cross cultural

Hey Tiger Mom– It’s Location, Location, Location

Posted on January 21, 2011. Filed under: Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, family life, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Tiger Mom is all over the place trash talking us moms in the West.  Although I find her righteousness annoying, I do admire her business savvy. She clearly knows that in America, inflammatory insults are the fastest way to get tons of publicity.

I’m sure if she wrote a book that said, “Here’s one possible way to raise your kids, and parts of it worked for me and parts didn’t,” she probably wouldn’t have gotten so much attention.  But say you’re better than American culture, and there is bound to be blow back.

Tiger Mom’s techniques may work well (or not) if you live in Tigerland. If you raise your tiger using Tiger Mom techniques, and you live in, say Dolphinville, your kid probably won’t fit in too well and won’t develop necessary dolphin skills.

Every culture has great moms. They are great because they are lovingly raising their children to be successful in their own culture, by their own cultural standards. Parenting and culture are not one-size-fits-all.

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Partying across cultures

Posted on April 23, 2010. Filed under: American culture, cross cultural, hispanic culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

My husband is attending a party for a relative this weekend. He knew that I definitely wasn’t going to attend, and didn’t even bother asking me.

Dominicans and Americans have very different ideas of what makes a good party.  I don’t like Dominican parties. Their key ingredients? MUSIC and DANCING. The music is loud to the point where you can’t hear the person next to you or even your own thoughts. At my niece’s  college graduation party, I spent most of the time outside, away from the noise. Food is optional, conversation is optional. Drink, music and dancing are required. Also, I dance like a BIG GRINGA, so I’m in no hurry to hit the dance floor where everyone age 2+  has killer moves.

Dominican parties have no start time or end time. They start when you show up, and they finish, as my husband likes to say, when the adults are drunk and the children are crying.

Being Jewish-American, I think the keys to a good party are great FOOD and CONVERSATION. God forbid someone goes hungry or leaves thinking you had a lousy spread. Music is good, but not so loud that you can’t mingle and have great conversation, which is much more important than great dancing.

What makes for a good party in your culture? Have you ever attended a party in a different culture? What was it like?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

duck rectum or meat glue? whose cuisine will reign supreme?

Posted on March 11, 2010. Filed under: American culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, cuisine | Tags: , , , , , |

My nephew, who has spent considerable time in China, mentioned that on his last trip there he ate duck rectum, and that it really wasn’t all that bad. Granted, he didn’t know what he was eating until after the fact, which, I assume, removed any cultural barrier about what’s supposed to be delicious and what’s supposed to be gross.

I know the Chinese eat many more parts of animals than Americans, who tend to eat only the meat and a few organs.  Still, I thought, “Wow. That is totally disgusting.”

But Americans, too, are eating some pretty gruesome things.  The FDA has over 3000 approved chemicals that can be added in food processing. There are  colors, preservatives, thickeners, stabilizers, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, flavor enhancers, and antibiotics to name a few.

Thrombin, commonly known as meat glue, was just recently approved by the EU as a food additive. Recently approved? American have been eating it for years. Thombin, which was originally developed to stop bleeding during surgery, is also used to hold together chicken nuggets.

Americans have no idea  the number and quantity of the chemicals that pass through their bodies each year. At least with the duck, you know it’s a duck.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

one mother’s polychronic tendency

Posted on February 17, 2010. Filed under: cross cultural, time, women | Tags: , , , , , |

Men Shopping              Women Shopping

I recently read about “women’s general polychronic tendency when shopping for groceries and clothing” and was relieved to learn that there is actually a cultural term for what some call wandering aimlessly.

Polychronic People are multitrack and circular.

I’m not wandering aimlessly. I’m multi-track and circular. “Yes, I came to the store to buy bread, but this chicken would be great for next week’s barbecue (I could freeze it) and Carla needs a bottled drink for her field trip tomorrow and more hair conditioner, and ooh! look! Whole Milk Stony Field French Vanilla is on sale– I could stuff Calvin with some calories off of that….”

Being a mother requires polychronic tendencies. If moms did things in a sequential, linear manner, like monochronic people do, very little would get accomplished.

Moms and Polychronic People:

  • Do many things at once. Time for different tasks can overlap,  as long as all tasks get done.
  • Are relationship oriented: Interruptions (think kids) are normal, expected and often welcome.
  • Meet time commitments depending on circumstances and relationship.
    What mom hasn’t had her plans change instantly because the baby suddenly fell asleep?
  • Change plans often and easily when circumstances change.
    Either that, or go crazy.


Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

American medicine and accupuncture

Posted on April 8, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, cross cultural, healthcare | Tags: , , , , , , , |

My elbow is killing me. It hurts to drive, write, and basically do anything. Next week, I am having surgery to correct the problem. I originally wanted to try acupuncture, but it was not covered by health insurance. I have had great success with acupuncture for other things.  

The insurance company wouldn’t cover accupuncture, but it would cover surgery. Comparing the two, acupuncture is cheaper, less invasive, has no side effects or recovery time, and best of all, is less painful. So why isn’t it covered by insurance?

When I was diagnosed with a torn tendon, I asked the doctor if acupuncture could help repair it. He said without a pause, “Voodoo. That’s all acupuncture is. Voodoo. There is no written literature anywhere on its effectiveness.” (He is no longer my doctor.) The second doctor said he didn’t know much about acupuncture, but “whatever works for you is OK.”

American doctors know little about Eastern medical treatments that have been used by billions of people for thousands of years.  If they bothered to learn about them, they would have a greater understanding of possibilities and options, as well as insights into their Asian patients. 

The insurance company may see covering such unproven and voodoo medical practices as a slippery slope. If they agree to cover the cost of accupuncture as well as surgery, what’s next? Covering dried tiger penis powder as well as Viagra?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

AIG & Universalism –cultural views on contractual obligations

Posted on March 18, 2009. Filed under: American culture, business, cross cultural, cross cultural conflict, cross cultural miscommunication, universalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Although I personally think AIG is beyond reprehensible, greedy, corrupt and incompetent, I am intrigued by the cultural influences of the situation we now find ourselves in.  I considered, specifically, the differences in cultural views on contractual obligations between Universalist and Particularist cultures, and use the US and China as examples.

The idea that  AIG has a contractual obligation to pay out bonuses to the very executives who brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy  is firmly grounded in American culture. America is a Universalist culture–they have rules and laws and contracts that are applicable to everyone equally (supposedly). They believe contracts are legal and binding, regardless of obvious changes in situation.  AIG executives moan that these bonuses were promised to them by contract and contracts, in a Universalist culture, are untouchable. A deal is a deal. Even a raw one.

Chinese culture, on the other hand, is Particularist. Particularists look at each situation, and understand that things may change unexpectedly. For the Particularist, contracts may be amended or adjusted if the situation or context changes. Particularists also spend more time building relationships,  and value personal obligation and “face” more than Universalists.  For Particularists,  a trustworthy person is known to honor the changing circumstances.  The idea is to build a long term relationship and have a win-win situation over time for both parties.

For the Universalist, it is the complete opposite. A trustworthy person keeps his word, abides by the contract, and pays up. Even when it’s ethically, morally, and  poltically wrong.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Are some cultures more gifted than others?

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, cross cultural, education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My son is highly gifted in math. He is very advanced in all his subjects, but he is off the charts gifted in math. I’m not sure where this came from, although I personally believe the hand of God is involved.  I first noticed something was unusual when, as an infant, he started lining up raisins in a pattern. By kindergarten he was adding mixed fractions in his head when everyone else was counting to 10, and by 5th grade he started teaching himself calculus by downloading lessons from the Texas A&M math department website. Our school district supports gifted education and has let him accelerate 3 years in math.

Being gifted in America is a big secret, where “all children are gifted!” If he were a star athlete, or a prodigy musician, that would be fine. But America, the land of equality, really doesn’t like the idea that some people are innately smarter than others.

We attended an award ceremony at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth for the top 400 middle school children nationwide, based on SAT scores. (SATs are college entrance exams).  The children were called up alphabetically in groups to receive their awards, and when the W,X,Y,Z group was called,  an enormous amount of students stood up.  They were the Wangs, Wus, Wongs, Xias, Xies, Xins, Xus, Xues, Yans, Yangs, Yaos, Yes, Yoos, Zhangs, Zhengs, and Zhus. The most highly gifted students were overwhelmingly Asian.

This is my dilemma. I don’t believe one race is smarter than another. And I know that Asian culture highly values education and these students were there because their parents pursued this testing to identify their child’s ability. I know that, unlike in America, it’s fine to be gifted.  I’ve also read that the math systems in China, Japan and Korea are easier than English, as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book Outliers. But these were Asian-American children. They were learning math in English.

These were not just good students, they were the top students in the nation. You can’t coach a 12-year-old to score a 700+ in math on the SAT. You can barely coach an adult to reach that score. These students weren’t recognized for their hard work, but for an innate ability. So given their small percentage of the general population,  I’ve got to ask–why are so many of our top math students Asian?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 16 so far )

Family, friends and the open invitation

Posted on March 1, 2009. Filed under: American culture, celebrations, cross cultural, cross cultural miscommunication, family, hispanic culture, time | Tags: , , , , , |

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that my husband is Dominican. I’m very familiar with Hispanic culture, although understanding it doesn’t always make it easier to put up with things that really go against my American ways.

The whole time thing makes me nuts. For Americans, time controls the event. Events have a starting time and and ending time, and often these are scheduled in advance.  For Hispanics, the event controls time.  Yes, I know the dinner invitation said 7:30, but my wife always takes forever getting ready, and then a good friend called whom I haven’t spoken to in a while, then I felt like taking a nap, and that’s why I’m here at 10:15. Oh, and by the way, I brought my cousin, his son and a friend they had visiting from back home.

At first, I used to get angry. What’s so hard about being here on time? Why can’t you at least give me the heads up that you want to bring extra people? To be fair though, I’m sure my Dominican friends and family thought I was insane when I said my daughter’s birthday party was from 1:30-3:00 (she was 5).

So now I just enjoy the role of Gringa Fria when it suits me. I’m THE AMERICAN WIFE. If you don’t confirm with at least 24 hours notice, I’m counting you out. If I’m expecting 6, I cook for 6. Even if 11 show up. You can share.

Maybe that’s why our house isn’t the most popular place for Dominican get togethers….

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Chinese teachers and American students

Posted on February 28, 2009. Filed under: American culture, Asian culture, chinese culture, cross cultural, education | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

My company ran a number of beginning Chinese conversation classes for one corporation, with locations in 5 states. While I was at first concerned about coordinating the multi-state program, what turned out to be the biggest challenge was working with Chinese teachers.

The differences in teaching styles, as well as expectations surrounding classroom management, were enormous. The instructors were not very familiar or comfortable with a communicative approach to language instruction (emphasizing interaction and real life communication; not grammar focused).  The Chinese instructors were used to top-down instruction, and were not as skilled acting as facilitators.

The American students (all adults) expected to be active participants in the class. They wanted teachers who were knowledgeable in the subject area, dynamic, creative and energetic. For the Chinese instructors, being dynamic and creative were not as important.

Our beginning level language classes use a great deal of  Total Physical Response (TPR). TPR is a fast-paced activity that helps students develop listening comprehension skills and increase their vocabulary. In TPR, students follow the teacher’s instructions to complete certain actions over and over. (think Simon Says). Commands grow in length and complexity as the course continues. Students can feel immediate success without having to produce utterances.

All of the Chinese instructors were unfamiliar with this technique, which is standard in ESL, and had to be coached. They found it very useful, but I was stunned at the lack of creativity and spontaneity. After a few class sessions, I got calls from some teachers asking if they could purchase flash cards of different pictures to use for the TPR lessons. They said they had “run out” of things to talk about. Run out!  That’s the beauty of TPR–you can’t run out. Even if you use every single noun in the room with every possible verb, you still have pronouns to run through, not to mention all those prepositions. And all of these, in an endless variety of combinations. Run out?

All of the teachers were committed professionals. They were eager to learn new teaching methods, and were willing to try out new techniques. At course completion, they all recieved excellent student evaluations. I wonder if the results would have been the same if they had not been coached in American teaching methods and student expectations?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 10 so far )

The burqini, and other forms of women’s liberation

Posted on February 22, 2009. Filed under: arab culture, cross cultural, culture, women | Tags: , , , , , , |

Recently, I read about the  burqini and at first thought it was a joke.  To most western women, the idea of a burqa (the head to toe covering worn by some Muslim women) is seen as an oppressive prison. We read about women who are beaten for not wearing them in public, and only see them as a form of oppression.

When I visited the burquini website I found out that it is swimwear and sportswear for active Muslim women. And based on the testimonials, it is a new form of women’s liberation. Woman after woman wrote to say how they could now participate in sports and go swimming, while still maintaining the modesty required of their religion. “I don’t look like a fool in the water anymore, and I’m not weighed down by all the heavy wet clothes I used to wear,” wrote one happy customer.

Women from different cultures face different challenges. For these women, the burqini is a big step foward in being able to define themselves and actively participate in daily life.  We must be careful not to belittle desires of women whose cultures are different or contrary to our own. They themselves, must define their path.

burqini

                                                                                                           burqinis

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )


« Previous Entries

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...