On Culture + Intelligence

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to extend the dialog around cultural intelligence with REALTOR leadership within the State of Michigan.  The keynote Speaker for the conference, David Livermore PhD spoke to a packed room about the implications of failing to understand and develop a coherent professional approach to assisting people from other cultures with their housing needs.

Quoting from an article published in the Michigan REALTOR magazine,  Livermore indicates that he is 'hard pressed to think of a group of professionals in our state who matter more to our future than Michigan REALTORS.  You're often the first face of Michigan to those thinking about locating here.  And with the growing diversity of those moving to our neighborhoods, the way you treat these potential residents could make or break us'.

That's significant responsibility to be sure!  I have had the opportunity to teach sessions on home ownership to immigrants from Nepal, Burma and Congo.  It is humbling to recognize how much some of our fellow citizens have endured to start from scratch in making a new culture a home base.  You're just scratching the surface if you think acclimating to the American way of life is simply a matter of learning English, dressing in western style clothing or eating a burger.

In fact, the visible aspects of what we commonly reference as 'culture' are simply the tip of the iceberg.  Much of our cultural experience and bias lies well below the surface and many of us are unaware of how deeply impacted our automatic reactions are when faced with someone who differs from what we consider the norm.

Over the years, I've had the opportunity to service the real estate needs of individuals from all sorts of professions, cultures, religions and persuasions of various sorts.  As far as I'm concerned, human beings can never be neatly categorized and labelled, no matter how much we think we know or can see.  Every man is an iceberg.  What is visible above the surface doesn't even begin to reveal the enormity of who a person is nor does in capture the gift that the richness of diversity adds to the tapestry of life.

Next month, April 2016 is Fair Housing month!  It's a time when the real estate industry intentionally focuses on increasing awareness around the issues which separate and segregate us.  My hope, my dream is that one day Fair Housing won't be an issue which focuses on what divides us, but will instead be an opportunity to remind America of what unites us and makes us strong in this amazing melting pot that we call the American dream.  One which includes the rights of home ownership.


Christmas Puff Puff & Couture...


Depending on where you are from, this hot little snack item may be known as a Beignet (New Orleans) Berliner (Germany), Paczki (Poland) or Puff Puff (Nigeria - West Africa).  Best consumed  shortly after emerging from the  sizzling oil and eaten without adornment or sprinkled with a bit of sugar; it's like a little culinary festival undulating the taste buds.  Warm molten yeast bread, perfect for any festive occasion or gathering.

I'm always intrigued by how different cultures celebrate traditional festivals and by how versions of similar types of food specialties are found all over the world.  My mom would make a tasty, nutritionally dense dish called Ekpang on special occasions from cocoa yam, spinach/collard green leaves, tomatoes and onions, meat or chicken, spices and palm oil.  

The dish took hours to grater the coco yams, season and steam in molds or tin foil and also prep the palm nut soup that suffused the yams with spicy flavors.  She was originally from the Cameroons and as a kid, I thought that no one else had ever eaten this dish.  Later, I would discover versions of the meal were enjoyed throughout various communities along the West African coastline.

In 2016, I am introducing a brand new course offering about Cultural Intelligence and the advantage that cultivating this skill set has for our personal and professional lives. Culture speaks in many different ways, but perhaps nowhere more eloquently than around food and the shared experience of holiday traditions including what we wear.  Celebrations are an opportunity to revel and express our identity.  Clothing is often a significant part of this.

I have fond memories of Christmas celebrations which were centered around family, food and the thrill of getting brand new clothes! Those brand new clothes were inaugurated into our Sunday best for the remainder of the year.  

The notion of giving gifts was very different as a child as well.  In fact, for our family the focus for Christmas presents was on watching our parents eyes light up as we gave them gifts that we had carefully crafted for them during our time at school.  Their exclamations of delight and the proud display of those homemade mementos on a prominent shelf in our home, were some of the best memories I have of Christmas as a child.