Bird, Alan, PhD, et al., Bridging Cultures: Preparing to live and work with other cultures.

Reviewed by Christie Mosca and George Simons at www.diversophy.com 

For the novice international voyager, as well as the experienced interculturalist preparing for a new venture abroad, this module provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guideline to preparing yourself for the cross-cultural experience.

“…based on two premises of human interaction:  First, to get along well and work with others, you must understand them. Second, to understand others, you must understand yourself,” Bridging Cultures provides a personalized approach as it guides you through a series of self-assessment exercises, culture-general issues and tips for adaptation, and comparison of culture-specific values.

The CD ROM allows individuals to proceed at their own pace, and is complemented by a workbook, that addresses a comprehensive spectrum of critical cross-cultural issues for deeper exploration. The in-depth questionnaires may prove difficult for the novice who has little cross-cultural experience, but format of this workbook could provide an excellent opportunity for trainer-guided group, online coaching or chat discussions and valuable information sharing.

The process is well mapped and provides for different learning tracks. You begin by selecting your particular type of intercultural venture, be it Business Traveler, Expatriate, Mentor, Family member, or Repatriate.  A persuasive explanation of why one needs to prepare for an intercultural transition compels you onward. You then follow a series of exercises tailored to your particular needs and circumstances into the discovery of self, cultural values, culture shock, adaptation and repatriation.

The ability to cross reference over 100 countries then allows the reader to address his or her specific circumstances, compare the culture-specific differences, and view actual case studies of cultural conflicts that one may face. These materials are based on Hofstede’s research, and on the CD ROM are very informative and easy to use.  A rather lengthy technical discussion on Hofstede’s approach in the workbook, however interesting it may be to the professional interculturalist, seems out of place and confusing for the participant. 

BC adopts a number of western psychological models particularly appropriate for Westerners going abroad, and in places is clearly an US approach to evaluating cross-cultural issues.  Symptoms and tips for Overcoming Culture Shock are useful and informative, but seem heavily weighted towards seeking out an expatriate community.  Although contact with fellow expats and one’s native language are often needed as a reprieve and source of support, too much reliance on these elements can, in the end, prolong the process of culture shock by retarding the individual’s need to deal with the culture directly.  This danger, as well as other inhibitors to cultural adaptation, should be pointed out.

A well-motivated individual with sufficient time at hand can get an enormous amount out of this program. It is one of the better processes for acquiring culture general education that we have seen. The CD program is well adapted to individual work. The workbook, on the other hand, while it seeks to encourage the user to go deeper, feels repetitious. The average person preparing for expatriation is largely focused on meeting culture-specific challenges of moving, shopping, settling in, schooling and day-to-day communications associated with the transition itself.  As a result, the potential expat may resist this deeper learning that, in the long run, will best empower him or her to become culturally competent. Using the program under the guidance of a professional trainer or mentor would compensate for shortcomings experienced by the novice or individual user, by keeping him or her on track and delving into the heart of the issues presented.

We would have found it more satisfying if the entire package was integrated onto the CD with the option to print out pages where needed.

Currently licenses to this CD plus Workbook program start at $245 per person, and descend with quantity. Intranet versions require a 10 person minimum. Given the current pricing structure of online courses, we consider this to be good value for money.

New York, NY:  Park LI Group, Ltd. is a cultural training tool consisting of a computer-based CD ROM and workbook used to prepare individuals to undergo and assist in cross-cultural transitions.


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