Small talk delights and confounds us, and it is worth asking why.In this short humorous piece I will confine myself to American small talk, as there appear to be different variations on this tune, as Mark Twain might also have pointed out if he had written more about American English and less about the German language.
On the one hand, it can feel overly factual and too easy, (are they making fun of me?) on the other hand, it is full of ambiguity and hidden meaning.But do you KNOW what that meaning is?It is also a way of getting to know you quickly, whatever the circumstances, sharing information, getting the real information fast or just having some fun in a bored moment.
Hence I share with you a “Small Talk Vignette” from one of my trips in the US.Although I am American, I have felt like a foreigner in the US at various times, and this was one of them:
The diversity movement has raised myriad issues regarding language and the exercise of speech.Indeed, some critics of diversity efforts have accused its advocates of undermining the U.S. tradition of free speech.Yet that argument is ill-founded, for two reasons.First, because totally “free” speech does not exist in the United States.Second, because establishing selective legal limits on speech is as historically American as apple pie.
This is the fifth in a series of columns based on my research as a past fellow of the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. In earlier columns I argued that diversity advocates should not be drawn into the position of opposing free speech, because it does not really exist.Rather they should clarify and reframe the issue.
Five days ago, I was on the other side of the globe. Exhausted from twelve weeks of attempting to keep up with this fast-paced Mecca of the international business world, I was still not ready to extract myself from the extrovert’s haven that is Shanghai. This is the land of business cards and alcohol, where the networking maniacs of the West flock to jump into the Eastern financial “boom”, assuming that the “bust” is nowhere in sight. For one brief summer, I was a part of this cultural mish-mash, ecstatic to surround myself with the expats, entrepreneurs, and “students of life” that are so enthusiastic to be exposed to the challenges of living in such a foreign, yet increasingly Westernized, environment. Being a student of psychology, the best way for me to summarize my experience in China is to describe the mental processes I used to adapt. Looking back on my little adventure, I can easily identify the points at which I hit the various stages of Culture Shock, and it is through this cycle that I feel others can catch a better glimpse of my path of growth.
( Part 1 of 3 Series)
“The lenses of mass media as the sole window to the outside world is detrimental to the way we perceive our fellow Earthlings. Somehow, It can burn bridges than build them.”
In a recent article in The New York Times, Hadis Lessani, a high school student living in Kabul, Afghanistan said this about finding a place free from harassment because of her makeup, Western clothing and chatting publicly with young men: “This cafe is the only place where I can relax and feel free.”
You see, trendy cafes like The Simple Cafe have sprung up across Kabul in the past few years as sanctuaries for women in an Islamic culture that still dictates how they should dress and interact with men. These restrictions endured years after tradition banned girls’ education, confined women to their homes and forced them to wear burqas in public.
Reprinted honor of Madeleine Albright turning 82-years old
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is a petite woman who can fill large university auditorium with her presence. These days, Dr. Albright teaches, lectures and writes. She frequently speaks to university audiences land enjoys telling young people that they can be anything they want to be with hard work. Her audiences listen enthusiastically and a recent crowd at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga was no exception. A packed house and 2 overflow rooms with video feeds were arranged for the presentation by our 64th Secretary of State. She was the highest ranking woman in government from 1997-2001 and the first female Secretary of State.
A reality of Cameroon, the country fondly referred to as “Africa in miniature”, “the land of milk and honey”, the most peaceful country.
Camaroon English Speakers
Former Southern Cameroon (Northwest & Southwest regions of Cameroon) is considered a minority group in Cameroon. Approximately 20% of the population (5 Million) of Cameroon are from and reside in these two English-speaking regions. This minority population has been marginalized both in public institutions and state positions. The feeling of marginalization started developing and growing among the anglophone population, when the 1961 Federal Constitution was changed by President Ahidjo in 1972; changing the status of Cameroon from the Federal Republic, to the United Republic of Cameroon. The sentiment started to develop among the anglophone population that the francophone population was better represented politically, economically and socially. This fueled claims of self-determination within the Anglophone population. (ICG 02/08/2017).
This feeling of marginalization has been justified over the past years, where official documents are mostly released only in French. There was infiltration of English common law system practiced in the English speaking parts of Cameroon and infiltration of the Anglo-Saxon system of education practiced in the English speaking regions of Cameroon with the French system of education. Worst of all, French speaking teachers who can barely say “good morning” in English, were sent to teach major subjects in Anglo-Saxon schools in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. This has made the Anglophone population feel that their culture and identity is being assimilated and wiped out.
(The Bermuda Jews History Series was originally published in The Bermudian Magazine)
In the 1990s, I made my first trip to Bermuda in fifteen years. My family, once the mainstay of Bermuda Jews, were long gone from the island. The first whiff of salty sea air hasn’t changed but the airport is a jumble of construction. A short jog across the tarmac should end in a hushed wait for the appearance of a customs agent, sitting patiently on the dark wood furniture of the terminal’s old-fashioned waiting room. Today, official greeters wave us through a temporary cordoned maze to a terminal with a second story, a food court, and customs agents encased in glass booths. An electronically-enhanced steel band strikes an earnest rendition of “Island in the Sun” where a portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth once hung.
The first day of the year in the lunar calendar is to many Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese who live outside their home countries, the most important festival of the new year that they celebrate. Other Asian ethnic groups may join the festivity in their neighborhoods even though they observe their owe New Year days. For example, the Thais honor their Songkran (Water Festival) in April or the Gujaratis celebrate theirs the day before the Asian Indian Diwali (the Festival of Lights) in late October or early November. As for the Japanese and Filipinos, they choose to observe the Gregorian New Year. With this festive day around the corner, let’s look at some of the New Year traditions of Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese.
Global Leadership today: The modern workplace brims with activity as people dart from meeting to meeting. Sometimes our communication is too brief. At times our messages are not well thought out. Even when the communication is crystal clear, the message can get lost in a wave of workload. But because our organizations tend to rely on best practices, people have a common frame-of-reference when there are misunderstandings. Best practices are a common denominator that allow us to understand and predict behavior, and serve as “true north” as we navigate the complexity of modern organizational life.
As organizations expand internationally and multi-cultural communications between employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers become more frequent, we are finding that the common denominator of best practices begins to unravel. And once we can no longer fall back on best practices, our inner compass can go haywire.