Today’s Cross-Cultural Interview is with Cate Brubaker . Cate is the person behind the Twitter handle @CateBrubaker.
Cate Brubaker specializes in intercultural education. By day, Cate is a Cross-cultural Program Development Manager for an international education organization. By night, she’s a blogger, author, and consultant. Cate is also co-founder and President of SIETAR-NC and Marketing Co-chair for the 2010 SIETAR-USA conference. She is based in the U.S. but has lived in Germany and traveled throughout Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
This is a 2 part interview:
- Part 1 – The Blog Interview
- Part 2 – The Twitter Interview for 10 Cross-Cultural & International Questions
Cate Brubaker – Part 1
Hi Cate, for those who don’t know you, can you please tell us something about yourself?
Cate Brubaker : Hi everyone! I grew up among the evergreen trees of Oregon and now live in the land of barbecue and sweet tea, otherwise known as North Carolina. I’ve also lived in Germany and the Midwestern U.S. – places where winter lasts entirely too long.
I’m married, and although my husband and I would like to live abroad again, we’re enjoying getting to know the “the South.”
My career path so far: candy store, catering, English teacher, German teacher, grad student, study abroad, intercultural trainer…
I’m trying to figure out how to be a professional round-the-world backpacker.
How did you pick up your cross-cultural skills?
Cate Brubaker : Experience. Study. Mistakes. Lots and lots of each.
As a kid I was drawn to anyone who wasn’t from “around here.” I remember being really, really curious about the rest of the world. I wanted to explore and understand other countries on their terms and turf.
At 16, I got my chance, thanks to the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program. The year I spent living in Germany – my first time traveling outside the U.S. – was difficult, exhilarating, and the reason I’ve worked cross-culturally ever since.
I studied German in college and grad school, spent a couple more years in Germany, and traveled whenever I could. I spent a lot of time trying to understand my (sometimes negative) reactions and interpretations…but I often felt stuck, and sometimes I just couldn’t understand or even explain the cultural rifts I encountered.
When I was teaching, and especially when I worked for a study abroad program in Germany, I noticed that many of my students had similar difficulties. I wanted to learn how to guide my students (and myself) into deeper cross-cultural learning. One thing led to another, and I discovered the field of intercultural communication. I felt like a whole new world had opened up to me. I dove into studying everything I could get my hands on.
Nowadays I strive to maintain a balance of keeping up with theory and putting myself in cross-cultural situations that stretch me. Developing cross-cultural skills is a life-long endeavor.
How do you use your cross-cultural skills in your job?
Cate Brubaker : My job requires me to walk my cross-cultural talk every day. Some days I’m more successful than others!
In my day job, I not only have colleagues from around the world, I also facilitate workshops for intercultural audiences. My job sometimes takes me outside the U.S. (I’ve worked with educators in Europe, the Caribbean, and Central and South America).
One thing I’ve learned in my current job is that my cross-cultural skills aren’t only applicable in situations where I’m working with people from other countries – they’re also useful when working with my U.S. colleagues who sometimes have very different communication styles, backgrounds, and perspectives than I do.
One example: early on in my current job I was moved into a department I really didn’t want to work in. One I didn’t think I belonged in. I remember feeling like I’d moved to another country because everything seemed so foreign. Then it hit me: I could put my cross-cultural skills to work, even though everyone on my team was the same nationality as me.
During the year I spent in that department I strove to understand my new department’s perspectives, communication styles, and values. Was it a difficult year? Yes. But I’m so grateful for the experience because I gained a deeper understanding – and respect – for the work my colleagues do.
Can you tell us about your blog?
Isn’t it interesting that we all grow up learning a culture? And even more interesting, that school is one of the places where we learn it?
We at CulturallyTeaching are fascinated by this connection between education and culture. A favorite elementary school teacher, a student’s interaction with her host mother, even a photo of a school lunch – these stories communicate culture.
Our mission is simple: document stories about education across cultures.
CulturallyTeaching is run by a team of 3: me – from the U.S., Anamaria, who is originally from Romania but lives in the U.S., and Pamela, a teacher who just returned home to Argentina after 3 years in the U.S.
Here are a couple CulturallyTeaching posts your readers might enjoy:
Our goal is to create a community of educulturalists – people interested in the intersection between education and culture. We’re always looking for people to share their experiences with CulturallyTeaching, so if any of your readers are interested, please contact us. Don’t be shy, we’ll make it as easy as possible for you to share your story. We believe everyone has a story to tell.
I have a couple of lists I’m building here on this blog, and wonder if you have anything you would like to share.
Do you have a favorite movie that could help people understand cultural issues?
Cate Brubaker: A few of my favorites: L’auberge Espagnole (captures some universal elements of studying abroad), Good Bye Lennon (humorous take on the fall of the Berlin wall), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (drama set in 1980′s Romania)
Do you have a book you could recommend to help others improve their cultural insights?
Cate Brubaker: Lost in Translation: Life in a New Language by Eva Hoffman – a powerful book that’s also a delight to read.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Cate Brubaker: What I love about blogging and being on Twitter and Facebook is connecting with people all over the world. Even though I’d love to spend a year traveling the world and documenting people’s stories about education and culture in person, I really enjoy engaging with and learning from people online.
I’d especially love to connect with people from parts of the world I don’t have as much experience with as I’d like – Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania.
Thanks for interviewing me, Cindy. I’ve enjoyed reading the other interviews you’ve done, and I’m thrilled to be part of the series.
Cate, thank you for sharing so much with us in this portion of the interview already. I’m looking forward to hearing your answers to the 10 Cross-Cultural Questions on Twitter with you later today.
Cate Brubaker – Part 2 – The Twitter Interview
This is the transcript of the Twitter portion of this Interview.
@CindyKing: Hi Cate! Thanks for joining me today. I wonder if you could share some tips & golden nuggets of advice…
@CateBrubaker: Hi Cindy! Thanks for interviewing me. I hope you had a nice birthday yesterday
@CindyKing: First… What is your definition of culture in 120 characters? So… “Culture is…”
@CateBrubaker: Culture is…shared, learned, invisible, dynamic, created, transmitted… …I like the “software of the mind” idea when thinking about what culture is
@CindyKing: I like the “software of the mind” idea for culture too. Then let’s make it harder – “Culture is…” in one word only
@CateBrubaker: Culture is…perspective
@CindyKing: Along the same lines… Can you finish the sentence “International business is…”
@CateBrubaker: Int’l business is simply the way business is nowadays! So many people work cross-culturally without realizing it.
@CindyKing: What is the one tip you would give people to improve their cross-cultural skills?
@CateBrubaker: Hmmm…I’d say be curious. If you’re curious, you’re observing, listening, questioning, reflecting…and learning
@CindyKing: I agree with you, curiosity is a great way to develop your cross-cultural skills
@CindyKing: What one bit of advice would you give people interested in international business?
@CateBrubaker: For people interested in int’l business…combine cross-cultural experience with learning cross-cultural theory… the theory helps illuminate the experience. Both are important.
@CindyKing: With your experience what tip would you give to people moving abroad?
@CateBrubaker: Embrace the experience you have, let go of unrealistic expectations. And get lots of sleep. Living in another country means going off cultural autopilot and that can be tiring!
@CindyKing: LOL It’s strange just how tiring it can be to adapt to different cultures!
@CindyKing: What is your favorite website for international or cross-cultural inspiration? This can be anything at all.
@CateBrubaker: Two blogs I like: http://interculturaleyes.wordpress.com/ and http://www.visualsspeak.com/
@CindyKing: I like www.interculturaleyes.wordpress.com too. + I’m happy you shared www.visualspeak.com – 1 I didn’t know.
@CateBrubaker: http://www.visualsspeak.com/ is great b/c it’s all about using visual images to communicate… …I’ve started working more visuals into my workshops because of http://www.visualsspeak.com/
@CindyKing: Can you suggest one other cross-cultural person to follow on Twitter?
@CateBrubaker: Oh, there are so many great people to follow! Here are a few I really like…. @langwitches, @mscofino, @hcrompton — wonderful educators who are living the cross-cultural life. @MBAintheUSA – she writes for incoming int’l students, @chrisguillebeau – traveling to every country in the world
@CindyKing: Wow, thank you for sharing so many cross-cultural people on Twitter!
@CindyKing: Can you suggest one other international person to follow on Twitter?
@CateBrubaker: I like @HoeferleConsult because his tweets make me feel connected to Germany, where I used to live
@CindyKing: I really enjoy Christian @HoeferleConsult too! Nice guy.
@CindyKing: And finally, who else are you interested in meeting on Twitter?
@CateBrubaker: I’d like to meet people around the world who are interested in education, since that’s my area of cross-cultural specialization
@CindyKing: Cate, well that wraps it up for today… Thanks so much for your time!!
@CateBrubaker: Thanks, Cindy! This was fun – my first twitter interview.
@CindyKing: Thank you to all who followed us today! And thanks to @egs @phlitvac @alanfendrich for the discussion!
What do you think? Please share your thoughts and comments below.
Photos from Shutterstock.
Filed under: International Social Media
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