Do you remember your first intercultural encounter?

Back from the SIETAR Europa Congress in Dublin, I would like to share a small story with you. I wanted to tell you how I started to become an intercultural practitioner. Picture the island of Crete, Greece. It’s a hot sunny day and you see me at the age of 9 years. First I play in the sand. Then I decide to take my air mattress and go into the water despite the jellyfish and other small monsters in the sea.

I observe and hear a girl in my age talking and I recognize that this is a different language. I assume she speaks English and my father confirms this assumption. Since I am really bored of playing with my little sister all the time I try to confront the alien.

I make eye contact and we begin to talk. We play in the water and exchange useful information on our families. This is one of the happiest holidays in my life.

At the time my knowledge of the language was very limited as we only had a pre-course in English. At primary school, we gave ourselves funny English names (I was Judy) and sang songs in English such as Old McDonald’s had a farm. My new friend was Nancy from London. Singing songs was a good start but we wanted more. We became pen friends. Funnily, we wrote each other letters for years. We both got into horse riding and she became a real friend. (This was obviously long before we had social media, the Internet and all that…).

Nancy and I never met in person afterward even though I spent a long time in London after High School. One day, we just lost track of each other. I often wondered what happened to her and what is doing now, if she is still alive and if she is happy.

For me, Nancy had been a strong motivator to learn and improve English. Foreign languages came easily to me because I saw the benefit so early in my life.
So, first of all, I want to thank Nancy for that and I want to thank my parents for exposing me to international people so early in life. We also had a Turkish foster child and traveled to many countries in Europe.

Secondly, I would like to tell you that you might be “Nancy” to someone else. When you help another person from a different culture improve your native language such as French or German, when you speak up against racist remarks or when you are simply that one friend that is a bit different than all the others. When you stick around and stay in the relationship even though it might have become a bit stale or when you are the one who picks up the phone or writes the letter to the friend, who thinks you have forgotten all about him and her.

Tell me if you have anyone in your life that you would like to re-connect with across borders and how it felt when you did.

Kind regards
Angie Weinberger



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