Like the day, start your questions right
Are my thoughts and actions a reflection of my own cultural frame of reference?
The answer: Simply yes or no. There, that was easy. Moving on.
Are you satisfied with the answer? Does it offer true enquiry, or just tick the box of self assessment without doing any actual work. Try this:
How are my thoughts and actions a reflection of my own cultural frame of reference.
Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere. We can elaborate and reflect on the true essence of the question, one that asks us to explore our reactions to settings or circumstances that are foreign to us. It’s a little extra work, but the return on investment is exponential.
A Rolling Stone Gathers Moss
One benefit of travel, either for work or pleasure is that parts of your experiences will stick to you, never to be forgotten. The layers will build into a rich tapestry of knowledge and understanding.
Let the moss grow on you. It will soften any stoney exterior. The more you roll, the more you will absorb.
All that’s in front of you
Learning has never been more accessible. The questioning that arises from it has never been more imperative. False triggers play to your prejudices. It’s natural to have them, but be strong enough to challenge them.
This skill is vital to being a leader or manager in a global setting.
Be the detective
“I see no more than you. The difference is I have trained myself to understand what I see”
The trick to dealing with the initial fear we encounter when we see, hear or experience events that challenge us, is the constantly be curious about what’s at play. Leave the fear to run it’s course, and you shut yourself off from any learning at all
A chance follow up that brought a wave of pride in my country.
I recently found myself killing time with yet another breakfast on the road. I was heading to meet another wonderful family that were preparing for their next expat adventure across the waves. I settled into my seat and cast my eyes around this now familiar Starbucks location. It was then I noticed a couple sitting on the other side of the store, and I recognized them straight away. I had also been a part of their preparation to take up a short term assignment in Australia a few years earlier. I debated a while as to whether I should disturb them, but that decision was made for me as they got up to walk out and he took a second glance at me, with that knowing look of recognition.
It didn’t take long to reconnect. They seemed very excited to sit and share their experience, which I was extremely eager to hear. They started out by very generously thanking me for how much better prepared they felt after going through the cultural training day with me. I remembered them to be very confident ahead of the assignment, but also having the usual concerns and reservation that creep into the mind ahead of such a move. More importantly, I got to hear how much they enjoyed living and working in Australia. They enthusiastically spoke of the land, the people, the culture. They reported many instances where they had used some of the tips and tools I had provided for them to engage and open themselves up to the Aussie way of life. They had gotten to travel to other surrounding countries and shared how much of an effect connecting with so many different cultures had on their children. They expressed an understanding in now seeing their own culture through a different lens.
In this wonderful work I get to do, I often catch myself deep in thought in how the people I train and prepare move through their experiences. Sometimes we are lucky to keep in touch directly, or indeed get to follow up through online journals and blogs. This time however, I got to connect in person and see the results right in front of me. It was very humbling. Right here I would also like to take the time to mention my fantastic colleagues at Aperian Global who’s passion and commitment to excellence has been unmatched in any business I have previously been involved in. The support that comes from this wonderful team of people goes a long way in allowing me to undertake this vocation with the utmost pride.
Have you ever been involved in training or coaching and seen the results first hand? I love to hear about it. Please leave a comment. Remember to check out my Down Under and Beyond podcast on Stitcher or iTunes
For more on the great work of Aperian Global, visit http://www.aperianglobal.com
Podcast production announcement and update
I am extremely happy to announce that I have begun the official learning curve that will allow me to launch my very first podcast. It is the final step in the preparation, and one that will ensure it is a quality sounding production, even if the mug on the end of the microphone stuffs it up every now and again.
I guess it is also a great time to let the cat out of the bag as to just exactly what the the whole concept will be for the podcast. I am very pleased to share with you that the focus will be on Australian travel, although it will also include features and information on other country destinations in the region. In consideration of taking on this challenge, I was encouraged by others with whom I sought counsel to really explore my motivations. After much deliberation, I discovered that it had the potential to match three of my passions in life:
- The love of travel and all that it can provide. From simply “seeing the sights” right through to the rich experiences that can be derived in experiencing another culture and discovering new ways of living.
- The pride I have in the country of my birth. I simply want to share the great what I love about the people, places and culture that Australia has. It provides vast opportunities to experience a wide array of contrasts through its landscapes, not to mention the wildlife.
- The desire to encourage and inspire people to expand their travel horizons. hardly a day goes by that when I engage in conversation with strangers that they tell me that to visit Australia would be a dream come true. However many of them immediately launch into a myriad of reasons why they can’t see themselves actually doing it, one of which is the sheer distance. Well, yes its far off, but there are plenty of other things in life that we pursue that seem so distant when we head out toward them, we can hardly know what it would feel like to arrive. But wow, when we get there, how great does it feel.
Eventually this site will redirect over to a new domain that will host not only this blog, but also the podcast episodes, show notes and other resources related to the community that I hope to build around a common message. There will be multiple opportunities for you to provide your feedback and even travel experiences of your own. If you feel so inclined, I would even love to interview you on the show to share those experiences and what they have meant to you.
In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates as we get closer to the show launch, which should take place very close to the middle of December.
As I gradually rose from my state of slumber this morning, I became immediately aware of the tantalizing aromas emanating from our kitchen. That unmistakable scent of home cooking.
I think that everyone will agree, there is nothing quite like it. My own mother back in Australia is a wonderful cook, and has honed that craft from years of experimentation and adaptation, the result of which is always something that I sadly have probably not taken enough time to appreciate. This realization now has me stop when I can as a meal is laid in front of me to take in the sights and smells of the plate. Try it sometime. Those extra seconds of anticipation really heighten the enjoyment, and the space is often made a little more special if you can have someone fill it with a short message of thankfulness.
This morning’s tickling of the old olfactory nerves was courtesy of Pani Maria (or Babcia to our three year old) She is my Polish mother-in-law, who is now visiting for the holidays. It is fair to say, from a combination of tradition and opportunity of exposure to a wider food culture, that her menu offerings may be rather narrow. No shortage of meat and potatoes here. However, in this simplicity, we may find a deeper knowledge and understanding of the merry dance that we as humans perform in honor of our food, but there is probably a whole other blog that can be written about that.
For now though, it is safe to say that It took me a while to swing my legs out to the cold floor. I found myself swimming in the smells, trying to pick up on ingredients and game myself a little on what was being prepared. I could even envision Maria moving about the kitchen, a space somewhat uncomfortable for her in unfamiliarity, but as is the skill of the Polish in general, constantly adapting and slowly making it work. For keep in mind that even the use of the gas stove is something new to her. She has spent her whole life cooking on a wood fire stove, in a kitchen that was adapted from the chicken coop that was once attached to their two room house. Over the years, upgrades have been made of course, including the installation of an actual floor instead of the original linoleum covered bare ground. It is in this heritage that the true message lies, for in such a kitchen, the very food she prepares for us today has been produced with love and care for her family. Through the hottest of summers, to the depths of the cruelest of cold winters. And through all this, this wonderful woman has left her house every morning to walk to her church and give thanks for all the blessings she has.
Of course, meeting and marrying a native of Poland was always going to bring me to this country. From my very first trip there it has captivated me through it’s architecture, culture, traditions and (at times troubled) history. From my Australian orientated lens, it has at times been mind boggling to wrap my brain around the long timeline of events that have shaped this land and its people. Early on I committed myself to learning to speak the language (OK even if my first motivations were to impress a girl!) I searched and found books on the country. From coffee table picture books through to novels such as “Poland” by James A. Michener. I sat inquisitively in the presence of my wife’s family and friends, eager to learn how they thought and acted in their daily lives. This was no more valuable when it was with her parents. Both old enough to remember the very darkest of days, when much of their time was devoted with simply trying to stay alive. But they always expressed joy and thankfulness for what they had.Many observe the people of Poland from the outside and consider them a little cold and unfriendly. In the world of cross cultural training, this is analogous to the coconut. The somewhat hard exterior, once cracked, exposes a warmth and generosity that is genuine and heartfelt.
So there will be more on this subject in the future, but for now, I can only say that you should if you are fortunate enough to travel, take time to at least add a short visit to some part of Poland and just see what I mean. I can recommend many places, some on the usual tourist trek, others not so mainstream, that will leave you with a lasting impression of this beautiful country.
Where to point the arrows…
There are many things I could make this blog about, and so I will. Got myself a head full of ideas, all born out of various experiences over my lifetime. However, I am not so naive to think that these experiences give me any licence to pass out advice. In fact, the idea is that I will only deepen my knowledge in my area of interests from what I know will be thoughtful and well informed feedback from anyone who wants to join the conversation. So….. here is my short list of topics to go on with:
- Australia – My home country. Yep, born and bred in the suburbs of Sydney town. Passionate about my homeland and so very proud of its place in the world. Ask me anything, I can find the answer even if I don’t know it.
- USA – My country of residence, and recently, citizenship (I do get to keep my Aussie passport too, more about that in the future.) Specifically Chicago area that I now call home. Love the different opportunities my life here has brought. Certainly the country has its challenges, but there is no denying you can make a go of anything here if you’re willing to put the hard yards in.
- Poland – Birthplace of my wonderful wife. I have grown to know and love the history and traditions that surround this country. I love its people and though I have traveled there many times, there is still so much to learn.
- Kids – I have a couple of my own. My first daughter Samantha, now a beautiful and woman in her own right. A devoted wife and proud mother of two small girls of her own. Her little sister Emily, now three going on thirty three. Possessed frequent flyer status before she was 1 year old, speaks two languages and devotes each day to the task of capturing my heart. I simply love and adore both my girls.
- Marriage – I am basically married to the most wonderful woman in the world, so really what do I say. If I do start, I may not stop.
- Kakadu Traders Australia – If we must work, why not do it with something you love. We will learn more about this great family company in the future. I get to work alongside the US crew as purveyors of some of the finest apparel you can buy.
- Cultural Competence – What? you might ask. Well, there is every chance this could engage a pretty wide audience. Over the past 6 years, I have been involved in supporting programs as a country specialist in preparing individuals and families for expat assignments in Australia. In this I have found a passion for the field. I am now more more directly involved and have become certified to deliver more general programs for a wider array of expat destinations. So cultural competence, perhaps also cross-culture training basically means having the tools to navigate the challenges that come from doing business and engaging socially in a foreign culture.
I be thinking that this is enough to get the juices flowing. If you’re reading this, then you’re one of the first. Don’t be shy, I would love to hear what comes to your mind on any or all of the above topics of conversation. Feel free to share with your friends, let’s see where this goes. Think of it as much as your blog as mine, I certainly don’t want to be the only one writing. I am needing content for my soon to be podcast series, and the feedback and comments I get here will form the basis of conversations there as well.
Looking forward the journey!