Friday, February 17, 2006
40 Years of Shock Communication Faux Pas
40 years of traveling the globe and making cultural faux pas
February 17, 2006 marks my anniversary of 40 years traveling the globe and making cultural faux pas (i.e., mistakes). I think 40 years makes me an expert at making mistakes. It also marks my life long journey in trying to understand other cultures and appreciate the differences, some more difficult than others. Of course, today is my 40th birthday. Although I resemble 40 years of cultural mistakes, I have also embraced 40 years of learning from these wonderful life changing events. My global travels began at 6 weeks of age, from Arizona to the United Kingdom.
I only have knowledge of the faux pas brought to my attention during and after the event and these are the ones I intend to document and share for the benefit of others. Are you reading? Can you hear me now? Of course, at the present moment I am not sure if anyone has even stumbled upon my writing or if anyone even cares. It doesn’t really matter as I am having fun remembering the narratives, the laughs and the tears. Some of the experiences I will never forget and others I will read and reread hoping to experience a little amnesia. That never happened to me… you know what I mean.
Some of these stories are rather innocent and some are hilarious to people who have encountered the same, some are embarrassing and some I would not like to share at all, but I will. They include a childhood baseball trip to Japan in 1976, Meeting a Jordanian Prince in the 1990’s and other key learning moments in my life. However, you will have to keep coming back to my shock-a-comm Blog to read them all beginning with my next post.
Interestingly enough, some professional individuals I have knowledge of don’t believe they need cultural understanding or awareness, as they are seasoned travelers. I hear the “seasoned comment” all the time. If you believe this, seasoned bologna, I laugh out loud and say, “You have no idea about what you don’t know, and it appears that you don’t even know, about what you think you know.” Aristotle once said, “I know nothing,” and yet he was one of the most brilliant men who ever lived. Get the point? We all have something to share and learn.
If you haven’t noticed, look outside and see how small the world actually is. If you don’t believe me, check it out and build the solar system yourself. See the small dot in the universe spinning around, look for your country, your city, your home, and where you are at this very moment. I am presently living in the United States, in New Mexico, in Albuquerque, on the NW side of town, in my house, in my home office, sitting on my chair. Talk about feeling insignificant.
The U.S. is such a unique and rewarding place to live as every culture of the world lives here. We all co-exist in one country. During my studies at the University of New Mexico, the now late Ev Rogers once spoke about the United States and the early American coined term the “Melting Pot.” In Latin it is referred to as E pluribus unum (i.e., Out of many, one). In a book written by Everett M. Rogers and Thomas M. Steinfatt called “Intercultural Communication” (Rogers & Steinfatt, 1999, p.189), they write about a new metaphor replacement for the melting pot, instead of melting into a hideous mixture of soup, we have actually become more of a tossed salad. Every culture complements the salad (i.e., lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, bacon bits, eggs, cheese and dressing).
Rogers, E.M., & Steinfatt, T.M., (1999) “Intercultural Communication” IL, Waveland Press, Inc. ISBN 1-57766-032-3