2021.06.22 Cultural Chemistry

Years back, when I first started working with cultural differences, one of my first connections to other counselors in the field was Patti McCarthy.

Compared to Patti, I am a novice. She grew up as a "Third Culture Kid" - not belonging really to where her parents came from, not belonging really to the host country culture. Which culture would that even be when she moved country several times just during her childhood?

I much enjoyed her book "Cultural Chemistry" - and it has a really great tool you can apply right away: Be aware of how you think.

Patti calls it the "4 R model":

  • Rewards
  • Research
  • Reflect
  • Reach Out

What are the Rewards you will gain from a good culturally sensitive interaction compared to if you come across as rigid and "my way or the highway" minded? Reminding yourself that you may be rewarded - or not - is a great motivator for putting effort into becoming more culturally aware.

Where can you find information of what is expected in the culture you are interacting with? (I will obviously refer to the resources page on this website...) Do the Research, it is so worth it.

Reflect on which part of what you have taken in during your Research might best suit the context most relevant to you?
Reflect on what you could have done differently, if what you tried didn't get you the response you had anticipated.

How can you Reach out across the cultural divide to gain locals to be your allies, helping you adjust? How can you Reach out when you need to make repairs? And who else can you Reach out to, to help you not "step in it"?

Not surprisingly, I am all for reaching out to get help from people who have walked in you shoes. But who you should reach out to, depends very much on whether you need a business meeting to be flawless or if you have thought of moving your family to another country.

It also depends whether you have not left home yet - or are already in the midst of culture shock and feel lost. (You would be amazed how much further you will get, if you start with "I am a little lost here, please help me understand...")

Patti's book is full of examples on what may go sideways if you haven't done your research. It is a humorous way to understand the width and depth of what you don't even know you don't know - yet.

Read it, and reach out to Patti - before you make yourself a local anecdote on what not to do.