Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stepping From My Culture into Another Mindset

While the United States is still recognized as the No. 1 place to do business in the world, as well as home to an attractive popular culture (No.4), and creator of desirable brands (second only to Germany), it ranks dead last in cultural heritage—a score associated with maturity, wisdom, cultivation, humanity, and intelligence. That’s below Turkey, China, and Egypt.”— Linda Tischler, Fast Company Senior Writer
Are dem thar fightin’ words?

My parents were born south of the Mason-Dixon Line. When I was two years old, mom and dad moved “north.” It hurt my feelings that aunts, uncles and cousins called me a “Yankee.” I felt like an outsider in my family.

Eight generations ago, my family and Abraham Lincoln shared the same grandfather. Learning about the Civil War in the Midwest was stressful. Some facts conflicted with viewpoints I overhead the other side of the family discuss. As a child, I’m thankful I observed cultural differences, which encouraged my curiosity.

One of the most humorous-to-me, serious articles was published in the liberal Egyptian newspaper, Al Ahram. A Palestinian, who was raised in America, tried to help readers understand the mindset of the Christian religious right. And that’s not even easy for Americans!

Stretch Your Perspective

* Read the country’s history.
* Learn about its religious and political groups.
* Read popular publications, online English edition newspapers, editorials and cartoons from that region and books written by that country’s authors.
* Subscribe to emails from foreign media outlets.
* Read details about the country on the official embassy site.
* Find a breakdown of the country’s demographics, which includes government, economics, religion, population.
* Find out what’s considered culturally or religiously respectful or disrespectful.
* Read travelogues written by Americans.
* Interview people from that culture. Explore their perspective.
* Compare and contrast the same news event or issue from opposing religious and political media sources. To identify the writer’s viewpoint or biases, observe the text. How are opposing parties described?

For national and world events, I compare reports from different news sources report it, for example, Al Jazeera, Reuters, the BBC, and US sources. To better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle Eastern and Asian anti-Semitism, I read the Palestinian Electronic Intifada, the Jerusalem Post, and Al Ahram, plus other online news sources from the Middle East, Middle Asia, and Asia.

I’m fascinated how people’s biases reveal themselves.

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