May 15th, 2006


Cultural mores

The last part of the introduction day I went to earlier in the week was taken up by an "intercultural communication workshop". That sort of thing can be quite fun, but I was there for useful practical information, and with my parents waiting for me I didn't stay for all of it. Besides, the communications guru who was leading the workshop really annoyed me; he was desperately camp, in a slightly upper-class English pretending to be Stephen Fry kind of way, and it just set my teeth on edge.

Anyway, he started off in the traditional way, presenting us with a series of statements and dividing us into buzz groups to discuss them. And I've decided to reproduce his triggers here, because I think they could provoke some interesting discussion. I've altered some of them slightly, partly so as not to plagiarize too much and partly because it became clear in the subsequent discussion that the guru's original phrasing was leading people to discuss things different from what he actually intended us to discuss. So I've tried to make things clearer.

The plan is that if everybody gets to discussing this, it will partly make up for the lack of content posted by me!

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By the way, when we did this exercise, my group consisted of a Japanese guy, a German, a Dutch guy, a Libyan, and me, the only girl in the group. Too small to be meaningful, of course. We got very organized about deciding the best way to represent everybody's opinion on each statement (we settled on including a voting tally rather than trying to come to a consensus), and generally got into the whole meta thing, in the way a bunch of geeks will. We were split 3:2 on a couple, but mostly we quite quickly came to a unanimous decision. Ironically, the one we had the hardest time settling on was whether compromise is better than confrontation!

The Japanese guy (who was, incidentally, rather distractingly good looking) did something that fitted right in with a remark the guru made in the followup session: apparently, in Japanese culture if someone asks for your opinion the polite thing to do is to think about it for a while. This made it quite hard to get him engaged in discussion when the other four of us were more inclined to jump right in with our opinions.
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