What is a GlobeSage?
globe /ɡlōb/ noun. the earth
sage /sāj/ noun. a profoundly wise person
Are you one who never tires of exploring new places? Do you love to travel to different cultures and try new foods? Are you planning your next trip before you even get home from your current adventure? For me, travel never gets old. I'm always itching to go.
Sure, I love to travel, but I strongly believe in tourism that respects the peoples and cultures to which I journey. Cultural intelligence (CQ) is super important to me. I want to grow and learn from those in other cultures rather than thinking I know everything and my way is the best way. I do not want to be an "ugly American" in other nations. I want to be mold-able and grateful. A "globe sage."
When it comes to growing in CQ and learning more about cultures, I am reading several books. One that I read, which impacted my thinking quite a bit, was Culture Map by Erin Meyer. I first heard Meyer speak at the Global Leadership Summit several years ago. Her examples of cultural differences and awareness, which are primarily business and leadership focused, truly opened my mind to an entirely new way of thinking. It was a beginning point for me, I think. Here’s a great clip of her explaining just one aspect of how cultures can be so different from one another.
Those who have not interacted with other cultures throughout their lives or have not given much thought to diverse cultures are more likely to assume that the way they do things is the “normal” and all the other cultures are backwards, wrong, strange, or at the very least, difficult to understand. However, when we start exploring culture more directly and intentionally, we find ourselves beginning to see cultural differences as simply that, differences - not necessarily right or wrong, but instead, merely differences in our cultural norms and the other’s cultural norms. I love this particular TEDx talk that helps describe some common cultural differences and how we interact with and perceive these differences.
You may be asking, “How does this translate to the way I travel and interact with cultures in a more short-term time frame?” I believe that it is on these short-term trips where the cultural intelligence that we develop shapes in us the heart of a learner and curious explorer.We become people that do not bring their culture to another with arrogance, operating under an air of superiority, but instead, we are people who respect differences and embrace the norms of others. When we come with this attitude of humility, not only do we learn more, but we also have the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in an experience of culture without comparison and/or criticism. We find that we enjoy our adventure more AND we are more likely to walk away with some new friends! It also gives us the grace and patience we need to tolerate the tension we feel when experiencing these differences.
Recently, I was in Asia and everywhere I went people were listening to and watching their smartphones without headphones on. There was noise everywhere. People around me were constantly talking on speakerphone or watching movies. My first reaction (the tension in me) was that it was so rude. In my environment back home, people, for the most part, have a need for personal space that apparently includes auditory space. In most cases, we do not want to hear others’ conversations or listen to what they're watching. It infringes on our own ability to watch or listen to what we want to. I found myself being irritated and getting frustrated. Then it dawned on me finally that it was merely a difference in our cultural norms. This “ah-ha” moment allowed me to relax a bit and realize that it had nothing to do with rudeness at all. It was just a norm in this particular country that sound is all around and not necessarily intrusive.
So...how about you? How have YOU observed cultural differences? What tensions have you experienced when you are different from the people around you? What perceptions have you had about them that may have been incorrect?
I believe that when we take the time to ponder these things, we cultivate in ourselves an awareness to view the world with an open mind and an open heart. We enter through the doorways of other cultures with a lens eager to learn instead of to judge, and with that, we are able to unite with people all over the world.
Together, we can be “globe sages” instead of “globe-trotters”. Who’s with me?