Each of us prides ourselves on our worldliness. We have traveled a bit and met and know people from around the globe. But few of us are truly global in our thinking and our understanding. I certainly am not. The truth is we cling to our nationalistic perspectives. It is human nature to see others through the lens of our home cultures.
I get sensitized to this collision of perspectives when I travel. I see the "ugly Americans" who loudly and indifferently run roughshod over their hosts. I also cringe when I see the giant influx of Asian tourists who seem oblivious to the world around them.
For I can be mistaken for either of these groups! Not good.
You have undoubtedly heard about the promulgations from the Chinese government to encourage their citizens who travel to be more polite and respectful. Can you imagine if the US government did this? The videos would become a reality show instead of a teaching moment. But I digress….
Chinese tourism alone accounted for 83 million trips abroad and spending of a dizzying $102 billion up 10000% in 12 years! So before we criticize the Chinese, they are our customers.
So the opportunities and challenges from the increased globalization is seen on both sides. The hosts and the visitors have so much to learn about each other. Both sides have to be more sensitive to their in-sensitivities.
As a funny aside–we visited Scotland, my wife Sarah and I were buying gifts for family and friends. We decided on Scottish wool scarves. Sarah asked the saleswoman where the scarves were made. She said, "If it just says "Made in Scotland" then it is made in China. (Huh?) But if it has a brand label it is probably made in Scotland." She showed us the pricier scarves and whispered, "These are made in Scotland, but they are exactly the same as the Chinese made."
My trip abroad was centered around a couple of speeches I delivered at an international conference of universities held in the UK where representatives from 28 countries and 6 continents attended (no attendees from Antarctica:)! Making sure that my presentation was scrubbed for Americanisms, US references, nationalism was so so much harder than I thought. But it was a mind expanding exercise to question words, examples, jokes, images that would literally translate to a global audience.
I had mind altering conversations about philanthropy and education with people from South Africa, Spain, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece and Australia.
For example, I asked one of the attendees about the "diversity" of the conference. She asked me what I meant. I noticed how ethnically un-diverse the audience looked to me. She pushed back hard. "That is such a US perspective!" We don't think about that type of diversity. We never think about that. We think about nationalities but not ethnicities." Whoa
Everyone I met was so knowledgeable about the US, our politics, culture, and issues. They were all multi-lingual multi-cultural and multi-talented people who seemed to traverse these differences with ease. While I struggled with one language and the ability to remember the location of some of the countries. Talk about a competitiveness complex.
It is always humbling to realize how much I don't know. Without this exposure my view of the world, my globalism, remains myopic and limited.
Yet the whole world faces change and the challenges of addressing that change with agility. That is what we have in common. The issues of career pathing, networking, mentoring, and fulfilling dreams are a very similar human condition around the rock.
I was grateful to have my mind and my network expanded. It taught me how much more I need to stalk global experiences at home and abroad. To strengthen my globalism muscles I need to engage and confront my limited perspective more often.
I learn over and over again. That our networks define us. That the people and ideas that you encounter change you. And by talking to people with the same perspective will always limit you. That there is a global networked brain that we all have access to, but few of us are connected to. The world is literally passing us by. We are only using a small part of our brain. That I have to read more, listen and understand context, and worldview more, to communicate and operate globally. I need to continue to expand my global networked intelligence. How about you?
Thanks for reading. John