OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU book focuses on improving cultural understanding

05/07/2002

CORVALLIS - Why can't we all just get along?

The anguished question that resurfaces with each new interracial or inter-cultural clash has no easy answer. However, a new book published by the Oregon State University Extension Service offers some clear explanations and concrete examples of how to improve communication and understanding between cultures.

Ann Schauber, an Extension Service diversity leader, is the author of "Working with Differences in Communities." The book explains how improving our individual understanding of cultures and the way each of us thinks about another culture can lead to better relationships across cultural lines.

"I have met hundreds of adults who want to make a difference in their communities," Schauber said. "They care about including new arrivals, especially those from different ethnic backgrounds. This book explains ways to think about differences, and what to do to include the voices of others in community-building, in the workplace, and in community organizations."

The book contains many examples, illustrations, anecdotes and exercises that highlight and explain the basis for cultural conflict. It defines cultural differences, including how people perceive themselves, their sense of time, the amount of physical space they find comfortable when talking with others, their worldview, family relationships, and concepts of social norms.

For instance, the book gives the example of a woman who feels uncomfortable walking past a group of Spanish-speaking men who regularly gather after work to talk and laugh near a grocery store parking lot. She finds them loud, and intimidating.

She might not be so uncomfortable if she knew that the men were simply unwinding after work the way they do in their homeland, where it is customary to gather in the open, so that others may freely join the conversation.

The book includes first-person accounts from those who've experienced cultural bias. It offers their insights, and explores the intricacy of cultural preconceptions even within the same ethnic group. For instance, one contributor writes that Japanese-Americans who lived in Hawaii during World War II could not understand how Japanese-Americans on the mainland went so peacefully to internment camps.

The woman gained insight when she learned that the interned Japanese-Americans mistakenly thought that by going willingly to the internment camps, they would clearly demonstrate their loyalty to their adopted country, thus winning public trust.

"Working with Differences in Communities," (Manual 13) is available by mail for $15 per copy. Send your request and check or money order payable to OSU to: Publication Orders, Extension & Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119. Or by fax to: 541-737-0817 or e-mail to: puborders@orst.edu.