By Natalie Jivkova
We, the volunteers from the Sofia City Library, and the guys from the SMART foundation had a great day, when we were participating in the workshop of "Intercultural learning and communication".
Our cool coach was the ex-volunteer Natalie Jikova, who for more than 10 years have been "working" with EVS volunteers as trainer, coordinator, supervisor, mentor and of curse as friend, because she believes in EVS as a great life changing experience.
She had prepared a whole day of creative activities and there were not one minute to sit still and get bored at all.
We were presenting and talking about the pictures we had to make of ourself and our collegs in witch we would show our strenghts, skills or just something we would like to share with the others. It turned out to be very informative and funny, both to learn new things about the others and to learn how others are seeing you.
We talked a lot about culture. What culture is, what defines culture and the most important thing, that culture is more than just one thing. That culture is a lot of different factores; religion, country, family, friends, society etc., and that these factors are the ones which defines who you are, how you see yourself, how you see others and how others sees you.
It can lead to problems and misunderstandings, if you are not open minded and not tries to understand others culture and not want to understand why it might be very different from yours.We made a play, in order to show some of the difficulties it could bring, with a Japanese businessman who want to sell some of his business but the cultural greetings gets in the way. He as a Japanese is of curse bowing but the Tibetans is showing their tongue in order to greet someone which would be offencive in most other cultures and a sign of bad behavior, even though it is very respectful and normal for Tibetans.
With the Bulgarian buyer is the problem and the misunderstandings caused by the opposite way of showing yes or no with the movement of the head. The Bulgarian buyer is understanding the nodding as "no" and is also signaling a "no" with a nod and understand the shaking of the head as a yes and is also himself signaling a "yes" by shaking his head. The Japanese businessman is, like most others would, understanding it conversely.
The last buyer is a very passionate Georgian buyer who wants to pay more than the Japanese businessman wants, in order to show how generous he is and how much he wants to buy. The Japanese businessman think it is weird and and asks the Georgian buyer if his mother never taught him how to calculate?
The Georgian guy takes it very personal and as a great offence that the Japanese first of all is talking about his mother and secondly dose not seem to be welcoming the generous offer. The result of this last meeting, even though it is not the solution, is that the Georgian guy ends up beating the Japanese businessman.
The easiest way to have avoided this, would have been for the businessman or the buyers, to ask in order to understand in stead of just judging the other person, feel offended and so on. They, and even more important we, should always remember that the person we are talking to or with is interpreting what we are saying diffrent from what we understand that we are telling him. At the same time should we also always keep in mind that we just as much will understand what the person is giving as respond different from what the person that send it does.
It was a very productive day with a lot of fun, new perspectives, new information to reflect on and new things to take with us to use in or projects and in our future.
All in all just a great day!