambi, The Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Harry Potter – not all American-written, true, but wildly popular stories in the US – all involve children whose parents are in some way absent and who have to make it on their own.
  • The proverbs (again, sometimes imported from western Europe): “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” And “God helps those who help themselves.” They all teach us that success in life is very much in our control!

We’re immersed in the message and it shapes our adult beliefs – implicitly teaching, through the generations, our beliefs and values.

This is fascinating stuff, and has engaged me my whole career, especially as I help people learn to interpret the new cultures they find themselves in, and teach others to offer cultural training.

On that score, I’m happy to announce that our Crossing Cultures with Competence training-of-trainers team has expanded. We now have three more master trainers, in the US and Europe, who will be offering even more workshops for those who want to add new ideas and new materials to their toolkits for helping people in intercultural transition. Meet our new trainers and note our upcoming schedule in the sidebar. Please join us in Boston, Ft. Myers, London or Cologne!


Author picture

About us

The work of understanding others and helping others understand us is our mission. 

We design and deliver specialized cross-cultural training workshops, train and consult to professionals in the field, conduct research on the process of intercultural transition, produce publications to assist newcomers to the US.

The Interchange Institute is a not-for-profit research organization established in 1997 by Dr. Anne P. Copeland. The work of smoothing intercultural transitions has never been so critical.

Recent Posts

Dr. Tasha Arnold is an experienced leader and researcher in the field of education specializing in cross-cultural training, transition support, and program development for schools, universities, and global teams. She co-founded The Academic Achievement Bureau where she worked with international schools and universities conducting research on their organization and providing services to aid intercultural understanding, transition adjustment, and student achievement. She is currently the Executive Director of The Interchange Institute, a NEASC and CIS school accreditor, and serves on the board of The Namibia Project.  

Sample Questions:

  • I’m interested in working with international schools, universities, NGO’s, and not-for-profit organizations – How should I get started and who do I contact?
  • How do I promote and market my services as an intercultural trainer?
  • What are some tips and tricks for working with multicultural and global teams?
  • How do I write a proposal that stands out from the competition?

Terri McGinnis, M.S.

Senior Trainer​

Terri is an independent cross-cultural trainer specializing in helping families moving overseas, assisting those coming from overseas to live and work in the U.S., and providing group business briefings on China, Brazil and USA. Terri has worked with large automotive companies, automotive suppliers, oil companies, national office supply and furniture companies, the construction industry, electronic companies, IT companies, chemical companies, not to mention many other national and international companies.

A well-read and traveled individual, Terri has lived in and navigated different cultures successfully. Ms. McGinnis lived with her family as an expatriate in Beijing, China. In China, she conducted cross-cultural training programs, studied Mandarin, worked for the International School of Beijing providing classes to their staff, and provided Pilates training to individuals in the expatriate community of Beijing.

In addition to her overseas experience in China, Ms. McGinnis also lived with her family as an expatriate in Brazil for three years where she studied Portuguese. In addition to her language studies, she worked for Fiske School teaching English as a second language to Brazilian nationals. While in Brazil, the International School of Curitiba engaged her services for curriculum and staff development.

Prior to her international assignments, Ms. McGinnis was a high school teacher teaching vocational business skills. She also has eight years of experience in the automotive industry working in various HR positions.

Ms. McGinnis graduated with a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology and a Bachelor of Science degree in Education.

Her experiences in Brazil and China have taught her to appreciate the world’s diversity and to cross cultures successfully. Her hobbies are reading, sea kayaking, paddle boarding and travel. She has two daughters attending university. She actively volunteers for her a local national club swim team.

alt="Tasha Arnold Executive Director of The Interchange Institute"

Tasha Arnold, Ed.D.

Executive Director

Dr. Tasha Arnold is an experienced leader and researcher in the field of education specializing in cross-cultural training and development for schools, universities, and multicultural teams. As the Executive Director of The Interchange Institute (TII), Tasha is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs and strategic plan of TII, while also serving as an evaluator for the Intercultural Training Expertise Certification (ITEC) Board and being actively involved in the training of emerging and experienced interculturalists through the Crossing Cultures with Competence Train the Trainer program.

Tasha is a certified teacher and principal/head of school and accredits schools worldwide with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and Council for International Schools.

Prior to her work at the Interchange Institute, Tasha held positions in both public and private schools and co-founded The Academic Achievement Bureau where she worked with international schools and universities conducting research on their organization and provided services to aid intercultural understanding, transition adjustment, and student and staff well-being.

Tasha has directed several research studies in the UK and Qatar on educators’ experiences and perceived needs with regards to transition at their international school in order to improve the transition experience for educators, students and families in these cultural contexts. These findings have helped her to develop and deliver school-wide transition and intercultural development programs.

Originally from the USA, Tasha relocated in 2011 to the UK and currently resides with her husband near London. She serves on the board of The Namibia Project Charity.

Anne P. Copeland, Ph.D.

Founder of The Interchange Institute

Dr. Copeland is a clinical psychologist with expertise in family and cultural transition. During her tenure as Executive Director of The Interchange Institute, she provided cross-cultural training for individuals and families moving to and from the United States. She also trained almost 500 interculturalists around the world to deliver tailored, individualized cross-cultural orientation programs through the Crossing Cultures with Competence program that she developed.

Dr. Copeland has written several books on families and transition (Studying Families, Sage 1991, Separating Together 1997, and In Their Own Voice 2011), and has authored over 90 research articles, chapters, and professional presentations.

Prior to founding The Interchange Institute in 1997, Dr. Copeland was Associate Professor of Psychology at Boston University, where she conducted research and research supervision in psychological aspects of family process assessment, ethnicity, cultural influences, immigration, development, developmental disabilities and affective development. During her tenure at the University, she relocated with her family to work in London in 1988, where she was the academic advisor for Boston University’s British Programmes.

Dr. Copeland has directed many research studies on expatriate families’ experience, including multinational in-depth analyses of the social, familial, and personal aspects of moving to a new country, including a focus on the personal and family side of international short-term assignments, the role of one’s home – its design and layout – on one’s expatriate experience, on the challenges of moving to a country that is perceived as very similar, the experiences of high school exchange host families, and the ways in which having experienced being different as a child has an impact on the expatriate experience. Recent work focuses on how interculturalists have built and nurtured their careers.

Dr. Copeland lives with her husband in Boston, MA, and Barters Island, ME.