Intercultural Lessons

Here I’ve posted lessons, observations, and insights gained in intercultural communication, as well as in communication for development while in India for five weeks. I’m continuing to post interesting intercultural tidbits from my homebase in Vancouver, B.C. Please feel free to comment or ask questions – let’s keep the conversation going.

 

Being Intercultural

Being in India allows for cross-cultural exchange – I felt this when a group of 8-10 year old girls approached me outside the Lemon Tree to ask where I was from, my name, my age, and whether I wanted to visit one of their homes. I called them my Biker Gang as they had all pulled up on bicycles, and one tricycle, of various colours and accessories. They lived next door to the hotel I quickly found out, following them there to see the inside of their home (2nd floor of an apartment building), briefly meet their parents, and share photos of Canada and what life is like there. They were impressed with the ocean scenes – they had been once with school, they told me. What did I like to do there? I talked about swimming and jogging. They talked about learning English and making friends.

I can see how my own sense of culture is shifting as new lessons are learned and unlearned. As Professor Nagesh suggested, just  ‘be’ rather than being caught up ‘doing’. I feel like I was finally able to just ‘be’ in  Ahmedabad with that group of girls, learning, sharing, and enjoying the moment together.

 

A Culture of Cultures

We are a culture of cultures”, Ashoke Chatterjee shared with us. India is rich tapestry of culture and delving in superficially is easy enough – going to the night market in Ahmedabad and conversing with the vendors is one way to get a sense of their pride in their craft. I crave more than this superficial knowledge of Indian cultures, but a lack of time limits the depth of my interactions. It’s frustrating, but I’m staying aware of the lessons in intercultural communication that can help me better make sense of all these experiences, brief or not.

Intercultural communication is about being rather than doing – it’s about finding a way to engage in a way that I am as oriented as possible to the “Other” (Nagesh, Development Communication class, November 2011). This “Other” is anyone not myself. I am also the “Other” in India, in the villages of northwestern Gujarat, on the streets of Ahmedabad with my Western-style clothes and education and language. I can build a bridge between myself and the “Other” by first becoming a more active listener: being present, being curious, sharing space, promoting dialogue, and striving to understand the local context. Being self-aware is an important first step. “We see the world not as they are, but as we are” – Anais Nin.

Another step is finding myself in the people I meet – finding our commonalities, and respecting our differences. I can also work to incorporate what I learn from the people I meet in India into my way of thinking and framing the world, particularly around environmental education.

For example, the inspiring staff at the Centre for Environment Education taught me that upholding people’s right to knowledge and providing them with not only information, but someone to listen to their story, is a way to also uphold their dignity.

Thank you for dropping by!
~Lindz Marsh

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