On immersing yourself into a new culture

Having lived in many different cultures it gets easier. But it’s not a requirement to be able to enter a new culture and enjoy yourself.

Here’s what I learned along the way, and maybe there is something you can take with you on your next journey.

For a start, we’re all a mix of genes – mine, Dutch and Swiss, and consequently to the Swiss I was not Swiss enough, and to the Dutch, I was Swiss.

Grew up not fitting in however hard I tried – thinking I was wrong.

So I left Switzerland, spent a few years in India and ended up in Australia, living in communities with a rich mix of cultures along the way.

Over time it dawned on me: I am not wrong – just different.

Another insight was: There is a way of adapting to a different culture without loosing oneself.

A few years ago I experienced this very consciously when spending some time in a remote Aboriginal community.

I sat in the sand with the women, worked with them and ate with them.

Fitted in where possible and took a respectful distance when required.

However, being culturally inappropriate is unavoidable. There is no way you can learn the subtleties of their complex social system in such a short time.

To my surprise the faux pas were generously accepted, with someone at times gently showing the right way. On the second visit they even gave me a ‘skin name’.

This established a certain relationship to every person in their community. It’s their way of assigning a newcomer a place in their society.

So, what did I do – or not do – that made this journey into a totally different culture such a rewarding experience?

Being in the heart, and having an ability to ‘go with the flow’.

Now, this might sound strange to you. You might wonder how to ‘do’ this.

Try this:

  • Give your thoughts a break.
  • Bring your focus to your body.
  • Rest in it as if you would sink onto a comfortable sofa.
  • Visualise the space in the centre of your chest opening to the world.

You will enter a kind of ‘no-mind’ space where you can be without judgment.


Tomorrow is the start of a ten day trip to China.

I have never been there. Don’t speak the language. Can’t read it, either. It’s a new adventure. No idea of what to expect.

Going into the unknown.

Focus on being in the heart, staying soft and open, dropping out of the mind into the body – and going with the flow.

Planning to ‘do’ just that.

Curious about what will happen and how I will fare? So am I.

I am also curious to find out how you’re doing with experimenting with this technique.


Contemplating Human Systems 1

Emotions not making sense in your context? A systemic issue could be at play.

A human system is like a mobile – if one element doesn’t carry its weight (is heavier or lighter than it should be), the whole system is out of balance. To find out more about the definition of a system and to understand where we are coming from, I did some research on systems and systems theory.

We are powerfully influenced by our surroundings, by the immediate context and by the personalities of those around us.

What is a system?

A system is a set of entities, real or abstract, comprising a whole where each component interacts with or is related to at least one other component and they all serve a common objective. 
(From Wikipedia: www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System) 
There are many different types of system, for example:

  • Systems in IT
  • Systems in engineering
  • Systems in a social and cognitive context

Social and cognitive sciences have researched and thought about systems in humans and in human societies for a long time. They include brain functions and mental processes, as well as ethical systems and social/cultural behavioural patterns. Systems theory is a particular view of the world. As an interdisciplinary study of human life and social organisation, systems theory is widely spread. For more detailed information on systems theory check out Wikipedia on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_theory.

In organisational development, human organisations are viewed as systems of interacting components with numerous complex processes and organisational structures. Organisational development theorist Peter Senge developed the concept of the learning organisation in his book The Fifth Discipline. He views an organisation as a dynamic system continuously adapting and improving. Theorists such as Margaret Wheatley have also described the dynamics in organisational systems and taken metaphors from quantum physics, chaos theory, and the self-organisation of systems.

In the field of family therapy , the anthropologist and systems theorist Gregory Bateson developed the double bind theory, where individual psychiatric symptoms are thought of as systemic responses to faulty family communications by having received different or contradictory messages.

In systems philosophy, Ervin Laszlo, the founder of the Club of Budapest, looks at systems as models created for an understanding. For him a field of information is the substance of the cosmos, a fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present. László describes how such an informational field can explain why our universe is so improbably fine-tuned as to form galaxies and conscious life forms.

In the context of systemic organisational consulting, a system is a network of constantly changing relationships and interactions between people, processes, information and technology which is closely connected to other networks, such as customers, markets etc. If there is any change in one element of a system, there is a simultaneous change in all other elements of the system.

Practice has shown that Systemic Constellations can be used to find hidden dynamics in these systems. They are stimulating and offer insight in many areas.

Stay tuned for more