- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 11 hours and 59 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Original recording
- Publisher: The Great Courses
- Audible.com Release Date: August 13, 2013
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00EIQ3KR2
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are Audiobook – Original recording
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In General, I would recommend this series. My favorite lectures are “Lifestyle: Being vs. Doing,” “Latin European Cultures,” “Latin American Cultures,” “Arab Cultures,” and “South Asian Cultures,” mainly because I have been to these regions of the world and therefore I can relate to what he says. I have to say, however, that from time to time he does make a few sweeping generalizations about these various “clusters,” which I suspect might not apply to everyone in those different societies. For example, I have no idea how anyone can generalize about all African cultures, for instance. There are millions of different peoples in Africa with very different cultures, religions, lifestyles, etc. Furthermore, the other generalization which really perplexed me was when he claimed---falsely, in my view---that due to their desire for coexistence that the people of South Asia supposedly do not want to know anything about other people's other cultures or religions and that one must supposedly avoid discussing religion with South Asian people. Um…Excuse me? I am a historian and freelance scholar of religion, and none of the Indians or Pakistanis I have known throughout my life had any problem discussing religion. No one had any problem discussing religion when I went to India to celebrate my graduation from college in 2012. Therefore, this assertion is, in my personal view, a reflection not necessarily of the views of "all" Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, or anyone else in South Asia necessarily, but rather, I suspect, Professor Livermore's own reticence to bring up the topic due to his own legitimate desire not to "rub someone the wrong way." I don't think it reflects the genuine view of South Asians regarding whether or not one should discuss religion.
In general, however, I would highly recommend this series.
I have travelled throughout the world, extensively, and on my own quite frequently. So I can say that the advice given in the course is sound and well-grounded, and that Livermore's approach to the cultures of the world is accurate and very helpful. I found the lectures most helpful to understand my life as an immigrant. I got a few ahas! when listening to the first 12 lectures, and telling myself "that is it!". That is priceless. The course is not a list of does or do-nots, although some of those are provided at the end of each of the lectures devoted to individual cultural areas of the world.
The course is structured in two main parts. The first part is an overview of ten pairs of opposed general traits that serve to define most cultures (lessons 3-12). The second part gives a general overview of the different cultural clusters of the world, which are configured by applying the criteria mentioned in the first lectures, as well as religion, family structure, and history. The course starts with a definition of what CQ (Cultural Intelligence index) is, and ends with a series of practical items of advice on how to prepare if you are going to visit a country that has a different culture and language that aren't your own.
The list of lectures is: 1- Culture Matters. 2- Developing Cultural Intelligence. 3- Identity—Individualist versus Collectivist. 4- Authority—Low versus High Power Distance. 5- Risk—Low versus High Uncertainty Avoidance. 6- Achievement—Cooperative versus Competitive. 7- Time—Punctuality versus Relationships. 8- Communication—Direct versus Indirect. 9- Lifestyle—Being versus doing. 10- Rules—Particularist versus Universalist. 11- Expressiveness—Neutral versus Affective. 12- Social Norms—Tight versus Loose. 13- Roots of Cultural Differences. 14- Anglo Cultures. 15- Nordic European Cultures. 16- Germanic Cultures. 17-Eastern European/Central Asian. 18- Latin European Cultures. 19- Latin American Cultures. 20- Confucian Asian Cultures. 21- South Asian Cultures. 22- Sub-Saharan African Cultures. 23- Arab Cultures. 24- Cultural Intelligence for Life.
THINGS I LIKED
>>> Livermore is a wonderful speaker: very engaging, a great tone and voice inflection, very entertaining and open minded. He is also able to structure and present the material in a way that is both easy to understand, and easy to apply to our personal lives and cultural context. He gives many examples of his personal life, that perfectly apply to what he is explaining.
>>> Livermore explains why some clichés and stereotypes aren't true or which lies behind them, and he repeatedly reminds listeners that what he says is general and cannot be taken as a black-and-white kind of description. We are not robots, we are part of our culture but also individuals.
>>> Another point I loved, is the the importance the Livermore gives to food, the foods, how food is eaten, table manners, table customs, etc. to see the values and characteristics of any given culture. So very true!
>>> I found Livermore especially good at individuating a simple element of a culture, that might be apparently not relevant, and give it meaning and turn it into a symbol of the culture he is describing. One of the best examples, to me is how he uses the Matrioshka dolls to explain the characteristics of the Eastern European block or Ikea for the Nordics. There are many examples of the sort.
>>> Livermore basically tell us to look at the world with fresh eyes, with less stereotypes and clichés, and to learn to appreciate the richness of behaviours and ways of being and behaving that humans exhibit, which aren't better or worse than any other, just different.
> I loved the fact that Livermore pointed out that the fact that a person belongs to a certain culture doesn't eliminate their individuality, so we cannot judge a culture by the behaviour of an individual, or vice versa.
>>> One of the best items of advice in the course is that we, Livermore included, have prejudices, and that the more we become aware of them, the better will be face other cultures and people from other cultures.
>>> We don't need to love or agree with the customs or culture of a given region or country, we need to respect them. It sounds simple, but basically I find most travellers I come across when I don't travel on my own doing just the contrary! Demanding. Disrespecting. Showing disgust because some people don't speak English or have a strong accent and a long list of grievances that are very painful to witness.
>>> This course has put Livermore in my author-to-follow radar. I liked a lot how he speaks, his attitude and the way he presents the material.
THINGS I MISSED
> One of the main divisions of cultures is the structure of family. Although Livermore mentions family behaviour and structure when discussing some culture clusters, there is no specific lesson devoted to something as important.I thought that nuclear vs extended family was a lesson missing!
> The same can be said of the role of women, gay and transgender people in different cultures. There is a huge difference between cultures where women are treated as individuals and full-person and others were they can only be so if married. Too often, I find myself discussing things with male friend travellers about a given country or area, and we had different experiences basically because of our gender and how we were treated because of it, what we were allowed to do because of it. The same can be say about cultures that are gay friendly or anti-gay. So I missed another lesson about gender treatment.
> Another element missing, although hinted during the discussion on the different cultural cluster, is the generational gap. A great emphasis needs to be given to that. I can tell you that the country my parents lived in and the one I was born and grew up were very extreme afar from each other, regarding structure of the family, social hierarchy, power distance, communication etc. That has been the source of great generational conflict. You have to be aware that if you visit my country and you are told certain things about how we behave or do things might be just part of my parent's or grandparent's reality, not mine.
> Livermore's rosy version of the Anglo-Saxon culture and the British Empire. Really, I found the consideration that the British collaborated with local population without mentioning how they crushed them, how they destroyed Native Americans, Aborigines and any other cultures, how they exploited them for the sake of tea, how they slaved them insulting and a-historical. Collaboration happened in some places, that is true, but the locals were never considered equals. Do you remember Gandhi being thrown out of the train? I leave it there.
> Livermore insists on not using the information to create stereotypes or clichés. Yet, if you choose a Brazilian to exemplify people being late, and describe an Ukrainian as giving rude customer service you are perpetuating the stereotype! No matter you explain the reasons behind!
> I tend to excuse non-historians in their historical digressions. However, Livermore has a great authority when speaking, and I find a bit dangerous that some of his statements could be taken at face value. Like the one mentioned above about the colonisation ways of the British, or another pearl... the cultural cluster with more influence in the world has been the Anglo-Saxon... If you dig into the structure of your psyche you will be astonished by the fact that the Western World and part of the Middle East fed on the Greek-Roman culture, ways of being and of thinking that are very real and persistent in our psyches no matter you are a Norwegian, a German or an American. The origin of humanity is in Africa and in Far Middle East, not in Britain, USA or Australia.
> I find seriously ridiculous including Greece in the Eastern European cluster. Yes, it is true that the Eastern Europeans fed on the Greek alphabet and Orthodox faith and that Byzantium had Greece as its centre, but 1/ Greeks are in their ways of being, doing and thinking basically Mediterranean and Southern European. 2/ They have never been nomads in the way that Mongolians or Central Asians have been. 3/They are in the Mediterranean, not in Central Europe or Asia. Greek Culture was the basis of Roman Culture. 4/They have never been part of the USSR. 5/ Etc!
> A few things are ignored to put Greek with the Eastern Europeans, and then Israel, a nomadic culture by definition, Arab in part (unless you forget Palestine that is also part of Israel) is put with the Southern Europeans.
> I was in Norway just a few months ago. The Janteloven and the "you are nothing special" that seems to infuse Norwegian culture, which Livermore mentions so many times, seems to be in recession. Older people complain about the younger generations being cocky, showy and too individualistic, so unless you have a certain age, Janteloven is not as important as used to be. Also Livermore mentions that Norwegians aren't in the EU as if they are too good and don't need it, but the fact is that Norway cannot enter the EU because if they did their economy would literally be crushed in little time; and also Norwegians have been historically linked to or dependent from other Nordic countries and they want to be just themselves and independent.
> Livermore mentions repeatedly that "Work to live instead of live to work" is the basis of the Nordic way of living. Well, as much as of the Southern European way of living!
> Calling some European cultures "paternalistic" is perpetuating an American stereotype, no matter Livermore says he is using the word with a different meaning. If that is the case, why not using "egalitarian" or "caring" cultures?
> The comments on the role of women in Southern Europe is also a biased and probably true for 80-90y.o. people. Yet, in the year 2016, the index of domestic violence in Sweden and Australia is higher than in some Southern European countries, but, of course, nobody will tell an Australian or a Swedish that their men are violent and machos and their women subjugated because they are so egalitarian, right? That would be insulting... yet, people feel free to perpetuate the stereotype about Southern Europeans.
A great course, that taught me many things and that has a great wisdom still being entertaining and rigorous! And Livermore has a heart!