hispanic culture

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?

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When my time isn’t your time

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: business, cross cultural conflict, cross cultural miscommunication, hispanic culture, time | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Time changes everything. Or how you view time changes everything.  Differences in cultural concepts of time are ALWAYS brought up by a frustrated manager or employee during cross cultural training sessions. I am amazed at how little attention is paid to understanding the concept of time in the workplace, given its profound impact on productivity, employee and customer relations, and worker satisfaction.

Ideas about time range widely:

  • Time is a scare resource.  Manage it carefully!
  • Time is abundant.  Relax!
  • Time is best spent concentrating on one activity, conversation, project, etc., at a time
  • Time is best spent concentrate simultaneously on multiple activities, conversations, projects, etc., at a time.
  • Use time to learn from the past.  The present is essentially a continuation or a repetition of past occurrences.
  • Use time to focus on “here and now” and short-term benefits.
  • Use time to plan for long-term benefits.  Promote a far-reaching vision.

These differences can wreak havoc on the workplace.

I worked with one American company that was having problems with time management of their plant in Mexico, which supplied the raw materials for their factory in the US. “They always miss deadlines, and never at least give us the heads up that they may be late!” “They work so slowly!” “It’s impossible to coordinate with them, because they just don’t stick to our schedule!”

When I asked how they were presently dealing with the situation, the manager said they had sent a team down to Mexico to train the employees on what was expected and managing their time better.

The company did not leave anyone American onsite to oversee production schedules. The problem returned as soon as we left, was their response. Well of course everything went back to Mexican style! Why wouldn’t it? Could you imagine a person from a different culture coming into your workplace and telling you to behave in a manner completely different from your culture? How long would you keep that up, especially if no one from the target culture was on site? Wouldn’t you and your coworkers slip back into your natural way of acting and communicating?

Helping employees understand cultural differences requires constant communication. There is no instant solution. Working successfully across cultures takes time.

Read here about ways to get employees on the same page about time expectations.

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The culturally competent healthcare provider

Posted on March 17, 2009. Filed under: American culture, arab culture, Asian culture, cross cultural communication, diversity, Hatian culture, healthcare, hispanic culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Healthcare providers face multiple challenges when working with patients from different cultures. Unlike managers and employees who work with diverse coworkers and customers, healthcare providers interpretations and decisions impact the patient’s life and future.

I enjoy delivering culture training to healthcare workers. They usually “get it” and understand the importance the role culture plays in their interactions, as well as the idea that culture is more than  just ethnicity.

Still, I often hear the frustration healthcare workers encounter when providing services to members of other cultures. Even though they have the best intentions, they often don’t know how to address these differences.

Examples include:

1. Only immediate family were allowed to visit a patient in the hospital. About 12 members of an extended Hispanic family showed up, wanting to see the patient. When the provider said, “only immediate family” the response was, “We are immediate family!”  To them, the idea that a cousin or aunt is any less immediate was ridiculous.

2. A woman from Jordan was in consultation with a physician, her elder brother by her side. Before she would make any decisions or offer any responses, she would look at her brother, have a quick conversation in Arabic, and then the brother would provide the answer. The physician thought she could build a better relationship with the patient without the brother in the room. When she asked him to leave, the patient panicked and started to cry.

3.  An Hispanic patient brought her 3 children with her for her MRI, even though the healthcare provider explained that the testing would take about 1 hour, and the children could not be left unattended in the waiting room.

4. During intake at a psychiatric hospital, an Asian woman refuses to make eye contact with the healthcare provider. The provider isn’t sure if it’s cultural or related to a mental illness.

One workshop participant told a story that showed the importance of active listening, clarifying, summarizing and probing for more information. She said she was offering bereavement counseling for a Haitian woman who had just lost her 3-year-old daughter. In discussion, it came up that the woman did not attend her child’s funeral with the rest of the family. At first, the counselor was shocked at what she initially saw as a horrible thing for a parent to do. Without judging the Haitian woman, she engaged her in further discussion, only to learn that she was pregnant, and didn’t want to risk the life of her new baby by going into a cemetery. She was, by her cultural standard, being a caring and protective mother. A fact that only came out because the provider took the time to learn more.

 What cross cultural issues have you encountered in the healthcare system?

 

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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….

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