How to put the Global in “Global Citizen”?

Inspired by the tales of a Global Speaker I’ve been observing my own global mindset. While living in Tanzania for 3 months I interacted with people around the world through receiving or providing various services. On my last day in Tanzania it is time to look at the following list:

  • Introduction by FINCA International, USA to subsidiary FINCA Tanzania via Skype
  • Contacts with mentor L.M. from USA and Uganda via email
  • Working at FINCA with mostly Tanzanians and a few expats from USA, Uganda, France and Germany
  • Communication with friends and family in Australia, Thailand, USA, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore and Germany via Facebook
  • Some direct social contacts with people from Tanzania, USA, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Pakistan, India and Poland
  • Local telecom services were provided by Vodacom (South Africa with British mother company) and tigo (Tanzanian subsidiary of a Luxembourg company)
  • Housing was provided via the Russian general manager of a Tanzanian company owned by a British Indian
  • This blog on WordPress is provided free of charge by the US-based company Automattic.com
  • The About Me page was translated to French and German by A.J. from Switzerland who is located in Thailand through a service called upwork.com
  • Illustration of Stoney Tangawizi by Urnicer from Hawaii through fiverr.com
  • Approval to use her sketches on this blog from Sarah Markes from Tanzania through email
  • Coaching session with E.W. from England via Skype, a free service from Microsoft Corporation
  • Attending an intervision with my colleagues in Switzerland via Adobe connect, provided by Switch.ch for ZHAW
  • Updating websites via email, FTP and web upload from various providers
  • Strategy work with M.O. from Teach a Child Africa in Kenya via email
  • Booking and paying a safari trip via an agent in the UK trough online banking and email

I am counting 20 different countries. I have not forced it but this exercise has helped me become more aware of how global this (or any other) environment can be.

One might think that interacting with so many nationalities is demanding, as many different communication styles and cultural backgrounds exist. It’s true, I sometimes didn’t get what my colleagues laughed about and they didn’t get some of my ironic twisted comments.  But I always  could ask. Especially if my question started with “Excuse me, I didn’t get that”, I would get an explanation of sorts. The worst outcome was when I assumed something or didn’t ask an open question. Then the topic was changed or I got an answer that didn’t help me. And sometimes the accent or command of English was an obstacle to understanding each other.

Not everything is about the national culture, as it sometimes can be very personal. Once my colleague was as puzzled as I was when a pregnant Tanzanian lady explained to me (in a friendly way) why it is not appropriate to ask her about the delivery date. Her explanation was that enemies might use this information against her and that’s why she only tells her family and her boss will get a notice in due time.

I guess that’s what a global mindset is all about: allowing room for different interpretations of “reality” and communicating with this in mind.

(photo by blueforce4116 on flickr)

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