I had the pleasure of teaching 30 four to eight-year-olds at my daughter’s school about Venezuela on Thursday (10/26).
They learned about the flag and what its colors symbolize, and identified the countries surrounding Venezuela and their languages. I think I left their bellies rumbling with tales of piping hot arepas stuffed with cheese, beans, and meat, and their minds curious to know more about Simón Bolívar, the great liberator who graces Venezuelan currency and from whom another South American nation takes its name. (Pssst. It’s Bolivia.)
The session ended with a popular children’s song, which Venezuela claims as its own, but is sung throughout Latin America. In A la rueda, rueda, not unlike Ring Around the Rosey, participants go around and around in a large circle but drop hands and lie on the floor, as if to go to sleep, at the song’s conclusion.
Maybe it was the spinning, but my visit got me thinking about that famous image of an iceberg, the one used to explain culture in its many forms, with art, language, and celebrations commonly listed at the very peak of an otherwise enormous, mostly submerged mass. Those attributes hidden from plain sight–shared cultural beliefs and symbols, tolerance for the unknown, communication patterns, etc.–are often the most difficult to understand, and yet, the most crucial for developing cross-cultural understanding and partnerships.
It’s tempting to stay at the summit, especially when exploring a culture deeply sends us into the unknown, takes time, and often begs us to reflect on our own cultural patterns and behavioral tendencies, as I’ve pointed out in previous posts.
But its only by seeking out with curiosity how others–in neighboring cubicles, companies, or countries–view and react to the world, and why, that we’re able to see the iceberg in its entirety and navigate ourselves, and our businesses, accordingly.
I’d like to think that my daughter’s classmates took their first steps towards understanding a complex and fascinating part of the world on Thursday, and that, with time, they too will take the plunge to explore the iceberg we encircled.