Inequality 101

It always astonishes me when so-called gender change experts are surprised when their leadership, equal pay or women’s training/mentoring initiative only provides small changes in the overall problem of gender inequality in their organisation. Looking at the issue holistically, it’s absolutely obvious that only addressing one piece of the overall gender system’s power can’t lead to significant or sustainable change.

What these initiatives often ignore is that effective theories of culture change point to the need for transformation in three different arenas for the change to be sustainable: the symbolic, the ideological and in the realm of actual social, political and economic relations. Like most contemporary gender change efforts, second wave feminism in the 1970s focused considerable effort on changing the actual social, political and economic relations between women and men. Today, as a result of these efforts, women and girls have somewhat more economic might than their grandmothers and mothers did. Far more women work in paid employment and in a much wider array of jobs than in the past. Far more men participate (at least a bit) in the raising of their children than in the past. But, as with contemporary efforts, the symbolic and ideological aspects of gender inequality were largely ignored. And, as a result, these symbolic and ideological aspects not only have not receded, in myriad ways they have grown exponentially in the past four decades.

This stood out to me recently when a Facebook friend posted a picture of my fourth grade class, circa 1976. There we were, girls, boys and otherwise, all dressed approximately the same way: jeans or cords and blue and red striped rugby shirts or press stud fronted shirts with big collars.* Most of us had approximately the same hair cut, too. Bowl on the head, uneven fringe in the front, badly in need of a combing and some product all over. This androgynous sameness meant that boys and girls were not particularly gendered in their appearance and could thus experience each other on a somewhat level playing field, whether on an actual playing field or in a maths class.

Seeing that photo made me take a look at Facebook photos of friends’ children who are in a similar age range to me in 1976. Wow! The differences are enormous!! In 2015 boys and girls look absolutely nothing alike. While 9-year old boys remain in jeans and comfortable shirts, 9-year old girls now look like 25-year old women. Miniskirts, visible bras, plenty of skin and hair and make-up done up as if for a night at a club rather than a day at school.

I couldn’t help but think of Naomi Wolfe’s “beauty myth” and radical feminism’s “pornofication of culture.” At least some of the time that girls had in 1976 to run around and play, try out new sports, read and study is now spent by girls shopping and primping. While boys can run around and explore their environments, girls are held back by the fear of getting dirty or ruining their clothes, shoes and hair (or by parents who are concerned about these things). The childhood experience of sameness that boys and girls could have of each other has been replaced by an extreme and hierarchical difference, one that leaves young boys able to play and study freely without worrying about their appearance while girls are pulled into the highly gendered personal appearance worries of people two or three times their age.

Is this really progress? Yes, clothing, toy and other companies that make their profits selling products for children have certainly segmented and thus ‘grown’ their markets, in some cases exponentially. But what they have really grown is an entrenched societal inequality that putting more women on their boards and in executive roles will not be able to counteract.

Gender inequality is a holistic problem and solving it requires we think much more holistically than in the past about tackling it. So keep working on leadership, mentoring, pay inequity, pipelines, unconscious bias and so forth, but without also addressing unequal gendered symbolism and the ideologies that support it, none of these initiatives to address the social, political or economic disadvantage of women and girls is sustainable in the long term.

This is an edited version of an opinion piece I wrote for Beyond the Spin, issue 3, Spring 2010.

* I grew up in the United States and attended the local public school so none of us was in an official school uniform.

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How do you categorise?

Which two of these three items would you classify or categorise together: a cow, a chicken, a patch of grass?

Remember your answer and then read this:

The other day I was flipping through various books to gather inspiration for a talk I’m giving on cultural differences as related to water and sanitation project management. I turned to Richard E. Nisbett’s The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why. It contains some interesting observations and ideas, such as looking historically to explain the differences between so-called Eastern and so-called Western thinking (see p. 138).

For example, on the one hand, ancient Greek philosophy (arguably a major source of modern Western thinking) categorised things together “if they were describable by the same attributes” – i.e., all mammals have backbones, mammary glands, body hair, and warm blood. On the other hand, ancient Chinese philosophy classed things together if they influenced each other or were in relationship. I’m less conversant in this way of organising the world, but according to Nisbett, Chinese philosophy categorises spring, east, wood, wind and green together because changes in one affect the others…in other words, they are in relationship with each other.

Nisbett goes on to cite research conducted with American and Chinese children and students that supports the hypothesis that these ancient philosophies are alive and well in contemporary thinking. The various researchers found that in categorising the trio of cow-chicken-patch of grass into just two groups most American participants put the cow and chicken together because of their similarity as animals, while most Chinese participants put the cow and grass together because of their relationship: cows eat grass. I found this conclusion unsurprising because I’m Western educated and didn’t hesitate to classify cow and chicken together as animals; the grass, as a plant, was obviously separate.

Getting back to my conference presentation, I borrowed this classification difference (similarity vs. relationship) as a way to illustrate cultural differences in conceptual thinking more generally, using a trio of images with more relevance to my talk: a bike, a rowboat and a lake…two objects related by similarity (human powered modes of transport), and one object that is related to one of the others (boats are used in lakes). Assuming my partner would see the world exactly as I did, I showed her the images and figured she would likewise see the boat and bike as similar, the lake as the outlier. But she didn’t! She immediately said, boat and lake. And she reckoned most Australians would be like her. Huh?!! Really?!!

And here’s where it gets interesting. To see if my partner is an odd Westerner (still assuming Nisbett’s cited research is accurate), I posted the question regarding the cow-chicken-patch of grass grouping to my Facebook page and asked a few others via email or in person. (Yes, I realise that this is totally unscientific and unrepresentative…since they are all connected to me and most are Americans or Australians – so, no, the results don’t actually ‘mean’ anything … but still interesting!). Lo and behold, I’m the odd Westerner in my circle! Though not by much. Of the 78 people who had replied by the time I began writing, 37 (47%) of us put the cow and chicken together and 41 (53%) put either the cow or the chicken with the grass.

Interestingly, my partner’s idea that Australians would favour the relationship grouping over the similarity one did pan out: 66.5% of Australians chose either chicken or cow with grass. But the Americans didn’t overwhelmingly choose similarity: only 54% did. Other factors that my friends posed as potential hypotheses were likewise weak predictors. Men only slightly favoured similarity, 54.5%, over relationship groupings, and women were the opposite by only 55%. Education seems also not to matter: exactly half my friends with a PhD picked cow-chicken, as did exactly half my friends without a university degree. I’ve also been asked about a rural-urban split but I don’t have enough data from Facebook profiles to tell me about either a person’s upbringing or their current living conditions…what I can say is that I grew up in a pretty rural place, with cows across the street from my high school, and two-thirds of the respondents who attended my high school chose cow or chicken and grass.

What’s it all mean? Well, in terms of being able to talk about Eastern and Western ways of thinking – probably nothing. But it certainly does point to the depth of cognitive difference between people who on the surface may seem to be very similar, and the surprising similarities between those who appear so different.

**Just to follow up, 15 more people have answered my question since I wrote this; 8 (4 of them raised in Australia) chose cow-chicken, 7 (4 of them raised in Australia) chose cow-grass. Interestingly, almost every single participant who has reported their partner’s answer has found that it is opposite of their own! Apparently the cow-chicken people fall in love with the cow-grass people, and vice versa!!

Australia V USA: Standing Out

This is my second blog in a series on cultural comparisons between Australians and US-Americans.

Keeping in mind that both countries are extremely diverse and that any one individual may not be in the statistical norm for their culture, we can easily identify a large number of cultural differences between the people of these two (on the surface) similar countries. Last time I looked at orientations to hierarchy, probably the biggest difference between the two. This time I’d like to explore a somewhat related concept: standing out from the crowd.

In general, we can say that US-Americans don’t mind standing out from the crowd. In fact, much of the culture is built around the pursuit of doing just that. It’s part of the orientation to hierarchy – a desire to be bigger, better, stronger, faster, smarter, etc.. than anybody else and not be shy about showing it or talking about it. And when US-Americans can’t be the biggest, the best or the most recognised, they like to acknowledge other people’s accomplishments … probably in the hope that someday others will acknowledge them in the same way.

Conversely, Aussies have a deep cultural preference for not standing out as an individual, for blending in, for being one of the (equal) pack. They even have a well-known phrase that points to this very trait: the tall poppy. Picture a field of poppies, all approximately the same height. In that field, regardless of how windy it gets, the flowers largely hold on to their petals…protection in the crowd. However, the tall poppy, the one that sticks out above the rest, immediately loses its petals in a stiff wind. (A similar phrase used in other cultures is that the tallest nail gets hammered hardest…) Both phrases point to a cultural practice of keeping your head down, or trying not to be noticed, to prevent others from tearing you down.

As a result, Australians rarely want to be the first person to put their hand up to ask or answer questions in a meeting, training, classroom, conference, etc. They almost never introduce themselves by talking about their success or accomplishments. They are less likely to publicly acknowledge other people’s success or accomplishments. And they experience people who do these things, such as many US-Americans, as arrogant braggarts … as wankers. Sure, Aussies love a successful sporting hero, but he or she should be an acknowledged ‘team player;’ even individual rewards must be attributed to the team.

A great example of this cultural difference is Steve Irwin, the crocodile guy. In general, US-Americans loved him. Google him even today, eight years after his death, and many websites continue to highlight his vast popularity in the United States. His derring-do, ‘look at me’ attitude spoke right to the US desire both to be the tall poppy and to honour others who attain this position. Conversely, prior to his death, Australians often cringed when they saw or heard him, or when non-Australians raised him as an example of what it means to be an Aussie. Most Australians couldn’t stand the idea that he, a proud tall poppy, represented them on the world stage. It’s absolutely no surprise at all that Irwin married a US-American!

As a US-American living in Australia I’ve had moments when my own enculturated desire to be a tall poppy has caused me frustration and annoyance. For example, awhile back my gym ran a competition for who could participate in the most group exercise classes in a three-week period. They announced prizes for 3 different categories and an overall prize. I always love a new challenge and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get into better shape – and, of course, win a competition – so I jumped in. I quite literally exercised my ass off for three weeks and, on the last day, saw the final tallies and knew that I’d done more classes in two of the three categories. I had also been ahead in the overall list at the end of week two and so was pretty comfortable that I’d either won overall, or come second to the contestant who had been ahead after one week and was the winner in the third category.

But, I had forgotten the Australian discomfort with individuals who stand out (who win without a team behind them). Of course, the gym manager could not allow just two individuals to prevail in everything! So, when the names of the ‘winners’ were displayed, I received acknowledgement of having won in just one category. The person with the second highest number of classes in my second category was deemed the winner, though everyone in the competition knew I had done five more classes. The person with the most classes in the third category was accurately named the winner there. And, out of the blue, a person who had been in third place for the entire competition was given the overall prize, though it was numerically impossible that she did more classes than at least two others of us in the competition. And then, when I was shocked and annoyed at the clear manipulation of the event, I was criticised by quite a number of Australians for being … competitive. Yes, it was a bloody competition!! (Can you tell that I’ve yet to come to terms with this???). Would a gym manager in the US be uncomfortable with having just two winners? Not a chance. In fact, they would proudly display the two winners’ names and photos for everybody to see…as if to say, ‘Look here, these are our tallest poppies!’

Though I still find it difficult – I could name several other examples of this kind of incident – I still have to laugh at myself because I know intellectually that this is just another interesting cultural difference and that to live here happily I have to reconcile myself with the idea that if I stick my head up above the crowd, someone will try to knock it off.

Australia v USA: On Hierarchy

I’m so sorry! It’s been months since I’ve contributed to this blog. But here I am again. Since last I wrote I’ve been back to the US for a visit, seeing my mum in East Aurora, New York, as well as a friend in Oakland, California. We also did a nostalgia tour of Stockton, California, where my partner and I lived for 10 years prior to moving to Melbourne. It was lovely being in the US in the summer and seeing both old friends and places that used to be familiar.

Being back in the US also reinforced for me the curiosity that Australians and US-Americans have for each other. Being a citizen of both countries means that I get a lot of requests to compare the two places…so here goes. This starts my series on the similarities and, mostly, the interesting differences I can see between the two countries’ cultures.

I could have begun with any of a very wide range of cultural differences, from universal health care to gun control – Australia has them and most Australians approve while the USA does not and many US-Americans are ok with that. Rather than these more obvious cultural differences, I’ve chosen to begin with something a bit more invisible, something that seems to surprise people from both countries: their different orientations to hierarchy.

My first reply to this oft-asked request to compare the two countries is to say that Australia values equality far more than the USA does. This is certainly not to say that Australia is an equal society! It’s not as unequal as the USA, but men still out-earn women by a significant margin, Aboriginal Australian life expectancy is, on average, 10 years less than other Australians and there are super-rich Australians who have more capital than hundreds of their fellow citizens combined. But looking at Australian cultural values – those unconscious logic frameworks that contribute to our conscious belief systems, moral frameworks and ultimately our behaviour – it is very clear that people in the US value hierarchy far more than most Australians.

Here’s a workplace example. Let’s say an Australian manager needs her assistant to make some photocopies for her right away. Rather than saying: “Please copy these; I need them right away” the manager is obligated to say something like: “When you have time, could you get these copied? They are for the meeting at 10” (it is currently 9:55). Rather than just telling her assistant what to do, the manager has to acknowledge the assistant’s autonomy by saying, “When you have time.” And then rather than directing the assistant to perform the task right away, she must provide the context for when and why it must be done, so that the assistant knows that “When you have time” really means “Do it now.”

This act of diluting the appearance of hierarchy between the manager and her assistant happens in many Australian work relationships between unequals, despite the knowledge on both sides that the manager IS the senior person. Unfortunately for US-Americans (as well as most other people!) who move to Australia, this unwritten rule of workplace collegiality is difficult to see right away. US-Americans working in Australia are often considered by locals as being bossy, pushy and rude because they are seen as giving orders rather than working collegially. At the same time, US-Americans often experience Australians as indolent and disrespectful because they don’t ‘jump to’ according to US-American time frames. Often, because we are all speaking English, we fail to notice that we are speaking the language very differently: US-Americans tend to use direct communication styles in the workplace, which highlight who gets to give instructions, or even orders, and who must receive them, while Australians use indirect communication styles to mask the status differences between people who give instructions and the people who receive them.

One of the other places that this different experience of hierarchy is evident is in the service industries in both countries. I’m always taken aback when I return to the USA and step into a grocery story…staff members generally, from the manager to the person at the checkout, seem to want to help me. They actually ask if I’ve found everything I want…and if not, they scamper off to find the missing product! It’s not necessarily in their job description, but making sure that customers are served is everybody’s job in the US-American grocery store. Here in Australia, it used to annoy me to no end when I couldn’t find anybody to help me locate missing items. The most common response of a store clerk to being told that a product isn’t on the shelf is to shrug and move on; occasionally someone will apologise (usually people who were not born in Australia) but still make no effort to locate the product or answer questions about when it will be available. The exalted status of ‘customer’ in the USA, which garners respect, deference and service, is much rarer to find in Australia…perhaps only in the context of people working on commission – and even then you’ll only get the third on this list; respect and deference must be earned and will never come automatically due to your position, whether as manager or customer.

There are infinitely more examples of where this values distinction creates belief and behaviour differences in the two countries. Do you have an example???

Expat Creativity

In trying to think creatively about what to write this week I was reminded of research on the positive correlation between living overseas and creativity (Maddux & Galinsky), whether in the arts, science, business or just everyday living. (If you’re interested but don’t want to read the whole article, here are the abstract and a summary).

While I found the argument in this paper fascinating – living overseas helps foster creativity – I’ll admit to finding their evidence sort of uninteresting…using psychological tests to show creativity. But, there are many people who won’t consider an idea without this kind of positivist exploration, so if it popularises overseas living, great! For me, the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence of the creative power inherent in living overseas is significant enough:

Both founders of eBay, Canadian Jeffrey Skoll and French-born Iranian Pierre Morad Omidyar, and Google co-founder Russian Sergey Brin founded their businesses in the US. French painter Paul Gauguin did his best work while living in Tahiti. New Zealand physicist Ernest Rutherford did the research that won him the Nobel Prize (Chemistry) while in Canada. German composer George Handel worked primarily in England. Australian Nobel prize winner (Physiology or Medicine) Elizabeth Blackburn was working in the USA…indeed, 92 of the nearly 350 Nobel Prize winners ‘from’ the United States were born elsewhere. Billionaire Hungarian financier George Soros made his fortune in the US. Americans Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and Julia Child created their best works in France. Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s best films were made in the USA. Spanish painter Pablo Picasso worked in France. Australian songwriter Peter Allen composed in the US. Mother Theresa, Igor Stravinsky, Dan Aykroyd, William Butler Yeats, John Candy, George Bernard Shaw, Kristin Scott Thomas…the list of people who created interesting things or ideas while outside their country of birth could go on and on. If you’re following this blog, you may very well be one of them.

My own life experiences seem to support their claims as well. After struggling through my first year of graduate school to identify a research site and plan (my original site, Liberia, erupted in civil war weeks after I began the program), I took a year off and lived in the UK, working on a small ethnographic project on tourism and gender. A few months into my time in the UK, I had an epiphany: Hungary is the perfect place for dissertation research. A few years later, having completed 17 months of fieldwork in Hungary, I did most of the creative thinking for actually writing my dissertation while still living in Hungary. Could I have done it at home in the US? Eventually. Would I have written the entire dissertation in just a year? Not a chance!

More recently, upon moving to Melbourne, Australia, I co-founded a business, Culture Works. I was an academic prior to this and couldn’t imagine what else I could do with my PhD in sociocultural anthropology. I used to joke that I could either teach at a university or flip burgers – “speak into the clown’s mouth, please…” That was the extent of my creativity. Then, somehow, living in Australia, the cognitive shackles that held me to academia were released. It somehow became possible to co-found a consulting company to teach the principles of anthropology and intercultural communication outside of a university classroom. It became not only possible but almost natural to write a business plan, develop a website, start networking with business groups and cold calling potential clients. Within a couple months we had our first few clients and eight years later we are still going strong, creating new ways of applying what we know about culture to enhancing Australian workplaces.

But, I can’t take one bit of the credit for the idea of Culture Works. That has to go to my Australian-born business partner, who created the business ownership dream during her 13th year of living overseas. Back then, I could only sit and listen to her stories of entrepreneurship, probably because I was ‘at home.’ My brain wasn’t being challenged at every turn by what Maddux & Galinsky hypothesise is the key link between overseas living and creativity: adaptation.

Adaptation, they say, helps free us from ‘functional fixedness’ (p. 1054), the inability to reframe an object or idea in a new way. Adaptation opens our minds to the possibility that our own logic frameworks aren’t logical; our own behaviours aren’t appropriate or effective; our own reality isn’t real. Adaptation requires an openness to ‘try it and see,’ which is about as good a definition of creativity as I can think of. You could even say the act of adapting to a new culture – at a deep, cognitive level, not just the obvious food, festivals and fashion level – is in itself a creative act, which sets the stage for further creativity in your chosen field.

What did you do while living overseas that would have been cognitively impossible in your home country? Share your account in the comments section below!

p.s. If you liked Maddux and Galinsky’s original paper, check out a follow up article (article 2) or an interview with one of the authors.

Lick Quick & Close the Window

This post is thanks to my friend and former student Magda, who seems to have an extremely sharp memory for the details of lectures I gave when teaching at the University of the Pacific!

The lecture Magda remembers concerns explanatory models for making sense of health and illness. For example, growing up in East Aurora, New York – a cold and snowy place in winter – we all knew that going outside in freezing temperatures with wet hair would lead to getting sick. And, having had frequent colds during winter, this theory was confirmed over and over. Similarly, I remember an anthropology professor talking about living in Tanzania and trying to eat oranges whenever she felt a cold coming on … then being roundly chastised by her host family for causing herself such harm: ‘Everybody knows you don’t eat such ‘cold’ foods when you have a cold! No wonder you’re often sick.’

The specific story Magda remembers concerns an explanatory model that Hungarians use to understand the cause of respiratory ailments: eating and drinking cold things. I was introduced to this belief early in my fieldwork. Whenever I took a big slug of Diet Coke right from the fridge my landlady (who generally followed me into the kitchen to watch my activities) shuddered and warned me to be careful or I’d get sick. At first I assumed she was concerned about the chemicals in Diet Coke, so I ignored her and kept drinking. But that wasn’t it. Every time she coughed, even a little clearing of the throat, she’d sort of mumble: ‘I must’ve drunk something cold.’ Once my language skills were strong enough to fully grasp her mumbling, I realised she was warning me against the coldness of the Diet Coke, not the chemicals. And since I was often unwell while living with her, she had frequent reinforcement for her belief. I thought this may be an old world, peasant belief of my landlady’s, but come summer time in Szeged (where I lived in Hungary, see Introduction), I realised it was much more widespread.

One of the joys of living in Szeged was the ability to walk the beautiful, tree-filled city centre on summer evenings, enjoying the fantastic ice cream. Every evening in nice weather the city filled with pedestrians; young couples, whole families, elderly people, everybody was out and about, many of them with an ice cream cone in hand. It astounded me how long Hungarians could prolong the experience, without ice cream melting down their arm. It got HOT in Szeged, 45 C [113 F], and yet hundreds of meters from any ice cream parlour there they were, strolling down the street, slowly licking a well-filled cone. Meanwhile, I’m working my tongue frantically just to keep ahead of the drips, finishing my two scoops long before I even exit the city square where I bought it! In order to keep themselves healthy, a whole nation of people has developed the skill of slowly licking an ice cream cone, while hapless foreigners either choke it down in an instant, or suffer the loss of face of having ice cream running down their arm…and the inevitable summer cold, too!

But you don’t have to leave the English-speaking world to experience a plethora of differing explanatory models, as I learned moving to Australia from the US.

Where I grew up, houses are hermetically sealed from October through sometime in April or May, or whenever people get around to taking down the storm windows. Keeping out the cold is not only economically and environmentally sensible but healthier as well. Having been here for nearly 10 years, I can only imagine the horror of most Australians when confronted with these sealed storm windows! Australians fear the closed window like Hungarians fear cold drinks: as a source of illness. Constantly closed windows mean ‘stale air,’ which is dangerously unhealthy.

I currently live in Melbourne and it never drops below freezing, but in winter it is cold enough to require heating our apartment during the day. I used to ask all the time (in a less than even tone, I admit), ‘Does it really make sense to open the window every night just to turn the heat on again every morning?’ I’m thinking: wasteful, costly, unhealthy – it’s cold at night! But, as I have learned, these are nothing compared to the ‘real’ risk to your health of breathing stale, foetid…unhealthy air.

Nearly 17 years together and my Australian-born partner and I still haven’t internalised the others’ explanatory model. Instead, we compromise, windows open more than I want, closed more than she wants: both knowing that our own logic is the healthier and more sensible of the two. Sometimes I think that our differing concerns about the apartment’s atmosphere causes one or the other of us to feel unwell at times when there is no physical cause, such is the power of our explanatory models…no different, really, from sorcery or witchcraft – belief being the potent facilitator. A blog entry for the future?

Have you come across an explanatory model that differs from your own? What is it? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Introduction

This is a blog about intercultural communication as I experience it living and working in Melbourne, Australia. Not sure yet exactly what that means but I have stories to tell…and maybe somebody out there will enjoy reading them. I also hope to get a few comments here and there…

First, though, I have to introduce my professional self. My commitment to subjectivity means that you have to know who I am before you can have access to what I think.

I’m a sociocultural anthropologist by training – did my MA and PhD at the University of Rochester in the early to mid-1990s. I did my dissertation fieldwork in Szeged, Hungary, and focused on the construction of post-socialist Hungarian national identities. If you’re interested in this early work, my first book, The Danger is Everywhere! The Insecurity of Transition in Postsocialist Hungary, was published by Waveland Press back in 2001. It’s out of print now but I’m sure there are a few used copies floating about. In fact, grabbing that URL, I just saw one online for US$.23 – a bargain at twice the price!

From Rochester I moved to the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California to take up a tenure track position in Sociology/Anthropology and International Studies. I spent 10 fantastic years teaching there, most of them solely in the School of International Studies, where I designed and taught courses in anthropology, pre-departure, re-entry, international ethics, and the long 20th century. After promotion, tenure, and a sabbatical year in Australia it was time to follow my students into the unknown and see if I could survive outside the walls of a university.

For the past 8.5 years I have been doing more than just surviving in Melbourne, Australia, where, as a co-founder at Culture Works, I co-design and deliver professional development programs in intercultural communications. That means I spend my days with Australians from every walk of life, from social workers and nurses to government employees and bankers. Luckily, I still get to work with university students too, most of whom are setting off for a period of time studying overseas and/or returning to finish their degrees in Australia. I’ve learned heaps doing this work, which, luckily, also leaves time to write. If you’re curious, have a gander at the 3 books I’ve authored or co-authored during this time: G’Day Boss! Australian Culture and the Workplace, The Encyclopedia of the Peoples of Asia and Oceania, A Brief History of Australia. I don’t think any of them are as affordable as that first one but maybe your public library has them…

So that kind of brings me up to the present day. I don’t have a current book project going so have started this blog as a place to debrief and decompress, tell stories, hear about other people’s experiences, and just have fun with ideas. I hope you enjoy it! If you have a topic you want to read about, do let me know!! As I do with my weekly radio show, she says shamelessly plugging herself, I take requests…

Barb West