A few years ago I read Dan Buettner’s book, Blue Zones. He has written a follow up and has continued to research. I want to share with you what he calls the Power of 9. According to Buettner’s, Reverse Engineering Longevity, Life expectancy of an American born today averages 78.2 years. But this year, more than 70,000 Americans reached their 100th birthday. What are they doing that the average American isn’t (or won’t)?
I started to write this article while I was waiting to board a plane to Germany, my native country. My topic is helpfulness. I want to define the cultural differences around giving assistance between members of different nations. I want to share a few experiences here in the United States. They show a level of caring that’s really new to me.
My grandmother Hilda passed away when she was 95 years old. Her funeral was one of the most impressive events I‘ve ever joined. According to my feeling, all the citizens of her and my hometown had come to the cemetery. She was born and she died at the same small town in Northern Bavaria, Germany, which might have been one reason for her fame. She had never left her hometown longer than for a day trip. Another occasion could have been the way she decided to spend her time and live her life.
Members of the European culture usually have a settled way of life. In their eyes, Americans are admirable models of mobility. If in Germany, where I come from, a person becomes unemployed, he will look for a new job in his ancestral city first. Only when that is unsuccessful will reach out to other parts of Germany to look for a new career. Or not, it depends on lots of circumstances. People are ingrained in their communities. Visiting is easier than moving and nobody has to take an airplane to visit friends and family. To cross Germany by car even at its widest point will take you nine hours.
As a German, I never thought deeply about the things that American people value. I heard about their preference for comfortable footwear and that they love burgers. When I moved to Chattanooga, I realized it’s true. Lots of folks wear tennis-shoes, no matter if it is with jeans, slacks or skirts. And as an almost vegetarian, I learned to value juicy grilled beef. I’m sure I will miss that back in Germany. After two years living in the US, I notice more differences between the attitudes of American and German people than I had imagined
If you are a mono-lingual American, it can be helpful to know how native speakers of other languages often pronounce English, so you can understand them more easily. China is a huge country, and Mandarin is spoken differently in various parts of China. For some people, Mandarin is actually their second language, not their first. People in India speak somewhere between 780 and 1683 different languages, although reportedly only 21 are officially recognized.
To honor the success of Asian Americans in this country, I would like to highlight the professional lives of five prominent Asian female executives. They have demonstrated a sense of pride in their own heritage and that this has not diminished their professional success in the western world. They are among the most powerful women in the U.S.
Do you recall the first time you stepped into an international business reception at a major hotel and found yourself amidst a sea of Asian faces? If so, you may also have noticed a diversity of Asian cultures and conversations in some incomprehensible languages: Cantonese Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, and perhaps others. If you have been put off when people in your presence have spoken a language other than English, you are not alone.
Not long ago, Texas made history. It became a majority minority state. In other words, the minorities together make up more than 50% of the population. Here in Texas, diversity is a buzzword. Not only does it attract attention, it gets people excited, who now want to jump on the bandwagon to organize diversity initiatives such as cultural sensitivity training or setting up a diversity council.
The nation is crying out for universal health care reform to provide adequate health insurance for the diverse citizens in the nation. Yet, American diversity includes a group of individuals who remain silent as they continue to face limited access to health care because of their limited English proficiency (LEP). A study released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April, 2008 indicated that during 2004-2006 almost one third of non-elderly Korean Americans in the US do not have health insurance.