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The blog-like periodic musings of Anne Copeland, Director of The Interchange Institute. Most of these comments are related to intercultural issues, but don't be surprised to see comments on technology, travel, food and other subjects of interest. Return to our home page.

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  November - How Did We Get This Way??
  July - Some Summer Screen Time
  January - U.S. Census Bureau

November 2019 - 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 pew locus of control 2that 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!


July 2019 - Some Summer Screen Time

Dear Friend,

It's summer and time to relax and try new things. At the risk of suggesting more screen time when we should all be outside enjoying the summer days, I've pulled together some short video clips. I think they're fun, but more importantly, each one can be used metaphorically in our work to help people in intercultural transition � I've suggested a few metaphors and would love to hear how you might use them in your work!

I usually use this charming Big Brother Helps Little Sister clip when I'm discussing how young we are when we learn cultural values from our families and how deeply embedded the collectivist notion of family obligation can be. You could use it when urging people to think outside the box, to lean into solutions, and to search for creative solutions to bridge gaps...

This clip shows Bicyclists Riding Down an Icy Mountain. Once you get past the "Wait, what? Why???" question, you can use this to make clear how one small action creates far-reaching ripple effects. Or how we all may think we are individualists but are in fact deeply interconnected, for better or (in this case) worse.

You might have seen this one, which I've labeled Serve and Return - it was shared over 55 million times this past June. Father and comedian DJ Pryor and his 19-month old son have an endearing [mostly wordless] conversation. It's a great example of the kind of "serve and return" social feedback loop parents and babies do that enhances brain and language development. One of the pair says something (or points or smiles) ("serves") and waits for the other to respond in a communicative way ("returns"). This video shows the pair's exquisite attentiveness to each other - part of being a good parent (and a good comedian!). May we all offer this kind of mutual scaffolding to the intercultural newcomers we are trying to support.

I find this Rock Artist's work mesmerizing, and use it in trainings to convey the power of patience, concentration, balance and connection. These aren't miracles, they're just amazing.

Ever need to help people find their inner passion for their work? Check this Know Your Why clip.

OK, one last one, just for fun. If you're preparing people to travel this summer or go to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, you'll know how to use it...

Let's hear how you might use these in your work!


January 2019

U.S. Census Bureau

You know how, after you bang your thumb with a hammer, you realize anew how often you need your thumb? Holding a pen, zipping a jacket, typing an email, all of which you'd been doing without thanking your thumb, suddenly become painful or impossible.

That happened with a lot of Americans during the recent five-week-long government partial shutdown, as we realized anew just how many things the US federal government does, and what it would mean to have it cut off. As the ripple effects spread, even those who don't work for the federal government were forced into a nationwide civics lesson.

One of my own personal banged-thumb moments came last week when I tried to access some data at the US Census Bureau site � I do this regularly, to keep the basis of my training, research and publications about people moving into and out of the US up to date and reliable: how many Americans go to college, how are public schools funded, what fraction of the US population were born in another country and how has that changed over time � that kind of thing.

But last week, in my research, I found this notice at the top of the Census Bureau page: "Due to a lapse in federal funding this website is not being updated."

Now, this thumb injury is minor and temporary, but it reminded me of how dependent we are, as a country, on reliable, trustworthy, non-partisan data that tracks change over time.* The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track influenza, Ebola, food poisoning and obesity. Combined historic data from the National Weather Service, Department of Agriculture and Department of the Interior help farmers plan when to plant, fertilize and harvest. The Census Bureau's data are the basis of Congressional district allocations. There are hundreds of government agencies collecting data that are used in important ways. We need these data sources to remain untainted, well supported, and available.

I've put a few links in the sidebars to help you explore these data sources even if you aren't a data nerd like me. Try it; you'll like it!

Anne P.S. What I was working on was the slides for my Crossing Cultures with Competence training of trainers course. Because I've now successfully updated them, you don't have to! Join me for the next workshop � March 25-26, 2019, in Boston, MA. Details below.

*For a powerful, compelling, highly-readable look at government agencies and how important it is to keep their data collection non-partisan, read Michael Lewis' The Fifth Risk.

American FactFinder is a good way to begin your exploration of government surveys about the US population. Enter your zipcode under "Community Facts" and see your local data from many different data sources. https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml.

If you like your government statistics in tiny fun packages, try following USAFacts on Twitter. Or go in depth at usafacts.org where they share data from 70+ government sources. Non-partisan, non-edited.

The US Census Bureau alone conducts 100 surveys - here's a list of them: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/surveys-programs.html Need to know how school systems spend their money? where Americans buy things? how many people made visits to doctors' offices? how much time men vs women spend in child care? OK, YOU may not need to know these things, but the people who make our policies and write our laws and regulations do. Consider the alternative....



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