Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's All Perspective

I think I spent a good deal of this journey on autopilot when it came to cross cultural dealings. I feel I can trust my autopilot because I have lived cross culturally so much. But there are times that I realized in a profound and fresh way that even when we think we are all speaking the same language and seeing the same things our cultural worldview is like a pair of glasses that are tinted with our perspective. It just changes the way things look.

In the first half of this trip I remember having ‘ah ha’ moments when I realized that a team member had a very different perspective of the same thing we just experienced together. Maybe it’s safe to say that after a few of those it was normal or easy for me to remember and operate from the realization that we are always coming from different angles.

However I also remember being surprised a few times during our debriefing on the last day about what our dear Kenyans thought of Americans in general. Actions one names as pride, I would call openness. And if you look at it, it’s understandable from a Kenyan perspective how that action would be considered pride if a Kenyan had done it.

One lesson learned is that even 3 months of touring dozens of families doesn’t necessarily yield a correct assumption. I like to think I’m a good life long learner. And I was always discovering new things about Kenyan culture, but one thing this tells me is that perhaps even after several samples and long observations, I may have come to wrong conclusions about what happens in Kenyan culture.

For all my questioning I still think I have come up with some new insights into American culture. I hope to explore those in the coming entries. Stay tuned.

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