Mind Your Intercultural P’s & Q’s

The CBS News World Watch blog entry “Some Israelis Insulted by Obama Picture” on June 9th showed a photo of President Obama with his feet up on the Oval Office desk while talking on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. What’s this about?

“It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone. It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too.”

clip art showing diversityI hope most people did not see this as an insult, since the Prime Minister was not in the same room. But it is a reminder that it’s a good idea to do a little homework before interacting with people from other cultures.

The University’s Communication Department offers a course called Cross Cultural Communication (it can count toward satisfying general education and diversity requirements), and the Library has some resources that can help too:

  • Culture and Customs volumes from Greenwood Press cover everything from a country’s geography and history to cuisine, arts and entertainment. Search for culture and customs as a title in the Library catalog to find the available countries.
  • A Library catalog “keyword” search for (guidebooks or travel) and ___ (fill in the name of a country) would find titles such as The rough guide to Japan (3rd-floor Main Collection, DS811 .D63 2008)
  • A Library catalog “keyword” search for (etiquette or “national characteristics” or customs) and ___ (fill in the name of a country) would find titles including France (A quick guide to customs & etiquette) (3rd-floor Main Collection, DC33.7 .T598 2003) and Au contraire!: Figuring out the French (3rd-floor Main Collection, DC34 .A77 2001)
  • Consult the 2nd-floor Reference sets CultureGrams (Reference GT150 .C85 2007), Countries and their Cultures (Reference GN307 .C68 2001), and Global Etiquette Guide… (Reference BJ1838 .F) for the country that interests you.

Would you like some assistance finding these and other materials? Ask a Librarian (in person, or via phone, email or chat) and/or consult the Library guide to “Locating Intercultural Communication Information”.

About Barbara

I am a Reference & Instruction librarian, head of that department in Andersen Library, an associate professor, and a member of the General Education Review Committee and Faculty Senate. I've been working at UW-W since July 1, 1990.
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