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Father Knows Best!

Yesterday I had a pretty heated discussion with my wife and daughter, both Dutch (I’m American) in which daughter, 18, was making statements such as “They don’t need to build any more mosques here in the Netherlands; there’s already enough,” and “It should be forbidden for my colleagues to speak Turkish amongst themselves at work. Dutch country + Dutch company = Dutch language.”  These statements were endorsed and seconded by my wife.

Coincidentally, I found a supporting voice this morning in the culture trainer Maureen Rabotin, in which she mentioned the book she’s writing, together with ASTD, “The 4-R’s of Globalization: Respect, Relationships, Recognition and Rewards.” You can read more from Maureen at her website here: www.effectivegloballeadership.com.

The foundation of my counterargument to my wife and daughter (where does one begin?!!!) had to do with Maureen’s first “R”: respect. “If they respect you by not talking about you in Turkish behind your back [the classic xenophobic reaction] and you respect their right to their culture, there shouldn’t be any problem, should there?”

Even though they grudgingly granted me credit, I realized that my largest challenge as a culture expert is with my own family.

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[This was originally posted on an old blog of mine back in 2007. I’ve resurrected it for a recent discussion on “Chinglish”]

Do you think there might have been one person at the Volkskrant who thought this headline might be offensive?

Some background: the title reads, “Only in China do they not know Klouif.” The story is in connection wtih the Dutch football great Johann Cruiff’s 60th birthday celebration. By spelling it “Klouif”, the editors not only make fun of those who cannot speak the Dutch dipthong “ui” properly (sounds similar to the English “ow”), but especially the Chinese who cannot pronounce the letter “r”.

This video is about the “learning of the future.” To be honest, I hope not. I mean, it’s a nice use of technology, but it seems a shame that these kids are with each other in classroom in one of the most beautiful natural environments on earth, yet so little was said about interaction with that environment (IRL*, not with VR* goggles) and collaboration with each other. (YouTube http://youtu.be/SkDIklQbols?a).

It took them until 3:27 to use the word “collaboration,” or anything like it, and then it disappeared. What about teamwork? What about working with each other. This video is a nice ad for Apple, and the graphics from Blue Mars are gorgeous, but I’d rather hear more about how the tool actually does help them prepare for the future.

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* IRL = In Real Life. In other words: face to face.
* VR = Virtual Reality. In other words: not.

This http://nyti.ms/9a8r1I is an article that looks at the new “hybrid leader.” Aspects of leaders that combine old and new, hard and soft, formal and informal, etc. Leaders such as Barack Obama, Carlos Ghosn (Nissan-Renault) and Indra Nooyi (CEO PepsiCo) are embodiments of this new “emergent” style of leader. The qualities named of these new leaders are:

  • Listen zealously
  • Seek the universal
  • Vary your cadences
  • Be radically pragmatic
  • Know your truths
  • Think both/and

All good advice, and also good qualities of anyone operating in intercultural environments.

What bothers me about this article is focusing solely on “bi-cultural” people, to use a phrase popularized for a time at De Baak, as foremost examples of this new leader. There doesn’t seem to be much room for someone to become this type of leader – you’re either born into it or you’re not.

I hope that young, aspiring leaders see this article, and the many others like it that are out there, as a model to strive for, despite its implications. That they realize that one can also develop oneself to change and adapt, whether or not one has the natural-born ethnic cred or not.

Certainly this is the only way to develop society, to hope that we can enlighten each other and change towards an ideal.

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Leo Salazar

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