Culture as an iceberg, uncoding cultural dimensions

March 25, 2015 patricieuwase
Our Spring 2015 Intercultural Leadership Initiative (ILI) Cohort on the front steps of I-House

Our Spring 2015 Intercultural Leadership Initiative (ILI) Cohort on the front steps of I-House

This week’s session of the Intercultural Leadership Initiative was as informative as the past ones. To kickstart our class session on Wednesday, we discussed the dimensions of culture, using “the iceberg concept of culture.” Obviously, culture is such a broad and abstract topic, that an analogy such as this one comes in handy in trying to understand culture. Indeed, as human beings, what we notice about cultures foreign to us is very little—the obvious elements—or using the analogy, “just the tip of the iceberg,” namely their music, their literature, etc.  Culture is much more than that; it encompasses notions of modesty, conception of beauty, nature of friendships, patterns of handling and expressing emotions, notions of leadership, value of time, conception of justice, to mention but a few. We had a profound discussion about this, and it is definitely discussions like this that really give meaning to why I am taking this course before graduation in about two months.

Also, we had a lot of other discussions subsequent to that! Our classmate from the Netherlands gave a quick presentation about his country. Isn’t it cool how we get to learn about all these countries, as we take the leadership course? Since I am documenting only some of the lessons learned throughout the course, I will just say that it was yet another great talk. Two things I will always remember about the Dutch people, as discussed by my classmate, is their open-mindedness and creativity (which is why they can still live in a country whose majority lies below sea level), as well as their non-hierarchical society, where the king is equal to any other citizen. Yes, their Prime Minister rides a bike to official events! One more bonus thing so commonly known about the Netherlands, and really of interest to me as someone studying transportation, is their biking culture; which I think I should learn about, in person, by visiting that beautiful country.

After the talk, we broke into our small group, where we got a chance to debrief about our first field trip to Oakland. I just love how open these feedback sessions are. I am also completely blown away by how much we are able to share in such a cross-cultural setting. For instance, we discussed about how we approached our differences in carrying out our first task and how well we did at team work. Using concepts such as forming, storming, norming & performing (stages a team goes through in carrying out a task), we thoroughly evaluated ourselves. For example, in one instance, at the beginning of the trip, we had to make a decision on what mode of transportation to use (Uber taxi or public transit) to get to our first destination. This was a major cultural difference as we had different opinions because, as we learned later on in class, some of us are from collective cultures and others come from individualistic cultures. The good thing is we finally reached a consensus that day, and everything else that followed was as smooth as the other activities we have done together so far. This was undoubtedly a good learning experience for all of us!

As I wait for the next ILI gathering, I can’t help but anticipate how these moments I am living today will be precious lifetime memories, in about just two months.  This is kind of bitter sweet. Until then, I hope you will stick around to share in this wonderful journey!

ILI Field Trip lunch stop at Everett & Jones Barbecue at Jack London Square in Oakland

Lunch at Everett & Jones Barbecue at Jack London Square in Oakland during the ILI Field Trip


Filed under: Intercultural Leadership Initiative (ILI) Tagged: Cultural difference, culture, Intercultural Leadership Initiative
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