Type and Culture

type and cultureThis is what keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning: What are the best ways to prepare expats for their assignments? How can I help make the experience of culture shock they will eventually go through as smooth as possible? Which tools can I share to facilitate increased self-awareness and open-mindedness towards people and practices in the new country, so expats become comfortable and effective as soon as possible? In other words, big picture: how can we make it easier to understand each other? Since going back to the roots of our misunderstandings in the history of sociology and anthropology is not in everybody's interest, I believe the fastest way to learn how to effectively deal with change and other people (in everyday life and especially expat situations) is to be self aware. What makes you tick, what ticks you off, how does your mind work, how do you make decisions, how do you fall in love, etc. Being self aware will allow you to anticipate potentially challenging situations, find ways to best deal with them if you can't avoid them, and generally play to your strengths (i.e. keep out of potentially challenging situations as best you can).

When talking about our "self," there are several levels we can analyze: our inborn preferences and our learned preferences. The inborn predispositions are what Jung identified as our personality preferences. Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs made Jung's research accessible to the larger audience with their MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) assessment tool. After my certification next week I look forward to adding many more profiles to their database that is already holding nearly 1 million responses.

The learned preferences refer to the culture we grew up in. If the MBTI theory holds, the personality type indicator should be applicable to people around the globe, which research so far seems to corroborate. For example, the US and UK reportedly have the same 50 % of Extraverts (respondents who get their energy from and focus their energy on the outside world). Given the different cultures those same personality preferences developed in, however, the expression of extraversion might be different. In our example, and extravert US American might be not recognize and extravert Brit as such. I definitely look forward to finding out what you, my expat clients, will add to these thoughts.

In short, we can learn a lot about ourselves by looking at our personality and inborn preferences as well as our cultural and learned responses, and how they influence our values and behaviors. I would be remiss not to mention the fact that in some cultures, the "self" is not nearly as important as the group, and that tools like the MBTI or chats about self-awareness in general will elicit different responses altogether. That is also something I look forward to exploring more deeply.

If you have any questions or experiences with learning about your self, please share them here!

Til next week, have a good one!