E pluribus unum

By Thomas De Graeve, Belgium

A 38-country survey conducted by the International Egg Commission (75 countries associated) found that people feel strongly about how their eggs should look. The Irish, French, Czechs, Hungarians, Portuguese, Nigerians and Brits hanker for brown eggs. Canadians, Finns, Americans and Indians prefer white shells. Dutchmen and Argentines don’t seem to care. The Belgian branch never responded.

At first glance, the results of this survey seem hilarious but nevertheless irrelevant. But think further. The way we want our eggs to look tell us more about our own culture than any textbook will. A mindful approach towards your neighbor’s eggs will make you carefully identify the uniqueness of his choice by analyzing why it is unique and thereby forecasting when and how you could utilize this knowledge in the future. A thought very much proved by all of this day’s speakers. Through history, American values and the role of the media, they provided us with insights on the development of cross-cultural skills in order to experience intercultural and multicultural effectiveness.

In my opinion and definitely in the Fulbright setting, more than IQ we need some CQ or Cultural Intelligence. Teachers who possess a high level of this cultural intelligence will be able to play an important role in bridging divides and gaps in their school; educating others about different cultures and in helping to build connections worldwide. Fulbright and the University of Montana provides the setting where we can practice these skills through the study in a foreign culture (trial-and-error included). Every day we have the chance to carefully identify what is unique about one culture, analyzing why it is unique, and forecasting when and how you could utilize this knowledge in the future. Whether it’s about the preference of egg colour or the knowledge of the political system.

So, like culture being an iceberg (as described by Dr. Udo Fluck), there are things that we can see and describe easily but there are also many deeply rooted ideas that we can only understand by analyzing values, studying institutions and reflecting on our own core values and the values of other cultures.

I realized through the day that although we are here to do American studies, I have 20 other cultures to study (including my own). “But where to start? There are so many!” In order to answer that with just once sentence, I’d like to paraphrase the Irish author Oscar Wilde on this one: “An egg is always an adventure. The next one may be different.”


2 thoughts on “E pluribus unum

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