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Information for Participants Anecdotes On Ramp Institutional Cooperation

Tools is a document that should help you analyze and understand another society and culture, first of all by applying its techniques to your own. In Tools you will find illustrative anecdotes plus thought experiments and exercises you can do before and during travel that will explore time, space and social relationships cross-culturally.

While generally applicable, the focus is on Russia so as to be most useful on the Moscow Study Trips. Thus attitudes, assumptions and misunderstandings are traced during the East-West conflict and the coming of perestroika. For perspective, there is a hilarious and revealing excerpt from the century-old, "Through Russia on a Mustang" and, more modern, a satirical update on Moscow's public toilets. I have deliberately kept Tools a bit out of date so that people who attend one of the study trips get a sense of what the Soviet Union and Western feelings toward it were like just a few years ago.

You can choose from two formats in which to read Tools: Tools in Wordperfect and Tools in Acrobat (.pdf). The Wordperfect version should be convertible to Word. It can also be seen with Window 95's, Quick View, with minor loss of formating. For the .pdf version, you will need to have the Acrobat Reader on your computer, free from Adobe.

For the flavor, here are the opening paragraphs:

Hazards at Culture Gap

More than once, American applicants for these trips have described their previous foreign travel as none--"except Canada," or "unless you consider Canada." Obviously, Canada is a sovereign country, so what people probably meant by these qualifications was that Canada does not seem "foreign" because the people are so much like Americans--culturally. There are differences, but one has to be more sensitive to pick them up than would be necessary when visiting many other countries.

What can go wrong when there is a cultural misunderstanding? There was a story a few years ago about the early labor negotiations with a Japanese company in the American automobile industry. At one of those hot moments that indicate that talks are getting serious, the union side got angry and staged a walkout. After waiting the appropriate amount of time for this "traditional" play-acting to have its effect, they returned to the table... to find that the Japanese company representatives had left--assuming that the talks had broken down--and had not the slightest intention of coming back! Honor had been offended. Neither side knew the other's cultural rules, and it took explanation and persuasion by intermediaries to get the sides back together again.

Luckily, both cultures at least accepted the concept of mediation. One could imagine a culture in which suggesting mediation would be considered an insult or cowardice--fear of confronting one's adversary directly! In Farsi, the language of Iran, the word "mediation" has the connotation of "meddling," or interfering in an unwanted manner. So, some years ago when UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim said he came to Iran to "mediate" the American hostage situation, it caused a riot. (L. Copeland and L. Griggs, Going International, Random House, New York, 1985, p. 79) ....

Contact: Eric Fenster moscowtrip2008@yahoo.com with questions or for more trip information.