Joseph Shaules Interview Part 2: The Intercultural Mind
For those of you as fascinated by Joseph Shaules’ ideas as I am, I was able to catch up with him further – around the world in Tokyo this time – to ask a few follow-up questions. As expected, his answers are inspiring and made me really think – exactly how do I think about my mother?
Sharon: What is the single most fascinating thing you discovered when writing the book?
Joseph: The cultural neuroscience research really knocked my socks off. For example, brain imaging shows that when Chinese think of their mothers, the same part of the brain lights up when Chinese think of themselves. When Americans think of their mothers, on the other hand, the part that lights up is the same as when thinking about strangers. We are used to thinking of cultural difference in terms of customs, or maybe values, but this new work is showing us that it’s deeper and more complicated than that. Something that sounds so simple–cultural difference–is quite profound and affects us at many levels of the self.
Sharon: For those who do not travel internationally, is there something else that can stretch and strengthen the brain in the same way?
Joseph: You don’t have to travel to have intercultural experiences. Putting yourself into new social environments and getting to know people who have different cultural experiences from yourself – this can also have a powerful impact on the way we see the world. When we are in our home environment, we often tend to downplay cultural difference because we want to simply accept everyone as an equal. Often, however, if you show an active curiosity about the diversity you come into contact with in your hometown, you’ll find there’s a lot to learn. The most important intercultural lesson is that people everywhere are the same. The second-most important intercultural lesson is that people from other cultural backgrounds really ARE different in many important ways. Resolving the apparent contradiction between those two truths is at the heart of intercultural learning.
Sharon: What would you like to explore next on this subject?
Joseph: These days, I’m very interested in the language-culture connection–something I wrote one chapter about in The Intercultural Mind. Foreign language learning changed my life. In school, I dislike my Spanish class and would have failed if I hadn’t cheated on the final exam. At my part-time job at Sea World in San Diego, however, I came into contact with Spanish-speaking tourists and travelers. For the first time, the Spanish on the pages of my textbooks came alive. This led to a home stay in Mexico, and then eventually to living in Japan and learning Japanese–an ongoing effort, of course. Learning a new language is like being a baby starting over in another world–you have to reprogram your brain and develop a new way of thinking, acting and being. I have just written to a publisher, proposing a book on language education and intercultural understanding. So much fun! Such a big world!
My deepest gratitude to Joseph Shaules – for his time and his insight. May we all explore our own minds as we explore the world.
International Protocol Links
Culture, Global Etiquette & 2014 Formula 1 Austin Grand Prix
It is Austin’s third year to host Formula 1 and the Austin Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas. We have learned much as business owners about intercultural awareness over these past few years since F1 came our way, and have improved our international visitor hosting skills considerably.
300,000 visitors are expected from Friday, October 31st to Sunday, November 2 – more than SXSW (South by Southwest) and ACL (Austin City Limits Music Festival) combined! With the exception of the Olympics and World Cup, there is no sporting event with more viewers. F1 weekend is viewed by over 600 million people – more than 5 times the most watched Superbowl of all time!
For those of us planning to enjoy the Austin Grand Prix and F1, here are a few helpful websites for race weekend:
- Official City of Austin GrandPrix Website
- Official Formula 1 Website
- The Circuit of Americas Website
A few reminders for hosting international customers:
- 1. Greetings: In the service industry, be prepared with “good morning” or “good afternoon” as opposed to “hi” or “hey” with greetings. It is wise to use appropriate titles and last names when conducting a transaction, returning a credit card, or presenting a check. It is best to use “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Dr.” until invited to use a first name. Avoid the familiarity of calling global citizens by their first names when presenting a check or bill. Latin Americans, Europeans and Asians use titles when greeting and introducing each other and expect us to do the same. Many in the USA and Australia are bothered by class distinctions and people appearing snobbish; however, using Mr. or Ms. is appreciated.
- 2. Restaurant Service: Dining customs differ around the world. Be prepared for international diners to linger over their meal, order dessert and savor coffee for lengthy periods of 2-3 hours. In certain Latin American cultures coffee is king and enjoyed after every meal regardless of the outside temperature. In Mexico, the main meal is midday between 1:00–4:00, typically starting at 2:00 pm. In Spain, the main meal in the evening begins at 10:00 pm.
- 3. Personal Space & Distance: While serving global customers, be aware that various cultures maintain different standards of personal space and distance. During a discussion with a global citizen, do not be surprised or caught off guard if someone stands very close to you. If you step back or away, they may take offense and terminate the sale or relationship. In the USA if you stand too close, you may be perceived as pushy or aggressive. If you stand too far away, you may be seen as disinterested. For reference, in The Hidden Dimension by Edward T. Hall, personal territory for the USA may be broken down into several categories. Intimate distance is 0-18 inches, personal distance (good friends, family members) is from 18 inches to 4 feet and social distance (acquaintances) is 4–12 feet. One option is to allow the customer dictate the proximity.
- 4. Tipping & Gratuities: Tipping customs vary around the world. In some areas of Europe and in certain countries, including Australia and Japan, the gratuity is built into the cost of the meal and tips are not added. It is not the custom in all countries to tip; so do not be surprised if there is no tip. Experience and global etiquette guides reflect that in Japan, if a tip is left for a server, the Japanese are offended. A 5-10% tip is the custom in some countries. In 2013, some restaurants, including III Forks, placed tasteful tabletop signage advising patrons of an automatic 18% gratuity during FormulaOne Grand Prix weekend, with successful results.
Let’s continue to expand Austin’s global presence, encourage intercultural understanding and show our wisdom. If we act in the Austin friendly way we’re known for, aware that we may be serving a customer from another culture, Austin will continue making great impressions on our visitors. You never know, you may be the first impression an international visitor has of the USA!
Guest Post: Young Women’s Alliance
Once a month, the Young Women’s Alliance hosts a Saturday Session. These sessions are similar to their monthly meetings but are smaller (less than 20 people) and much more interactive. Below is a blog that Cassandra Harrison of the YWA posted after I had the pleasure of joining them for January’s Saturday Session.
Etiquette. I think we can all agree it’s something that is a bit lacking in our society. But it’s still a skill that is highly valued, particularly in the business world. On Saturday, January 19th, several YWA members attended a Saturday Session with Sharon M. Schweitzer, JD, to brush up on their etiquette skills.
Now this wasn’t a ‘which fork goes with which meal’, ‘which red wine with what entrée’ event – not that I couldn’t personally use that help – but rather we learned about those little etiquette skills that you don’t think about, like appropriate eye contact in the workplace. Do you know where and how to look at your boss during a conversation? It’s the eye triangle – from direct eye contact through the middle of the forehead. Don’t look below the nose and definitely not below the neck.
Here’s another one: handshakes. Ladies, this is where we need to beef it up. Don’t be afraid to shake the man’s hand, firmly. You rock, let him know it! Don’t crush his hand, but don’t do the limp fish either. Web hand to web hand, shake from elbow, other arm straight to your side. Two pumps but Texans can get away with three or four, because well, we’re friendlier.
I’ll give you some more freebies.
- Handshakes are the only appropriate workplace interaction. I know we ladies like to hug. But let the boss go for it first. Here’s another thing – all the power is with whoever shakes first. So get in there!
- We’re a more casual society but avoid defaulting to first names in conversation AND in email, unless invited.
- Never hi or hey – always HELLO. As your grandma always said, ‘hay’ is for horses.
- Speaking of names – introduce yourself with your full name, not just your first. Donald Trump doesn’t say, “Hey, how you doing? I’m Donald.” Neither should you.
- Nametags. Always the right side. Done.
- Eat some protein before networking event. No one wants to talk to the woman shoving cheese bites in her mouth.
- Business cards. Get some. Vistaprint is easy and cheap. Also, leopard print should be saved for your Saturday night stilettos. Not your business card holder. Simple and clean.
My favorite lesson was on how to break into conversations. We’ve all been in that uncomfortable situation. It’s not easy and it’s a learned skill. But Sharon offered some great tips. Sorry, that’s not a freebie.
We also discussed email etiquette. I’ll give you this – avoid BCC.
Finally, the etiquette skill I think is most needed in our society – cell phone etiquette. This just takes common sense. Don’t yell, don’t leave the phone on the table, and show respect to those you are with by being present in the conversation, not checking your Facebook status. Log off and hang up.
Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman. – Coco Chanel