Back to the Future!

I arrived this week back to my adopted home country of Ireland.

In August, after I hosted a tech conference in Florida, I enjoyed most of the remainder of the month with my family.  (In the photo below I am with my sister, nieces and yes, my 8-year-old daughter Lulu was also happily in tow.)

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So we were back in the US. In the heartland of Indiana. My birth state.  And, incidentally, the home state of Governor Mike Pence, the running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

It’s probably no surprise then, that I was surrounded by a forest of Trump/Pence 2016 yard signs.  The only Hillary Clinton sign I saw was in the form of an “I’m with Her” bumper sticker on the back window of a Ford that also had an “IRELAND” emblem on the bumper. Go figure.

Other American things of note I witnessed during our month-long stay at my parents’ peaceful lake-front home were:

1. Whopperrito: Since I’ve lived overseas almost a decade now, I am constantly teased about America’s obesity problem and many restaurants’ large portion persistence.  Enter this summer’s new offering from Burger King. It’s part Whopper, part burrito. Get it?  I swear I only saw the commercial. I have not sampled one. I promise!

2. No gun signs: Although tragic school shootings occurred when I lived in the US, (I covered Columbine for CNN, for example), the frequency and numbers have increased since I have been gone.  For the first time, this summer, I noticed signs prohibiting guns had gone up.  On grocery stores, restaurants, and here at the doctor’s office where I was visiting an ENT to examine my vocal chords (which are fine, by the way).  When I previously posted this photo on Facebook, an Italian friend asked, “Do they really think this sign would stop someone?”

3. Software for Marching Bands:  If you don’t know about summer band camp, you’re probably not an American! I once played clarinet and then was part of the flag troupe. Now, my high school-aged cousin, Meghan, who came to visit, is an awesome trumpet player in LaPorte, Indiana.  But the routines she has been practicing with her band, look NOTHING like the lame marching around we used to do.  Bands these days are highly choreographed affairs looking more like Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance! And, guess, what? There’s 3D software to help the directors guide the band members in formation.  Of course there is.  Take a look at this and I bet you’ll marvel the same way I did when Meghan showed me.

4. English usage tweaks: Here in Ireland, we put our groceries in “trolleys.” In the US, we pop things in a “cart.” We ask the waiter for directions to the “restroom” at an American café, but we’re more direct here in Ireland asking plainly for the “toilet.”  For back to school supplies, your American child may want a few new “erasers” while here in Ireland, I find myself giggling like a teenager when my daughter says she needs new er, “rubbers.” That’s right. That’s what the kids call erasers here. No, I don’t know if it’s the same usage for condoms. Let’s move on.

5. Tesla: I am thrilled to say I drove my first Tesla this summer.  A top-of-the-line “Model X” that my brother-in-law ordered three years ago.  It was amazing. So amazing, in fact, I’ll write more about that experience later. Stay tuned.

6. Songbirds.  Here in Ireland, I always smile when I see the cheery flicker of a Pied Wagtail. In Indiana as my mom and daughter sprinkled seeds on the deck even in summer, I welcomed being reminded of the cute chickadees, soft-grey tufted titmice and upside-down nuthatches that I had enjoyed as a child.

7. Tornadoes.  On Wednesday, August 24, Lulu and I were shopping at Hamilton County Town Center when the area’s tornado sirens went off – which mean a funnel cloud has been spotted. I grew up in Indiana so I’m used to these.  Lulu was frightened to tears.  A record-setting EIGHT tornadoes touched down that day. Many buildings were destroyed, but Governor Mike Pence (him again!) said it was a miracle that no one was killed or badly hurt. The power of nature always awes me. (This photo was taken by a family friend on that record-setting day.)

8. Lake swimming.  Here in Ireland, we’re surrounded by the bracing, icy waters of the sea.  It was a pleasure to relax and float in the much warmer water of Morse Reservoir after my brother, Brad, (who is a real-life yacht captain based in Florida, joined us the first week and took the helm of my step-dad’s speedboat) finished whipping Lulu and her cousin, my sister’s young daughter, around on the raft.

9. Family.  The hardest part about living overseas is that we’re far away from family. Thankfully we all gathered together.  Mom, step-dad, my sister and brothers and their partners. Cousins. Nieces and even my 101-year-old incredibly independent Aunt Neatie.  We talked, ate, drank, and laughed. Like family should.

(Grammie, Lulu, Grampa – on the lake, of course!)

And now, we’re back in our adopted home of Cork, Ireland.  And it’s back to work for me.

Back to meetings: I had a great one Tuesday with the head of finance of a major multi-national.

Back to news analysis:  I was on air Wednesday on national radio discussing Donald Trump’s surprising visit with Mexico’s president.

Back to speaking engagements: Next week, I’ll be part of a Dublin photo shoot to promote the national Network Ireland Awards event I’m excited to be a part of.

And today, my 8-year-old daughter, Lulu, goes back to school.  As she’s starting third grade,

it’s a “back” that’s actually a “forward.”

And that’s how I like to look at my own life.  Yes, holidays are over and it’s “back to work” but it’s also an opportunity to “move things forward!”

So, I’ll fondly remember the songbirds, boating on the lake and my family. And embrace the fun I’m embarking on now.  Hope you do too!

Now, get back to work!

Kindly, Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

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Postcards from the US: Do the Irish toss rocks and roll cheese?

“I know the Irish toss rocks, right?”

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Cesar put this question to me yesterday when I mentioned I lived in Ireland. “That’s like one of their big sports.”

“What?!” I replied, shaking my head and laughing.

“I saw it on TV. A bunch of guys with red beards so I figured they must have been Irish,” the 27-year-old explained.  “And cheese rolling too. Great big flat wheels of cheese. But then again, maybe they were Swiss. The cheese and the people. I don’t know. I saw it on ESPN.  So it has to be something.”

“Listen,” I was practically rolling and gasping at this point, “I don’t know where to begin. I know a bit about the GAA (Ireland’s sports league, the Gaelic Athletic Association) but outside of hurling I haven’t heard of rock tossing as an Irish national sport. And you’re on your own on the cheese bit.”

Cultural exchange

For me, the best part of traveling is not the new architecture, foods or landscapes, but meeting new people.

Anyone. My Haitian-born taxi driver, Louis, who is now an American citizen but reached Miami on a boat in 1997 with 146 other people fleeing the chaos of their country.

Luciana, my Diplomat Resort Hotel concierge who upgraded me to a suite and whose father was an Argentine diamond miner. Before he died, he made an exquisite ring embedded with six pea-sized diamonds that she proudly wore and that I admired.  I also commented on her name and she shared that her mother was from Italy. Since I lived in Tuscany for three years, we enjoyed a quick chat in Italiano.

Luciana’s incredible kindness radiated in such a way you hardly noticed the six-inch scar winding along the left side of her neck from the cancer surgery she endured last year. She teaches grade school children how to recycle and take better care of the environment in her spare time and was recently named one of her county’s 100 “Outstanding Women” for her work with the schools and with the Boys and Girls Club.

When you ask new people about themselves, you get a chance to be informed andinspired.

And, in the case of Cesar, you sometimes get a chance to have a cultural exchange.

As my audio technician, this guy was already more familiar with me than many people – since the lavaliere microphone I wore for the global tech conference I was hosting – had its cord connected to a receiver attached to a black Velcro garter that Cesar fastened high around my right thigh.

I thought it only fair that I get to know him a bit better too.

First off, when I asked how he preferred to have his name pronounced, he said he didn’t mind.  He gets it both ways.  His mother, who is from the Dominican Republic, calls him “Say-zar” while his American father calls him “See-zir.”

He spent the first 17 years of his life in the D.R., and moved over to South Florida to go to college and to live near his dad who came back to the US after he split with Cesar’s mom.

With three brothers and a sister, Cesar is the baby.  Teasing, I asked him which sibling is his least favourite.  At first he smiled as if he might divulge a story, but after the momentary hesitation he diplomatically declared he liked them all equally.

Who will he vote for?

He also declared he had a great interest in the upcoming presidential election. Yes, he’s registered.  He is planning to vote.

He and a lot of his young male friends were Bernie Sanders supporters during the primaries.  They especially liked Sanders’ pledge to tackle college debt.

Now he’s not sure what he’ll do.  He said he can’t believe the things that keep coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth. But he doesn’t trust Hillary Clinton.

I asked him to tell me one thing he really liked to do – besides watching rock tossing on ESPN – and he revealed he shared my passion for travel.

Cesar was curious to learn more about Ireland.

“The Irish drink a lot, don’t they?” he fired off. 

“Many enjoy the odd pint,” I demurred.

“Can you do an Irish accent?!”

He really pressured me on this one, cajoling me with a string of “C’mon’s!” and “Just try’s”. But even after living for nearly two years in my adopted country, the fact that there are so many variations of dialects combined with the other fact that I’m just no good at imitations helped me manage to duck his repeated request.

He also asked me about the weather in Ireland.  In South Florida, we were coming off of a couple of pounding thunderstorms.  I told him it rains like that a lot in Ireland.

“That’s okay,” he brightly replied. “I like the rain.”

“It also averages about 15-17 degrees Celsius which is about 60 Fahrenheit.”

“Oh,” said my new Dominican Republic-American friend,” That’s too cold.”

So for now, anyway, Cesar may continue to learn about Ireland through TV. But perhaps I can recommend the National Geographic Channel in place of ESPN.

P.S. Should I tell him about Irish road bowling??

Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved. 

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Throughout August while I’m back in the USA, I’ll be writing postcard portraits of people I meet.  Their perspectives on life, Ireland and the US Presidential election.

Please Follow me and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

 

Star Spangled Spanner

I’ve lived outside the US for several years and often write about my cultural, business and gastronomical experiences in other countries.  It’s with great pleasure then, that I put a different spin on things today – and share a perspective on my own country through the writing of my dear Irish friend and newspaper columnist Suzanne Brett. july 4 #3

(and if you’d like to read her column as it appears in the on-line version of the Cork Independent, click here!) 

After enjoying a few hours of premier class treatment, I again touched down on American soil last week after an absence of a few years. Like so many others, I’ve endured a heavy dose of Celtic Tiger blues but I’m beginning to feel like I’m in remission.

Anyway, myself and G, (my very well connected American bestie, who’d accompanied me and arranged the whole shebang) quickly checked into our hotel, changed into our glad rags and grabbed a cab.

Security was tight as we approached the residence (hint – it’s completely painted white) and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive but also a lot excited.

The scene was so surreal. Only a few hours earlier I’d been elbow deep in laundry back home in Cork and now here I was, dressed to the nines, sat in the back of a taxi watching as US security personnel, using those mirror on a stick thingies, checked out the undercarriage of the car.

And by the way girls, I’d be lying if I said I’d have taken offence to these lads checking out my actual undercarriage … if you know what I mean. But I digress.

After examining our invitations and passports, checking us off against their list and confiscating our phones, the cab was finally waved through and we made our way up the beautiful winding driveway. Everything was pruned, landscaped and shaped to perfection.

It was kind of everything I’d expected it to be from years of watching programmes like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The West Wing’. Those Americans certainly know how to impress, I’ll give them that.

G was taking it all in her stride and remained utterly un-phased by the entire adventure. Granted though, she’s a past master at this kind of thing having actually sat down and interviewed Clinton and Bush among others over the years. However, she handled me with consummate skill and ease and any feelings I had of being the country bumpkin visiting ‘the big shmoke’ were entirely my own, as she couldn’t have been more supportive and understanding of my awestruck-ness.

Being 4 July, the event we’d been invited to was taking place on the back lawn, and as much as I was desperate to have a nose around inside, I knew it wasn’t going to happen on this occasion. We were escorted around the side of the house and invited to partake of the spread of different foods and beverages sourced from the fifty states of the Union.

As I enjoyed a glass of delicious Kentucky bourbon (and I don’t even drink whiskey) and munched on a New York burger I simultaneously made small talk with the Kenyan Ambassador.

In between bites and sips, I was introduced to captains and captainesses of industry, all of whom seemed to have Irish connections of one kind or another. And pretty soon I started to feel like I actually belonged in such rarefied company and august surroundings.

I finally realised I’d become separated from G and in the process of searching for her, I happened to bump into a charming man who introduced himself before asking if I was enjoying myself.

We got to chatting and spent a wonderful half hour before he excused himself and disappeared into the crowd, shaking hands with people as he went.

The following day I Googled the names of some of the people I’d met. Finally, I searched Kevin O’Malley, the lovely gentleman I’d chatted with, just to see if he was anyone of note.

I really don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling I experienced on discovering he’s the American Ambassador to Ireland!

And me, having spent the evening in his beautiful Phoenix Park residence and enjoying his hospitality without so much as a go raibh maith agat! #Cringe #Gobdaw

Thanks, Suzanne! We had great fun, (or “craic” as you Irish would say), didn’t we?!  Let’s do it again next year!

Gina

I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com

Welcome to Ireland! Or, er, Failte!

We’re one week into our new home here in Cork, Ireland and it’s funny how the more things are the same, the more they seem different.

We now live in Ireland!
We now live in Ireland!

It’s called the Emerald Island for a reason.   You might think a simple color would not be enough to market an entire country, but as Lulu and I looked out upon the landscape stretched out before us as the bus drove us to the coastal village of Crosshaven, the word “green” is what kept coming to mind.

Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.
Greetings from Crosshaven, Cork County, Ireland.

“It’s like Indiana,” Lulu said, reminded of my rural home state where we spent much of this summer getting reacquainted with family.

What with its cows and farms and pastures, indeed it does.

And yet it doesn’t.

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The architecture is different.  You’ll see fewer wood frame homes here and most are slathered in a gravelly cement coating.  Grey seems to be the predominant color with neighborhoods accentuated by a few bright creamy yellows.

Unlike Paris with a patisserie on every corner or Tuscany with a trattoria or pizzeria on the same; here on every corner blooms a pub.

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Just a few of Ireland's assorted pubs
Just a few of Ireland’s assorted pubs

The interesting names painted on the signs outside may vary but the interiors are relatively the same. There are cozy, dark wood tables and chairs, and a collage of photos, paintings or other knickknacks covering the walls.  Menus so far seem heavy on things fried.   I haven’t had a salad in over a week but I have had plenty of cod and chips.

A sneak-peek inside this pub.
A sneak-peek inside this pub.
The "pickleback" is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice.  They tell me it's terrific. I wouldn't know!
The “pickleback” is a shot of Jameson Irish Whiskey with a shot of pickle juice. They tell me it’s terrific. I wouldn’t know!

As for the language: “Everyone speaks singy-English and says ‘Grand.’” Lulu has observed.

I can read every billboard and every newspaper. I can overhear conversations in the pub and understand them. The words don’t blur into a faint white noise like when we lived in Italy.

Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte
Our new apartment in Cork, Ireland! Failte

We moved into our new apartment a week ago today. It’s tiny but cozy and within easy walking distance to Lulu’s new school.  We had a nice visit the first evening from our landlord Liam, who, like every Irishman I have met so far, is a very easy-going and humorous person.  Having an enjoyable conversation – even when it is mainly about the heating, washing machine and other apartment things – is so much easier when you speak the same language.

In the short single school week Lulu has attended so far, she has already gone to a birthday party and had two separate play dates.  I have already been invited to go out with some of the moms this Friday to a chic trendy restaurant on the River Lee named Electric.

The people here are so kind and cheery, we make friends just by saying, “Hello.”

The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.
The friendly singer busker downtown in Cork.

And yet, the ease with which it is all happening makes me pang a little for the rush of being in Italy.  There, I felt an extra sense of accomplishment after even the littlest exchange or transaction I managed successfully.  I sort of miss it.  There are no extra points for clearing the language barrier for me now. 😉

Hmm.  It has been unusually sunny every day since we have arrived.  I better wait until the legendary Irish rain arrives before I am convinced there will be no major challenges here.

Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?
Lulu asked why they sell sun screen in Ireland since it rains here all the time?

As my lovely Italian friends would say, “Piano, piano” – take it slowly.   Or as my Irish friends might say, “Tis no bother at all.”

Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!
Lulu and the zip line at the park in Crosshaven, Ireland. Wheee!

No matter where you are. Another day presents opportunity for another little adventure.

To adventures great and small.

Gina

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

Nigeria Diary: The questions I am getting

Besides the ubiquitous, “How do you find your time here in Nigeria?” which I answer at least half a dozen times each day, some probing souls are asking me more pointed questions.

Questions like, “How can you relate to us as a white?”

I believe there are always ways to find common ground.
I believe there are always ways to find common ground.

“Don’t you think policies in the West will not work here?”

Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!
Sharing ideas and experiences .. can be fun!

As someone who has worked and trained –and even lived – in a variety of places like Indonesia, Cambodia, Tunisia and Egypt, I welcome each and every question from each and every person.   I am never offended when someone is straightforward and honest.  It’s through the questions, that I can learn more about the person and find ways to overcome his or her concerns.

So, for the record, here are some of the questions and my answers I am receiving here in Nigeria.

  1. How can you relate to us as a white?   It’s more than obvious that my skin color is lighter than most everyone I meet here in Lagos. For example, I sat in service yesterday at a parish of Africa’s fastest growing church, The Redeemed Christian Church of Christ.  Did I say “sat?!

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I meant to say, I “stood, danced, sang and shimmied” for four hours! The meeting was a party. An encouraging celebration of each other and God.  I loved all of it.  And yes, I was the only pinky-skinned lady in the hall.  After the service, a young man interviewed me for his blog – asking how I got started with my career.  I offered some relationship and networking strategies – telling him to make sure to keep in close contact with his favorite professors after he graduates. He hadn’t thought of them as possible relationships, only teachers.  We connected on that point.  He is young. I am not as young. He is male. I am not. Yes, he has dark skin. I do not.  Years ago, when I trained an incredible group of Iraqi women running for office, their country was (as is still now) in the midst of chaos and fear.  I couldn’t relate on that level, but I could understand their desires to balance family and career.  We were able to find common ground.  And that’s the trick. Searching for those common hopes, dreams and fears that link us all together as human beings on the planet, regardless of our different cultures, traditions, backgrounds and even skin tones.

2. Don’t you think policies in the West won’t work here in Africa?  Let’s break that down.  Which policies? The policy of being thoughtful to your customers, employees or citizens?  To considering and providing for their well-being?  To holding peaceful, free and fair elections if you call yourself a democracy? Injustices happen everywhere, not just in Africa, and the only way to affect change, is to constantly and consistently expose and push against those injustices.  Observers sometimes complain there is not enough investigative journalism here.  But as I work with journalists and civil rights organizations in places where there is less than free expression due to a variety of real or perceived dire consequences, I am often impressed there is any level of investigative journalism. I try to encourage the increase, not carp about the short-comings.

3. Can you really teach journalists, you seem very motivational?  This was probably my most surprising question, as it didn’t come from a Nigerian at all, but rather from an American who seemed more than skeptical; she seemed down right cynical.  Whew!

Journalism training session
Journalism training session

Of course I try to be motivational. Encouraging.  Supportive. Inspirational.  Call it what you what.  To me,  it’s part of what you do as a trainer, as a coach.  First, you must try to establish a connection or a relationship.  I would NEVER come into a newsroom or any training room for that matter, and immediately launch into how to write better, or how to manage better, or how to stay on message better. What’s the incentive to change, aka work harder, from that approach?

Having once been a working journalist myself, I know that most journalists everywhere are not paid well.  We likely got into the field because we liked telling stories.  Stories that might make a difference.   The way I try to connect with journalists is to re-ignite that flame still burning inside them.  To inspire them that their writing – if credible and accurate – might make those differences over time.

I have read in diplomacy circles that relationships are, for some reason, labeled with the jargony impersonal word, “architecture.”  As in, “how strong is your architecture with journalists??”  Whatever the word, the point remains the same.  If you don’t first connect with your audience on some level, they are never going to care about what you say.  It’s basic 101 in presentation training lessons for anyone, regardless of your audience’s ethnicity or country-origin.

 First you connect. Then you can teach, or inform or persuade.  It seems obvious and yet it is too seldom done. Perhaps the obstacles seem too high.  But if we spend time building the architecture, the relationship bridges, to get over them,  I think the outcomes will be worth the effort.

Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.
Joseph, just one of the inspiring people I met at church on Sunday who asked me some thought provoking questions.

Yours from Lagos,

Gina

 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

Cultural Awareness Part 2 – The Bird!

I watched as the man “flipped-the-bird” at his six-year-old daughter. 

Instantly, I gasped and felt a surge of adrenaline.  What kind of father would do that to his own daughter?

The next moment, giggling, his little girl smiled broadly and flipped him right back! The two of them then laughed and hugged each other.

It dawned on me.  The kind of father who would do that and who would have a little girl who would happily do it too – would be ones who weren’t American and who were not taught specifically (like I was) that this gesture was obscene.

They’re Italian.  And they’re lovely.  The little girl is one of Lulu’s best friends and a kind, well-behaved little sweetie.  I know her parents too. Her mom and dad are loving, caring, and, yes, full of Italian playful spirit.

Unintentional or not?
Unintentional or not?

Obviously, for them, raising the middle finger to each other  was just a part of playful banter – not the supreme insult of which most six-year-olds wouldn’t even comprehend.

It was my personal point-of-view and frame-of-reference that caused me to gasp – not the reality of the situation or their intent.

Consider your listener’s unique point of view.

That startling moment served as another reminder to me about how important it is to try as best as possible, to consider the points of views of “the others” when you communicate.   Not only where your audience may be from regionally or culturally, but what is going on in their lives that may reframe or color whatever it is you are trying to get across.

Your experiences are not necessarily the same as your  audience.

Of course there are plenty of hand gestures in Italy and in other cultures that do pack a real wallop-worth of insult.  I’m not going to go into that now.  Just remember when you’re speaking to you next audience, that not every anecdote or moment that that speaks deeply to you, will do the same for your listeners.  Conversely, something you may take lightly, may deeply impact those around you.

I remember, for example, when I lived in Cairo – I learned a particularly colorful epithet from the man who guided Scotty and me on our tour through the Pyramids of Giza.  Directly – and  bit softly – translated, it means, “Kiss My Red Baboon’s Bottom!”  I thought it was hilarious.  But when I proudly (and naively?!) repeated it in Arabic for my Egyptian staff members  back at my office, they  were shocked.  No lady speaks like that.  It was offensive. Yet, to my non-Arabic speaking ears, it was as lilting as a string of nonsense words from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

Kiss my red baboon's ..yikes!
Kiss my red baboon’s ..yikes!

Search for the common ground.

Your anecdotes and language, therefore, must reach a higher level. One that you are sure will connect and not offend your audience.  Find someone with whom you can practice – and test out your stories or illustrations. Get feedback before you deliver your presentation or make your sales pitch.

It’s essential that every word counts and does not discount what you intend to say.cultural awareness

Author Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling book, Eat Pray Love recounts a moment in Naples when an eight-year-old girl in Naples shoots her the middle finger from the back of a Vespa all the while sporting a big smile.   Gilbert writes about a paragraph worth of imagined meaning from the gesture, because to her, as an American, that gesture carried a powerful impact.  But to the little girl in question, much like Lulu’s little friend, it probably meant hardly anything at all.

Ciao!

Here’s to your next presentation’s success!

Baci, Gina

Want to make your next presentation, powerful, dynamic and memorable – in a way that is NOT offensive?  Contact me here or through my website! 

Copyright 2014 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.

 

Cross-Cultural Awareness! And why it matters.

Do you travel a lot?  Are you employed in a multi-national workplace?  If so, now may be a good time to step back and evaluate your level of “cross-cultural awareness.”

You've got the whole world in your hands... now what?! ;)
You’ve got the whole world in your hands… now what?! 😉

I gave a presentation last week before the “American International League of Florence.”  But don’t let that  first word fool you.  After my speech, I spoke with an Estonian, a Belgian, a French woman, an Italian, several Brits and yes, more than a few Americans.  In short, this hard-working philanthropic organization is comprised of people from all over the world.

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A former past president of the organization who heard me speak wrote to a mutual friend who today forwarded this on to me: QUOTE Gina London è stata simpatica e indubbiamente capace di attrarre l’attenzione, soprattutto con la sua carica di simpatia e amore per la Toscana e Arezzo. E’ una donna indubbiamente che sa parlare a platee multiculturali e in particolare a una platea anche italiana! UNQUOTE”

For those of you who don’t read Italian that translates as:  “ QUOTE Gina London was undoubtedly kind and able to attract attention, especially with her enthusiasm  and love for Tuscany and Arezzo. And she is certainly a woman who knows how to talk to multicultural audiences and in particular to an audience that even includes Italians! UNQUOTE”

I was extremely honored to learn that my presentation – about the importance of story-telling to successfully improve awareness and membership – resonated with many of those in attendance – regardless of their country of origin!

cultural-awareness3

Many people came up to speak to me afterward, but to read today that I was considered particularly sensitive to the viewpoints and experiences of others from different parts of the world, was touching. It was a pleasant reinforcement of exactly what I try to practice.

I have lived and coached in diverse places like Cambodia, Egypt, Romania and France.  In today’s global marketplace, it cannot be overstated that to be successful, you cannot afford to lose time by “accidentally” disrespecting someone’s culture.

Here are a couple of top-line points to prevent you from careening into a communications road-block.

Read-up on Cultural Norms. Before you visit.  Here in Italy, it is considered quite normal and caring for a grown-up to pat the head of a child – regardless of whether they are strangers or friends.  In Indonesia, where I have trained, however, that same gesture can be considered rude and even evil – as some traditions teach that the person’s soul resides in a person’s head.

Do NOT overgeneralize.  Ever.   Just as it is not true that every American is fat and only watches reality shows (yes, I have been told that), it is also not true that every Italian smokes and parks on the sidewalks  (and yes, the latter is a direct overgeneralized quote – from my then four-year-old who now knows better. But she was only four, so give her a break). People are made up of individuals. Find that common ground.

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If you find yourself preparing to work with a variety of people from a variety of nations, there are a myriad of ways to prepare and empower yourself in this manner. And yes, I do teach and consult on this critical topic.

For more information of how I may be of help for your next meeting or presentation – or preparing your company or division for the year ahead, please contact me here or through my website: GinaLondon.com

In the meantime, I would love to hear your experiences.  Successes?  Epic Failures? What did you learn?

Grazie, tutti!

Gina