February: Our Maps, Ourselves,p

May: A Nurse, a Lawyer and a Microbiologist Walked into a Bar

Dressed for Success, but Where?

February: Our Maps Our Selves

Most maps are drawn to represent land mass - more acres, bigger spots on the map. But what if countries were drawn to show something other than land mass? Things you might care more about? Check out this map that show where the world's international immigrants live (from www.worldmapper.org*):

Specifically, the countries of the world have been re-sized proportional to the percentage of the world's international immigrants (people living in a country different from where they were born) That's 174 million people total, by the way. As you can see, the US receives the highest number of them (that is, it's the biggest splotch of color). This kind of proportional map - called a cartogram - has some fascinating possibilities for visually communicating worldwide data.

Here are a few others that caught my attention (I'll just include the links, to keep this message smaller - check them out but promise to come back!):
Gender empowerment
University education
Fuel use

And loads more - health, education, manufacturing, economics.

Remember that if a country has loads of people, you'd expect it to have more of any population-related measure, so be sure to compare the maps with the overall population map (below), not with the land-mass map you probably have in your head:

The researchers who put this together have plans to complete a total of 366 such maps by mid-February. The upcoming ones sound very interesting - prisoners awaiting trial, amount of recycling, how much money people save, number of films watched, voter turnout, and many more. Plus, they've been willing to map data on request - like the International Monetary Fund's map of countries' voting power, the BBC's map of "Britons Overseas" and the WWF's map of humans' Ecological Footprint. (See www.worldmapper.org/news.html.)

So it got me thinking. What would interculturalists map to demonstrate factors that are relevant to people in global transition? I've listed some ideas to get you started - some real, some fanciful. Send me more and I'll post them on our web site for others to share. The folks at worldmapper.org have invited me to send them ideas too, so watch their space - I'll send them our collective best!

Country Liveability Indices
Climate Index: days per year needing neither furnace nor air conditioner? inches of precipitation during daylight hours?
Food Index: a combination of clean water, edible fruits and vegetables, and…availability of excellent coffee?
Communication Index: cell phone coverage plus ease of getting high-speed internet?

Cultural Value Indices
Individualism Index: average distance between home and nearest parent or sibling? number of choices of bread in grocery stores? number of organizations with Employee-of-the-Month awards?
Privacy Index: number of public close-circuit television cameras? number of questions asked by the government during census? number of agencies you have to notify if you move?
Work-Life Balance Index: number of cell phone calls made to office during vacation? average length of lunch?

Be creative and let me hear from you!

* Note: The maps are included here by permission from www.worldmapper.org. © Copyright 2006 SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan).


May: A Nurse, a Lawyer and a Microbiologist Walked into a Bar

A nurse, a lawyer and a microbiologist walked into a bar... No, wait, they met at St. Peter’s Gates…. Or, hm, is it that they were each trying to change a lightbulb?

Sounds like a joke. But actually, what they did is sign up for my train-the-trainer course, Crossing Cultures with Competence. Along with a pilot, a doctor, an economist, a head-hunter, a missionary, a banker, a journalist – and, of course, a whole bunch of professionals involved in helping people with intercultural transitions in more traditional ways (trainers, relocation professionals, real estate agents, ESL teachers, guidance counselors, HR managers, therapists, teachers, coaches, and the like).

What’s going on here?

These are all folks who are well along on the path of a career change. They’ve had some profound, life-changing intercultural experiences. They’ve been studying and working in the realm of intercultural difference and already have a good handle on the theory and research in this field.

But, importantly, they’ve got some critical personal traits in common too:

- They’ve got what Dr. Janet Bennett calls curiosity about cultural differences. They see someone behaving in a way that surprises (or frustrates) them and their first reaction is to ask why, and when, and for how long. They want to know more, and so they read and interview and observe all the time.

- They’re reflective about and respectful of difference. Knowing the depth and power of cultural values, and knowing that it takes two to make a difference, they treat others, even those with whom they disagree, with deference.

- They’ve struggled and survived. For the most part, their intercultural experiences have not been completely smooth, at least at the beginning. They can empathize – not just intellectualize – with those in the midst of culture or re-entry shock. They know what it’s like to have that ah-ha moment when someone else’s “odd” values and behavior suddenly make sense. And they’ve come out on the far side of their experience with an appreciation for culture and difference.

- They’re energized. They’ve all been successful in some other career. And now, for whatever personal or political or mission-driven reason, they want to turn their attention to the task of increasing intercultural understanding in the world. And they tell me they suddenly are staying up late reading and surfing the internet and talking talking talking.

Wow- watch out if you meet ‘em in a bar! But for changing the world, I can’t think of a better list of traits.


November: Dressed for Success, but Where?

Last month I was traveling in Asia for several weeks and, on this particular day, my clothes were, I admit, wrinkled. But that was only part of the problem. My shoes were flat and, well, sensible. I was wearing comfortable slacks (you know, the kind they tell travelers to wear), and several layers of shirts and tops, for practical temperature control. I had tickets and maps and guide books and phrase books and an extra camera lens and an old New Yorker in my pockets, making me, well, just a bit bulky. And my hair was… what you get when you’re really jet lagged. In short, I didn’t fit in at all in the fancy hotel my husband’s colleagues had arranged for us. The hotel clerks and the concierge and the tea shop lady all wore very smart suits and high heeled shoes and scarves tied just so and very very tidy hair.

I think I could have carried it off if I’d been in the U.S. In truth, hotel staff dress that way here too. But in the U.S. how I looked that afternoon, wrinkles and all, would have said something accurate about me – dare I name it? Sensible, wordy, curious, practical. The kind of person who takes fashion tips from the TravelSmith catalogue and isn’t in Asia to go shopping.

But there – with different fashion histories, different associations to what I was wearing, different social histories that support a particular “look” – the message my appearance communicated was stripped of its cultural context. All that was left was the bald evidence, which communicated, I’m afraid, that I was a careless, messy, sloppy person. I’d lost the ability to communicate my identity in a non-verbal way by my physical self-presentation – and I felt misunderstood every time I crossed the lobby floor.






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