Managing Across Cultures: Sorrento 2014

 

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Welcome to the official “Managing Across Cultures” 2014 blog. This almost three-week-long University of Colorado Denver summer study-abroad course in Southern Italy focuses on global communication, development of intercultural awareness, in particular for Italy, and the exploration of hands-on management with a global mindset. While the course equips us with the theoretical tools, we set off on navigating contemporary Italy step by step, with all its natural beauty, cultural richness, and complex heritage. Based in the charming town of Sorrento, nestled between the Amalfi coast and vibrant Naples, we explored close and far. Together we explored the art-historical wonders and modern vibrancy of Rome and Naples, the beauty of the world heritage sites of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, the living geological complexities of the active volcano Vesuvio, as well as Pompeii, the island of Capri, and all the charm of Sorrento itself. We explored various aspects of Italian life, from the magnificent cuisine, the world of fashion and advertising, important topics in Italian society such as the various facets of communication, patriarchy, masculinity and femininity, and regional characteristics. As a group we started as a diverse and loose bunch, and together grew and bonded into a caring and effective unit, in mirror image of a real familia napolitana. And all this was accomplished while being keen intellectual learners, making the most out of the comprehensive theory researched and presented together in class, as well as Italian language classes offered by our host in Sorrento, Sant’Anna Institute.

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The aim of this course, of transforming the participants into culturally aware world travelers, with a heightened sense of comprehension of Italian national identity was more than successfully reached: The individuals grew together as a group in a challenging environment that often pushed them past the boundaries of their comfort zones, and managed to link up all the empirical experiences gained with the theoretical tools learned. The end product is now a group of experts ready for future cross-cultural exploration and leadership challenges that the modern business world and globalized study and work environments will throw at them. j3       Through reflective session, journal writing, culture-specific readings, field work for final research projects, and this blog development, we used critical thinking skills to help us better understand and locate our personal experience in Italy. Intercultural dialogues with the global mindset led us to examine our individual and collective identities as citizens of the world and members of a global community and economy. This experience also made us revisit and rethink our perceptions of “self” and “other”.

 

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Melissa Gonzales, Andrew Garcia, Christie Miller, June Yu, Tanner Scurto, Julia Khrebtan, Cassie Crutchfield, Kendall Olinger, Richard Rodriquez (Not Pictured: Philip Horhager)

ABOUT THE PROGRAM LEADERS:

IMAG4491Julia Khrebtan is professor of Communication, as well as director and leader of this study abroad program, “Managing across Cultures”. She is a former lecturer of Italian studies, with particular focus on Italian national identity and film. Also known by her students as la mamma chioccia, she greatly enjoys the experience of teaching and growing together during this study abroad course, and exploring one of the most culturally rich places on earth, Italy, with such brilliant young minds.

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Philip Horhager, co-leader of this program, is a manager for a leading global aviation company, and was fortunate enough to share his experiences of working and leading diverse teams in large organizations with this amazing study-abroad group. Bringing empirical data from complex organizations as well as the shared every day experiences of living together on the Napolitano coast, he was constantly challenged by the keen minds of these intercultural experts in the making.

 

 

Grazie mille to Stephen John Hartnett (Chair, Department of Communication), John Sunnygard (Director, Global Education), and the entire UCD team for the promotion and realization of the program. Extended grazie infinite to Sue Pendell (Chair, Department of Communication) and the entire CSU team for their support of the program. Finally, grazie di tutto cuore to our Italian partners at Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento, and above all to our wonderful students, world-travelers eager to explore the fascinating world of the “other!”

Limoncello: Business, Communication and Biology

IMG_0150Limoncello: How we can talk about Business, Communication, and  Biology at the same time.

On May 29th we had the opportunity to visit the local Limoncello factory, called I Gardini di Gataldo, where we discovered some of the secrets and tricks in the process crafting one of the typical and most recognized drinks of the of the region of Campania. Also known as the Gold of Sorrento, the Limoncello is used for multiple occasions, but it is mainly served-cold as a digestive right after meals. Traditionally, it is made from the peels of Sorrento Lemons, which are mixed with pure grain alcohol (absolute ethanol) at first. The resultant yellow liquid is extracted and mixed with sugar and water, which will eventually turn into the enjoyable liqueur just after sitting in for a few days. For more information on the making Limoncello, please visit the following link:

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The best Limoncello is produced in Sorrento and surrounding areas such as Capri and the Amalfi Coast; its citizens take pride in fact that no other place in the world has the right conditions to harvests the same quality lemons needed to make the best Limoncello. In the last two decades the liqueur has become the second most famous drink in Italy, with a rising popularity worldwide. For this reason, the production of Limoncello has become the prime revenue for many locals in the area.Limoncello is mass produced all-throughout the region of Campania by various private factories. I Gardini di Gataldo is a relatively small factory owned by the city of Sorrento that still produces Limoncello manually as a means for public demonstrations.   Now, in order to help local producers raise production of Limoncello, the Italian government gave liqueur an IGT (indication of typical geography) certification. This law endorses that the liqueur is authentic and of high quality, and it also penalizes the mass production and sale of imitations outside of the region of Campania.

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While in the tour, someone brought up an inquiry about the origin of Limoncello. Of course, our tour guide said that it originated in Sorrento, but the truth is that there is an ongoing debate regarding the birth place of Limoncello. Although, the search is narrowed to Capri, Amalfi, and Sorrento there is still no concrete evidence as to which city deserves the credit for creating the liqueur. For this reason, all three cities are at an ongoing competition to see which one produces the best quality goods, which has also led to the innovative production of gelatos, cakes, laxatives, etc. I found this to be quite extraordinary because this competitive behavior deviates from the collective ideals of Italian society. Originally, we had concluded in class discussion that Italians took pride in helping members of the larger group to be successful, believing that the group is always greater than the sum of individuals that constitute it. Hence, this example of individualistic behavior comes to show that no society has perfectly skewed view on groups focus, but a little more of a mixed perspective between the two.

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I Gardini di Gataldo

Right at the end of tour around I Gardini di Gataldo we came across something that completely caught my attention. In the middle of the factory’s garden there were lemon trees that had been grafted with orange-tree branches. Grafting is the horticultural technique of joining two pieces of living plant tissue together in such a manner that they will unite and subsequently grow and develop as one composite plant. Although this technique has been practiced since ancient times, it is very difficult and tends to be costly. For starters, it can only be done for angiosperms and gymnosperms (seeding plants) and the joining pair of species needs to at least fall within the same family in order form a permanent junction between the two. Grafting needs to take into account the genetic similarity between the joining species. In the cases of oranges and lemons, they both fall under the same genus (Citrus.), which means that they are related close enough to allow for grafting between each other. Moreover, there are many potential issues may come across while grafting the plants, as well post-surgical compilations that make cause the junction to break. Hence, mastering this technique is not a small feat, and those who perform it requires years of experience on field before they can become successful.

 

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Carmela- Our Limoncello Factory Tour Guide

While talking to some of the staff, I was able to obtain some juicy information regarding their grafting techniques. I Gardini di Gataldo grafts their trees via budding techniques, which uses a smaller scion piece—sometimes just a piece of the stem with an auxiliary bud. The scion becomes the new shoot system of the graft. In their case, the factory staff inserts lemon buds into the shoot of an orange tree; the lemon bud is the scion and will become the majority of plant’s shoot. On the other hand, the oranges will become the composite plant’s root system. The reason this is done is because orange trees are more resistant to variations in the soil’s chemistry, allowing for an increase in the number lemons harvested in year, which simultaneously helps increase revenue. The grafting is Citrus trees is actually a very quiet successful technique, and the main post-surgical complication that may arrive from the process is that the lemon-scion may die if the sap it receives from Orange’s root-system is too acidic. I found this information quite surprising because instead of using grafting as way to show off an ability to perform sophisticated horticulture techniques, as I had previously assumed, the people of Sorrento use it as a means to increase the production of their main revenue, the Limoncello.

It is surprising to see how many variables come together to shape our knowledge about a simple alcoholic beverage. Limoncello will no longer be mere laxative that one drinks after dinner, but a rich piece of Italian history and culture, which needs to be analyzed from multiple points of view in order to see how it has been integrated into Italian society.

 

About the Author:

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My name is Richard Rodriguez, and I’m currently a junior at the University of Colorado Denver. I’m pursuing a double-major in Biology and French with minors in Chemistry and Sociology in hopes enter a medical school in the near future. My life-long interests in science as well as my involvement in community service and clinical activities have guided me to pursue a career in healthcare. Medicine allows me to incorporate my love for service and my fascination for science, and build up a successful career that will allow me to improve the lives of people in my community. As part of my path of to becoming a physician I first need to obtain my bachelor’s degree, and one of the requirements for it is to obtain to take an international perspective class. Now this requirement can be fulfilled in two ways, but the most appealing one to me was to participate in a study-abroad program. Moreover, this short-term program allowed me to enjoy this study-abroad experience without interfering too much with my rigorous life as a pre-health student. My experience in Italy was terrific and I’m glad that I took this rare opportunity travel. After I start medical school chances like this one may become very slim to the point where I may not be able to do something similar until I become a practicing physician.

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Achieving A Work-Life Balance in Italian Culture

 

IMG_0901Sorrento, how do I describe Sorrento… It’s beautiful, it’s unique, and it’s mysterious to the outsider looking in. Sorrento is its own little world on the cliff side of the Southern point of the Bay of Naples and we had the chance to embrace this beautiful culture for just two short weeks.

I arrived in Italy on my own, a day early than everyone else to ensure that there were no bumps along the way as well as to give myself 24 hours to escape from the jet lag the overall 14 hour flight from Denver–> Chicago–> Rome gave me. This is how I am and this is how I always have been. My classmates and I come from a society that praises us when we arrive early and shuns us if we miss two days of work. American culture is based on a high status economy. We are robots to our society and we are ticking time bombs waiting for the day we can stop working. We work to live but more importantly we live to work. We live our lives on repeat; we wake up, we go to work, we come home, we go to sleep. Repeat. As for a work-life balance the United States is mainly situated on the Status side of spectrum, our status is everything to us, it evades our personal lives and it conflicts with how we maintain a steady balance and when we say enough is enough. We go through school and college always thinking ahead to our future. Where will we be in 5 years, 10 years, where is our path in the career world and when will we achieve it? These are all questions my fellow classmates and I ponder everyday. Coming to Italy and especially in Sorrento, you see things a lot differently about one’s future.

Half way around the world in the little town of Sorrento in the Campania Region of Southern Italy the locals showed us Colorado students just how to find an equal balance between working and living. While working is a very important part of their life so is taking time out of work to spend with their family and close friends. Sorrento is not filled with fancy 6,000 sq. ft. plywood homes decorated for show and filled with unnecessary items, it is actually the exact opposite. Every apartment is a home and every home has a past. “If these walls could talk…” I asked myself everyday as I walked through the alleyways and side streets of Corso Italia, Sorrento’s Main Street in town. The apartments are unique, they are individually beautiful in their own way and the buildings have character and so much history behind the sturdy, built up walls. The description presented by the buildings and homes also represent the people of Sorrento.

Beauty and pride fill this town and it’s because of their old habits and family traditions that have never crumbled down due to an intense technological advanced society, instead of conforming to meet the extensive competition, Sorrento has vowed to never drop the traditions their ancestors once taught them that have been passed down over the years from generation to generation.

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A very quiet town during Siesta

Siesta: a time of rest, a time of sleep and relaxation. A tradition that once took place in America now overpowered by multiple business meetings, running later than planned and running the clock into overtime to get the job done. Sounds about right for our culture, doesn’t it? I was walking around Sorrento one day just right after we all had lunch, as we were walking down the rather quiet street we noticed that every other shop was closed. “Closed?! But I have to get souvenirs for people! I need that dress I saw in the storefront the other day! And I need all of this now!” I was quick to learn that patience is a virtue and I see it now after being in Italy for two weeks. The stores close for several hours during the day to take a siesta, a break from their job, a time to start prepping for dinner for the night, to get their laundry hung up to dry and a time when families can get together to enjoy an espresso macchiato or a cappuccino after their midday nap.

What a beautiful thing, a tradition to lock up their shops to take time out for themselves as well as their families. It was a real culture shock to see their balance between work and life and how impeccable it is, we could really learn a lot from the people of Sorrento.

There are churches on almost every corner in Italy and I would say there are almost a hundred in Sorrento alone, you can hear the church bells ring all day and into the night and everyone in the town takes time out of their day to go to pray in the church and keep their religion to God close to their hearts. The values and morals of Sorrento are a lesson we can all learn from. While the United States is on the high-status side of the spectrum, Italy in general is just about in the middle having a different in work and personal life but also have motivation and dedication to work. Sorrento is not commercialized compared to the larger cities in Italy like Rome; Sorrento expresses the opposite values that the United States has within business and keeping separate from personal life.

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Taking time out to enjoy an Espresso Macchiato

In our textbook, Managing Across Cultures: The Seven Keys to Doing Business with a Global Mindset, the chapter about Motivation/Work-Life Balance discussed a case study, Espresso Culture at Work, done by Joshua Sturtevant who was at the time a student at New York University. He was completing his master’s program in Genoa, Italy with other Italian students in the music technology program, while a big culture to him was trying to communicate effectively with the natives, another shock to him was the fact that they never worried about specific deadlines the Professors gave them and of course the fact that the students would take extensive periods out of the day for lunch and a coffee break. Joshua never understood and being from the United States he was always on time, early at that, he would turn his homework in early but was confused when he didn’t get the response he wanted out of his Professor. The semester went on and the big show day was here, he was prepped and ready to go and checked everything once and then twice more but he couldn’t find the other students anywhere. Frantically he went all over the main streets looking for them and there they all were sitting in a cafe sipping on espresso a few minutes before the show was suppose to go on. There was conflict but the show went on, a few minutes late. With no mess-ups the show and the students did a fantastic job and this was a complete eye opener to Joshua. While he expressed unnecessary stress and anxiety, the Italian students leisurely walked to the final show.

This goes to show that in Italy, no matter what setting it is, you always take time out for yourself. Coffee breaks and long meals are important to this culture just as important as meeting a deadline at school or work but if you don’t take time out for yourself you can’t take care of others properly. I saw this example glorified when we walked the Corso Italia street and saw no shops were open during Siesta and when I went to school and wanted a water from the small market that was suppose to open at 8am but it was 9am. It completely opened up my eyes to see that different cultures work differently. Like Julia says, its not weird, it’s not wrong, it’s just different. It is so important for us, no matter what culture you associate yourself with, to take time out of the day and focus on YOU. Sorrento brought a new light into my world of work, even if you just back away from the computer, close your eyes and take sometime to think about something other than work. If you don’t do some things for you, how do you expect to do so much for others?

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The Beautiful Coastline

According to an article published on May 31, 2014 on The Hamilton Spectator website, “work/life balance has been the number one career goal among students in the Global Surveys by Universum, more than leadership opportunities, security or prestige, these college graduates seek balance.” (thespec.com, 2014). The article goes on to state how more and more college graduates are asking potential employers in interviews what their policy is for work/life balance, if there is any.

We are the future of the work status in the United States being apart of Generation Y, we can basically control how business and technology will power our lives. For our generation to ask questions and get the right answers about having a precise and consistent idea of what we want will get us on the right track to successfully having a separation between work and personal life. Being here in Italy it has shown me that we need to take more time out for ourselves, stop rushing and look at the beautiful things life has to offer us. Take time out for our families and loved ones, stop at a local coffee shop and sip on espresso, walk instead of run, open your eyes and look at life in a new perspective, challenge yourself every chance you get. Take risks and don’t be afraid to fall. Stand up for your self and take pride in your achievements, this and more is all that Italy and the beautiful italian culture has taught me.

 

 

About the Author:

miller5Christie Miller– Hi everyone! I am in my senior year at the University of Colorado at Denver and will be completing my Bachelor’s Degree in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations and Organizational Communication as well as a Minor in Political Science. When I first heard about the 2014 Maymester program going to Italy, there was no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be here in Sorrento for two weeks. I did everything in my power to make sure I could go and I am so happy with my decision. It has really been an amazing experience and one that I will never forget. With a slight international perspective and an open mind I broke out of my shell and out of my comfort zone to be able to experience the wonderful and beautiful Italian culture. I am so excited to come back to Colorado and share my wonderful experiences with everyone and show them all what we have learned. When we came into this program we didn’t know what to think, little did we know we would make long-lasting bonds between members in our group. This two weeks has opened up my eyes to the World that we live in and not only has it helped me break out of my comfort zone it has helped me develop business and communication skills that I will take with me throughout my academic and business career.

Special thanks to our wonderful Professor and business mentor, Julia Khrebtan and Philip Hoerhager for letting us gain an astonishing amount of intercultural perspectives within these past two weeks. The knowledge that we gained in Italy will be with us throughout our lives, this was an unforgettable trip and we appreciate all that you have done for us! Grazie! Also special thank you to Sorrento Sant’Anna Institute and all of the wonderful italian teachers, mentors and directors in the program. Thank you for your patience and kindness towards us.

Taxonomies: The Key to Cross Culture Competence

 


IMG_4133  Culture Shock. That is what I’ve experienced every time I’ve traveled to a new place including different regions of the United States. Italy was obviously a bigger culture shock that within the U.S, for all of us I think. Arriving in Rome by myself felt like a weird dream, I definitely felt like a foreigner and an “other”. I was sitting on the floor of the Rome airport, which is something I would consider completely normal. U.S. airports are filled with people sitting on the floor, lying down, and just lounging around waiting. I felt eyes settle on me as vast amounts of people walked by, giving me curious and confused looks. So I discovered I was the only person sitting on the ground in the entire terminal and felt so uncomfortable that I decide to quickly conform and stand up. I changed my actions based on the cultural norms of Rome that I saw within an hour of landing in Italy.

Cultures differ and we experience culture shock because of the different values, beliefs, and norms within cultures. These three components of a culture influence the way cultures operate in several aspects. The way cultures are categorized in different contexts in comparison to one another are through Hofstede’s taxonomies. There are several taxonomies that place cultures on a scale from high to low with zero being the middle. It is important to be aware of where a certain culture falls on these levels of classification, because it will effect the style and manner you will need to communicate with them to achieve a positive and effective exchange whether it be business or casual. Knowledge of a culture and intercultural competence is mandatory when managing across cultures.
IMG_3987The first taxonomy that is necessary to be aware of to bridge the cultural differences when communicating is High vs. Low Context cultures. A high context culture uses more implicit messages that are not specific or precise language. On the opposite side of the category, low-context cultures are explicit and exact meanings are conveyed in conversations. My observations and experience in Italy lead me to realize that Italy can be categorized as a high-context culture pattern. The heavy use of nonverbal communication in Italian culture signifies this. Luckily, this is not my first time experiencing the nonverbal communication of Southern Italy. When I came to Italy for the first time ten years ago for a two year stay, the first thing my family did was take a crash course Italian culture briefing class. We learned a bookful of Italian hand gestures and facial expressions. If I did not have that experience up my sleeve you can guarantee I would have felt even more like an outsider, clueless of what is being communicated around me. Phrases like “Acqua in bocca” (water in mouth when translated) also back Italy’s high context orientation up. In Italian culture this phrase is used to communicate, “be quiet.” Since it has this alternate meaning that is implied in the Italian culture, catching on to less explicit messages will be difficult coming from a low-context culture. If someone came up to me and just said, “Water in mouth” I have no idea what to do or say. Do they want me to drink some water? What’s going on? There are many other aspects of a culture that decide if it is more high or low context, like time flexibility which is also a whole other taxonomy on it’s own. Paying attention to time orientation is important for cross-cultural business or casual interactions, which is why Tanner is focusing in on that more.

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The Island of Capri Coastline

A culture can also range from high Uncertainty avoidance and low uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty avoidance measures the extent to which a culture desires and adapts to ambiguous and uncertain situations. Italy falls into the high uncertainty avoidance, which means that they favor and follow extensive rules and regulations in regards to social norms. The United States is on the opposite side of this cultural pattern, which means that they are very accepting of social deviants and taking risks in regards to social norms. These beliefs can be attributed to a lot of things, but I think that it has a lot to do with history. Social deviants created the United States, those seeking freedom of religion and change were the first to immigrate to the U.S. Because of that we have a variety of identities that we encounter and accept daily. In Italy, aside from tourists, everyone seems to have similar heritage: an Italian heritage. The values of a typical Italian adult include family and religion, and to steer away from such societal values are less accepted here. One way I also notice this pattern, is through the observation of body modification. As someone who has tattoos and facial piercings noticing other people’s similar body modifications is something I just pick up on. In Italy there are far less people with crazy dyed hair, facial piercings, and tattoos from what I could see. In the U.S. taking part in body modification is becoming so common and is very accepted even in the business world. In Fort Collins there are four tattoo parlors within a ten-minute walk from me. That type of social deviation seems to be less accepted here, which is maybe why not many of the Italians walking around have visible tattoos or piercings. The United States thrives on risk takers, new inventions, and far-fetched ideas, but an attitude like ours would not fit in with this culture, and needs to be considered when crossing the two cultures.
The Indulgent vs. Restraint taxonomy measures the extent a culture controls their impulses and desires. At first glance I definitely categorized Italy as an indulgent society because of the their value of food, wine, and beauty. While these values are important to the society, they do not define the overall indulgence level. According to Hofstede, Italy is actually a more restraint society. After discovering this I thought more about what could be making Italy a restraint culture. Italians do not focus on materialistic things like I feel like many Americans value greatly. The cars here show that, most of the cars here small, old, not visually appealing, and convenient. Every time a nice car like a Mercedes or a Ferrari goes by us we all are shocked to see it since they are so rare here. Clothes can be seen hanging from every window to dry, the Italians do not see a need to buy a big, heavy, and expensive machine that will dry clothes when they have a natural and free drier out their windows. I also believe beauty plays a part in categorizing Italy as restraint too though, Sorrento is right on the ocean, so beautiful and breathtaking, what more could you need? In the United States I’ve often heard the phrase “bigger is better,” whether that means owning a Hummer, or a Mansion, bigger would never work in a town like Sorrento. Convenience trumps indulgence in Italy, and indulging is a part of the culture in the U.S.

10388125_10152066901215925_704260331653852949_nTaxonomy that Italy and the United States are more similar to each other in is the masculinity vs. femininity. This cultural pattern is based on a culture’s value of more masculine qualities like power, ambition, and achievement, or if they value feminine values like nurturing, quality of life, and health care. Both Italy and the United States fall under high masculinity. The U.S. and Italy both believe in qualities that will lead to success and the reward that comes along with it. The U.S. is a very competition driven country with tests such as the SAT and the ACT being valued highly in terms of education. In Italy owning, operating, and profiting off one’s own business is often a goal members of the culture strive for. The fact that there are about five stores within a four block radius that sell the exact same products in Sorrento allows me to assume that these stores are competing for customers, otherwise one store would dominate! Succeeding in a law firm in the U.S. and succeeding in a Limoncello store in Sorrento are two very different business environments that have the same drives and goals behind them. Walking down the street past a couple of restaurants is the perfect example of the value of competition too. There is always a host or waiter out front catching your eye telling you they have a good lunch deal or the best pizza in town so you eat there instead of the pizzeria across the street. Once you agree to look at a menu or sit down to eat, the restaurant has achieved its goal. (Key word being achieved.)
IMG_3972Cultural differences exist because of differences in values, beliefs, and norms between cultures. In order to immerse, manage across, communicate, and coexist in another culture, understanding what these differences are is imperative. Once the culture shock dies down, analyzing and understanding a different culture is key to gaining knowledge and learning from that culture. If I did not adapt to the cultural norms here, I would have experience more uncomfortable situations than just being looked at strangely at the airport. The more you know about different cultures, you have the upper hand at communicating. Just from my two year experience Italy that ended eight years ago, I still had a lot of knowledge of Southern Italian culture that made my immersion into the culture, more like a re-immersion. Taxonomies are vital, and they all intertwine with one another. Cultures cannot be explained or backed up 100% just like I cannot explain lots of things regarding the world, but the hidden complexities and explanations that you can discover about a culture are treasures.

 

 

About The Author:

 

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Ciao! My name is Kendall Olinger and I’m a senior at Colorado State University majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in History. This is my first return to Italy since my two-year stay in middle school in Naples, just an hour away from Sorrento. There will never be enough time in Italy for me to be fully satisfied. I would live here again if the opportunity were ripe. This two-week program was incredible, amazing, beautiful, magnificent, and all other words synonymous with great. I’m convinced that Italy is the most beautiful place I will ever visit in my lifetime and it has the best food and environment for a study abroad program.

 

 

Special thanks to Dr. Julia Khrebtan and Philip Hoerhager for an amazing program that I gained so much from both academically, and personally. Thanks to Sorrento Lingue Institute, our host school and Colorado State University and CU Denver study abroad offices.  

 

Time-Orientation in Southern Italy

miller3 Italy and the United States are thousands of miles apart, have an eight hour time difference, and a different vantage point of time. Before an in depth comparison of the view points of time also known as time orientation we must discuss what is time orientation. Our course text book (Managing Across Cultures) defines time orientation as, “the degree to which people believe they can control time and whether schedules or people are more important.” These degrees are also known as different orientations to time. In a world where time is viewed as controllable and adhering to a schedule is important is known as high time oriented. In a high time oriented culture, people move faster in order to not waste time and accomplish more, to meet deadlines and achieve goals. In a low time oriented culture, time is viewed as more fluid and is at the expense of the relationships one has with others around them, thus schedules are not as concrete as in a high time oriented culture because of their respect for relationships with other people.

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The Traditional Pizza in Napoli

In our time here in Italy we have learned much about the Italian orientation of time, everything is here based on the fact time takes time. Dinner in Southern Italy is an event in and of itself. A full Italian dinner consists of drinks, an appetizer, three separate courses, and then dessert. From an American perspective just eating the food would take an hour, but during and between courses socializing happens, this socializing can be about almost anything from politics to soccer. One of the many cultural differences we noticed was that after having a meal people sit and talk even more! For my classmates and me, we wondered if we would ever get our bill. Eventually we realized that we had to ask for the check. On one of our mini excursions we needed to take a public bus to a walk-able distance, the bus was about half an hour late. To me, if RTD is one minute late I get upset, in Italy it was different, the late bus allowed for us to leisurely grab gelato and develop more of a relationship in the group. Using the definitions provided by our text, the United States is a high time oriented culture and Italy would be defined as a lower time oriented culture. This means that in the United States it is common to believe that time is under our control and in Italy time and schedules are at the mercy of personal relationships.

Referring back to our bus example, because of the delay of the bus when we got gelato this allowed us to perform multiple tasks at one time, at the expense of our scheduled deadline of arriving at our destination. This is also known as polychronic, meaning that because of a relaxed schedule with flexible deadlines, more than one task can be achieved at a time. In the United States focusing on one project at a time would be known as monochronic, meaning that with more strict deadlines the focus of a group on a project is narrowed and precise.

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Little Markets on the Streets of Sorrento

Traveling from the United States to Italy has two kinds of time changes. There is the literal time change and the culture orientation to time (explained above). Crossing between orientations and adapting to a different time orientation is called change tolerance. Change tolerance is defined by our class text (Managing Across Cultures) as, “The perception of how much control we believe we have in our lives and destinies, Along with our comfort level with change, risk taking, and innovation.” Change tolerance is all about how the culture perceives innovation and change, in the textbook the United States and Italy are rated about the same on the larger scale, but if you look closely you can see Italy is less likely to change. In our class we discussed differences between the US and Italy, in Italy you see only one person handling money or performing a difficult task because they are the most senior employee or the most trusted. In the United States we see that the more difficult tasks are given to the most talented person no matter seniority. There are also differences in the education systems of the US and Italy. In Italy tradition is strictly adhered to, in the United States innovation is rewarded with praise. This continues on even into the professional work world. A change of career in the United States can be a good and easy thing, but in Italy it may be a difficult task and not looked upon in a good light.
While spending our meal times out and about in Sorrento we noticed that waiters at restaurants were both old and young. We brought this up during class one day and our Professor discussed that many restaurants were family owned and that to be a waiter at an advanced age was fairly typical because it was for the family and that job mobility was fairly hard to obtain because you needed to know someone and have a guaranteed position in order to switch jobs. This makes sense because of our lectures on hierarchy and family, which we will be discussing in this blog.

 

About The Author

10271404_493324417463729_8562450643374553324_oHi! I’m Tanner Scurto; I just finished my third year studying at the University of Colorado, Denver. I am a political science major with a double minor in Communications and history. Part of my family is originally from Italy which I it thought would be interesting to visit and understand his cultural heritage and where I came from. That was I total understatement, Sorrento and the surrounding bay area was BEAUTIFUL! I thoroughly enjoyed the food, music, and lifestyle of a costal Italian town!

Communication Distances and Relationships

 


1466109_10203075086611784_4140417320062028083_nSORRENTO
(May 19, 2014) – The first day is always the hardest day but being from China and living in the United States I am used to traveling long periods of time. Our flight left the United States and made a stop in Germany. Since Germany was our first arrival point in Europe we had to go through Immigration Control and Passport Control. The lines were long and our connecting flight to Rome was waiting for us. Cassie, Melissa and Julia all got through the checkpoint but I was stopped for a long period of time as the very strict German Officer asked me repetitive questions about my stay in the United States. This was my first look at communication barriers and I didn’t really know how to handle the situation. I didn’t know how to effectively communicate to him that I was born in China, going to school in Colorado and staying in Italy for a study abroad program. That is a lot to communicate to someone who doesn’t even look at you in your eyes when you try to effectively getting your points across. After a series of questions Julia finally came over and helped us out, I was very thankful for her exceptional international skills, the officer handed my passport back and gave me the go to finally start my two week journey in Italy.

This situation gave me an inside look on just how different every culture can be. German’s are very direct, concise and to the point. In America everyone wants to know your story and where you have been, they are interested. This was a bit of a culture shock but just what I needed to start my European Adventure.

Just like a peach and a coconut, the relationship dimension of China and Italy is a “coconut style” as well Germany. American’s “peach style” is very different and diverse and traveling half way around the world we noticed a lot changes within the cultures. During my experience in the United States and also getting along with my American friends during this trip, they are all very friendly but hard to get close to them(just like the peach), they are more independent. However, in Italy, the people are much more like Chinese people. At the beginning, they do not want to smile to everyone, but after a few times when they get know you, they will try to build trust with you. Just like the little family at the local shops we went to a lot, at first they would not take you seriously, or they would watch over constantly and say one or two words but by the end of our trip, they were friendly and didn’t want us to leave in the end.

In this small town in Italy, there are so many amazing restaurants to try. One of our favorite’s was the “garden restaurant”; we ate there three times on our trip, the food was delicious and the family was so nice! We wanted to show our respect for them by going back one last time for dinner, we ordered two bottles of wine to share between the eight of us but quickly realized they gave us the wrong wine! We all looked at each other and thought, “do we not say anything, keep the ‘bella figure’ attitude going and pay the uncharged wine price?” Or do we tell the sweet lady who served us the wine that it was not what we ordered. We got up the confidence and very, very politely asked her for the house wine, she didn’t understand at first but took the wine away. When she came back she apologized briefly and we all said “grazie mille, grazie mille” and continued on with our big smiling faces. It is a major way to confer honor and respect to another person in some countries, China and Italy. It all worked out in the end, even though we were kind of scared to lose our “face” and ‘bella figura’ status.

IMG_0329VESUVIUS – We went to Mt. Vesuvius which is an active volcano in Italy, but nowadays it is a dormant volcano, the views were breathtaking and our tour guide was very helpful with historical information. As we were going down the mountain, laughing and running from the rain that was about to come, Cassie slipped and fell on her knee. It was a minor scratch but you can never be too careful. As we were going to Ambulance we had a few local Italian’s ask if she was okay and if she needed assistance and even the Paramedics helped her over to their first aid station. This was so surprising to us because in America, every one just looks at you and walks away but in Italy they were so concerned and wanted to make sure that they could do as much as they could to help! Cassie and all of us were very grateful for their help and being able to communicate with us effectively and safely. We sure could learn a thing or two about helping each other out.

10380693_792449484128925_187135294244476050_oNAPLES – Today, we came to Naples. After we read about the article in class about the garbage problem in Naples, it got more interesting in this unique city. Naples or Napoli is a city which has lots of museums and churches, and is made famous by the music, arts, pizza and also the “garbage problem” brought on by the Italian Mafia. The tour guide said even she does not want to talk about it, but the “garbage problem” is truly important in this city. Just like her, Italians like to speak more about the things which make them proud to keep their face. And ironically enough, even though our tour guide, Martina, had a wallet stolen from inside her purse before our lunch, we had no idea because she kept her beautiful italian face and left the table quietly to make a phone call. Napoli is the capital of crime and she was born and raised there and she was just as stunned as we all were. She kept her bella figure up and led us on to the other sites of the city. Even walking through the alleyways of Naples, we experienced the crazy side of Napoleons, they really are proud of who they are and where they come from but this also made me realize how relaxed Italy, or at least, Southern Italy really is. Everyone walks through the streets leisurely and takes time out to stop and admire the churches, lunches are longer and the waiters are not uptight. They build relationships with every customer that walks through the door, again something all of us can really learn from.

 

10377159_796542210386319_4888040579945208854_nPOMPEII – Pompeii is a very huge ancient city in Italy, which used to be buried underground. After the earthquake, the city is presented public. And the people who are living in Pompeii, they always want to show they are rich, so they keep their house have nice outside looking. Just like during this day, Italian people’s “Bella Figure” to save their face.

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Julia and Philip keeping up with their ‘bella figura’ in the frantic streets of Roma, Italy

I do have to mention that Italy is a fashionista and romantic kind of country. Walking on the street, the romantic air is around us. Around our trip, wedding was holding in every town in Italy. If you can go to Italy, walking on the street will be the most challenge thing for single people. The reason why I said that is because the couples are everywhere in this country, and they are not shy to express their love in front of everyone. Kissing is like their beauty, they never want to hide their emotion from others. They are showing everyone their love and their solid emotional love. Maybe also because of love, people all want to show their best to everyone, the fashion is the way to lead them to get their perfect outside. Italy is the capital of fashion, even not in Milan, people all dress up like models. Through the shopwindow, the poster is all about fashion brands and luxuries. Not only the travelers are all dress well, but also the locals, even the tour guild for our trip to Naples also pays attention to how to match her clothes and shoes.

About The Author: 

10271228_493324570797047_3061977335093764205_oI’m Xinhe Yu, and English name maybe easier to remember, June. I am the only person in this semester who is from China. I am a student at the University of Colorado Denverand a student inICB program(a program between International College Beijing and UCD). My major is communication, and art studio minor. Due to my background, through all this travel study I can find lots of beautiful things and intercultural differences between Italy, America and China. Even it makes me face many challenges, but it also gives me lots of different experiences.

Crafting A Global Mindset

 

IMG_0166Let’s Start With Global Mindset

The concept of a global mindset refers to the instinctive power of integrating everything an individual absorbs, in regards to culture, into their unique attitude and various behaviors. Carefully molding this concept will enable you to be two steps ahead in the business world by interpreting and completely understanding communication beliefs, values and norms from numerous cultures around the globe. Properly crafting a global mindset takes valuable time and effort due to the many, equally important pieces involved; but if done correctly, you and/or your business will have an immense advantage over the competition.

It is necessary to understand that a global mindset is not a new concept but it is becoming much more vital for success as a professional in the work force or as a business. Much like learning a new language, the early adaptation to a global mindset can be complicated. You will start out having to translate every cultural distinction or “sentence;” but gradually you will subconsciously begin to think in the new “language” and understand its meanings without having to translate piece by piece. This is extremely vital because it allows you read verbal and non-verbal cues as well as interpret behavior much more effectively.

A global mindset is much more than understanding other countries in a broad manner, as the seven dimensions of culture we previously discussed guides you through; it is appreciating every individual country as a unique entity and asking you to fully understand and latch onto their history, mythology, heroes, etc. Once you’re able to master the global mindset, it means: you are extremely effective in interpersonal relations, you intuitively understand local markets and take full advantage of business opportunities, you recognize superior talent not matter what its appearance entails, and finally you are able to adapt personal strategies as well as plans in a distant culture.

10403771_800377130002827_5462411830929153253_oAs a global entrepreneur, seeking out foreign business can seem like a daunting task; but as discussed before, mastering a global mindset will pave the way for achieving international success. No matter where you are from you are built with your own, unique cultural values and biases. When achieving a global mindset, you need to recognize these values and biases as well as fathom that others are a creation of their own, distinctive cultures. Analyzing the manifestations of the seven keys in culture, discussed throughout this blog, and breaking them down for the specific cultures you work with, will give you an edge in the brutal world of business. Most importantly you must envision yourself as a sponge and be a continuous learner. Mastering a global mindset and achieving it in a business sense will enable you to stand out and gain successful worldwide exposure.

Before this program I would never known how to pursue business in Italy or how to deal with someone of an Italian background, specifically Southern Italian. Now, I have opened myself up and crafted my very own global mindset to differentiate the Italian beliefs, values and norms form those of the United States, in which I abide by. After this intensive intercultural course I feel much more comfortable and confident in pursuing business in other countries, specifically in Southern Italy. Pertaining geographically to Southern Italy, their cultural beliefs, values and norms are different than those of Northern Italy.

In conducting research and performing intensive fieldwork in Sorrento, I have found that Southern Italians value specific ideals that shape who they are and how they conduct business. The value of family plays an important role in shaping these Italians. From birth to retirement, most of them follow the path already paved for them, which consists of taking over the family store or working with siblings and parents as well as grandparents to deliver quality product to all of Sorrento and its numerous tourists. I found that they save money for the three slow winter months of the year and work their tail off in the nine busy tourist-filled months to bring in as much as possible for the remainder of the year.

IMG_0373Italians conduct business strictly along the lines of their values. As an entrepreneur you must know what is valued in Italy and the best ways to succeed in this country. It is necessary to analyze the seven dimensions of culture, as explained throughout this blog, in order to gauge exactly what is important in Southern Italy. Beliefs, values and norms shape who individuals are and how their culture operates; therefore being completely informed will in turn create successful business professionals as well as organizations.

Next Stop, Global Teams

As an entrepreneur or a leader of an organization that seeks worldwide exposure, the most effective teams must be structured properly in order to take a business to the ultimate level. With a newly acquired global mindset, you must use your expertise to form an unstoppable group of individuals. However, it is important to reiterate the fact that different cultures present themselves with their different values. When building a global team, you need to analyze these different values such as: group-oriented vs. individualistic, transactional vs. relationship-oriented, direct vs. indirect communicators, and the wide-ranging attitudes toward time.

IMG_0854To put these concepts into perspective, I briefly compared the United States and Sorrento. Italians contrast completely from Americans. They practice business as a group; whereas, Americans love to conduct any kind of business on the individual level. This is why we often see American global entrepreneurs starting in their twenties. The United States is an extremely transactional society and Italy maintains those important relationships when piloting a business. As we have learned from this amazing experience in Italy, Italians are “charming liars” and sugarcoat the truth so it sounds like there is no problem. Americans will be straight up and tell you that you are wrong without any remorse whatsoever. We can conclude from this that Americans are much more direct communicators compared to the Italian indirect culture. Finally, Italians view time as an unimportant dimension to their unique culture; therefore, as we have experienced every day, they will tell you five minutes, which is realistically twenty-five. Whether you are a business professional seeking work in Italy or an entrepreneur debating to expand your business to beautiful Sorrento, building a global team must be done correctly in order to give yourself the best chance for success.

10420672_797861343587739_45265216_oThe seven dimensions of culture affect team behavior; therefore, once again, it is extremely important to analyze these concepts when building a global team internally and externally. Experiencing language and cultural barriers, developing trust, overcoming logistical challenges and developing a common context for decision-making are challenges that you will face in forming a global team. Setting clear goals and objectives, clear rules and role definitions, achieving active participation, setting clear discipline and consequences as well as communication channels can counteract these challenges and shape an effective global team. Meetings are equally important as well because it keeps members active and engaged, while at the same time building the necessary trust a team needs. Although the United States and Italy are on two different sides of the culture spectrum, by following these practices it is possible to gain success as a business professional seeking work or as an entrepreneur expanding business globally.

10397172_793596810680859_7511182202410597097_oThe Sorrento Experience 

As an American group studying in Italy, we had to breakthrough our own cultural conflictions before taking on Sorrento. We all came from different cultural backgrounds and grew up in drastically different ways but managed to come together by gauging each other’s personal beliefs, values and norms. We became a team during these three weeks and were able to adapt in Sorrento. Through blood, sweat and tears this American group took on a completely different environment and made the absolute best of it. We used each team member’s strengths to write this blog and make sure readers are fully informed of the great, academic experience we had in Sorrento. Italy changed us for the better and opened our eyes to the fact that different cultures operate differently around the globe.

 

About The Author

IMG_7584Ciao,

My name is Andrew Garcia; I am a senior majoring in communications and minoring in cultural anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver. This Maymester program was one of the best things that could have happened to me both academically and professionally. Italy was much more exquisite and culturally connected than I originally thought. Their rich history, amazing landscapes and dynamic culture amazed me and I would not trade this experience for anything. I have learned a lot from this program from how to respect other cultural beliefs, values and norms, to how to operate my professional image as well as my entrepreneurial skills globally. This is not an opportunity that you can pass up; therefore, register for Managing Across Cultures, pack your bags and gain the experience that will forever change your life.