Tag Archives: holidays

Being made redundant

When I introduce myself as a ‘culture broker’ at networking meetings, I sometimes get the reaction: ‘ Well, we won’t be needing the likes of you for much longer!  Everyone is travelling abroad so much now that we all get to understand other cultures better.  And besides, everyone speaks English nowadays.’  And then they point to Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Google as global brands which demonstrate how the world has become a much smaller, more familiar, more inclusive place.

Ah, yes, this would be the global understanding and togetherness that has seen the rise of far-right parties in countries previously praised for their egalitarianism and liberalism, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, would it?  Or the openness to other cultures that has led to the strongly incentivised (dare I say ‘forced’) repatriation of Romas from France (and not just France)?  Or the corporate domination of the world by American companies, while the American people have become figures of ridicule or symbols of oppression in many parts of the world? 

So we retreat into our gated communities and tut-tut about the unpleasantness of other countries.  We stick to what we know until we need a bit of sunshine on our holiday.

In the long run, I would certainly like nothing more than for my job to become redundant.  I would like to further cultural awareness and understanding so successfully that I could then retire gracefully.  Here’s to hoping… but, in the meantime, here’s to acting and working and talking about it!

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Enjoying the holidays

Confession time: for the first time in a long while, I was actually sorry to see my children go back to school this morning.  Although my clients, collaborators and other work-related partners will be relieved to see me head back for my computer, coaching sessions and training courses.  Not to mention the relief of my bank account after an income-less week!

Yet I actually enjoyed this half-term holiday, achieved a good combination of external and home-based activities, barely screamed at the children and just relished their remarkably well-behaved, helpful and amusing company.  So what was different?  I suppose the answer was ‘my attitude’.  Instead of looking upon the holidays as a nuisance interruption of my work and forever being with one eye on my Inbox, I deliberately chose to keep my laptop switched off.  I threw myself wholeheartedly into playing, laughing, chatting and doing silly things with the children.  The result?  I felt like I had swallowed some Wonka-Vite pills and turned twenty years younger.

I don’t think the comparison is entirely forced if I say that I felt I had fully embraced their culture and their world, instead of judging them from my grown-up perspective and culture.  I had entered their perception of time (i.e. we have all the time in the world), their concept of value and status (i.e. you may play tennis better, but I have superpowers).   It wasn’t an entirely one-way process either.  We played lots of board games and by winning some and losing some, by crying some and laughing some, we all learnt to cope and move on.  I like to believe that some of my grown-up messages were thus reinforced.

I don’t think that this ‘total immersion’ thing is possible or even desirable all the time, but, while it lasted, it refreshed us all, created even stronger bonds and mutual understanding.  Now, let me think of a way or replicating this in cross-cultural coaching and training…

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What skiing teaches us about life

Just back from a skiing holiday in France and was philosophising about what lessons I have learnt from skiing, particularly skiing with children. 

Skiing (of sorts)

This was my first actual charter skiing holiday and my first time being cooped up with my children in a tiny apartment.  Yet we survived, even had fun and this is what skiing has brought back home to me.

1) It’s often better in retrospect than while you are actually doing it (especially on an icy day with wind, flakes and fog obscuring your view of the piste).

2) You feel like a hero once you have done it. No, I don’t mean the skiing, but the delayed flights, coach transfers, traffic jams, bundling children in and out of clothes, handling tears and tantrums and so on.

3) Children have a love/hate relationship with snow and slippery surfaces.

4) You stop caring about appearances and just want to keep safe and warm.

5) You can eat as much as you like because you feel you are getting more exercise than ever before in your life.

6) No. 5 is actually not quite true and you can put on weight on a skiing holiday.

7) You miss all the skiing events at the Olympics, because you feel like you are in the Olympics (and you are so cut off from the real world, anyway, you might as well be snowed up).

8) Then you get one beautiful day with perfect snow conditions and it’s just you swooshing down the piste in serene silence… and there you have it, complete and utter bliss and the meaning of life all in one.

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