Copy
The First-Class Postbuzz - Winter 2015 Edition
Greetings from the Editor
With the advancement of globalization, intercultural competence is becoming increasingly integral for effective communication. In our winter issue, we consider the present scholarly definitions of intercultural competence and explore its far-reaching merits from a variety of perspectives. We get an insider’s look into the journeys of the refugees with stories from Hungary and Greece.

We discover how mindfulness can be useful in the training room and learn a key concept in conducting business with the Chinese. We find out how intercultural competence can facilitate challenging situations with international students in school settings. We talk with Dr. Betty Goguikian Ratcliff – a professor of intercultural clinical psychology at the University of Geneva, who shares fascinating insights from her research as well as her work with migrants.

For our member spotlight, Dr. Stefan Kammhuber reveals what it’s like to see his academic theories being put to practice in the real world with his intercultural work. Finally, we pose our 15 thought-provoking questions to Thiagi and, unsurprisingly, get 15 illuminating and entertaining answers back. The common thread connecting the voices featured in the winter issue is that they all provide instances where intercultural competence has not only educated us about others and facilitated communication in challenging situations, but it has also taught us something about ourselves. In the end, isn’t one of the greatest rewards of interacting with people from other cultural backgrounds the opportunity to reflect and to become aware of our own strengths and weaknesses?
 
Happy reading and kindest regards!
Marianna Pogosyan, PhD
Editor-in-Chief

 
Insights from Intercultural Clinical Psychology: An interview with Dr. Betty Goguikian Ratcliff
by Marianna Pogosyan

Dr. Betty Goguikian Ratcliff is the head of the Intercultural and Interpersonal Clinical Psychology Unit at the University of Geneva. She has been working with the migrant population for twenty years, after her studies of psychopathology and mental health of migrants.

Migrant wellbeing is a topic close to her heart not only for professional reasons. Born in Lebanon into an Armenian and Syrian family, she has been calling Geneva her home for the past 35 years. She talked to me about her insights from her research at the front lines of intercultural clinical psychology and her work with migrants, as well as the field of cross-cultural psychology. 

MP: What are some of the common themes and issues that affect the wellbeing of individuals during cultural transitions?

BGR: The most common theme is loss. It depends on the stage where the patient is. During the first stage, people have to understand how the new society works and all the differences that they are confronted with, which include values, attitudes, behaviors, language, religion, and for children - new school systems and family value discrepancies. Then they have to position themselves to find an open door and to build a new network, to build interpersonal relationships and to start being connected - first to a small group, then to a larger group. These are the main challenges.

Other common issues are about adjustment, identity change and behavioral shifts. The most favorable outcome is when people can move smoothly from one cultural frame to another without feeling in conflict, or when they are able to travel mentally from one culture to another by allowing themselves to belong to both cultures.

MP: What can people do to adjust more successfully to other cultures?

BGR: For migrants, the key factor for integration is to learn the local language. Another one is to be exposed to the local culture in order not to struggle with social isolation. To accelerate the process of adjustment they need to have formal and informal contact with the locals. It can be easier for kids, since they are in school and they are more exposed to the local culture through the teachers and their schoolmates. In some cases, mothers stay at home and don’t learn the local language, creating a barrier to integration. 

MP: How are adults and children different in the way they adapt?

BGR: Children adapt easier because they are more flexible and the school is a socialization agent. But when they feel that their parents are having a negative attitude towards their host culture, they may experience cultural gap and conflict. The outcomes of such loyalty conflicts can result in anxiety, depression and other negative emotions. It can be very stressful to feel like you have to be between two cultures that are hostile. Adults, on the other hand, are able to take a metacognitive attitude. They can attach less importance on cultural differences and focus more on universalities and common goals.

They can consider differences as something to learn from. They are not so immediate and more rational. Children try to avoid feeling different. They try to adapt and be like everyone else. Adults can sometimes feel like they want to preserve their differences. They might feel like they are betraying their values if they are adapting to the new culture, so they keep their cultural distance. Cultural adaptation is not a linear process. You are always revisiting your identity. It’s a very individual way of positioning yourself in front of a culture.

MP: Have you noticed any particular personality characteristics that make people more resilient or vulnerable to transition stress?

BGR: Research doesn’t show a direct link between personality traits or individual variables and acculturation outcomes. There are a lot of situational variables that also need to be considered, such as motives for migration, degree of prior knowledge of host language, ethnic attitudes of host society, pre-migratory educational background, health, social support, post-migratory life satisfaction, employment possibilities, expectations or questions like “Why did I move?” and “What are my prospects here?” There are a lot of profiles that are embedded into situational factors that will influence the acculturation process and how people cope with transition.

MP: What has surprised you most from your personal experiences with working with the migrant population?

BGR: I have been working with migrants for 20 years and I feel that they are very strong, courageous and resourceful. When they start to get better and when they start to see the migration as an opportunity more than a loss, they start having a very rich experience. Some of them give a spiritual meaning to difficulties and try to keep their roots alive, seeing them as a source of strength. I am full of admiration for my migrant patients, and I travel mentally with them. They open me to other worlds and other logics. I learn from them and I maintain my own roots.

MP: What advice would you give to our readers to improve their performances as coaches and trainers and become better equipped with helping migrants to transition successfully?

BGR: The two main keys are to learn the local language and to have contact with the locals. Encourage them, have patience and understand that it is a long-term process. Also, it is important at the same time to keep in contact with the country of origin. Bad transitions are those when people think that they are starting a new life. We are never starting a new life. We are continuing our life. We cannot turn the page and say, “I want to forget everything that happened until now.” You have to keep a sense of coherence and a sense of continuity. While language and integration is outer work, keeping a sense of continuity and coherence along with redefining your identity as a multicultural identity is part of the inner work that needs to be done.
 
Betty Goguikian Ratcliff is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Geneva. Her research activities focus on three main topics: intercultural communication and language mediation, acculturation process and adaptation strategies, and the psychopathology of migrants and refugees. Her latest research is oriented toward the issue of women and families in migration, especially perinatal health in relation with psychosocial risk factors.
Intercultural competence, but what is it?
by Dr. Christa Uehlinger 
 
Diversity is on the rise in all fields and intercultural competence is becoming more and more of a buzz word. It is acknowledged widely that intercultural competence, briefly defined as the ability to communicate effectively and appropriately in intercultural situations, is an important requisite, even an indispensable key competence in today’s global and interdependent world. But what exactly is intercultural competence? Do we really know?
 
Figure 1: Intercultural competence - more than sheer knowledge

What is comprised by intercultural competence and the term’s exact definition is still a matter for debate. It is often viewed as a set of cognitive, affective and behavioural skills and characteristics that support effective and appropriate interaction in a variety of cultural contexts. In order to develop intercultural competence knowledge, attitude and behaviour must work together. But again, the definitions of these factors and how they intertwine together is another topic of much debate. There are, however, several commonalities that exist among scholarly thinking:
  • cross-cultural contact and international work does not necessarily lead to intercultural competence and may even be destructive under certain circumstances;
  • knowledge on its own does not equal cultural competence;
  • language learning alone may not be sufficient for intercultural competence.
     
Since the 1990s, various intercultural competence concepts have been proposed. Among the most well known ones are the developmental model of intercultural sensitivity developed by Milton Bennett, the cultural intelligence approach based on the concept of emotional intelligence, as well as the process model of intercultural competence by Darla Deardorff.
 
However, despite attempts to conceptualize intercultural competence, one question remains: why is intercultural competence so elusive and complex?
 
In my view, it has a lot to do with the way people are shaped by their respective cultures, impacting orientation, identity and security. They therefore define their individual cultural comfort zones, i.e. the areas within which, from an individual viewpoint, everything is normal and familiar. Intercultural situations mean encountering what is different and foreign. Things can work completely differently. Security and orientation are called into question as one’s own perspective no longer exclusively defines what is appropriate. This demands an answer to the core questions: How do I, personally, deal with something that is different from what I am used to? Am I really ready to engage with what is different and thereby to extend my cultural comfort zone?

Intercultural competence does not come naturally. Acquiring it means engaging with the other, challenging and adapting one’s own, natural behaviour. It requires not only learning, but an inner developmental process. This cannot be done from one day to the other or through one training only. Achieving intercultural competence requires a life-long continuous, dynamic process of learning which includes self-reflection. How it is done and experienced - if at all - is very individual. This long-term development process is complex, multidimensional and multifaceted. It leads to changes on many levels and may also at times be marked by setbacks. Thus, one wonders if all the existing models and concepts, as helpful as they are, can ever fully facilitate in the mastering of the multiple facets of intercultural competence. Maybe it is not even possible to fully rationalise it.
 
References:
Bennett, Milton J. (1993) Towards Ethnorelativism: A development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. In: Paige, M.R. (Editor) (1993): Education for the International Experience, Yarmouth, p.21-66
Deardorff, Darla (2009) The Sage Handbook of Intercultural Competence. Thousand Oaks
 
Dr. Christa Uehlinger was born and bred in Zurich. She studied law at the University of Zurich. She has worked over 10 years in international business, and has studied intercultural communication at ICI in Portland. She is the founder of Christa Uehlinger Linking People  (www.linkingpeople.ch) and works as an intercultural adviser and teaches intercultural communication. Christa is an author and has lived, worked and traveled throughout Europe, Canada, the US, India, Australia and Asia. She is the President of SIETAR Switzerland.
 
Great expectations: Dealing with power distance
by Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin
 
A few months ago, I got a call from my friend Susan. Susan has been the headmistress of a large school in a popular suburb of Bern for over 15 years. “You deal with all things intercultural – so help me out here,” was her opening statement.

The story was about a 14-year-old student from an Eastern European country. The boy was in big trouble with his form teacher. He was aggressive towards most of his classmates and quite impertinent with the headmistress herself, as well as immune to all kinds of talks. After a particularly nasty incident, the teachers decided to exclude the boy from a school outing. A meeting with the boy’s father was planned, and that’s when Susan called me.

Listening to Susan, another story came to mind. It was told to me during my studies in Intercultural Communication, by a journalist and professor from the same country as the aforementioned boy.

“My family migrated to Germany when I was eight years old,” his story went. “My father took me to school and we were taken to the headmaster’s office. The headmaster asked my father to sit down, and when he offered me a chair as well, I knew that something could not be right in this country. Where I come from, I would have kissed the headmaster’s hand, and we would, of course, have remained standing in front of the headmaster’s desk.”
 
In Switzerland, teachers (I was one myself for many years) are trained to take a participative approach, to explain what they are doing and why, to encourage before correcting and to punish their students only when all else has failed. But in my experience, dealing with students or children from cultures where the power distance is large, this pedagogical approach is often not understood or mistaken for total lack of discipline. In accepting hierarchies and a certain inequality due to a person’s standing in life or in their jobs, people from high-power distance environments can tend to expect hierarchical behaviour, meaning, in this case, that the headmistress was expected to take the “tough boss” attitude of the one who lays down the law.

Susan was convinced. “I’ve suspected for a while now that sometimes I need to take a very definitive stand and let people know exactly who the boss is, even if I’m not an authoritative person and don’t aspire to be one,” she told me.

The meeting with the boy and his father went smoothly. The father’s expectations were met and Susan  left  no doubt about her support of the measures taken by the teachers. The boy was impressed, having witnessed his headmistress calmly informing about the decided punishment – informing, but not discussing the appropriateness of the taken measures.

“This meeting and its positive outcome were a confirmation of many considerations of the past years,” Susan confessed later. “It has just taken me ten years to put them into practice, and take an authoritarian stance when it’s expected of me – and I regret not having talked to an interculturalist long before.”
 
Sibylle Ganz-Koechlin was born in Basel, the tri-state area of Switzerland. She spent her first four years of school in five schools on two continents. What later became known as “interculturality” was her reality - a mindset that has defined her ever since. She feels lucky to have made her passion to her job. www.trainingthetrainers.ch
 
Cultivate empathy for others – an ordinary “win – win” story
by Ruedi Hänssler
 
I met Achmet 3 years ago in Greece. Nineteen years old, charming and with an excellent command of the Greek language, he took care of horses.

He left his home in Northern Pakistan at the age of 14 in search of a better life. After three months of adventurous travel through Afghanistan, Iran, Northern Iraq, Turkey, his unbelievable journey ended in Markopoulos near Athens.

Achmet overcame nights under open skies, hunger, thirst, warzones, two detentions in Iraqi prisons. How does a 14-year-old deal with such ordeals?

I came to find out during the past three years while working at the stables. From the first day of our encounter, Achmet asked me if I could teach him English. And so we started to converse in English.

We spent hours upon hours conversing together. Achmet eagerly learning English – me listening to all his compelling narratives. Narratives about his journey through the Near East and escaping the terror of the Taliban. Within three years, he perfected his English to the level of a “plus B.”

I gained ample knowledge about his culture. Ramadan, amongst others, became an integrated part of our friendship, to the point of my wife joining him in this ritual. The sword of Damocles as an illegal in Greece hung above him on a daily basis. Getting caught by the Greek Police would have meant detention center or prison. In search for solutions, I visited the Pakistani and Swiss Embassies, Greek lawyers – all to no avail. My wife suggested adopting Achmet as a further solution.

In August Achmet informed us that he was determined to migrate to central Europe to better his status. We tried to discourage him due to the risks of people smugglers and dangerous boat trips.

“You know, Mr. Rudi I just need to do this” he replied.

At the end of September we received a phone call from excited Achmet.

“Mr. Rudi, I am in Paris! The trip in a containership from Thessaloniki to Italy and to France by train went fine. Thank you so much for teaching me English. I could communicate with everyone, even with some French people in Paris.”

Beginning of October there was another call from Achmet.

“Mr. Rudi, you told me about the importance of speaking languages. I am sitting here in a French language class. I am so happy now. If I pass the French language test, I shall receive an official paper and I am allowed to stay for one year, work and get a salary”.

He admitted that he had to lie in order to get into the language school.

“I told them that I was only 19,  not 22. I am sorry Mr. Rudi, but I had to lie because they admit only children up until 20-years-old into this school.”

I had to smile, remembering our discussions about common values between his Muslim and our Christian backgrounds. To tell lies, we concluded, was a no-no on both sides of the aisle. He must have felt embarrassed to admit how he got into this French language school.
He taught me a lot about his culture and life in Pakistan while I’ll continue to help him along his journey and quest for a better life.

“You know Mr. Rudi, I shall not disappoint you and you will be proud of me,” rings in my ears after our last conversation a few days ago.
 
Achmet building Kites – Author in background
Photo Credit: Ruedi Haenssler

Ruedi Haenssler is a Swiss citizen born in Bern. He did his military service in the Swiss Air Force as a pilot and spent 44 years with Swissair in General Management, working and representing his employer in 21 different countries. His passions include travel, reading, music and horses. He works regularly on cattle ranches in the US, trains and rides horses in Greece where he and his wife live at present.
 
How intercultural competence helped me to run a project for refugees – Impressions from Röszke
by Angela Weinberger

When I ask Zarah for her name, we instantly connect.

“Can we help you, Madam?”

I have to laugh. She laughs with me. Zarah is a young refugee offering to help me bring an IKEA bag with men’s shoes into the distribution center. She is wearing a top that indicates that she likes to go clubbing. It’s probably a donation she received from previous night’s interim camp in Serbia. Today she made it into the European Union. She is with her husband. They beam at me.
 
I go inside the white tent. She has to stay behind the table. She needs a warmer shirt - size 36, I assume. There is little chance that I find a fitting top right away, but I find a sweater that she is happy with. Later, I see her again. Her English is fluent. I distribute scarves and hats. Being an intercultural coach, I don’t ask a lot of questions. Knowing her name helps me to find her in the crowd again. I learned in India to build relationships by asking people for their names.
 
The men at the counter call me “friend.” I am careful not to give a flirtatious impression. I try to differentiate their faces, holding up pants too big or too small until I find a pair of pregnancy pants. The young man says, “Yes!” and laughs. It’s the first one that fits after I held up about five pairs. I pull out a sweater, which looks a perfect fit for a stronger young man. He smiles at me as I tell him, “This is your style.”
 
I leave the distribution center because it is too crowded. I walk with my torch between the storage and distribution tents to deliver goods. Every time when my IKEA bags are empty, I go back to refill them with sleeping bags, mats, tents and blankets. I hand out soft blankets to men one at a time. We don’t want waste. Everyone is grateful.
 
The interim camp in Röszke welcomes refugees crossing the Serbian boarder. After they walk for another five kilometers, they arrive and are given food, tea and a chance to rest. Most of the refugees look tired but well groomed, considering what they have been through. With the little Arabic that I learned over many years, I make them smile.
 
This was the first time I was helping the refugees in such a direct manner. I did not really know what I was getting into. I was careful not to get overwhelmed. I took breaks when I needed them. What I learned about myself is that I have resilience and empathy. In my view, these are among the critical components of intercultural competence. Language skills help too. Based on previous crisis experiences, I know my mental and physical limits and have learned to cope with stress. I kept calm even when we were not admitted into our accommodation. I also drove the van through the tiny streets of Budapest and back home to Zurich. 
 

Angela Weinberger is a Global Mobility Expert and Intercultural Coach. She has worked in Human Resources and Global Mobility during her corporate career. Angela founded 
Global People Transitions in 2012. She recently published “The Global Mobility Workbook - A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing International Assignments”

Photo Credit: Gabrielle Tan 
Looking through the bamboo curtain - when a contract is not a contract
by Christina Kwok
 
The ability to adopt an international style of communication and demonstrate deep cultural understanding when participating in cross-cultural business negotiations can make the difference between a successful outcome or one of failure, with resultant effects on reputation and competitive positioning. As companies continue to look east for new business, the lure of the Middle Kingdom’s exploding economy and ballooning consumer demand can exert an irresistible pull. Below is a recount of an interview I conducted with the Managing Director of a manufacturing firm in Shanghai after they had signed a sales contract with a Chinese company.
 
Case study
Two years ago, I interviewed the Managing Director of a British-owned subsidiary firm Jupiter Ltd (name changed) that manufactures conveyor belting in China for coal mines. With  factories located in Shanghai, sales offices in the north and northwest of China and 300 personnel, this company boasts a small annual turnover of  RMB 400 million (USD 65 million) for its Chinese operations. Most of its customers are state-owned coal mining companies in inner Mongolia, ShanXi, Anhui and Shantong. With 100 competitors worldwide, Jupiter has positioned itself successfully as a boutique supplier of precision engineering solutions customized to the safety needs of dangerous and demanding work conditions.
 
Managing Director, Ben, an overseas Chinese, leads a small management team of well-educated professionals. Ben related that Jupiter once signed a contract with a state-owned customer to sell goods and services for RMB 40 million (USD 6.5 million) over a year’s duration. The terms of the contract were rather vague and the customer did not make any purchases during the year.  
 
Questions to think about: 
  1. Why would the Chinese sign an ambiguous contract like this?
  2. Why would Jupiter agree to signing a vague contract that does not lay out precisely what equipment the customer would order, and when?
A deeper analysis suggested that for the Chinese, the contract merely signaled the intention of having a business relationship and it was up to Jupiter to develop the relationship so that the customer was ready to buy.  In other words, the ‘real sale’ was to come after the sale, a test of how skilfully Jupiter builds and develops ‘guanxi’ (a serious network of relationships) to ultimately result in a sale.
 
Although a new supplier had been chosen by Procurement, Production continued buying from the incumbent supplier who had built  strong ‘guanxi’. After doing a lot of informal questioning, Jupiter found a suitable intermediary to help launch an appropriate campaign of successful ‘guanxi building’. Needless to say, the intermediary was handsomely paid. Resorting to legal action would only have backfired and would be seen by the Chinese as lack of mutual trust and goodwill, the foundation stone for any strong business relationship.
 
The lesson learned from my interview was that in order to have success with signing contracts with the Chinese, it is necessary to build a serious web of connections, and to navigate these connections by doing a lot of informal digging. When things are not going well, building guanxi will remedy the situation, as will asking for favors, reciprocating favors, and occasionally, even buying guanxi to find your way around. The role of intercultural competence in negotiating business contracts with the Chinese becomes essential in realizing that having the best product at the best price alone doesn't guarantee a successful conclusion to a business deal even with a signed contract. The signed contract is just a formality and other dynamics of guanxi building need to be at play for things to come to fruition. The Chinese want to do business with people they like and trust, which is not sufficiently evidenced in a signed contract alone.
 
Christina Kwok is an intercultural skills, Global Leadership Trainer and speaker. She helps diverse teams weld radically different perspectives into a unified team effort. She has worked with diverse organizations such as Zurich Insurance, UBS, and industrial firms to develop key communication skills for a global business environment. Her company is called www.cross-culturalsynergies.com.
 
14th IACCM Annual Conference 2015 and 7th CEMS/IACCM Doctoral Workshop
by Peter M. Nielsen
 
Attending the IACCM and SIETAR Austria conference in Vienna in October was both interesting and inspiring. There was a lot of talk about needing to focus on moving away from people’s country profiles and using nationality as an identifier. There were also workshops focusing on differences between generation X and Y/millennials, in particular how the millennial generation is already culturally competent, hinting at perhaps putting less importance on cultural education.
 
While I agree with the need to look beyond nationality as an identifier, and hope that we practitioners already do so when we facilitate, I am still not convinced that we have moved so far in cross-cultural competence as to warrant a complete change in how we look at culture. As this change in focus is linked specifically to the millennials, I will also allow myself to question whether the millennials are indeed generally culturally competent. I believe it takes a lot more than a semester or two abroad in a university setting to become truly culturally competent.
 
However, what I see as much more important is how we practitioners bring our skills and ourselves into the training room. One of the presentations at the IACCM conference, led by Doris Hartl, was on how we can use mindfulness in cross-cultural settings. In her session Doris Hartl offered that in our rationally determined and skills-focused intercultural environment we tend to neglect one crucial aspect: emotions. We look at cognitive and behavioural dimensions, but may forget to explore and examine the underlying emotions, especially those of our present participant(s). The inclusion of a mindfulness-based approach into our trainings initiates self-exploration, and with the assistance of a competent practitioner it allows individuals to fully connect with their self-constructed universe of thoughts and emotions – conscious as well as (previously) unconscious ones. Thus, if used carefully and consciously by the practitioner, mindfulness serves as an effective dimension in the training room.
 
The presentation on mindfulness resonated strongly with me because it really drove home the importance of being more than a facilitator when dealing with people in transition. Can we as practitioners say that we don´t judge or stereotype? Are we constantly questioning the questions we get, taking a step back and trying to understand the underlying cultural foundations or emotions behind these questions? Is my response to these questions founded in my own cultural make-up? Are we able to practice the art of “non-judgmental awareness” which is at the heart of mindfulness?
 
Interestingly, after Doris Hartl’s session I went to a workshop where the facilitator’s clear lack of mindfulness led to less than favorable outcomes for some of the participants, because she was more keen on sticking to her agenda rather than “feeling” the room and meeting the participants where they were – which in this case was in an emotional state far from ideal. She simply left them hanging. And I left the conference convinced that mindfulness could well be considered as an integral part of intercultural competence, especially if we make sure we introduce it in our training rooms. 
 
Peter Nielsen is an experienced cross-cultural facilitator and coach working primarily with expatriates, partner coaching, as well as cross-cultural group facilitation. Peter is from Denmark and has lived in Switzerland since 2002. Peter's company is called CoachingOurGlobe.
 
Impressions from the Culture Pop-Up on 22 October 2015
Read the full post on www.sietar.ch:
Impressions from the Culture Pop-Up on 22 October 2015
Member Spotlight
On the tightrope of research and practice in the intercultural profession:
Dr. Stefan Kammhuber
by Marianna Pogosyan
 
When Stefan Kammhuber and I sat down for our interview, he had just returned from a trip to Russia. I took it for a good sign. We had never met before that October morning, but we already had one thing in common besides our profession – our appreciation of St. Petersburg. By the end of the interview, I discovered even more common ground. Notably, how intercultural competence is not only about harnessing cultural sensitivities, but also about realizing that there is always something to learn from each other.
 
Dr. Stefan Kammhuber is an intercultural psychologist. His interest in culture’s influence on human behavior started during his studies with Prof. Alexander Thomas at the University of Regensburg. After traveling through Asia with Professor Thomas and writing his doctoral thesis on intercultural trainings, Dr. Kammhuber was left fascinated by the impact that the intercultural profession can have in the world. Presently, he performs many different functions in the field of intercultural psychology, dancing on a tightrope between research and the application of theory in the real world.

As a professor of Applied Sciences in Rapperswil School of Technology, where he is the head of the Institute of Communication and Intercultural Competence, he researches and teaches intercultural communication to students with engineering backgrounds. As a consultant and a trainer, his voice reaches a much wider audience. He has worked with the German military, refugee counselors, managers and expatriates. He has given workshops at hospitals about how to work effectively with culturally diverse teams of doctors and he has helped companies to become more globalized. In all instances of his involvement with the field, Stefan Kammhuber’s focus is on the intercultural encounter.

He keeps his intercultural toolbox brimming with insights from his research nearby, as it always comes in handy when he needs to understand the inner logic of his clients and find creative solutions for their cross-cultural challenges.

There is a lot to like about his work, which appears rich, multifaceted, and never boring. For Dr. Kammhuber, the favorite part of his job is meeting new people and the fact that he never stops learning. The possibility to have our feet dipped in both research and the field where the research can be applied may prove as a great advantage in any profession. For those of us whose work involves the understanding of culture’s impact on communication, it can be particularly rewarding. After all, examining the same question from different angles and contexts will undoubtedly ameliorate our understanding of it.

I asked him what he thought the main purpose of our professions in the intercultural field was.
“To facilitate human understanding in our complex world,” he replied. It’s not a small feat, given that the main prize riding on the coattails of mutual understanding is peace. “When we can put ourselves into the other person’s shoes and look at the world through their eyes, if we are able to show ourselves each other’s attitudes and explain the reasons behind them, then it is easier to reach a goal. We are there to organize this process and to help better understand the individuals behind the attitudes. We are there to acknowledge that we share some things on the individual level.”

When it was time for the final question, I asked him if he thought human beings around the world were more different or more similar.
“Both at the same time!” he exclaimed with a warm Bavarian chuckle. “People share the same fundamental needs around the world. The approach to getting those needs fulfilled, on the other hand, may be different.”
We said goodbye, in Russian for that matter, but not before Dr. Kammhuber reminded me of Kluckhohn’s fitting words: “Every man is in certain respects like all other men, like some other men, like no other man.”
 
Dr. Stefan Kammhuber  (*1970 in Wuerzburg, Germany) is Professor at the HSR School of Technology Rapperswil, University of Applied Sciences Eastern Switzerland. He is heading the ikik-Institute for Communication and Intercultural Competence at HSR. Stefan graduated in Psychology and Speech Communication from the University of Regensburg, Germany. Since then, he is doing applied research as well as consulting, training, and coaching in the realms of intercultural learning and cooperation as well as organizational communication and rhetoric.
15 Questions featuring Thiagi
1. What was your childhood dream?
To live in a chalet in the Swiss Alps, This dream was inspired by reading the English translation of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi.

2. What is your favorite book?
As a child, in addition to Heidi, books by Enid Blyton. Right now, murder mysteries with settings around the world.

3. Who has influenced you most in your life?
Mr Narayanaswami, my third grade teacher, who believed in active, interactive learning.

4. How do you relax?
Reading, writing, and doing magic.

5. Where do you feel most at home?
In Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Neftenbach, Switzerland; and Chennai, India

6. What is your favorite word in a foreign language and what does it mean?
Grüezi. I don’t know exactly what it means, but it makes my Swiss friends smile.

7. What is your favorite music?
Tamil movie pop tunes composed by AK Rahman.

8.Who inspires you?
Critical thinkers who have scientific rigor and a playful attitude.

9. How do you define success?
In my field of training, ensuring that the participants in my workshops outperform me and my expectations.
10. What is your favorite quote by a famous person?
Take playful things seriously and serious things playfully. - Anonymous

11. How would the people closest to you describe you?
I once asked several of my close friends to describe my core traits as a part of a Positive Psychology activity. Here are their descriptive terms: creative, curious, playful, generous, humorous, and continuously learning.

12. How do you motivate people?
By emphasizing the personal value of what they are doing. By giving people choices. By encouraging collaboration. By putting people in a flow state by matching the difficulty level of the task with the competency level of the performer.

13. What does leadership mean to you?
Serving others. Also, discovering and nurturing human universals among the members of a diverse team.

14. Describe happiness in three words. (List three things that make you happy.)
  1. Fulfillment. Being able to use and share my talents.
  2. Positivity. Looking at the bright side of things.
  3. Gratitude. Being thankful to others for helping me become what I am today.
15. What is your favorite part of your job?
Conducting training workshops around the world and discovering how the participants enjoy the interactivity and how they apply what they learned immediately and sustained fashion.
Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan makes a decent living by playing games and encouraging others to play games to improve their personal and professional performance. Born in Chennai, India, Thiagi now lives in Bloomington, Indiana and travels around the world conducting interactive training workshops.
 
Impressum:

"The First-Class Postbuzz" - Winter 2015 Edition

First published as an electronic magazine on 2 December 2015.
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2015. Individual contributors have the copyright for their article.
c/o Dr. Christa Uehlinger, Stadthausstrasse 77, CH-8400 Winterthur.

Editor-in-Chief: Marianna Pogosyan, PhD
Setting & Layout: Angela Weinberger
Photo Credits: Dr. Christa Uehlinger (unless other name is mentioned)
Publisher: SIETAR Switzerland
Responsible: Marianna Pogosyan, PhD
Queries: welcome@sietar.ch

All rights reserved. No reproduction without prior written permission.
Copyright © SIETAR Switzerland, 2015